1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
90
outstanding

408 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 408
Reviews: 340
rAvg: 4.02
pDev: 10.2%
Wants: 4
Gots: 27 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: blackie on 11-02-2009)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 408 | Reviews: 340 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of wordemupg
4.47/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into 400ml DAB glass nov17 2009

A deep dark maroon/brown with a nice big tan head with good retention and a little lace.

S lots of spice on the nose, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, all play a part I also pick up on some pumpkin. very nice smell quite a lot going on here maybe some vanilla too

T all the things I smell but with some mild hops and perhaps even some burnt sugar

M almost a 5 for feel, this is what I would expect from a black as night imperial stout, nice and thick with only mild carbonation but it works very well for this one

D gone in an instant, very easy drinking beer right here

sadly I can't compare this too previous years because this is the first one I've had. on a similar note this will be the last time I say "this is the best winter warmer I've had this year"
try this beer if you get the chance

wordemupg, Nov 18, 2009
Photo of hustlesworth
4.58/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- rich dark blackish reddish brown with auburn highlights, and a nicely structured tan head. foam is big and expansive and firmly holds its ground, becoming airy and spongy as it settles. an insane amount of lace is left on the glass and this one definitely just looks great.

S- unique nose to this one. spicy, floral, woodsy, lots of toasty malt, brown sugar sweetness, vanilla, creamy, marshmallow, raisin, date, fig, and a bit of spruce and cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg.

T- a complex blend of caramel, roasted, hoppy, toasty, and spice flavors layer over one another with subtleties fading in and out. cinnamon would have to be the most notable spice, but there are also nuances akin to nutmeg, ginger, anise, curacao peel, and cardamom, making it very difficult to even speculate the spice mix used here. a pronounced leathery earthy wood flavor is in the forefront, like a cross between cedar and mesquite. other roasted flavors comprise of dark chocolate and chicory coffee, soil, and charcoal. tart dried berry and raisin flavors linger in the background as a robust sprucey hoppy bitterness reveals itself in the finish, off on a cali sleigh ride with all the other complexities.

MF- dry and crisp with significant body with no residual sugar feeling that is too often found in spiced beers. this one is savory and woodsy and piney and that's the best way to describe the feel. it feels like something that is old school christmas. something i just can't explain. delicate carbonation is just freakin joyous.

D- this one knocks last year's OSA out the box in my opinion, and whatever the secret recipe is, it's a winner. i've read other reviews proposing that the monterey cypress depicted on the label is in fact an ingredient, but no amount of internet research i've done can verify this. it is very sprucey and woodsy and that definitely appeals to me. this beer is so masterfully crafted and drinkable that it seems of no use to me to further ponder the recipe. get em, fritz.

hustlesworth, Nov 18, 2009
Photo of soupyman10
4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had a few of these at a friend's house - he wasn't a fan but I loved the big flavor and spiciness. Liquid bread, basically. Toffee malt and all kinds of pumpkin spiciness, most notably nutmeg and cinnamon. Big body for the style. Very nice, overall, and better than previous years I've had.

soupyman10, Nov 17, 2009
Photo of TLove
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer is the best winter warmer I've had so far, hands down. It really invoked a holiday feel, with its strong scents of spruce and nutmeg and a ton of other great holiday scents that I always associate with this time of year.

The color and beautiful residue brown components to the color and head are comforting. As mentioned, the smell truly has the capacity to firmly supplant one into a memory. The taste is strongly spiced, leaving little taste for the hop structure to butt in, yet it does slightly. There is a sense of earthiness that lends to black truffle and dark chocolate. Slightly sweet and balanced throughout. Yeastiness fills in at just the right time, along with the spicy cinnamon and nutmeg, which carry through to the end. The finish is smooth and very very soft. Wonderfully engrossing.

TLove, Nov 17, 2009
Photo of hosehead83
4.63/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from their twelve ounce "stubby" bottle into a standard pint glass
Dark brown/ruby in color with a thick, tan cloud deck of foam that waits very patiently before finally settling and allowing a sip
Aroma-Subtle spices; chocolate,cinnamon,nutmeg,spruce
Taste-Nutty,cinnamon,nutmeg-Christmas cookie, subtle hop notes
Nicely balanced and delicious. Complex, yet very drinkable and delightful. One of my favorite holiday brews. Would be great with Christmas cookies or a holiday dinner. Grab a sixer or two and share this fine offering from Anchor with family and friends who appreciate great beer.
Happy Holidays and Cheers!!

hosehead83, Nov 16, 2009
Photo of tavernjef
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 OSA uses 'Cupressus Macrocarpa' or more commonly know as the Monterey Cypress which is mostly native to California on its centrel coast and one of the faster growing evergreens which produces larger then average cones. Given the aroma, its quite evident!

Poured slowly from the magnum sized bottle: Thick, dark brown pour gathering a very airy, puffy, inch tall, lush, dark khaki capping that never moves. Keeps an overtly impressive amount always present and the lacing completely coats the glass with a heavy sheeting. Gorgeous!

Speaking of gorgeous, the aroma is wonderful! The Cypress is lovely to behold on the nose as its spicy aura of sweet evergreen is favorably fresh with lemon and floral with just a hint of leathery earthyness. A mild milk chocolate backing swiftly hints in some wiffs.

Taste is fairly sweet with a soothing dark tang of malty breadyness to balance it out as it centers around a mostly mild semi soured sweetness of lemon, passion fruit, pineapple, and has a unique dusty smoothness of cocoa, cardamom, and cinnamon spice in its finish.

Body is soft, supple, smooth, fluffy, and tangy within a fairly active medium body that encompasses its flavor profile very well.

Anchor has this whole OSA thing nailed down, as I have yet to be completely let down by this seasonal wonderment. Solid Seaonal stuff! OSA will go along with any holiday meal. So Happy Holidays! And Enjoy!

tavernjef, Nov 16, 2009
Photo of Duhast500
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a pint glass.

The color is a dark black with a little hint of red or maroon when held to the light. Some nice foamy brownish head and a good amount of lacing.

The smell is sweet at first with some spiciness to the nose. Makes pictures of Christmas cookies appear in my head.

The taste is of sweet malts with hints of caramel hops. There is a slight smokiness but not very strong right now.

The feel of this beer is pretty easy drinking and goes down well. IS pretty medium bodies and quite an enjoyable beer.

Duhast500, Nov 15, 2009
Photo of ocelot2500
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark mahogany that lets little light through. A tight mocha head that leaves plenty of lacing on the glass.

Smells of some toasted type malts, with some brown sugar and molasses type aromas. There is also a subtle woodiness behind the smell that has a cedar quality to it. Also some cinnamon like aromas hidden in the woodiness.

Tastes of the sweet malts with that sticky sweet toasted taste. More along the lines of toffee. The cinnamon is also present finding itself alongside that woody aroma.

The mouthfeel is a little thin and detracts from the taste as it takes some focus off of the flavors. I like the amount of carbonation though.

ocelot2500, Nov 14, 2009
Photo of John_M
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a reddish brown amber color with good head retention and lacing. On the nose, I get the expected and predictable huge amount of spice. I'm really not sure this beer changes all that much from year to year, but in any event, I get cinnamon, clove (and lots of it) and nutmeg. I guess the beer smells as if it might have some sweetness, but it's really difficult to tell with all this spice. Flavors replicate the nose; there is some sweetness to this beer, but the boatload of spice takes your mind off of that pretty quick. Also, I get some brown sugar on the palate that I didn't notice in the aroma profile. Still, nothing is over done, though I can never drink too much of this beer, with all this spice. Mouthfeel is pretty full, especially for the abv. No one will ever call this beer watery (IMHO). Drinkability is pretty good, though this just isn't the sort of beer I can ever see myself having more then one of.

Another winner from Anchor (of course), and a beer I always look forward to trying every year.

John_M, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of canucklehead
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one took a few sips to sort its self out as the beer seemed confused at first. When it warmed up and asserted itself on the palate I noticed an almost wee heavy malty note to the beer( but drier) than last years version. The baking spices were there but the beer took a malty lead on the finish. The more I drank of it the better it got. IMHO quite different from last years version but equally good

canucklehead, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of HalfFull
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a nonic glass, this brew shows a deep ruby brown with a nice emanation of carbonation from the bottom of the glass. A half inch of light tan foam settles rather slowly into the abyss, offering solid lacing on the way.

Nose is full of herbs and spices and with some piney hop notes in back after some agitation. Some light chocolate notes accompany mint.

Taste is full though light bodied and offers mint, spearmint I would say, and some flowers of lavender with cinnamon, as well as a notable cherry liqueur and chocolate note. Most interesting and reminiscent slightly of a mint chocolate candy in a good way. Easy on the palate though might overwhelm in time as the spices are slightly drying. Quite nice and will consider a large format bottle for a holiday celebration.

HalfFull, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of brownbeer
4.18/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Reddish-brown with a thick brown head and heavy lacing.

S- Like a spice rack in a bottle. Clove, cinnamon, black pepper, and pie crust.

T&M- The body is light and silky with a caramel sweetness to balance the obvious dark spicy character. As it warms a nutty maltiness comes forward to blend with the other flavors.

D- Awesomely drinkable thanks to the great carbonation and balance of malt and spice.

brownbeer, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of madtrixter787
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured bottle into Ommegang Chalice

Appearance: About a 1 finger head that left some light lacing in the glass. Appears a dark brown.

Smell: Well, it smells like christmas. Egg nog, with some nutmeg and other spices. It is very appealing.

Taste: Good malty flavor with light spices afterwards.

Mouthfeel: Enjoyable light carbonation that does not detract from the flavors.

Drinkability: This beer is very drinkable, and probably one of my favorite christmas beers of this season.

madtrixter787, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of BeerCoffeeWater
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice dark color with a thick 2 inch head that pretty much stays around.
Smells like a highly spiced ginger snap cookie. Delicious.
Tastes like Christmas. Spicy, gingerbready, malty. I'm a big fan of this year's Christmas Ale.
The mouthfeel is a nice tight bubbly, creamy perhaps.
Drinkability is pretty good, so long as the weather outside is frightfull, which it is currently. You can never taste the alcohol in these beers, it's more a matter of being in the mood for some spiciness.

BeerCoffeeWater, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of noslenwerd
3.63/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- very good dark color... poured a nice inch of head that broke apart pretty quickly. A bit of lace that pulls apart very quickly

S- Smells a bit sweet, a light caramel taste

T- An even combination of caramel hops and smokeyness. Overall this beer does not have any dominating flavors that jump at you. A pretty smooth drink. The taste of alcohol is a bit stronger than other Christmas ales that I have tried

Summary- Pretty average for a winter warmer IMO. I was hoping for it to have a bit more of a "christmasy" taste to it but, if i didnt know any better i would think this was just regular dark ale. Probably will not be drinking again

noslenwerd, Nov 13, 2009
Photo of allengarvin
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This year's OSA, poured into a tall chalice, is dark opaque brown, with a good half-inch of head, dense and creamy. The nose features a large load of pine-needle, conifer spiciness, with some subtle spices--perhaps a touch of cinnamon? The taste follows it: Lightly sweet malt, just a faint touch of roastiness, very moderate bitterness, and a perfect array of spiciness with a conifer overtone. It's hard to identify the particular flavors--the sum of the parts is more than the parts themselves, and this is a particularly good OSA from Anchor, one of the best in years.

allengarvin, Nov 12, 2009
Photo of kaseydad
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Snifter pour and met with a dark brown/amber colored beverage and a beige two finger frosty goodness foam.

A sweet fruity aroma. Dates, nutmeg, cinnamon, grapes, molasses and pear in the blend. Simple awesome!

There is a nice bitterness/malt blend on the consumption. Some hints of coffee and roasted malts are in the mix with some dark fruit reminders. The major difference from the aroma to the taste is interesting. You expect it to be one way and it turns out another. Nicely done.

In the past years I have never really cared for this beer as it reminded me more and more of prune juice, but this year I think the folks at Anchor hit the jackpot. Very enjoyable, refreshing and sessionable. I will definitely be looking for more of this.

kaseydad, Nov 11, 2009
Photo of Tdizzle
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled on 10/20/09. Poured into a Bruery tulip glass.

A- This beer pours a dark, dark brown with ruby-red hues when held up to light. A tan colored head of foam settles to a thin film atop the beer. Not much lacing to be found.

S- Bold notes of molasses, rich dark fruits and anise. An herbal spiciness meets a slightly creamy citrus note too.

T- The flavor is full of darkish characteristics such as molasses, fruity dark malts, mild dark chocolate, and black licorice. Some of the citrusy notes of the aroma come through towards a slightly dry finish that leaves a mildly bitter taste of burnt malts on the back of the tongue.

M- A lush, smooth, medium-bodied texture with soft carbonation bubbles that nicely balance the feel and the flavor of this beer.

D- This is one of my favorite beers of the season, and drinking the first OSA of each November. And exploring the slight variations in the recipe (if there are any), is always a fun drinking experience. However, I wouldn't be able to consume more than one of these in a sitting due to it's richly spicy and herbal characteristics.

Tdizzle, Nov 11, 2009
Photo of bsp77
4.43/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Imperial Pint.

Appearance: Dark brownish-ruby with creamy tan head that mostly recedes with slight lacing lines.

Smell: Faintly sweet spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and gingerbread. Nice chocolate and caramel undertones.

Taste: Bittersweet roasted malts with light notes of coffee, chocolate and caramel. The spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) are subdued overall, especially compared to the smell, but provide a nice counterbalance. Slight bitter finish from the roasting. Almost seems a little stale, akin to an English Old Ale.

Feel: Moderate carbonation, medium body, somewhat dry finish.

Drinkability: This appears to be a Robust Porter with a fairly subdued holiday spice profile. This is a must purchase every year.

bsp77, Nov 10, 2009
Photo of Hornet2003
3.68/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was a neely brewed bottle purchased just after Halloween in B.C.

This year's version of OSA is very similar to last year's. Dark dark red in colour and slow to dissipate head. I sensed a lot of licorice in the aroma and also in the taste. Definitely moreso than years past. There are also the standard pine needle and cola flavours. I couldn't drink more than one at a sitting due to the aggressive licorice overtones. A little too much for me. But as a nice slow sipper, it is quite a festive brew!

Hornet2003, Nov 10, 2009
Photo of AimToCheat
4.5/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle: Brewed On October 8th 2009
Poured: November 8th 2009

Appearance: Poured into a sam adams glass. Medium sized thick caramel colored head. Some Lacing.

Smell: cinnamon, pine, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorn, cocoa, malt, spice

Taste: Malty, with a nice balance of hops, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Almost clove-like in taste. Something about this beer just reminds me of christmas. It could be called summer ale and it would still remind me of the winter.

Mouth-feel: malty and sweet

Drinkability: Could really drink this a lot during the winter months. It is a bit complex and heavy, but a few of these hit the spot.

AimToCheat, Nov 09, 2009
Photo of champ103
4.18/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a dark ruby brown color. A large tan head rises to over two finger with great retention. Sticky lace is left behind.
S: Apple pie, cinnamon spice, and bread/biscuit aromas. Very mellow, soft, and subtle.
T: Follows the nose. Plenty of cinnamon. A nice toasted malt flavor. Nutty with some bread and biscuit. I love the rich apple pie flavor. Some chocolate flavor lingers after this warms up a bit.
M/D: A full body with medium carbonation. Very creamy and rich. Very easy and smooth to drink. I can quaff these all day.

I think I like this one better than 08 initially. Less overwhelming peppermint and spicy flavors here. It still has some spice to it, just not up front and center. This is very mellow and subtle. Something I really enjoy and would recommend. I can't wait to see how this ages.

champ103, Nov 09, 2009
Photo of Brad007
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice burgundy color with a two-finger head that fades down, leaving lacing on the edge of the glass.

Aroma is sweet with a good hint of nutmeg (?) in the nose that seems quite strong. A decent way to start thi soff.

The taste is kind of sweet and the nutmeg actually fades away to reveal a layer of chewy malt that also has a bit of smokey/nutty texture to it. It fits the fall/winter theme.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering sweet/nutty malt. Very nice. Still quite chewy. No harsh flavors.

This may be a lot better than last year's release. Certainly more drinkable in my opinion.

Brad007, Nov 09, 2009
Photo of aubuc1
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle in to a pint glass.

Aggressive pour reults in a big tan frothy head on top of a clear dark body.
Smell is a huge spicy delight. Nutmeg and cinnamon are the most prevalent spices. After that it is hard to tell.
Taste is a very nice sweet spicy brown ale. Maybe a hint of hops in the back.

Slightly thin mouthfeel but a very drinkable beer considering the spices.

aubuc1, Nov 07, 2009
Photo of OtherShoe2
3.48/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a dark reddish brown with a light tan foamy head that dissipated quickly. No true lacing.

Smells of toasted malt and burnt sugar. Some bready element in there, but tough to find. Some light spice.

A bit disappointed in the complexity. Browned, toasted grain husk, somee burnt sugar (more bitter than sweet), some spice, just can't tell what, and overall toasted maltiness. Decent but if I bought a six of this it would take me a while to finish them.

These are sippers. Flavors are complex, alcohol is in check, but it is a tad bit harsh. Decent body and carbonation help, but I think I pass on this one again.

OtherShoe2, Nov 07, 2009
Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 408 ratings.