Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

697 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 697
Reviews: 286
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 14.84%
Wants: 11
Gots: 60 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Daniellobo on 10-19-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 697 | Reviews: 286
Reviews by dchew85:
More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a standard pint glass a deep roasted chesnut brown with nicely formed 1/2 finger tan head atop.Roasted in the nose with some chocolate malt and christmas spice,pretty well rounded.Dryer this year than in the past in my opinion,roasted and somewhat earthy with mild sweetness and mild spiced notes.This beer each year is just tweeked a little,this year being dryer and more roasted in my opinion.Another fine OSA.

Photo of ArrogantDeadGuy
4.45/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful deep brown pour capped with a sturdy head. The two finger head is tall with a ruddy tan hue. I like very much the deep reddish color to the foam and lace.

Sweet & spicey, maybe nutmeg, nose, just like any good Christmas themed beverage should be.

Wonderful flavors of holiday spice, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, sweet malt, with a mildly piney finish.

Great medium body and carbonation on this ale. My favorite seasonal effort by Anchor Brewing for sure. Really nice brew for the holidays.

Photo of warnerry
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours a clear garnet color with over a finger of ran head. Decent retention but only small spots of lacing.

S -- Very unique. Pine, a bit of anise and root beer candy. Also a mix of other spices and quite floral. There's a lot going on, but if works well together.

T - A big mix of spices up front. Gives a bit of a drying jolt to the tongue. Then a big rush of pine and malt. Finishes very dry, with spices lingering.

M - Medium mouthfeel with a very dry finish.

O - Truly a unique winter warmer. This is the first vintage I have had, but I am definitely intrigued. 12 oz is also too much with all that is going on, but this is an enjoyable brew.

Photo of Billolick
3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An old friend that returns to delight every year.

12 ounce bottle.

Pours cola in color with ruby hues, darker tan head that stays long enough, before turning into a thicker film and leaving ample splashes of fine lacing on the glass.

Herbal and winter spiced nose.

Tasty brew, with more winter spice, some chocolate, earthyness, some light cola, and a dry and long lasting finish. Flavorful and enjoyable year after year

Photo of bsp77
4.3/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | 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, vanilla and juniper. Nice chocolate and caramel undertones with a mild roastiness. Almost a touch of mead-like qualities.

Taste: Bittersweet roasted malts with light notes of chocolate and caramel. The spices counterbalance the Porter-like base nicely. Slight bitter finish, with pine, juniper and a light roasted bite. A little more tart and stale than I remember from recent years - I like that.

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

Drinkability: Another winner. Hard to know how much I am making up the differences. They are probably fairly similar each year - Porter base with a slightly different spice profile. This year may be slightly more tart with a touch of juniper. I think '07 (pre-review days) and '09 were my favorites, but this may be a touch better than the '10. But I really may be making this all up.

Photo of jondeelee
4.42/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Anchor's 2011 Christmas Ale opens with a pleasant, herbal-spicy aroma that reminds me instantly of homemade gingerbread cookies and pine needles. The spicy winter aromas are upfront and immediate, with touches of ginger, anise, black pepper, allspice, and clove mingling with good citrus-and-pine-sap notes from the hops. A heavy molasses-based sugar undercurrent brings the beer a great earthiness, with dark fruit esters such as plum, fig, prune, and black cherry rounding out the sugars. Thick marble-rye breads and yeasty wheat breads nicely complement the sugars and spices. As a whole, the nose is enticing and invigorating, making this a shoe-in for a Christmas morning eye-opener.

On the tongue, the first notes are spices, with ginger, anise, clove and black pepper taking the stage first and foremost, joined in shortly after by fruit esters including orange peel, fig, plum, and black cherry. A heavy pine needle-like cloud floats over all of the spices, almost as if the beer had been aged on a bed of spruce tips, lending the beer a pleasant Christmas feel (though I should note that, unlike some of the previous incarnations of this beer, the pine needle notes are complementary here, and not at all overwhelming). Touches of vanilla and molasses add to the gingerbread cookie feel, and the marble-rye and yeasty wheat breads help the beer taste more like a beer and less like, well, a cookie. The aftertaste is a continuation of mainly the spicy and dark fruit ester portions of the main mouthful, heavy on black pepper, pine needle, ginger, and clove, and lingers for a long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium-high.

Overall, this is one of the better of Anchor's Christmas ales that I've tried. Here the flavors mingle well and play off each other, as opposed to some previous versions where one flavor dominated so intensely that it reminded me of playground bullies. The beer is quite spicy, but the spices blend well, and the cookie-and-bread base is delicious. Highly recommended for fans of winter spiced beers, as well as Anchor's seasonal offerings.

Photo of pat61
4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

Spicy nose with a little fruit cake.
Pours brilliant deep chestnut under a 1" tan head, clingy lace.
A very malty, spicy ad dried fruit palate with some astringency and dryness from the spice that lingers through the finish.
Medium body to a little above, medium carbonation.

Photo of dogfishandi
3.98/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle just above fridge temp poured into a snifter. bottling code "1SV" translates to Sept. 22,2011.

pours out a very dark brownish color with some wonderful deep ruby colors when held up to the light. a big 3 fingers of a biege/ khaki head that slowly receded to some nice looking creamy, patchy retention and some very thick lace left on the glass.

aww.. that classic winter spice and raisony, dark fruity malt ive come to love over the years. anise as well as bits of a sweet toasty malt.

pine and a little spruce, raisony, figgy dark fruits, sweet toasted malt, a rounded flavor of cinnamin, nutmeg, anise, and other such winter spices. finishes with just a slight fruity ester and an even bitterness.

mouthfeel seems a little weak this year, more light bodied than i remember and perhaps even a slightly lighter color. i remember it a bit more black with maybe a little roasted malt in there.

overall, just the staple of the winter warmer style. i look forward to this every winter. this is also a great one to throw in the cellar, i look forward to my vertical, 3 years so far.

Photo of ehammond1
4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On Tap

The Vine Cottage
La Mesa, CA

Dark brown and ruby with a thick, persistent light brown head that eventually leaves sheets of lace down the glass. Near perfect per the style.

A well balanced aroma consisting of fruitcake and Coca Cola, along with a mild roasted malt character, and a bit of cinnamon. Very nice.

The flavor follows the aroma, with the earthy spices being a bit more dominant than in the aroma. The sweet Coca Cola and fruitcake flavors emerge along with a low level of bitterness. Incredibly drinkable.

Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

A definitive version of the Winter warmer style. I like to have one every year.

Photo of MattyG85
4.23/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 12 oz. bottle into a Sam Adams perfect pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with some ruby red. Lots of rising bubbles and a big six finger tan head with good retention. Lots of lacing around the glass.

Smell: Very spicy. Dark roasted caramel and toffee malts form a bready base. Big aroma of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and other spices. Also some roasty nuts. Hints of earthy hops in the background. Winter spices stand out the most.

Taste: Starts out with the winter spices including cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Some hints of dark raisins, fig, and prunes follow along with some spicy herbal hops. The dark roasted elements take over midway with a good taste of dark roasted caramel and toffee along with a strong presence of nuts. Tastes both spicy and sweet.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Very creamy, nutty, and smooth. Nuts linger in the aftertaste.

Overall: A very good winter warmer. Probably the best spice forward brew I've tasted so far.

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 355ml bottle with a BB of July 2013. Purchased a few weeks ago from my local beer specialist. I had the 2009 brew last year and missed out on the 2010, so time to catch up with the latest one (just as the 12 days of Xmas have ended).

Poured into a Delirium chalice. A dark coppery-red hue with good carbonation. Produces a large head of tan foam with a fine texture and good retention; this lasts for a few minutes before collapsing to a surface layer. Aroma of rich, fruity malt with notes of cinammon, spice, brown sugar, bananas, dried fruit and yeast esters.

Tastes of sweet, dark malt with a subtle spiciness and a fruity finish. Notes of spice, roasted malt, brown sugar, dried fruit, bananas and yeast. A hint of stewed hops in the background, accompanied by a warming alcoholic note. Mouthfeel is smooth and full-bodied, with light carbonation. Slightly astringent. Aftertaste of fruity malt, spice and stewed hops.

Rather nice - a quality seasonal beer. The smell reminds me of Yorkshire parkin. Quite different from the 2009 bottle that I had last year, which was a hoppy, piny affair. Smooth, rich and well-balanced, with a restrained use of spice. Highly drinkable, and well worth your while.

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.41/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice chestnut appearance, red, but overall, dark brown fits well, thin tan head about 1/2". Smell was a little woody, brown malt, usual hard to describe entity that is the special ale series.

Taste, almost no hops to it, lots of toffee, maybe some nutmeg. Carbonation is just right. No one big flavor leads the way, this is a lot of stuff in small amounts I'd guess. Substantial earthiness to the beer. Some cola like aspect to the beer, not just the appearance, shares some similarities with Rodenbach.

Even if they change the recipe every year, it is pretty consistent in terms of what to expect, this year's offering was right on the money as far as what I thought I was getting into. A neat winter warmer in a 12oz excursion during a Marquette/UConn game (at 9AM PST!). . . so its also fittingly nice in the morning, but I wouldn't go out and buy an entire 6 pack of this stuff, especially for a price which doesn't seem cheaper than $11.

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Something I have tasted every year for at least the last ten years. Definitely less pine and more dark chocolate roasted malts with a hints of bready caramelized sugars. Finishes with bitter pine and dry roasty cocoa notes. Aroma has a big spiced christmas feel even though I'm sure there's not any actual spices added but there may be spruce tips or at least that kind of flavoring. This year's is enjoyable but extremely balanced not much sweetness at all, it almost seems like a ancient gruit ale spiced with pine. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with ample flowing carbonation going on, finishes bone dry with ample bitterness from the green pine needles. Overall an enjoyable experience, never tasted the Christmas tree water but it may have similar qualities to this. Deeply resinous with after thought hop/pine burps coming out after my first bottle finished.

Photo of chinchill
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It has only been about a week since I had a 2010 Anchor Xmas Ale, so I can say with confidence that the 2011 edition is very similar. I really liked the 2010, so this is a good thing.

Pours a near black but, holding it to the light, one can see a clear, very dark brown ale. The tan head has moderate retention and leaves a good amount of sticky lacing.

Anchor has put plenty of holiday spicing in this ale, but not so much that it masks the dark malts. There's a trace of hops too; perhaps more than 2010, or this may reflect a freshness difference [just released versus about a year old]. In anny case, there is a clear hop presence in the finish and aftertaste that I do not recall from the 2010. The spice profile seems identical; the body a tad thinner.

O - a fine seasonal. despite a seemingly hoppier and improved finish, the ale seems slightly less rich a tad thinner -- overall, a tiny bit less enjoyable than last year.

Photo of ianjsullivan
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

ST: 12oz poured into a snifter. Bottle lists ABV but not DBD.

A: Dark black with red tints and a off-white fluffy head. It has nice retention, and leaves nice lacing.

S: Coco, wood, nutmeg, cinnamon, dark sugar, and roasted malt.

T: Cinnamon, roasted malt, woody, nutmeg.

M: Heavy and smooth.

O: I buy this beer every year, and I am always happy. This year is very similar to 2010's version; though, I would say this year is a bit woodier. Smooth with good flavor, this Christmas ale is not as heavy alcohol wise as others and can be enjoyed in number.

2011: After a year of aging.

A: Dark brown with a red tinge, thin brown head.

S: Caramel, fig, wood, latte, cinnamon.

T: Light sweet malt hints a bit of caramel and some coffee / hot chocolate, coco, and some bitterness on the finish.

M: Medium

O: Held up well, but no large changes.

Photo of rhoadsrage
2.96/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

(Served in a tulip glass)

A- This beer pours a dense brown with a thick film of bubbly tan that last for a good bit. It is a bit too dense to see any carbonation.

S- The clean aroma has a soft tartness with a malt hint and a quality that can only be described as Windex with some anise and lavender notes. There is a growing green wood note in the finish.

T- The dry notes have subtle yeast and malt flavors with some dark nougat and melanoidin notes to it. Thee is a note of spruce tips bitterness and spice in the finish.

M- The medium mouthfeel has a fizz finish and no alcohol heat.

O- This beer is subtle but full of interesting but very odd flavors that are all much softer than the bitterness in the finish. I'm not sure what went into the beer but it is the strangest OSA I have ever tried.

Photo of LXIXME
3.11/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from an inch or so above the glass leaves a big light brown head above a clear burnt red amber colored beer.

Aroma is roasted malt with nutmeg and other Christmas style spices that have a slight warming effect like the smell of home cooking.

The taste is more of the Christmas spices with some roasted malt background on a medium bodied beer that leaves a slight dry aftertaste that still has some of the Christmas spice hints.

Photo of Haightfulbrew
3.87/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pour: Extremely dark red, bordering on black, slightly translucent. A good three inches of reddish head settles slowly, leaving behind continental lacing and a big central glob.

Nose: Chocolate, cherry, prunes, bread and brown sugar. More spice and hop as it warms.

Taste: Toasty, bready chocolate, then a roast beef sandwich in the middle. Spice and medium hop bitterness to finish.

Mouth: Round, a bit cloying, medium body. Carbonation is light, aiming for creamy.

First time with this beer. Would be fantastic with a big meal.

Photo of biboergosum
3.68/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, 2011 edition. A tithe portion was paid out to my mom, who is gleefully interested in all these weird new beers I've brought home this Christmas...she endearingly deemed it very good, in that it tastes like old timey stout. Aaaaah...

My lion's share of this beer pours a clear, very dark reddish amber hue, with two fingers of thick, foamy beige head, which settles at due pace, leaving a more or less solid wall of painted lace around the glass. It smells like those wrapped toffee candies so prevalent at semi-formal festive functions, with a slight red vinous character lurking about, some black licorice, and a smidgeon of pine resin. The taste is quite in line with the flavour, but with a down-shift on the caramel/toffee malt sweetness, and a mildly edgy metallic nature added to the understated weedy, piney hops. The carbonation is a bit frizzy, the body medium weight, and a tad astringently skewed in its smoothness profile. It finishes with that ethereal toffee/menthol candy essence, so tantalizingly familiar.

A decent holiday warmer, if more in free-association, than in strength. Worth enjoying a few if you've an excuse/opportunity to veg out by the fire, real or TV-simulacrum, in this holiest of do fuck-all seasons...

Photo of mdaschaf
3.92/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had on tap at Prime 16. Review from notes.

A: Served in a pint glass that beer is a dark brown, slightly purple color. One finger of tan/brown head on top with nice retention and thin lacing down the sides.

S: Lots of winter spices, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Some raisins, brown sugar, and a little bit of pine.

T: The same spices come through nicely on the flavor profile, but are not as pronounced as they are on the aroma. There is a bit of toasted bread and some caramel as well as a little bit of pine. Hints of dark fruit as well.

M: Medium bodied, very smooth, and somewhat creamy.

O: First time having this beer, and it was pretty good. Didn't quite expect the spice level, but it is certainly a fitting holiday beer.

Photo of Sammy
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I always enjoy this beer, and it is afavourite of the style, and I appreciate the punch in taste at this sessionable abv. Coco-cola in the aroma and the taste. Black bodied with some white head. Above average carbonation. Tasty as not sweet and love the fir pines, cocoa. Has a slightly aged bottle that was fine but not as good.

Photo of brewerburgundy
3.58/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, Sam Adams perfect pint, uselessly 'clever' Anchor dating code of 1DH.

Bloody cherry red is this long running beer, a standard light brown head deflates slowly to a good solid finger of foam.

Sweet malty cherry juice backs a fresh, scrubbed clean spruce herbal aura. I smell lavender and sage, but there seem to be a bevy of herbs in there.

Cherry juice is a big part of the flavor, sweet and malty again. Licorice now joins, as does rhubarb, roast, and sarsaparilla. Interesting things afoot here, let it warm; it's fairly sweet and I get a little bit of cola too.

Though it doesn't have much heft, the palate is satisfying and a little chalky like the pastel violet candies, which I also smell in the nose. Carbonation is medium-high.

Now that I've finally gotten around to trying Our Special Ale I'm left unsure of whether I really like this year's iteration. I find it interesting, but sort of without direction. The herbs and spices seem to dominate, but not by much and it otherwise doesn't rely on any other element. The fact that it changes every year does hold appeal for me though.

Photo of BeardedRiker
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Another cool night in the winter season in Texas means drinking and reviewing another winter warmer style beer. This is one of my a handful of winter warmer or winter warmer-like beers I've had over the last few weeks.

The head forms fluffy and tan. It fizzes away pretty quickly. A thin layer remains on the surface while drinking. Lacing is minimal. The beer is dark brown but held up to the light it has a reddish-brown color, almost ruby.

This is a very fruity-smelling beer. Raisin, fig, and plum dominate the nose. The fruitiness brings out sweetness, tartness, and acidity. The malted barley comes out a lot as well that gives it a cereal smell. Coupled with the strong raisin aroma, it's like smelling Raisin Bran. After sniffing some more I get some apple in there as well. There's a spiciness to it and added to the acidity it tingles the nose. As it warms I get more nuttiness and roastiness, maybe a bit of coffee and chocolate.

Like the smell the fruitiness is strongest. Raisin, cocoa and coffee. Subtle pine sweetness, a sweet cookiness (if that makes sense), and a lingering nuttiness keep the flavor going.

Medium-bodied with medium carbonation. The acidity keeps things lively. Perhaps I'd prefer something with a little more body but this is very drinkable. A bit slick but dry on the end from spiciness.

This isn't as rich or hoppy as most other winter warmer beers or other similar beers, but it has a uniqueness in smell and taste ,and drinkability that most others don't.

Photo of dirtylou
3.85/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle - the holiday staple

appearance: served in a great lakes xmas snifter, cola-brown body, tan film with light retention

smell: sweet malts, molasses, holiday spice, gingerbread

taste: gingerbread and spice, holiday cookies, a bit sweeter than some previous vintages, dry bitterness, some dark fruit, wood. Still a classic, but underwhelming in comparison.

mouthfeel: dry, light bitterness

overalll: good, but low-end of the series

Photo of RickS95
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark spicy brown. Lighter golden notes surround the edges. The head is slow forming, but a finger and a half of light brown bubbles with a sticky lace as it dissipates.

Oh God it smells good. Notes of malt and spice and brown sugar and nutmeg and cinnamon, it's exactly what I'm looking for in a winter beer.

Taste doesn't quite match the smell and appearance, but it's still good. Malty and spicy, but there is an earthy piney taste to it, with a bit of bittersweet chocolate/coffee in the finish.

Lacks the sweetness for balance, instead it's a bit on the spicy and bitter side.

Another classic winter beer from Anchor. I look forward to this each year and this doesn't disappoint. One of the few beers I'll buy a case of at a time.

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Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 697 ratings.