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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

285 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 285
Hads: 698
Avg: 3.85
pDev: 14.81%
Wants: 12
Gots: 63 | 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.
View: Beers (28) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 285 | Hads: 698
Photo of thain709
3.92/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - This one poured with a massive three finger head...it was brown in color and became rocky as it fell to a full cap...the body was a chestnut brown...patchy lacing was left behind

S - Warm, holiday spices are present right away...cinnamon and nutmeg...there is also a sweet side to it that features some dark caramel

T - The flavors follow the nose pretty closely...it opens up with those holiday spices...cinnamon is the front runner but nutmeg and clove are close behind...it really reminds you of the holidays...again, there is sweetness lingering and taking the edge of the spiciness...dark caramel and rich molasses keep poking their heads

M - Light bodied...lighter than I expected/wanted...soft carbonation...spicy with a touch of sweet

O - This was my first encounter with an OSA...I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed this bottle...it really reminded me of the holidays, in a glass!

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Photo of litheum94
4.14/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brown body, essentially mahogany. Reddish-brown head Head is a full thickness that settles to a patchy cover with minimal lacing.

Molasses, cinnamon sticks, cranberries and orange peel. Some cedar. Holiday spice in a beverage.

Thick and satisfying. The aromas follow through, with molasses, cinnamon, cranberries and orange peel. Some cedar, but the woodiness goes a little further, tasting of delicate pine cone hops.

Once again, a can't miss winter beer. If you don't like this, you don't like winter warmers.

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Photo of CrystalShipMS3
4.61/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's one of the prettiest beers I've ever seen. Red, Christmas red, dark with crimson highlights. Nice somewhat fluffy tan head. Beautiful lacing all they way down.

Dark rich caramel malt smell. Slight warm alcohol and mostly bitter hops. Some spice and resinous pine.

This beer really comes alive as it warms up, in fact I'd serve it only lightly chilled.
Rich and complex malt and grain. Slightly sweet and dark fruitiness. Dark caramel. Hints of spice, not much but it's very definitely there and adds a third dimension which rounds out the malt profile perfectly. The hops are not as rich and play second chair to the malt, but they have a resin-pine bitterness to balance the sweetness.
The aftertaste is so good it gets it's own paragraph. There's a nice roasted malt earthiness and oily pine. It remains perfectly balanced even after the beer is long gone from your mouth. Perfect.

It's got a heavy mouthfeel but remains somewhat crisp. The warmth of the alcohol is supported nicely by the carbonation.

Overall it's a great beer. Nearly perfect except that it's gone and there will never be another just like it, but next year there will be an equally as good one with a different Christmas tree on the bottle.

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Photo of Louski
3.43/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a Standard Pint Glass

Appears a nice red-brown with a thin head. Smelled rich of fruit, cinnamon and other spices. Taste started off really well but finished very weak. I would have loved a more full-bodied brew as the flavors of this were too heavy for the lighter beer. Not a bad attempt this year, but I know Anchor is capable of much better.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.66/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear dark brown with reddish highlights in color with a finger tall foamy light tan head. This beer exhibits wonderful head retention and significant amounts of lacing.

S: The aroma is mostly roasted brown malts with more subtle aromas of woods, pine/spruce, molasses, Christmas spices, and something akin to bubblegum. It is not unpleasant but unexpected.

T: The flavor has a lot of roasted malts with some definitely woodiness - I get some subtle hints of pine/spruce, juniper, molasses, and very subtle nutmeg. There is a pleasant bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while.

M: Medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. I would also describe this beer as thinner than I expected/wanted.

O: Enjoyable, not my favorite recipe that has been used over the years and certainly not my least favorite either. It has a rather Christmas aroma and flavor which I enjoyed. I expected something a little less watery and slightly bolder in the flavors but I could enjoy another of these.

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Photo of django24
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From Notes. Served at cellar temp ~50 degrees F

Appearance: Clear, dark brown bordering black with mahogany highights. Small but decent khaki head.

Aroma: Strong toasty-roasty malt, dark fruits, a little bubblegum, maybe some chocolate? There's some kind of woodiness to this as well.

Taste: Fairly strong toasty bread, some cola, dark chocolate, and spices and/or spicy hops. Roasted bitterness nice with the hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body but tastes a little thinner than expected. Smooth upfront, little carb prickle and then hops and toasted/roasted astringency along with the hops fades to a small and nice lingering sweetness.

Overall: My first "Our Special Ale". Not what I was expecting as far as the taste. From the looks it could have been thick and heavy but it's actually clear and lighter at 5.5 abv. Pleasantly surprised. Put another bottle away in the cellar to see how it ages.

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Photo of mjurney
3.96/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Ruby brown color, see through. Lots of small bubbles rising. Thick creamy head. Lacing looks awesome on the glass.

Sweet malts, molasses, spices.

Malty up front. Toasted malts, slight roasted. Holiday spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, little touch of ginger. Mixture of dark fruit and red apples. Leafy towards the finish.

Smooth, medium bodied, soft carbonation.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.41/5  rDev -11.4%
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.

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Photo of buschbeer
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle
Served in a pint glass

A - It pours a ruddy brown with some garnet highlights. A relatively tame pour yields me a mountain of light brown head.

S - I get a lot of the Christmas smells that one would expect, clove and cinnamon. I also get some faint pine and roasted malt.

T - The taste is more of the roasted malt. I get some caramel and toast. The spices and pine show up more towards the end. It does conjure thoughts of Christmas.

M - Medium. Not a lot of carbonation.

O - I know each year is a different recipe, but each year is very similar. I like the roasted malt backbone with the pine and holiday spices thrown in there.

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Photo of Arborescence
4.11/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Black, pours a very thick, creamy head.

Aroma: Spices, surprisingly fresh, grapefruit?

Taste: Light and fresh to begin with, but kicks with rich maltyness and a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I can’t put my finger on the (secret) extra ingredients, but they are not your typical winter spices, I can tell you that much. There’s no cinnamon or the typical warmth that you’d expect from a Christmas Ale, but that’s actually a nice change and distinguishes this from many other offerings. Fresh but rich and toasty maltyness, that about sums it up. The aftertaste is that of a porter, but you wouldn’t guess it from the aroma and the initial burst of freshness. A strange combination, but I’m getting to like it as I sip more.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, but quite light for a beer of this type.

Overall: This was my first encounter with the Anchor Christmas Ales, but they have been doing them for a while! Every year the (secret) recipe changes and they have a theme tree, which is the bristlecone pine this year. The label is quite pretty, featuring the tree. This beer grew on me as I went on and I would say that it’s an excellent addition to this year’s Christmas Ales. Also worth noting is that the ABV is not as insane as with many Christmas Ales, so you can have another one too!

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Photo of smakawhat
4.62/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale, where any day can be Christmas! Let's check out 2011, into a nonic pint glass you go.

A wonderful absolutely light tan to almost light creme colored head forms, so perfectly, so uniformly of pin head bubbles all throughout, leaving a cap of creamy retention and staying power. Body color is deep garnet red and brown. Just fantastic looking.

What a nose on this beer. Pine cone and spruce, mixed with sweetness. Faint airy dry nutmeg, maple sugar so hidden. Just out of this world smelling for a warmer.

What a great tasting brew. Rolling slightly velvet malts, mix with a dry pine spice, finishing with classic brown spices, nutmeg, allspice, clove and so forth. Tea like muted oolong richness on the finish. Even some sarsaparilla like cola and root beer.

Second time I tried this brew after having a very long aged 2010, man I am really enjoying this. I will look forward to trying this every year with much anticipation. I am almost eager for Christmas if I can try this now.

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Photo of brdc
4.12/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An enormous bottle served to a lot of guests during Christmas festivities. Poured into a tulip glass. From notes.

Dark brown color, with a light tan head, with reasonable lacing and retention.
Very nice aroma, with a lot of spices, from cinnamon to nutmeg, clove, anise, some dark fruits, and squeezed lemons. Light notes of bread and brown sugar.
Medium bodied, flavorful yet light, with relatively low alcohol which makes it perfect for long parties.
A blast of flavors that blend well include caramel, a lot of spiciness including mostly nutmeg and cinnamon, hints of citric notes, herbs, and orange tea. Non beer geeks loved it, I liked it. Will repeat next Christmas.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.2/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a very dark brown with hints of red. Beautiful three finger fine light tan head and massive lacing. Remarkable for a low ABV ale. Very nice aroma of cinnamon, wintergreen, root beer spices and mint. Nice. Flavor is subdued compared to the aroma, but very pleasant. Sweet malt, lighter toasted malt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spices, light earthiness. A very nice winter ale. Light to medium bodied. Somewhat subtle flavor, but not bad for the ABV.

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Photo of Durge
4.15/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A dark brown, mahogany colored brew with a substantial tan foam and plenty of chunkiness hanging onto the glass as you go. The nose delivers definitive juniper and delicate spiced malt. Very nice and a classy holiday appeal. The flavor begins surprisingly tart, pear and juniper over slightly chocolaty charcoal malt. Pear bleeds into berry and as you work through it even the evergreen ideas fade a bit and the tart and charcoal flavors take over. It’s easily medium bodied with a glassy feel touched by a bit of resin. It goes down easy enough and makes for a solid holiday brew, for yet another year.

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Photo of tonyf55
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Christmas ale into a tulip - my last bottle from a six pack I bought in December... I guess Christmas is officially over...

Visual (4): Dark black beer with a dark ruby clarity when held to the light. Malty-tan coloured head of small, tight bubbles that falls from a 2 finger head to a single finger. Head settles decently quickly, but lasts long enough to look smart.

Aroma (4.5): Dark roasted malts with dark fruits, and a finishing Christmas spice character (maybe from the hops?). Its a bouquet of bready, plum scents that settles into woody spice notes. Hard to pin-point but very good.

Taste (3.5): Not one that lacks complexity, that's for sure, but strikes an odd balance in flavour. Light malted grain flavour throughout, but really announces its presence at the end of the taste with a nutmeg spice that rolls into a burnt vanilla aftertaste. It's an odd flavour that despite its creative complexity is hard to embrace as well formed.

Mouthfeel (4.5): Medium body with light carbonation. An oily texture leaves a nice film on the pallet that leaves the complex flavours lingering. Extremely fitting of the beers style and flavours.

Overall (4): A very well crafted beer; I felt like I was drinking the creative creation of an artist, as I might not understand it off the first glance but I grew to appreciate its complexity the longer and longer I spent with it. Unlike an art piece though, when its gone... its gone. Until next Christmas...

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Photo of FreshHawk
4.2/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark chestnut amber color with an average sized, smooth, foamy, white head. Average retention with a nice lacing left over.

S - Sweet and spiced aroma. Toasted caramel, fir/pine, hints of cocoa, and plenty of spice (clove being strongest). Lots of different aromas all interplay with each other.

T - Like the nose. This year has a bit more pine/fir along with a general woodiness. Strong clove and spice. Good amount of cinnamon, pepper, some orange zest, and others. Some brown sugar and cola also hints of cocoa (and maybe some coffee). Nothing really dominates as they all just mix.

M - Medium body with average carbonation. Slightly sticky feel.

D - Loads of flavors that make me want to drink more to keep discovering them. A little overwhelming and the sticky mouthfeel doesn't help. Nice sipping beer though.

Notes: Another year, another fine wintery beer. I got a bit more pine/fir and woodiness than last year's. Nice spiced aspect and a nice level of sweetness. Nice winter beer to sip on.

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Photo of albertjr21
3.77/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyed in a tulip on 2-3-12.

A: Pours a dark charred brown under a tan head.

S: Deep aroma of a somewhat cool and minty herbal nose is nicely set against a dark roasted malt background.

M: A mild bodied but complex and flavorful harmony of roasted malt and a unique sweetness.

T: To a small degree, the sweetness here is reminiscent to that lightly citric and nectary plant quality of a tequila's...

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Photo of RoamingGnome
3.77/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured out of a 12 oz bottle into CBS snifter.

A) Pours out brown with red highlights. Aggressive pour led to a full finger of khaki colored head. Decent retention and some initial lacing.

S) A nice potpourri and Christmas wassail. This has a pleasant sweetness and a nice blend of spices. It's like you could warm it up and go caroling, that is if anyone actually did that anymore.

T) More beer flavors than the aroma indicates. The spices are nice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This gets earthy/grassy. I actually found a little coffee too. It finishes well.

M) A medium body, pretty thick. This coated my mouth. It has ample carbonation, but works well. It's fairly smooth with a woody/earthy aftertaste.

O) Pretty good seasonal. I appreciate the history behind this offering. I personally enjoyed Great Lakes Christmas Ale a bit better, but this was solid too.

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Photo of wl0307
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Purchased at the Jasons supermarket in Taipei City, Taiwan; produced on 10/11/2011, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass.

A: pours a deeply dark brown colour, coming with a very tight and thick dark beige frothy head with superb retention, while the carbonation level is… unknown.
S: absolutely fresh and enticing… sweet dark coloured malts mix perfectly with American flowery+piney hops with a tinge of cinnamon on the side; a good swirl brings out burned jammy dark fruits and creamy toffee-ish notes. In general the aroma is clearly spiced but not so pronounced to be overpowering, leaving the fresh hoppiness to outweigh the other elements.
T: very soothing, a nice and slightly “flat”-textured roasted malty foretaste is ensued by moderate, only very moderate, mixed spices (mint-ish, nutmeg-ish and also cinnamon-ish) and subdued fruits (damson fruits and apple skins spring to mind), then chewy smoky coffee-ish or charred-woody or burned-nutty taste prevails in the aftertaste, leaving a rather chewy mouthfeel on especially the deep end of the tongue along with random hints of more dark stone-fruits (especially dried black dates, I think); flatly bitter, only mildly spicy, and delicately hoppy in the long… finish.
M&D: the mouthfeel remains refreshing and light, pairing well with, if not due to, the light body, a lower-than-expected malt gravity, and sustaining spiciness. This vintage is quite different than all other vintages I’ve tried, and this is the first time I’ve tried Our Special Ale within 3 months of its production date, which I guess explains how the balance is not reached and the maltiness seems to be rather displaced instead of providing a clear “gravity”. Potential for ageing? I guess the depth and structure of flavour convince me to say, yes. At least I should try one more bottle in maybe 6-9 months’ time.

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Photo of beerdrifter
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Got this one from my nephew. Dark brown, almost black pour with two finger creamy tan head that fades quickly but leaves some nice lacing. Very unique, spicy, herbal nose with hints of anise, gingerbread, toffee, raisins, and cinnamon. The smell carries through to the taste as it captures the essence of what a true winter warmer should be, in my opinion. Spices dominate with hints of ginger, sassafras, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It's complemented nicely by a solid caramel malt backbone with brown sugar and a touch of spruce as well. Slightly creamy body with medium carbonation, but it just feels a bit thin. The finish is semi-dry with a subtle bitterness. An overall solid Christmas beer.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
2.96/5  rDev -23.1%
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.

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Photo of Onenote81
3.3/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got to try this one thanks to ClarkPinnock bringing some over the other night. I missed my chance to get some around the holidays.

Pours a dark rusty amber with a small off-white head as a capper. The nose is sweet and spicy. Lots of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg. Smooth creamy mouth. Subtle carbonation. As I sip this one, the spices greet me with a hearty "Hello!" They impart a rather dull bitterness to the beer, rather than any sweet characteristics. Some dark fruit-like flavors like fig noted. This wasn't my favorite of their annual release, but it was fun to drink. Thanks, Jared.

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Photo of iheartchicken
4.38/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass

A: Huge brown/tan head which stick around for a little until it transforms into a half inch thick loaf atop my beer. color is a beautiful brown with a very noticeable ruby red hue. not much lacing

S: dark fruit is very prevalent, raisins, toasted malts, little spice

T: all of the aforementioned qualities from the smell with an exception of the raisins. I also get a little tartness... pretty complex

M: medium bodied with smooth and creamy carbonation

O: I am very impressed by this beer. It really looks nice when you hold it up to the light although the head needs no light to be noticed. taste was very complex, it had this tartness to it which i could not resist. I wish I had some more but unfortunately only one was in my mixed winter seasonal case

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.12/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

OSA is one of my favorite annual releases, truth be told. I'm not quite sure how much the recipe is tweaked year to year (i.e. why a new entry on BA... is it just 'because'?). Anyhow, I decided to open a 12 oz. bottle before the holiday season completely slips away; poured to a standard pint.

Back of label shows '1OK', meaning this was bottled October 11, 2011.

Label 2011: 'Pinus longaeva', otherwise known as the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine... and, quite simply, the funniest Latin name ever to my juvenile side. On to the beer...

A: Looks sinister and dark, but hold it to the light and plenty of garnet and ruby shine through. Modest carbonation shows through a generally clear pour. A light mocha head, very creamy and not quite a finger high, quickly recedes to a thin skim. Lace struggles to hold the glass, looking like drippy ribbons initially but gliding downward in seconds.

S: Always that lovely spiced scent: a plateful of fresh gingerbread, a whiff of dark molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg, too. Besides all the dessert-y sweetness, there's a drier bready base and One of THE best aromas from any beer I've had.

T: Lots of spice! This year's version seems a little more brazen with the dry/earthy flavors and a fruitiness like apple skins and tart raisins. Ginger and plenty of nutmeg ~ I really enjoy the spices, but I can see how they might turn off some. Not me, fortunately.

M: Creamy feel, light-medium body, tingly carbonation. Kind of effervescent, really - a buoyancy that I find more often in Belgian Darks than anywhere else. A little 'burpy' afterward.

O: Always a favorite, a beer I anticipate every year just about when the leaves start to turn. A bit on the tangy side this year, it seems, a little different but still quite enjoyable. As usual, I'll hold onto a few bottles in the cellar and we'll see how they develop. Someday.

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Photo of climax
3.51/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 pours a nice deep mahogany brown, with glowing garnet highlights. The fluffy head is large and lazy.

Fruity esters are prevalent in the smooth aroma. Certain cues make me curious as to if there was any wood-aging. Subtle spices accent a buttery pie crust like aroma.

I get a lot of soda flavors in the taste, reminiscent of Dad's rootbeer and cream soda. The herbal tones arrive in the finish, which is slightly dry and roasty.

The feel is so light and creamy it almost feels like cask; carbonation is very minor. It's fairly thin and disappears in the mouth so quickly that it's slightly disappointing.

The flavors seems just a bit feeble in this year's offering. However, it has sessionability like a champ, and would be an easy one to sit and enjoy after a huge Xmas dinner.

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Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 285 ratings.