Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

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 (26) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 285 | Hads: 698
Photo of sommersb
4.17/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted On: 01-18-2012
Freshness: Unknown
Packaging: Draft
Glassware: Shaker pint
Purchased: On tap at Wino's Depot, Bowling Green KY

Color is a dark reddish-brown and clear, with ruby highlights. Head was almost non-existent, but it was a full pour to the glass rim.

Aromas are interesting with spices and evergreens, combined with a wine-like grape fruitiness. More malty-sweet in the nose than bitter.

The taste is similar to the aromas, with a solid malt backbone and spices. I also taste some tannin, woodiness and wine/grapes flavors.

Body is medium and drinkability is high. The finish is on the sweet side. Overall a unique and enjoyable brew. I enjoyed this 2011 version over the 2010.

Thanks to Brianito for the pint!

 731 characters

Photo of JohnFatAss
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a nice dark beer with a creamy tan head.

This beer has a a lot of flavor. Sweet, malty taste, with spices.

Easy to drink, adn you don't notice the alcohol.

Not a beer I would want to drink all the time but perfect for the winter/holiday season.

 258 characters

Photo of facundoCNB
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - dark amber color, nice fluffy tan head with lots of lacing

S - initial smell was all malt and spices. second smell introduced some citrus and flowery smells.

T - a hint of raisins and brown sugar (sweet), malty, slightly bitter after taste

M - crisp, very smooth going down, slightly creamy with a dry finish

O - a very nice winter warmer. the smell is right on the money with the taste, and to me those are the 2 most important values in a beer.

 454 characters

Photo of scruffwhor
4.19/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark ruby color hides the bubbling well, until you hold the brew up to the light. Good foam after the pour, but recedes to a thin to nonexistant film of foam after a few sips.

Has nice spice notes with lightly roasted and toasted mlats. Can't put my finger on the specific spices, maybe some cinnamon amogst others, but the spices and malt aromas come together very well.

Roasted and toasted malts combine with various spices and flavors to make for what I consider to be the quintessential Winter Warmer ale.

Spicey yet malt forward palate. This is a great buy for the X-Mas Season. A beer that can be enjoyed again and again, by yourself, or with those you care about.

 673 characters

Photo of NiceTaps
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass. I've drank 12 bottles since Thanksgiving, the last one today.

A- pours a very dark brown with a creamy tan 2-plus finger head. Not much lacing.

S-Other reviewers cover lots of scents, I had trouble nailing it down. Roasted malt and a touch of anise are what I gather.

T-malts with a hint of chocolate and anise. There are no strong hop flavors to me.

M-Good feel for a holiday/winter brew. Cool on the lip, warm on the tounge. Just right.

O-I don't know if I nailed the flavor precisely but I offer this...It tastes good and it's another solid offering from a steady brewery. _

 609 characters

Photo of bennetj17
3.7/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown color, seemingly black, but you can see a deep glowing amber through it when held in the light. Medium head of tan foam rises after the pour, but quickly settles. Dominant fruit notes in the smell, with suggestions of gingerbread, licorice and other spice. The aroma is just what I expect from the OSA, and though the recipe changes each year, it always seems pretty much the same to me.

Lightly dry, cinnamon-raisin bread malt up front, with some tangy dark fruit to pair. Finishes somewhat bitter, with a touch of astringence. I feel like they were a bit heavy handed with the hops, which for this malty/spiced beer doesn't work. Two months ago I really noticed a more significant hop presence on this beer than in past years, and now the freshness has faded some but the bitterness is still there. Medium body, nice carbonation.

Not my favorite vintage, but like I said every year it's pretty much along the same lines. Although I can't give it an excellent rating, this beer is one of my favorite holiday ales nevertheless, and I still stock up on some every winter.

 1,085 characters

Photo of Nerudamann
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.

Look – very very dark amber red, with about two fingers’ worth of dark khaki-colored foam that dissipates slowly.

Smell – spicy-smelling, probably nutmeg and something else. But not overwhelming.

Taste – bitter spiciness from the very beginning. The bite of the bitterness hits the side of the palate before you can even taste anything. The spiciness is next, and after that the whole mouth is afire of flavor from it (to be clear, not hot). Then a muskiness takes over into the finish, but even then it’s not that pungent. Spice lingers in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel – a little low and leaning a little bit more toward the creamier side.

Overall – not a bad brew at all, worth tasting, but not terribly interesting.

 777 characters

Photo of mikehblack
3.7/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Very dark reddish brown. Off-white head. Good apparent carbonation

S- Sweet breadiness, cinnamon, clove. A hint of oaky vanilla

T- Tastes much like the aroma. Sweet malt creaminess with nice winter spices to back it up. Leaves a gingerbread taste at the end. Good full mouthfeel.

O- This is a classic winter warmer. Wish I had reviewed past releases to compare and contrast. A wonderful seasonal that should be a staple during anyone's holiday.

 450 characters

Photo of sevenarts
3.7/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours dark red with a big creamy head that leaves nice lacing behind as it subsides.

S: Cinnamon and spices with a woody, almost root beer-like aroma.

T/M: Cinnamon and spices, pretty sweet up front, gradually giving way to a mildly bitter, woody aftertaste. Nice, very creamy mouthfeel.

O: This is a very tasty winter beer where the spices are prominent but not overpowering.

 382 characters

Photo of mikeg67
3.69/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle. Pours brown with a long lasting tanned head and a lot of lacing. Aroma is of sourdough, some pine, grain and spices. Body is medium and crisp. Toasted, nutty, malt, some caramel, cacao and chocolate along with earthy hops and cinnamon fill the mouth. Finish is long and dry. Nice holiday brew.

 307 characters

Photo of BlurryVisi0n
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured unto an over-sized tulip glass.

Appearance: A dark amber, bubbling right from the first pour. Head rose a tan-white head pretty thick which was about an 1" from the body.

Smell: Light cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Disappears after a sniff that's why I couldn't go higher.

Taste: Pretty good taste, nutmeg, cinnamon but not overly done liike some other winter or fall beers. Presence of hops won't leave your mouth (thank you Anchor brewing) will definitely have to pick another one of these up.

Mouth: Pretty obvious the best property of this beer. Goes down heavy and smooth....textured like a hefeweisen but better.

Overall: Well finished beer. It is hard to judge i feel like the taste's is all over the place with hops, cinnamon and nutmeg. There are other things to consider, how well and almost perfectly carbonated this beer is medium-heavy and just perfect enough to say, "one more!". Cheers!

 910 characters

Photo of ianjsullivan
4/5  rDev +3.9%
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.

 849 characters

Photo of atr2605
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-pours very dark amber, almost black with a really nice fluffy tan head with great retention.
S-plums and dates with spice and a bit of a floral character. A bit of a toasted malt starts to come out as it warms
T-follows the profile of the aroma which in this case is really nice. Its a fairly soft flavor but well balanced and very drinkable
M-medium-light bodied
O-Very enjoyable beer. First seasonal brew from anchor and Im impressed, I will continue to check it out each year

 481 characters

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.65/5  rDev -5.2%
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.

 1,209 characters

Photo of matt062286
3.45/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours a deep mahogany brown, fairly opaque. Thick khaki colored head that dissipates slowly. Maintains a dense, patchy head and shows above average lacing.

S - Pine tree sap, spruce, molasses, currants, prunes, cocoa.

T - Very malt forward with a lingering dry hop bitterness. Some dry woody flavors, apricot, rye bread, pine oil. Some hints of coffee and a smokey flavor in the aftertaste.

M - Medium body with minimal carbonation.

O - Was really looking forward to having this beer this year, after loving the past two years' versions. Was a bit let down this year, it is similar to previous years in a few ways but this version is a step back in my book. Still looking forward to next year though

 707 characters

Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Finally got around to having one of these this week since I had an off day from work. Sure enough, this was different from other years that I've enjoyed this, and it was a bit thinner and less full than I expected. It's part of what I like about this beer, as opposed to the other holiday seasonals out there, but it was just a bit below what I came to expect when I poured this out and gave it a go.

The pour to this was solid, with a deep crimson hue and fluffy head that didn't fail to disappoint once again this year. Not much of an aroma here but that was about the only setback that this offering had to it. Lots of sourdough and pumpernickel bread to the taste with some fig, caramel, and licorice underneath it all. There was a doughy consistency to this, even if the mouthfeel was lighter in this year's rendition. The aftertaste was that of the dark fruit and alcohol, without much body underneath. This certainly had the taste that I came to expect but the variation is here and for some reason, this is just a bit short of what I remember it being in years past.

The alcohol is nice here and can hardly be felt, even though this is still a Winter Warmer at heart. It would be a good substitute for a Wassail if there was a bit more spice here but for now, it is what it is: A holiday beer worth buying every year, if only to enjoy the subtle differences that come along with a good craft beer. This one was decent but like this winter, a bit of a letdown this time around.

 1,487 characters

Photo of StJamesGate
3.86/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Brown with ruby red highlights and a tight cappuccino-colored head that lumps, rims and laces. Earthy malts and nutmeg on the nose.
Brown malts, caramel, kola and apple with spice cake (EKG?) hops and maybe some anise.
Candy finish and bitter toffee linger. Light to medium, fizzy, creamy.

Toasty, and thinner than expected. Curious what the spice mix is. Maybe not their best Christmas, but very drinkable at this strength.

 426 characters

Photo of schoolboy
3.75/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I am hoping that this will improve as it warms up. The 50 oz. bottle gave a couple nice foamy glasses for our first taste. The aroma is very malty and the taste follows to a lesser degree.

There is just enough hops to give it a little bitterness. So far the taste is not getting any better as it warms. Overall, I will avoid this xmas brew in the future.

 355 characters

Photo of BEERMILER12
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottled 1OE so October 5th, 2011. Drank on Christmas Eve 2011. From notes:

A: Pours a ruby red color with a big fluffy off-white head

S: Definitely smells like Christmas. Plenty of spices as well as sweet malts. Cinnamon and ginger come to mind first with plenty of other spices in there

T: Same as the smell, the spices are slightly subdued but that is a good thing. Some sweet and bready malts come through in the middle and then it finishes off with a good mix of the malts and spices along with some nuttiness

M: Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Slightly thinner than last years

O: Another solid winter warmer from Anchor. You can always count on them to deliver with this beer, no matter how different it is from the previous year

 753 characters

Photo of mdaschaf
3.92/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

 739 characters

Photo of RickS95
4.22/5  rDev +9.6%
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.

 747 characters

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

1.5L magnum poured into a Brooklyn tulip and served amongst the family on Christmas day... (from notes)

A: Mahogany brown; garnet when held to light; light tan, two-finger head; no lace.

S: Spices; sweet malt; light anise aroma; toast.

T: Dark bread; nutmeg; vanilla; ginger; pie crust and a touch of licorice; leafy hops (not much) provide some dryness on the finish.

M: Medium body; high carbonation; real zingy - almost burns.

O: A nice Christmas beer; very tasty considering the lower abv.

 498 characters

Photo of Knapp85
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This poured out as a nice looking dark brown color with some red highlights. The head was a moderate size with a tan color. The smell of the beer had a nice mixture of winter spices on the nose along wth some interesting malt aromas too. The taste of the beer had some herbal notes and spices that give the beer some complexity. The mouthfeel was quite nice, the carbonation was goodm the body was on the heavier side, it just seemed to work well. Overall it's a good brew, it always is when it comes to Anchor Special Ale's. Looking forward to next year.

 555 characters

Photo of homebrew311
3.36/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: pours very dark mahogany, almost brown, some dashes of light pass through, dense white head and tons of lacing

S: nose is raw cinnamon stick along with nutmeg, cloves, juniper, and pine. This smells like a spice rack at Christmas time.

T: taste starts with ginger, some caramel malt, biscuit in the background, tons of cinnamon and clove, very spice forward

MF: medium body with high carbonation

O: This is a good brew if you are looking for something festive and spicy with a light bodied base beer. For my taste, it is too heavily spiced, almost to the point of tasting medicinal.

 589 characters

Photo of joemcgrath27
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - deep black with a tall fluffy mocha head that retained very well
S - dark molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fruitiness
T - rich molasses, brown sugar and nutmeg, raisins and some booziness
M - heavyish body with medium carbonation, finishing sticky with a warm tingle
O - always brings a smile seeing this on the shelves, not the best winter warmer ever but up to the standard you'd expect from Anchor, well done

 414 characters

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