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Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

193 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 193
Hads: 717
Avg: 3.7
pDev: 27.57%
Wants: 16
Gots: 70 | FT: 2
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: beertunes on 10-22-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (28) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 193 | Hads: 717
Photo of RickS95
4.11/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Extremely dark compared to a lot of the seasonals I've been seeing lately. Brownish, ruby, burgundy color. It's fairly clear, despite the darkness. The head is stellar. As large as you want it to be, looks like the head of A&W Root Beer, kind of IPA like.

Spice fest in the nose. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg all dazzle. There's some malt in there, but hops take a backseat.

Tastes follows the nose in that spices are front and center with malt , and almost no hop presence.

Feel is a bit lacking compared to the other components because it's got a loose, watery feel. Obviously, it's spicy and the malt gives it some body, but it's just a bit watered down. Spices from beginning to end with a faint bitterness in the swallow.

Overall, another good winter beer from Anchor. Really tastes like the winter.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.11/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Brewed on September 13, 2012 according to the cryptic markings on the bottle's back label. Yes, I am still stuck in bottle mode, but I could not resist this one as I (generally) try to make a practice to review it every year.

From the bottle: "This is the thirty-eighth 'Our Special Ale' from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale's recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew."

I went with my usual aggro pour, netting me several fingers of dense, deep-brown head with excellent retention. For a short period there, I was getting what looked like a cascading action before things settled down. Color was a deep brown with garnet highlights and NE-quality clarity. Nose had a molasses-like sweetness, actually not entirely sweet, but with a tar-like bitterness. I also thought that I could discern clove (or cinnamon), nutmeg and perhaps allspice, but I would hate to be challenged on that. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, approaching creaminess, but not quite achieving it. Lots of spices were discernible in the mouth, but I think that I now want to claim cinnamon, rather than clove. I will stand by the others, however. Finish was pretty doggone dry as a result of all of the spices. This is not a sweet beer by a long stretch.

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Photo of Huffs
4.11/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Sam Adams glass, developed a rich frothy head which lasted and laced well. Aroma was malty but faint and the appearance was dark brown. Taste was highly spiced with strong malty notes and hints of caramel and citrus. Mouthfeel was a medium somewhat airy consistency and the aftertaste was dry and hoppy.

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Photo of steveh
4.1/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The last in the series of OSAs of this brewing style -- so the brewery is saying. I'll miss it, it's been a nice tradition for me for almost 30 years.

A -- Clear, deep garnet with a dense, long-lasting tan head.

S -- Bold spices up front: nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger, with some mild cocoa peeking through at the end.

T -- Same spice medley up front followed by roasted malt and some biscuit and breadiness back. The spices make an encore for the finish and aftertaste -- the roasted malt lending a licorice or anise character to the spices.

M -- Mouthfeel is soft and sticky with a heavy-medium body.

O -- I think I like this spiced ale better than others because the spice is balanced so well with the malts that it doesn't overpower the palate. It's also not so high in ABV to knock you around, so a couple go down very nicely on a cold December afternoon.

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Photo of RobertColianni
4.1/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Fresh 12oz. 2012 bottle held vertically and dumped straight into 36oz. Cognac Snifter for maximum agitated aeration

A: Smokey quartzite brew with a constant desert-khaki head. Thin with islands of bubbles that just don't go away. Spotty lacing. Literally speckled up the side wall. Brick red tones when backed by direct light.

S: Dried cranberries, raisins, nutmeg baked with honey, charred sugars, and figs.

T: Everything that comes through in the nose is there on the tongue. A surprising, heavy sour cherry comes forward.

M: Light, but rich. Bubbly, but smooth. Hops really make the tongue tingle. It's artfully perfect.

OVERALL: Anchor's "Our Special Ale" has become tradition in my holiday season over the past three years. It's everything a Christmas Ale/Winter Warmer should be and everything a connoisseur of beer should look for. It's the gold standard for late bloomers that just can't get into the season and a good friend on those cold, snowy nights late in December. To me, there is nothing like Anchor's Special.

NOTE: Live review.

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Photo of garymuchow
4.08/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

An almost annual tradition, but I couldn't resist this year, or maybe it was just the most appealing beer on the shelf. Who knows, but here I am with this annual enjoyments.
Of course it holds the spruce, spice and berries. And of course it's the same attractive beer with that thick tan head capping a deep, deep clear liquid. Malt character seems the same. Just the little additional element of the Norfolk Island Pine with a flavor that seems to approach vanilla, with a little more spiciness and a really drying quality that helps the flavors linger very nicely on the finish.
Super creamy, esp. for a lighter beer. Soft carbonation.
Always an enjoyable beer, but this one seem even more with the unique element this year.

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Photo of McStagger
4.07/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Loved the 2011. Let's see what this year has brought us.

A: Aggressive pour leads to two fingers mocha head. Moderate carbonation. Beer itself is a very dark garnet/ruby color. Looks like a porter, honestly. Retention is solid, with a nice pillow of foam gently receding.

S: Holiday spices. All spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Caramel, toffee, raisined fruit and a bit of licorice. Has a bit of a candied smell. This sucker smells like Christmas.

T: Spices are more subtle in taste. Starts off with a huge bang of roastiness. Mid palate of darkened fruit and a candied taste reminiscent of a Belgian Quad. Subtle, but there. Fairly robust flavor of burnt toffee, coffee and a touch of smokiness. Noticeable amount of hop bitterness on the end, as well.

M: While I wouldn't call this a light beer by an stretch, the moderate carbonation and ABV are more than enough to carry the flavors across the palate. Neither watery nor unctuous, this beer has struck a nice balance of flavor and drinkability.

O: Went great with Thanksgiving dinner. Now to try it with the Christmas ham. Nice to get the smells of a Midwest Christmas in Southern California.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.05/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle (date stamp 2OP - 2012 October 16th) poured into a Shaker pint glass.

Appearance: Dark mahogany brown - clear but only when held up to the light. Thin persistent tan head upon pouring. Some strands and islands of lacing, but over time they slid back down the glass.

Smell: Mild. Roasted malt, hint of something spicy + spruce, some char/burnt smell. I found I had to let it warm up a bit to get all the aroma out. Despite being mild in aroma intensity, what I got was appealing.

Taste: Roasted malt up front, moving into a middle which was a combination of spice, pine, and char/leafy tobacco. The finish is surprisingly sweet, but balanced with some roasted bitterness and a bit of char.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, a little bit sticky on the teeth and slick at the same time. Thickness underneath though is just a hair thicker than water.

Overall / Drinkability: Went great with food (Burgers and roasted root vegetables) but after the meal I'm finding this quite enjoyable as it warms up. A very good and flavorful version of their beer this year. I find it complex in all the flavors I'm getting. I also find it to be very drinkable. I could easily see myself having another 1 or 2 in a sitting over food and conversation. It's a wrap up with and savor beer, but not a sipping beer. Funny how the individual components are either just good or above average, but combined are quite impressive. I think this may be one of their better vintages, but I'll have to go back and read my other reviews to confirm this.

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Photo of silverking
4.03/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It pours a very dark crimson brown with a beautiful tan head. the head has excellent retention, but the lacing was just ok. It smells of oranges, chocolate and pine. cinnamon and clove are also detectable. Flavors of chocolate and orange transfer well to the palate. The taste slowly turns delicately bitter and then proceeds to a sweet molasses like malty finish. If you have a chance to purchase this, do it. It's different every year. This is my first purchase of anchor's "our special ale" and I look forward to purchasing it again next year.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.03/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A- Dark brown body that allows a little bit of light through. Bubbly tan head that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

S- Caramel malts, a hint of nutty brown malts, slight roasty aroma, a pinch of spices.

T- Tastes like a smooth brown ale with caramel malt and the spices coming through. I get a bit of piney hops at the end too. Pretty well rounded with good flavor.

M- Smooth, medium carbonation, medium bodied.

O- Exceeded my expectations. Not in your face flavors, but subtle flavors that work well together. Good as a session winter beer.

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Photo of GuyIncognito
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a good beer made with a lot of care. It is heavier than the regular Anchor Steam, but not a stout. Subtly spiced, a solid ale. I like that the recipe is different every year, but this is my first year trying it, so I couldn't tell. The egg nog of beer, if egg nog was classy, drinkable, and made with skill.

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Photo of CraftBeerTastic
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ba Review #256
Served On: 2/20/2013
Glassware: DFH Chalice
Labeled ABV: 5.5%
Date/ Code: 2012 Release

This was a 12oz bottle from a sixer from Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick.

Look: The pour rendered a pitch-black color with a thin light-tan head. Lacing started almost immediately. It could have passed for a stout.

Smell: Strong notes of mint and pine made up the aroma. Also a bubblegum quality that seemed almost uncalled for.

Taste: Super smooth mouth feel. The pine notes came through first. Then a roasted note that was completely unexpected. A spicy mint made up the finish. Aftertaste was more roasted notes mixed with pine.

This was a very unique beer; A fine representation of the Christmas season.

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Photo of Brent
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Quite tasty this year. Usually, this leans either toward "gnaw on a Christmas tree trunk" piney resin or gingerbread/holiday spice in character. This year the emphasis is strongly on the gingerbread aspect, with almost no spruce notes. Typical dark pour with a slight ruby cast. Creamy mouthfeel. caramelized cookie notes with ginger and allspice - fading to a slightly sharp sour note at the finish. Some years' editions need a year or so to settle down, but this incarnation is already quite mellow, so good for drinking now but not for putting back.

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Photo of shand
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This year's Our Special Ale gives off a huge spruce nose, along with cinnamon, chocolate, and the requisite spice rack. The taste is - go figure, heavy on spices. I could try to pick out all the individual spice notes, but that'd be an exercise in futility. If you've got a favorite winter spice, it's probably in here, hanging out with the vanilla and roast flavors. Mercifully, the spices don't linger too long, leaving a wholly pleasant roasted malt aftertaste with just a touch of cinnamon. Mouthfeel is spot-on, as Anchor tends to be, and the drinkability is great. Just like every year, Our Special Ale is a solid Winter Warmer. It's way past Christmas, but I'm glad I have this for the cold snap tonight.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

A: The beer is a bright reddish brown color, with a short dense off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains roasted malts, vanilla, spices, some coffee and a touch of hops.

T: The taste starts out with a strong burst of vanilla and minty spices followed by a hearty roasted malt character and background flavors of coffee and chocolate. The hops presence is mild but complementary and brings a good balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Smooth and crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, mild kick, good representation of style, it seems as though the spiciness has increased gradually each year for the past few years.

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Photo of chanokokoro
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a cervoise glass

Pours a very dark brown topped with a fluffy, very light beige head. Excellent retention, large amounts of splotchy lacing. Malty nose with nutmeg perhaps some cinnamon, and toffee. Opens with toffee, joined by some nutty accents, cashew and almond, caramel maltiness, nutmeg, and a kiss of cinnamon. Light medium very smooth body, lively carbonation. I always look forward to each year's version of Our Special Ale. Definitely a solid brew this year.

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Photo of DavidST
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a tulip/pint glass, 2012 edition. This pours a dark mahogany brown with a two finger tan head which has decent retention and leaves a lacing. The smells are full of spices, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, some bread malts. The feel is medium, a little tingly. The taste is good, you get a load of spices, the bitter cinnamon, some hazelnut, the bread malts, plenty of sweetness, nice winter drink.

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Photo of thegodfather1076
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: Really awesome bottle with a short fat appearance in the Anchor style. Front label has a very old school festive feel with an classy graphic of a pine tree also giving its scientific name. States 2012, Merry Christmas Happy New Year, a small description of the beer, ABV info. Also has the Anchor logo. Neck label gives an excellent back story of the beer and how they put a different tree on the bottle every year, also has a drawing of the cone for the particular tree on the bottle. Back label gives web info. Cap is beautiful as well.

Appearance: I poured this from its 12oz bottle into a 16oz English pint. Pours a cola brown with a 2 finger brown foam head of an airy light density. Head retention was 2min 45sec before fading to a frothy coating and thick ring. Good lacing.

Smell/Aroma: Smells of clove and oranges with hints of cinnamon. Scent is fairly sweet with a slight chocolate aroma and herbal notes.

Flavor/Taste: Taste is sweet and herbal with a spicy bite. Hints of vanilla on the start that turns to a roasted flavor and finishes with a herbal tone.

MouthFeel/Drinkability: Medium bodied and smooth with a medium carbonation. Very drinkable.

Overall/Comments: This was my first time having this and I thought it was very very good. Very nice nose and flavor that is very inviting. The flavors in this are a bit different than many other winter warmers that I have tried. Classified as a Winter Warmer at 5.5% ABV. Consumed 2-5-13.

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Photo of littlebibs
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I'm rating this one a bit on the higher side but I can drink these so damm easy. A few pros and cons to say about this ale 1.) I usually like these winter warmers on the stronger side, at least 6 or 7%, to warm you up. 2.) I'm not a fan of the pine side of this but I do drink them anyway as they are usually so full of flavor, I get over their type of hops. 3). I like the carbonation, the dry end is enjoyable and balances the sweet side to me. 4.) love tasting the spices they create in their Christmas beers and this one just makes the ale very drinkable even though it is someone on the watery side, it has some creaminess to it and as it warms its releases all these dates, fig newtons, cinnamon, ginger, not an excellent take on winter warmers by any means but I would buy this Anchor Christmas again.

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Photo of thecheapies
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Anchor Christmas 2012. Soon I'll be cracking open a bottle from last year and from 2010. Right now, just this year's vintage... into a pint glass.

Very dark brown with a fluffy cap that holds the pose for awhile. Looks like a big, soppy dark seasonal ale. Excellent, because it drinks down looking almost the same and leaving some lace, too.

Nutmeg is the number one aroma this year, for sure. Cardamom, ground clove, and star anise. The licorice and evergreen aren't as pronounced in the nose this year (from what I recall from the last two years). Still that great nose for a Winter Warmer.

Sandy nutmeg and clove with some cinnamon and star anise. Weaker roast than the appearance would suggest, so the spice rack nose becomes a spice rack taste. Nice maltiness with some maple-y notes that does well to sweeten the beer enough. There is a piney-ness, like spruce or wood bark, that distinguish Anchor's Our Holiday Ale from all of the other Winter Warmers out there on the market.

The body is lighter this year, but still medium. The carbonation is on the light side. Extremely easy to drink, maybe because I enjoy it so much.

Every year, I just love this beer. It's so well-crafted and ripe with Christmas-y spices in the perfect way that I like. This year's is a bit attenuated, but I still prefer it to Great Lakes or Sly Fox. A solid 4.0.


Enjoyed alongside Anchor Christmas 2011 and Anchor Christmas 2010 on Black Friday 2013

Pours out a deep red-brown with darkness. The head is a bright beige color and sits longly after peaking at over an inch height. Thin, pretty lace shows up unevenly around and above the beer surface. 4

Allspice, nutmeg, clove, light pine, and hints of licorice. A mild nose with a quiet festivity to it. I recall it being a little more forward last year, but it's really hard to say. Not as particularly pine-y as past years' offerings. Good solid roast maltiness with dark breadiness and caraway and complements the spiciness nicely. Not overmatched, but balanced, in that way. 3.75

Comfortably soft and warm and tasty with a good dose of nutmeg and clove spiciness. Great flavors composed of allspice and earthiness. Doesn't fall out of the pine theme too far, with a slight evergreen and wintergreen botanical note. Slight tanginess with the idea of fruit (lightly grape-y), but mostly there is a good bready maltiness that plays on the sweet side. 3.75

Drinks soft, yet bushy, with a semi-creamy mouthfeel. Medium-light carbonation and silken body. Works pretty well. 4

2012 turns out to be drinking really well right now. One year did this beer a lot of good. Mellow, yet spicy; warm, and malty rich. A good beer right now. 4

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Photo of Jeffwildcat
3.99/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown. Foam head sticks till the end. Christmas spicy notes like plums and brown sugar. Nutty notes and roasted carmem malts. Nice carbination. Light to.medium body . This one was certainly different compared to the 2011 version. A solid good beer.

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Photo of mnrider
3.99/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. Brown Bottle.

A: Pours a smooth dark brown with a tan two finger head. This turns to
a slick thin layer withing a few seconds. Leaves a little watery lacing.

S: Sweet malts and some toasted notes. Filled with various spices. Nutmeg
is significantly strong. Other holiday spices including cinnamon.

T/M: Not unlike the smell it is filled with the tastes of the holidays. Candy,
nutmeg...Roasted malts with a slight hop presence. Smooth throughout
with a spicy finish.

O: The pros to this Winter Warmer is the holiday spices and the smoothness.
The spices can be a bit much, which makes this brew a sipper for me. Definitely
different and worth a try if you can get it before it goes away.


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Photo of TheBigLebrewski
3.99/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Weird, interesting beer. Indeed, almost every aspect of the beer surprised me! Much darker than expected, though a lightly colored head. Necco wafers (!), berried hard candy and a touch of juniper in the smell, along with some mellow but certain root beer action. Summarily, smells like a root beer Necco wafer. None-the-less, not too sweet, nor junipery in the flavor. That being said, definitely on the sweeter side, but even as a guy who shies from such, I'm enjoying this one. Actually a pretty enjoyable flavor, if not a bit confusing. Indeed, this is a good example of a beer with a heavily accented flavor that is still well-balanced in it's overall taste. Mouthfeel was a bit sparse, and aftertaste suffered in comparison to the flavor, but these weren't detriments. My only complaint is that it never really occurred to me what I was drinking. Which, come to think of it, isn't necessarily a complaint.

Off to work on this very large bottle. Happy Holidays BAs.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
3.99/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Comes out of the tap a luscious sable with a thick, fine-bubbled and persistent tan head. Roast malt aroma has a strong woody overtone with a hint of cloves. Flavor has a roast malt core with firm spicy notes, cloves, a little cinnamon, horehound, a hint or more of caramel, a hint of licorice, a bit of a varnishy note. Smooth, firm mouthfeel has plenty of fizz. Once again, a good holiday brew from Anchor.

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Photo of jondeelee
3.98/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Our Special Ale 2012 opens to a spicy, fruity, sweet nose that is instantly reminiscent of fruitcake and mulled wine. Nutmeg, clove, allspice, candied ginger, and pepper are immediately noticeable, as well as slight hints of coriander. The fruits are, on the one hand, dark and complex, with dates, green maraschino cherries, and figs, and on the other, bring nice orange peel, lemon zest, and pink grapefruit overtones. All of these rest atop thick brown breads, vanilla, molasses, wildflower honey, and a lovely Christmas layer of fresh pine needles. Add to this a slightly alcoholic touch, as of mulled wine or white port, and the result is a tantalizing aroma that would make for a world-class candle scent, and in a beer, is exactly the sort of aroma one would want while opening presents. The aromas do seem to be somewhat lighter than those in previous years’ editions, but here that’s a good thing, since at least one of the previous bottles smelled so strongly of pine needles as to be overwhelming.

On the tongue, the beer begins with a spicy kick, the cloves, nutmeg, candied ginger, allspice, and pepper instantly blasting away at the tastebuds, joined by molasses and thick brown breads, as well as deeply roasted pecans and pine needles. The fruits come in a somewhat distant second, the green maraschino cherries and dates primarily, with touches of raisin next, and the orange and lemon zest second. The effect is less fruitcake here than spicecake, and the spices do unfortunately rather overwhelm everything else, and are even more potent in subsequent mouthfuls. The aftertaste is similarly dominated by spice, with remnants of brown breads, molasses, and lemon zest, and lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium to medium-high, fizzing on the tongue and burning the soft tissues.

Overall, this is good Christmas beer, it’s just unfortunate that the spices were so dominant, as they detracted from what was a very nice fruit and dark bread belly. The beer is by no means unpalatable, but it is strongly spiced enough that it would be difficult to drink too many in a row.

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Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 193 ratings.