Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

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Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by notchucknorris on 11-04-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 692
Photo of ARoman
3.63/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

*transferred from old notes - 12/29/2013*
12 oz bottle poured into a shaker (2013 vintage). Very aromatic beer - strong vanilla and some cocoa right off the bat, followed up by anise, cinnamon, and caramel/malt - definitely smells like Christmas. It’s an oily, syrupy pour; dark, rich mahogany color with a big, frothy, egg white head that sticks around for a nice long while. The taste is sweet and bitter, but neither is strong (more sweet than bitter). It’s a full bodied malty, syrupy drink that hits first with chocolate malt. As it coats the mouth and/or warms up, some dark cherry notes come through as well as the spiciness (cinnamon & anise mainly, but some ginger too?). Basically tastes like it smells - and that’s Xmas - but it’s not too much of anything, very mellow. A nice balance blending the viscous beer and creamy head.

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Photo of Chiefy770
3.4/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 fl. ounce bottle. "2013" is printed on the label.

Appearance: Perhaps the strongest suit this brew had to offer. The body was dark brown with a slight red glow. A very light brown, fluffy and dense foam head formed during the pour. It lingered around for quite some time. It collapsed and left a very good amount of sticky lacing.

Smell: Incredible herbal notes. Pine stood out as well. Sweet fruity notes were present. The malts were very subtle, producing a very mild beady scent. Take what you want from this, but I found this beer to smell a lot like the holidays. There was a very earthy scent which reminded me of a freshly cut Christmas tree sitting in a living room. The sweet and fruity notes were very reminiscent to how the house would smell when my grandmother would load the oven with cookies and pies. The scent triggered a lot of great memories in my mind.

Taste: This scent smelled good but unfortunately it did not translate to taste very well. The hops created a rather overwhelming fruity taste. I felt like the taste in the first few sips was similar to the taste of Chardonnay. The herbs and spices were very unique but again, they were overwhelming. There were great unique flavors present but they just were not very well balanced to my liking. More malts may have enhanced this beer for me.

Overall: This was not a terrible beer. I bought a six-pack and I intend to finish it, which is more than I can say for a number of seasonals I've had over the years. This is not my favorite winter warmer but there are great things happening in this brew and I look forward to next year's selection.

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Photo of V3XX069
3.88/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottled poured into a pub glass.

A – Pours very dark, looks like a stout in the glass, with a finger or so of light brown/silver head.

S – Allspice and other seasonal Christmas spices

T – Maybe a little clove, allspice, and something else very familiar that I can't quite put my finger on....

M – Lingering finish, with that one thing I can't seem to put my finger on.... One of my favorite Christmas ales for sure. Sorry Nutcraker, Sam Adams and Shiner, you may have been replaced....

O - A better beer for the cold winter months. I am a fan for sure, it's the kind of beer that I will be looking for every Christmas to come. Unless something surpasses it...

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Photo of HarryPotHead
3.99/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

ST - Single bottle received in a holiday "mix" pack received from my wife's step mother for Christmas....She knows i love beer. God bless her soul! :D

A - Dark...not quite black with a khaki head. Poured into Nonic tumbler....looks more like a porter or stout. Head is sticky but leaves minimal lacing. Still a great looking beer.

S - Out of this world! Best smelling beer i've come across in a while...Blackberries, oak, cinnamon, malt. Very earthy too. Close to perfection! Hop character is next to zero.

T - The nose wins over the palate on this one...not sure what it is. The nose is so damn nice, but the taste just doesn't hold its own. Flavor is not as pronounced and is much more one dimensional than the smell. Not what i expected from a winter warmer. I would expect more burn too from a "warmer", but at 5.5% it's just not there. Don't get me wrong, this beer is still very enoyable and an easy drinker, even though it does leave behind a mild aftertaste as others have described. I honestly don't mind the aftertaste although it is slightly out of character with the rest of the beer. Would really like to have one or two more right after this one, but no such luck on this day!

M - Crisp from the moment it hit the lips. Decent amount of carbonation...

O - My first holiday ale from Anchor. Really enjoyed it....would definitely pick this up again, but it will be off the shelves before i clean out all of the other holiday "cheer" in my fridge!! [ii]D cheers!!!

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Photo of happy4hoppybeer
3.27/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Midnight black with thick tan head. Consistent retention throughout.

Holiday spices hit nose, some liquorice and notes of toffee.

Medium body with tastes of roasted malt, coffee. Very milky. Could use some more flavors.

Not too exciting, could be better, but overall okay.

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Photo of JulianBaughman
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

The beer poured a deep dark brown mahogany, the color of the fretboard on my first guitar and it left a small tan head.

The smell was like raisins, baked sweet rolls with a little clove or coriander smell that I couldn’t quite place.

The taste was a big malty ball of awesome. Spicy, with a bready finish and a hint of chocolate.

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Photo of 312HopBomb
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a deep chestnut/blackish with fluffy mocha head three fingers tall. there's some nice lacing as it settles.

The aroma consists of dark malt and toasted biscuit with moderate/strong spices of anise and dates.

The taste follows the nose. Strong anise and date flavor then a nice malty finish with some brown sugar and molasses.

It has a medium body and moderate carbonation.

I liked this year's spice flavors and tasty, sweet and malty backing.

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Photo of klimoja
4.51/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

This is a seasonal favorite of mine. The bottle label is a thing of beauty and is a gift to the drinker who can't help reminisce of Christmas's past, 39 years to be exact. Jim Stitt is getting up there in age but still producing great designs annually for Anchor. The bottle IS part of the experience. I poured this into a pint glass with a side pour and minimal head. The look is brown with a purple hue. The smell is vanilla, prunes and licorice. The sip, pause, and there it is again-welcome back to to last year and the year before and the year before that...back into Christmases past where the warmth of home soothes, and family is close, where all is peaceful and calm as the new fallen snow.

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Photo of Rope
3.68/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Dark brown copper, little light slips through. A burnt white foamy head.

Spicy, sweet malt, and a sour hop. Smells like a festive addition to this Anchor Special Ale tradition.

Tastes like a pumpkin ale... tastes essentially like a pumpkin ale with a lagery finish.

Very thin bubbles, but gives a good flavor coating to savor.

Always fun and interesting to try the first bottle, so taste the mystery and enjoy the tradition.

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Photo of ANIMOUL
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I've been 'following' Anchor's holiday offering for many years now (many = 6 yrs). While my palate (and memory) is not refined enough to notice the differences between each year's batch, I do know that I enjoy trying each edition. If nothing else, I eagerly await the anointing of the specific tree that will grace each year's label. Great fun.

My first introduction to this beer was while reading a 'beer for dummies' type book several years ago whilst I came upon a critique of Anchor's Our Special Ale. While I don't recall the specific ratings, notes, or other BS usually populating reviews, I do recall the author's phrase used to describe the beer - "tastes like a Christmas tree'. For me, that about sums up this beer... and yes, Christmas trees are delicious.

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Photo of kindacold
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2013 bottle. Pours reddish dark brown with thick tan head that dissipates quickly. Smells of spices and grain. Light mouthfeel with fine carbonation. Lots of spices and pepper in the front, hints of celery, raisins, and a slightly hoppy finish in the back of the mouth. Throughout, there is a hint of orange pith. Slightly sticky finish.

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Photo of mttaylor1066
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

I seem to recall the head brewer at Anchor claiming that there are few options left for the Special Christmas Ale. I think it's true. How many different recipes have they gone through at Anchor? Not all of them can be successful.

Looks great, tan head. Delicious appearance.

Aroma is of dark malt an non-Noble hopping. Some burnt grass and pine sap.

The taste starts with a red plum skins, bitter and warming but this fades into a black licorice aftertaste with some malt coming along for the ride. The combination is not terribly annoying, but it overwhelms any spice that I can pick up.

Mouthfeel is OK. Fine carbonation.

Overall, this is not one of Anchor's better holiday efforts. The wrapping is pretty, but it's just another tie that Dad will be required to wear at family gatherings.

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Photo of youngs11
3.69/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into pint glass.

Dark brown with some transparency. Not much going on up top other than a ring of coffee foam around the glass. Tiny spots of lacing.

Smells of cherries, cinnamon, pine, molasses. Complex and earthy.

Taste is very spicy, follows the nose really well. Bitter front end and nutty, toasty finish.

Really dry MF, nearly astringent. Medium body, prickly carbonation.

There is a lot going on in both smell and taste in this brew. Not overly excited by appearance or MF, but holds its own as a unique example of the style.

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Photo of Eisen
3.36/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

From notes. Poured a light black with a thin white head that faded quickly with little to no lacing. Smells of chocolate, toasted coffee, and a plethora of spices. Nothing in particular stands out. Taste like chocolate, nutmeg, a touch of ginger, toast, slight hops, perhaps juniper and pine or other evergreen foliage. Never the best tasting or drinkable beer, but definitely a must try every winter.

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Photo of Bernoulli
3.9/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque dark amber. Quarter inch head.

Nice odor of Christmas spices.

A lot of heft.

Lingering taste of spices dominates any ale-i-ness without being overpowering. Some caramel in the background? No taste of alcohol (which isn't surprising given the ABV).

A nice sipping beer. Slows you down for the amount of body, not the alcohol.

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Photo of Spattastic
2.98/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Deep mahogany with a small cream colored head

S - Sweet and gingerbready, molasses/brown sugar, and nutmeg (gets stronger as the beer warms), slight cedar wood.

T - Fairly generic Christmas-style beer flavors: lots of baking spices, slight molasses sweetness, and pine trees. The finish is where this beer suffers the most being overly-spiced, and bitter. I don't think the favors are in balance here - too much spice, too little sweetness, and a bitterness (maybe resulting from the onslaught of baking spice) that seems lost.

M - Good carbonation, smooth

O - Not my favorite Christmas beer but certainly not undrinkable. I think some extra sweetness would help to balance the abundance of baking space flavors. I've never tried this before and would be interested to compare to previous/future versions.

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Photo of foglemgs
3.98/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint class, this beer is a lovely, dark brown color. There is a substantial, two-finger light brown head that dissipates into a thin (though not unpleasant) film that leaves a nice lacing on the glass.

S: The sweet roasted malt really comes through, and I get undertones of coffee and anise.

T: Very rich, with a strong flavor of anise (black licorice). Coffee finishes the flavor and lingers on the tongue.

M: Considering the smell and taste, the mouthfeel is surprisingly thin, though there is a nice dryness that lingers.

O: I think I'm in the minority here, but I've never considered any Anchor Steam beer to be excellent, though this Special Ale is quite tasty on a cold winter evening.

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Photo of seymourcox
2.94/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I didn't open this beer with high expectations. I'm not much of a fan of the 'tastes like mulled something' class of beers, but I thought i'd give it a chance, anyway. It's actually decent. It's got a very mild smell to it that kind of reminds me of the way the furniture smells a couple of hours after my wife polishes it. The taste is a little stranger. It definitely has that 'Christmas punch' thing going on that I was worried about, but it's fairly mild. Without the spices, it would probably be a a pretty nice, light bodied, darkish red ale. If you do like that kind of 'seasonal spice', then you'd probably like this. My wife said it tasted like someone accidentally spilled cider in it.

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Photo of mattt317
2.45/5  rDev -34.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Anchor Christmas is my pinecone in a bottle since my first sip in 1991. It has no real equal, unique. I love it. This year, my first taste, I thought it had a slight skunky flavor, sour and thin ... no pinecone at all. Still, I will head over to Tornado in the near future for the traditional happy hour pint or two...

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Photo of Jevers
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served from a 50.7 oz magnum at 49 F
Appearance - very dark, almost black with a reddish cast. Pours with a strong head that dissipates after a few minutes. Nice lacing all the way down.
Smell - strong nutmeg (like egg nog), other spices that i can't identify. Slight malty flavor, no hops that I really notice.
Taste - excellent winter warmer flavor, spices and malt. No noticeable alcohol flavor.
Overall - very good Christmas beer. Will make this one a holiday tradition.

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Photo of PedalFuel
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle in 20oz tulip. Dark brown, some light passes at the edges. Fluffy tan head, great lacing, moderate retention.

Fantastic aroma, nutmeg, cinnamon, and two other spices I can't identify.

Taste is excellent, mirroring aroma and adding caramel sweetness, a bit of roasted malt, and ending in a pleasantly bitter finish.

Mouthfeel is just a little bit off.... slimy/sticky quality, but otherwise light on the palate, smooth, with good body and carbonation.

A very Christmas-ey and moderately dark winter warmer.

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Photo of Myles603
3.95/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

Was pleasantly surprised to see this on the shelves so soon! It's usually much later in the season when I first try it. Let me start by saying if you tried last year's and did not enjoy it, please give it another go because I wasn't crazy about last year's either, but this year's is fantastic. On the nose, I got a molasses and cocoa, with a slight nuttiness. Very light on the palate, and finishes extraordinary smooth. This beer is by far one of my holiday favorites, and I have even started collecting the bottles over the past few years.

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Photo of Aqualung
1.18/5  rDev -68.4%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

This is easily the worst beer I've ever tasted. I brought a bottle to a friend on Thanksgiving Day to share over a football game. Neither of us could finist a glass and we ended up pouring the bottle out. Overpowering flavor and fragrance of cloves, unpleasantly bitter and just plain undrinkable.

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Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
3.74 out of 5 based on 692 ratings.
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