Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
3.7 | pDev: 11.62%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Notes: This is the fortieth annual Christmas Ale from the Anchor brewers. 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.

Our tree for 2014 is the Giant Sequoia. It was hand-drawn by James Stitt—who has been creating Christmas Ale labels for us since 1975—to look as a "Big Tree" planted in 1975 might look today.

"The Big Tree is Nature's forest masterpiece, and…keeps its youth far longer than any of its neighbors. Most silver firs are old in their second or third century, pines in their fourth or fifth, while the Big Tree growing beside them is still in the bloom of its youth, juvenile in every feature at the age of old pines, and cannot be said to attain anything like prime size and beauty before its fifteen hundredth year, or under favorable circumstances become old before its three thousandth."–John Muir

We chose the Giant Sequoia for our fortieth Christmas Ale in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Act. Signed into law by President Lincoln during the Civil War, it granted the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California "for public use, resort, and recreation." The first such land grant in American history, it marked the beginning of the California State Parks.
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Photo of beertunes
beertunes from Kiribati

3.58/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into Perfect Pint glass. Poured a clean, clear dark mahogany color, with a half-inch of dark khaki head that had moderate retention and light lace.

The aroma was foundationally sweet, had some light spices, and no real hop aspect. There was also a noticeable alcohol scent, even though this beer is only 5.5%.

The flavor profile was pretty similar, but the alcohol component was less noticeable, and the spices moreso.

The body was medium-full, smooth, and had a semi-sweet finish. Drinkability was very nice. Overall, perhaps a touch beyond prime, but still worth grabbing if you see it.

Aug 30, 2019
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SHODriver from North Carolina

3.75/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Poured into a snifter to a deep brown beer topped by a finger of dense light tan head which fades slowly to a collar around the edge of the glass with minimal lacing
S: Smells of mulling spices and some slight christmas tree notes with a little caramel and toasted malt
T: Taste is mulling spices and slight toasted malt with a little caramel and a slight evergreen note with some hints of cedar. On the finish this beer is that evergreen note followed by some more toasted malts, slight fruitiness, spice, and some lingering cedar.
M: This beer has a moderate amount of body with a smooth feel on the palate. Carbonation is adequate for the style as well while the beer has a slightly drying finish.
O: Overall this is a really interesting beer. It has some really nice flavors and some solid complexity. The spice notes are a little muted now but are well integrated to the base beer. Despite the age this one isn't showing any signs of falling off yet. Worth popping these now if you still have them

Nov 03, 2018
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.89/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle served in February 2018.
Pours very dark mahogany, looking like a porter. Excellent tan head.
The aroma is spicy with some spruce; strong enough to suggest it may be over-spiced. Thankfully, that is not the case. The spicing mixes nicely with the malts, and among other things has a clear note of allspice. Still, I'd prefer this with less spice rather than more. Near neutral balance with a light bitter and sweet character.

Feb 25, 2018
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jakecattleco from California

3.73/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Did a magnum vertical on Christmas Eve of the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. For my palate I preferred them in the following order: 2015 > 2013 > 2014 > 2016. Really enjoyed the more roasty and coffee attributes of the 2015 vs. rest.

Dec 25, 2016
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jvgoor3786 from Arkansas

3.75/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

It poured a very deep brown with minimal head, a small ring, and very little lacing.

The smell is dark fruits, lots of caramel, and something a bit piney/sour I can't quite identify.

The taste has thin dark fruits, some brown sugar, and a bit of that sour taste.

The mouthfeel is medium carbonation and thin, as expected with a low alcohol beer.

Overall this is decent, but a bit thin on flavor.

Dec 18, 2016
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parkeak0 from District of Columbia

4.16/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this on draft in August 2016. Sufficiently weird and unexpected that I couldn't pass it up.

Not a style I generally like much but this was good. Pours an attractive porter-like chocolate with good head retention. Nose is graham cracker, toasted walnuts, some spice in the background. Palate toasty malts well integrated spice and very subtle sweetness. Mouthfeel is creamy with just a hint of bitterness/astringency.

I didn't have this fresh two Christmases ago, so I can't compare, but I wish I could. I would speculate that age has done this beer favors, perhaps taming spice and fermenting out some risidual sugars.

Aug 11, 2016
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Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

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

$ 14.68 (Including shipping)/magnum ($ 0.290/oz) from Blackwell’s, San Francisco
Magnum at 42 degrees into a hand washed and dried JK snifter
Aroma – subdued spices
Head – large (Maximum 5.8 cm, careful but somewhat aggressive pour), light brown, frothy, diminishing to a two mm ring and layer
Lacing excellent – wide band of tiny to small bubbles
Body – dirty brown, opaque
Flavor – very well-blended spices, not overpowering; no malt, no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate – medium, watery, lively carbonation

This is actually an excellent winter warmer, a style I don’t particularly care for. Unlike most that I have tried, this is not a spice bomb – the flavors are well blended and subdued. Since this is nearly two years old, I obviously can’t comment on what it was like when it was fresh, but I’m certainly willing to try this year’s batch. And that’s why I constantly try examples of styles I don’t like – sometimes I find an example of the style that I DO like – so far that’s two lagers, one marzen/octoberfest and one winter warmer.

Appearance 4, Aroma 4, Flavor 4, Palate 4, Overall 4

Aug 07, 2016
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Beginner2 from Illinois

3.82/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This being the second to the last of the 6 pack, my routine is to compare this to a younger vintage. Instead, I compared it to 2008 which is too long to keep.

12/7/17 Compared this to 2015, 2016, 2017. While 2014 is now three years old, its taste remains similar enough to the three subsequent years. I believe this has to do with Anchor's brewing strategy: increments of improvement. If there are 6 spices every year, the formula changes only modestly; hard to discern past the freshness factor. Although 2016 is clearly spunkier and spikier than its predecessors, it is clearly a beer of the same lineage.

May 14, 2016
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jp32 from Michigan

4.02/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Look: Dark brown in color with auburn highlights. Not much head retention.

Smell: Malty and sweet, almost syrupy.

Taste: Sweet malts loaded with spices like allspice and nutmeg, possibly some ginger and plums present too.

Feel: The mouthfeel is medium bodied and it's carbonation is perfect.

Mar 04, 2016
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kemoarps from Washington

3.8/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The next installment of my (appropriately!) glacially paced work through of winter themed ales continues with a visitation of last year's annual release from Anchor. Enough preamble. Why is there preamble in the first place?

Clean deep deep rich mahogany with a soft flat head that takes a more Daedalian approach opting not to fly too high, settling instead in a nice low orbit, and remaining there, forming a perfect smooth pale khaki cap that seals in the goodness below.

The first thing that strikes me about the nose is an interesting sweet berry like characteristic that darts furtively away as the ginger and spices (allspice, nutmeg primarily) come in. Somewhere between a fruitcake and a rum cake are my next thoughts. I dig it. Makes me want to bake something

Flavour takes its cues from the aroma, but veers more towards the fruitcake side, with a slightly grey sanding off of the back edges. Doughier than the the nose presented as well with more brown sugar and less evocative spice.
Drinks smoothe enough and while I wouldn't necessarily sit and drink a ton of these, I am glad I have a bunch stashed away to continue to see them evolve over time and to compare them to previous years, whenever I get around to pouring that vertical!

Jan 05, 2016
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stompilator from Texas

3.94/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle, into a snifter.

A - Pours a deep, garnet copper, off-white head.

S - Nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, a bit of caramel malt.

T - Nutmeg spice and caramel malt come up from the front, earthy English hops evolve out of it. More dark berry notes surface throughout the mid-palate. Finish is heavy on berry and cinnamon.

M - Medium-thin body, slight sweetness, easy carbonation.

O - Nice spice character. Solid winter warmer.

Dec 21, 2015
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ordybill from Georgia

4.46/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.
Aroma- Malt and spices, real pleasing
Appearance- A reddish-black with a small off-white head
Taste- Once again the malt and spices are present. this time they are in the flavor and they deliver: very nice
Palate- A medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation.
Overall- An excellent version of a winter warmer

Jul 09, 2015
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The_Mad_Capper from Japan

4.56/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Pours a clear, cola brown with a dark khaki head. Smells of bready malt, buttery toffee, and holiday spice (nutmeg, clove?). Tastes like someone blended a ginger cookie into a porter. Smooth, fairly sweet malt. Some cool, leafy, moderately bitter hops. Medium bodied with a good dose of fine carbonation and bite. Tastes and smells amazing.

Jun 24, 2015
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Jeffreysan from Maryland

3.73/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with a quarter of a finger of whitish-colored head that quickly dissolved away into a thin lacing of foam that partially covered the top of the beer.

Aroma: Nice aromas of roasted malt and spices of clove, anise, all-spice. I also get aromas of dried stone fruit, such as raisins, prunes and figs, as well as some hints of dark chocolate, toffee and brown sugar.

Taste: Nice flavors of toasted malt up front, followed by lots of brown sugar, some spices of clove and all-spice, and nice, subtle flavors of dried stone fruit, such as raisins, prunes, currents and figs. The flavor is softer and more subtle than the aroma would lead one to believe.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and lightly carbonated. With an ABV of 5.5%, there is no alcohol on the palate.

Overall: This is a nice beer, but not great. There’s a lot better Christmas beers out there, and for that matter, there a lot better Anchor beers in their line-up than this one. It’s certainly worth a try, but not really worth a repeat visit. Unfortunately I cannot compare it to past year versions of Anchor’s “Our Special Ale”, as I’ve not had them, and even though this year’s version was only ok, I look forward to next year’s version.

Jun 12, 2015
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Boto from Connecticut

4.17/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 Bottle: This one pours a cloudy, dark amber color. There was a finger of a light tan head. Some lacing. Good nose. Malts, holiday spices are the most predominate. Getting some dark fruits also. The taste is very good. Very rich malt body, with just a bit of sweetness, Subdues holiday spices, maybe some orange, a touch of earthy hops. Very Nice!

May 12, 2015
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infinitebruner from Arkansas

3.81/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

April 19, 2015

12 oz bottle, snifter

2014 Vintage

A – Dark brown with mahogany, slightly copper highlights. An inch or so of off-white to light tan foam, with moderate-low retention.

S – Spices are very prominent, nutmeg, juniper, and orange peel come to mind. Bread crust malt aroma. Hops seem spicy as well, perhaps Saaz or Hallertau, noble hop aromas.

T – Spices are much lower here, but still quite notable. Orange peel is the most obvious, along with a blend of mulling spices, perhaps some clove. Some dark bready malt flavors. Earthy, spicy hops.

M – Fairly sudsy, kind of a thick carbonation though it’s only moderately carbonated. Medium to medium-full body. Neither noticeably sweet nor bitter.

O – An interesting, balanced beer, with a lot of winter/holiday character. A blend of winter warmer and spiced beer. There have been more notable versions in the past, this one is pretty unremarkable.

Apr 24, 2015
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scottfrie from California

4.21/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a cola brown with two fingers of dense and soft dark tan head that faded to a fuzzy and thick film that left streaks of sticky lace down the glass. Head looks like melted ice cream.
S: Spruce tips, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sarsaparilla, forest, pie crust, doughy yeast, and hints of candied citrus rind.
T: Follows the nose with the addition of powdered coco, vanilla, cream, and faint caramel and candied dates. Finish is full of vanilla and slightly bitter green forest.
M: Medium-full body, creamy and soft carbonation that fluffs up on my palate. Smooth and slick mouth with a lingering spicy and sticky sweetness.
O: Very drinkable. Not overly sweet, bitter, or spicy.

Mar 16, 2015
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arizcards from Arizona

3.78/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a single from TW Arrowhead in late November for $2.99. Gone are the days of buying overpriced underperforming 6 packs.

Beer poured brown with a beautiful tan head that is lasting very long.

Nose is cinnamon and holiday spices.

Taste is roasted almost burnt malts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth.

Overall not a bad beer but the over roasted malts and the bitter spices lead to a not overly pleasant aftertaste. I am not sure but it seems my taste buds are either evolving or I was overrating the beers of the past.

Feb 28, 2015
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elNopalero from California

4.24/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This pour a ruddy brown in color with thin foam.
There's a light aroma with some malty wassail spices.
I get a subdued chocolate malt and hint of wintergreen and clove, the sorts of spices for wintery baking. Thinly bodied with less medicinal character than what I remember from years past.

Feb 08, 2015
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maedhros09 from Minnesota

4.29/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Malty and slightly roasty, balanced with a perfect amount of spices to add to the complexity without overwhelming the experience. Mild herbal hops, beautiful presentation!

Feb 03, 2015
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.6/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A 355ml bottle with a BB of Oct 2016. Purchased recently from the York Beer & Wine shop. The latest incarnation of Anchor's Christmas brew, celebrating 40 years of this beer series and featuring a Giant Sequoia on the label.

A: Poured into a Duvel tulip. Bottle conditioned. A rich, dark ruby hue with fine sediment and medium carbonation. Produces a huge head of creamy off-white foam that lasts for a while before steadily subsiding to a patchy surface layer. Some lacing.

S: Aroma of sweet malt with hints of cinnamon, spice, mild pine, caramel, subtle brown sugar, grain, ale yeast and stewed hops. Satisfyingly seasonal.

T: Tastes of sweet malt with a spicy character and a bitter finish. Notes of cinnamon, spice, mild pine, toasted grain, caramel, faint brown sugar, ale yeast and stewed hops/herbs. Slightly sweet, followed by a dry herbal bitterness upon swallowing - borders on harsh.

M: Mouthfeel is smooth, tingly and dry, with pleasant carbonation and good body. Somewhat astringent, accompanied by an aftertaste of spice, acrid herbal bitterness, subtle pine and vaguely sweet malt.

O: A decent Christmas brew, though as is often the case with this series the spice hamstrings the overall character. Looks great, while the aroma and flavour showcase a mix of spice, piny hops and sweet malt. Rather harsh bitterness on the finish. Good body. Goes down nicely enough, just a shame the harshness isn't more attenuated. Worth sampling if you come across it.

Jan 25, 2015
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Dodo2step from Pennsylvania

3.38/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

P- Thanks to Ray for this brew

A- dark blood red hue that is somewhat opaque. A nice 2 finger head tat is light brown in color with blanket type lacing on the inside of the pint.

S- cherry, caramel, prune and hints of cinnamon. A nice nose but a lot going on.

F- cherry and caramel dominate the mouth with hints of raisin/prune and cinnamon comes through on the back end.

M- chewy medium bodied brew with cherry caramel lingering in mouth. alcohol also hangs around a bit.

O- a decent drink but the alcohol and cherry don't mesh too well in this one. A nice beer to have in a bar though.

Jan 24, 2015
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mactrail from Washington

3.5/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Quite attractive sudsy brew with the classic dark red-tinted brown color. The carbonation seems to melt away, leaving a murky-flavored and bitterish herbal remedy. Nice aromatics, as usual nothing stands out distinctly.

The spices seem a little different this year, and I like it better than the previous couple. Some bitter cinnamon. A little tart. Taste of shortread with just a whiff of ginger snaps. A little woody.

An interesting beer, and if you haven't tried a few years of these Christmas Beers, they're a must, historically speaking. But that doesn't mean they're all that drinkable. From the 12 oz bottle purchased at Fog Hill Market in San Francisco.

Jan 22, 2015
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mothmanscott from Georgia

3.75/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a clear medium brown with garnet highlights when held to the light, producing 2+ fingers of beige, somewhat lasting, frothy head that leaves a half inch wash of pasty lace above the surface collar. Aroma is caramel & dark bready malt, with spice notes of cinnamon, ginger & maybe (?) nutmeg; hints of cherry, prune, roasted nuts & a faint sourness. Taste is dark malt bready & spice heavy to cinnamon & ginger with sweet caramel, dark tart cherry & prune/plums, finishes with orange & herbal hops producing an earthy note giving way to a caramel, spice & lightly roasted, bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium carbonation, tongue coating & slightly wet fronted but rapidly drying after mid-sip, light pepper prickle.

Jan 19, 2015
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Tsar_Riga from Indiana

3.91/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Dark brown, mostly opaque, with just a hint of transparency around the edges. A head of tan that fades quickly. Not much lacing.

S - Spice and malt. Mostly cloves, cinnamon, allspice, but not overpowering. A bit of candied fruit.

T - The taste lands more firmly in the malt, sweet caramel and toffee, with plums and candied pears. The spice is a nice counter-point.

M - Some carbonation, but nothing too rough. A bit of drying in the close, but it only takes the edge off the sweet start.

O - I enjoyed the spice-malt play, and found this to be surprisingly drinkable, given the robust flavors of mulling spices and a firm caramel base. A good choice for a holiday evening.

Jan 12, 2015
Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 84 out of 100 with 573 ratings