Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
4.12 | pDev: 11.17%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Reviews: 178 | Ratings: 201 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of nickd717
nickd717 from California

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, reviewed 11/30/2010.

Pours a clear dark brown color with reddish hues and a one finger khaki head that fades to nice swirls.

The aroma is sweet honey, caramel, winter spices, roast, and slight oxidative notes from the 7 years of age.

The flavor is great. A little sherry-like from the age, but this works pretty well. Sweet honey and caramel malt, pumpernickel bread, toast, nutmeg, allspice, and slight anise.

Medium bodied with soft carbonation, maybe just a tiny bit watery.

This is another good vintage of this beer. I’m really not sure there is a bad one.

Aug 26, 2011
Photo of TMoney2591
TMoney2591 from Illinois

3.32/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

The Fifth Day of Beermas... It pours a murky black-brown topped by a minor wisp of dirty ecru foam. The nose comprises rye bread, chocolate, cedar, sourdough, light anise, tobacco, nutmeg, ginger, and brown sugar. The taste is heavy on the cocoa and nutmeg, with ginger, black pepper, walnuts, brown sugar, and figs thrown in as well. The body is a stoic medium, with a light carbonation and a chunky, oily feel. Overall, another step in the right direction, but the years put on these things have not been too kind to them at all.

Dec 20, 2010
Photo of NorCalYeti
NorCalYeti from California

3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

taste- licorice, woody

color- deep chestnut

clarity- clear

smell- roasted malt, black licorice

body- medium-full, fairly firm

appearance- dark, clean, carbonation present

overall impression- solid beer for five years old

notes- smoother and sweeter than the 2002. soft bittering hops. 29th release of this beer. this review is for a 2003 vintage tasted in 2008

glassware: pint

Oct 17, 2009
Photo of Floydster
Floydster from California

4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle purchased from the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel for around six dollars, consumed 12/27/08 alongside the 2002 vintage, reviewed from notes, both were poured into small snifters, color is a very dark brown, big 1 1/2 inch creamy tan head that stays around for close to ten minutes, light lacing, aroma is dark chocolate, spruce, vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, licorice, and peppermint, taste had lots of spices, what you would expect from a Christmas brews, there was a fair share of bready malt and cereal in the middle, finish is full of sweet roasted malts and a holiday cake, warms up nicely with more sugary malts and spice coming to the surface, dry, spicy, sweet, and perfumey mouthfeel, medium body on the thicker side, moderate level of carbonation, could have drank a lot of this, goes down incredibly easy for its thickness and spicy presence, very smooth, nice warming feel that is perfect for winter, this is one of my favorite vintages yet, had a great black licorice and tobacco presence, I am going to grab some more of these to age even longer, looking forward to my next experience with it, recommended

Feb 12, 2009
Photo of armock
armock from New York

4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured a mahogany color with a brown head that leaves lacing

S - Is of roasted malt with some spice scents

T - Follows the nose the roasted malt has some sweetness to it with some spice character

M - This beer has a nice smooth body with low carbonation to it

D - The past five years have been good to this bottle aging it nicely too bad there was only one 2003 cold have drank a lot more of it

Jan 28, 2009
Photo of ppoitras
ppoitras from Massachusetts

4.08/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Magnum (50.7oz) bottle received recently as a gift.

Poured into a imperial pint glass, formed a 1/2" dark brown head over the super cloudy/nearly opaque reddish brown brew. Head holds steady at half height, with plenty of slow-falling lace. Aroma is roasty grain with ample sour character. Taste is an interesting ride. Sweet nutty malt upfront, sour fruitiness in the middle, and closes with a grainy cardboard character that lingers. Mouthfeel is soft and smooth, the sour flowing along not cutting, and drinkability good, better than most winter/spiced brews. Cardboard character is but a small price to pay for all the other greatness happening here.

Dec 30, 2008
Photo of hopdog
hopdog from Pennsylvania

3.95/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I tried 5 vintages on tap at the Stuffed Sandwich ('00, '01, '02, '03 & '04). The '01 was my favorite with the '00 a close 2nd. Nice subtle, malty, caramel aromas and tastes. Molasses. Light spices. I'm glad I had the chance to compare the 4 vintages on tap.

NOTE: did a tasting on 1/15/05 that included years '87, '90, '94, '97, '98, '00, '01, '02, & '03. The '02, '01 & '94 stood out as the best of the bunch. The '94 had a nice whiskey taste to it that the others did not. I thought the older vintages held up well over the years.

Nov 13, 2008
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Beer-Zombie from Oregon

5/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

drank August '08

this beer was served in a magnum size bottle. it poured up a dark brown color with a huge dark tan head. the nose was spices, nutmeg, roasted malts. the taste was very smoothe! smoothe malts, slight fruit, nutty finish on the back of the tongue. finishes very dry, melow carbo. preserved perfectly!

Aug 14, 2008
Photo of far333
far333 from Connecticut

3.57/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Chestnut brown with ruby highlights. A small and fizzy head rises minimally up and sizzles quickly away like soda bubbles.

Rich and potent aroma of sappy spruce needles, some cinnamon and figgy malt.

Flavor of pine and prune, figgy and semi-sweet. Morphs to cocoa and some smoke, accented with bitter cherry and a fine hop finish. Tangy flavor lingers in the cheeks.

Thin mouthfeel, a bit watery with low carbonation, but a tingly finish manages to emerge at the end.

Feb 29, 2008
Photo of Georgiabeer
Georgiabeer from Georgia

4.07/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I tasted this beer recently as part of a vertical tasting of the 2003-2007 supplied by Ding, so thanks to him for this great opportunity. I had already reviewed the 2004-2007 before the tasting, and had them aged as well. I think my favorite was the 2004- it seemed to have held up well on both occassions and was still bursting with flavor. The 2003 I thought to be a little oxidized, but just a tad and it didn't make the beer not worth imbibing. This one both smelled and tasted a good deal like gingerbread cookies, with all of their breadiness, molasses, and winter spices. There was particularly a lot of molasses in the nose, and a bit of raisiny oxidation on the finish. Each of the beers was darker the further back you went, and the 2003 was a dark mahogoney. Still quite creamy in the mouth, maybe a bit more syrupy than originally, and for me, the unfortunate part was that they had virtually lost that beautiful spruce flavor I so love in some of the OSAs. Nevertheless, I still thought this quite enjoyable, if not what it once was.

Jan 29, 2008
Photo of rmcnealy
rmcnealy from Illinois

3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Anchor Brewing - "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" - 2003

Doing a sample tonight of various years of this Anchor Xmas favorite. This is the third different tried tonight. Previously tried '07 and '98. This is somewhat in the middle.

Poured dark brown, non-translucent. Tan head faded quickly but left a nice outlying ring, just like the other two years. Smell of age. Just as much as the '98. Initial smell of dark berries, sweet caramel, roasted nuts. Tastes confirm this. Aged smell dissapears in taste. They are decent. The best I've tried yet is the newest, freshest '07. Perhaps these beers don't age very well.


Dec 28, 2007
Photo of chadspivey
chadspivey from Texas

3.78/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A:Darkest of dark body, and the head is a one finger dark tan that actually leaves a good lacing.

S: coffee, raisins, chocolate,

T: Same as smell, but to be honest, the flavor is not full, it almost seems watered down.

M: I expected the body to be fuller based on my lastest Anchor Christmas experiences, maybe the years just weren't good to this one. Perhaps it's just a lighter recipie.

D: I could put a few back with ease...

Dec 20, 2007
Photo of emerge077
emerge077 from Illinois

4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into an Oerbier tulip at 50º.
Color was a burnt caramel tone, and it generated a sizzling head of foam as it filled the glass. Bits of spotty lace clung around the edges. Eventually the bubbles formed a thin ring around the edge of it's surface. Stubborn sediment is left in the bottle.

Aroma of spiced cake, overripe orange, and some muted earthy spice. Warming up to room temperature seems to bring slightly more intensity.

Flavors are mellowed, but there is still a good deal of underlying complexity. First there's a little rum cake, nutmeg, chicory, and vague orange zest bitterness. Dry and earthy, with a rootlike spice in the finish. Smooth as butter mouthfeel, almost too easy to have a large gulp of. I'm liking this, and will seek out a few other vintages to compare. Sounds like fun! Happy holidays.

Dec 07, 2007
Photo of eberkman
eberkman from Massachusetts

3.87/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark reddish-brown with a small light-tan head -- looks almost like a Dr. Pepper.

Along the pop theme, dark cherries dominate the nose, paired with gingerbread spices and an alcoholic astringency. The taste also features the ripe dark berry theme, spices and an almost sherry-like finish that almost morphs into a weird Worcestershire sauce kind of thing.

Good full-bodied brew without being overly heavy. A nice warmer -- pairs well with dark meat from a roasted chicken. A little overbearing on the sweet spiciness to have several.

I probably tried this at the tail end of its shelf life, but it was still quite enjoyable.

Nov 07, 2007
Photo of Vancer
Vancer from Illinois

4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to timtheenchanta for the vertical tasting, from 2005 to 1999 – WOW! Year 2003 of the series sent to be in BIF46.

As usual, a deep cola brown capped by a tannish head, sticky rings of laces slide all the way down the diamond encrusted crystal snifter. Nice ring of yeasties on the bottom.

Citrusy malts, coriander, dark fruits and pine in the aroma. The piney hops have softened nicey over the years. Smooth and delectable. Full bodied, a little trail of oil is left in the mouth for a lingering finish. A strange, but nice pop of chocolaty malts kicks in a the finish.

This one is still fairly “fresh” but it’s aging and maturing nicely. A fine frosty all the way around.

Feb 10, 2007
Photo of scruffwhor
scruffwhor from Illinois

4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Pours a shoe polish brown with a damn good head and retention.

Smell- Lots o' complex mlats that could be interpreted as bananas, cloves, coffee, gum, smoke, etx.

Taste- Starts out with bananas and deep roasted malts. Almost a strong, viscous herbal quality to the flavor of this brew. Bananas were enhanced in the middle of the brew. With the hops making there presence known in the finish.

Mouthfeel- Pretty dark feel overall. I would venture a guess that the malts are the culprit for this dark feel. Went weel wit my BBQ chicken dinner and well as an after dinner stomach settler.

May 30, 2006
Photo of rodrot
rodrot from North Carolina

4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ah, Christmas in May. I've been holding on to a few bottles of this vintage and decided on the spur of the moment to open one last night. The beer poured a dark brown color with a half inch light tan head that dissipated slowly. This looks like a porter. Aroma was incredible. A medley of aromas including sweet malt, cinammon, nutmeg, pine, clove and orange peel. Smells like Christmas pudding. Taste was nice, with notes of holiday spices, pine/resiny flavors, coriander, hop bitterness and chocolatey/malty flavors. This beer was medium bodied and went down pretty easily. Overall, a very tasty beer and proof that if crafted well, a beer doesn't need a high alcohol content to be cellared.

May 25, 2006
Photo of IrishRedRock
IrishRedRock from Pennsylvania

4.69/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thought I'd enjoy one of these not quite 3 years old on one of the first very warm Philly spring nights. Pours an opaque, deep brown. Head is full but dies fairly swiftly. Aroma, just like the '02 I had a while back, is delightful. Pine sap, ginger, candle wax and toffee. Spicy yet mellow. Flavors are layered perfectly. Sweet toffee turns to a peppermint sweetness, yielding to the herbal ginger flavors. Becomes smoky in the finish and finally displays a mild bitterness in the aftertaste, with serious dark chocolate and espresso notes. I can't believe how the flavor profile changes over the course of one sip.

Still displays a light, perfect carbonation after 2+ years. Beautifully textured, this has got to be at its peak right now. Thankfully I still have a few bottles to see where this goes, but I can't imagine sitting on these much longer. They're spectacular at this age. A real treat, even as winter turns to spring.

Apr 14, 2006
Photo of KarlHungus
KarlHungus from Minnesota

4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This brew pours a shinny black color. The head is large, bright tan with a white ring around the top, creamy and recedes slowly into nice lacing. The aroma is of chocolate, toffee and ginger. The taste is a lot more spicy than the aroma. Chocolate and toffee are still present, but live in the backgorund. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with nice carbonation. It is a bit lighter than other vintages of OSA I have had. Overall, this is a vrey nice brew that I wound't mind having again.

Mar 15, 2006
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nvsblman from Arizona

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed as part of vertical tasting including '03, '04, and '05 versions in Jan 2005.

Nearly opaque dark brown with about a finger of slightly brown head. Aroma is sweet malt with some plums and raisins. Taste is chocolatey and coffee with a little pine/spruce and just a hint of a floral note. Full and creamy mouthfeel. One of my favorite winter beers!

It was really interesting to see how the malty sweetness and spices work together after some aging. Looking forward to this again next year!

Feb 19, 2006
Photo of mbunje
mbunje from California

4.69/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This 2005 Anchor Special Ale (Christmas Brew). 12 oz bottle poured into an pint glass. Reviewed as a "winter" brew

Appearance: Daaark brown. Can't see through it, but it's not cloundy. Small head but nice lace. Looks heavy.

Smell: Malt, Nuts, Pine, Smells like a day in the woods. A bit of spice to it. Great smell for a "winter" ale.

Taste: Adult root beer, but less sweet. Spicy, malty, bitter chocolate and cherry. Again, good traits for a "winter" ale. Earthy.

Mouthfeel: You chould chew this beer. Smooth and rich. coats your tongue, then drys at the finish. Nicely done.

Drinkability: Personally, 2 pints is about it. Very rich/heavy, but very satisfying.

Overall: I am not usually a porter/stout drinker and this beer is up there. This nails the idea of "winter" brew. Warms you up, fills you up, and smells like a day in the woods. Well done Anchor.

Dec 24, 2005
Photo of ElGordo
ElGordo from Oregon

4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep, rich mahogany color topped by a flourish of a creamy tan head. Complex aroma of rich roasted malt, brown sugar, and a hint of spruce. Palate is again rich and complex - a big backbone of roasted malt, accented by brown sugar, treacle, clove, spruce, and a lingering hint of hops. A warming alcohol presence is detected on the finish, even though this is not a particularly strong beer. The body is creamy, rich, and perhaps the best thing about this beer. Compared directly to the 04 and 05 versions, the individual flavor notes are more discernable here. Pretty damn tasty.

Dec 22, 2005
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brewandbbq from New Hampshire

4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark, opaque, mahogany pour with a dense tan head.
Less substantial crown of foam than '05 or '04, and fell leaving light lacework.
Aromatics lead off with bitter coffee, dark chocolate and roasted grains.
Spicing steps forward with a large presence of clove, spruce needles, and anise.
Warming of the brew also reveals orange, peppermint, and vanilla.
On the thick side of medium bodied, with a smooth crispness, and slightly chewy.
Pallet starts off with dark chocolate- infused espresso.
Melded spices follow through with pine sap, black licorice, orange peel, nutmeg, and cloves.
Finishes long, bitter, and spicy.

Dec 08, 2005
Photo of Jason
Jason from Massachusetts

4.49/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz brown bottle with a 2003 vintage date on the label.

A- Deep brown hue with ruby edges, thick two fingered tan lace sticks to the glass very well.

S- Freshly baked hermit cookies with a lemon sugar glaze. Wow!

T&M- Velvety smooth with in a creamy full body. Rich cocoa maltiness, sharp twang of spice and hops with a mellowing earthy malt and yeast mix. Candied fruit and dark chocolate come to mind.

D- A lovely brew to savor on a cold winter night. It has held up well for two years cellaring.

Dec 08, 2005
Photo of Bierman9
Bierman9 from New Hampshire

3.95/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A 12oz bottle, also an orphan rescued from a recent BA Fest.

Like it's '03 brethren I had earlier, it pours a deep chestnut hue, clear but still not allowing much light any passage. Has minimal head, mostly another rim-job of light tan, fine bubbles, with a touch of lace action. Sweet aroma of malt and nutmeggy spice, plus some piney hop notes. Inviting! Passes fairly smoothly down the hatch, but body goes more to the thin side than medium.

Seems less sweet than '02, with more rindy hoppage present, being lightly bitter. Easier on the spice action, yet still has a nice presence, with a touch of nuttiness, and an almost ginger-like character. Rindy, piney hops give a fruity lean to the finish. A decent offering from Anchor.

Zum Wohl!!

overall: 3.95
appearance: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4


Nov 25, 2005
Our Special Ale 2003 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 90 out of 100 with 201 ratings