Our Special Ale 2004 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

very good
193 Reviews
Read the review
Our Special Ale 2004 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2004 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.25%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by lou91 on 11-03-2004

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 193 | Ratings: 214
Photo of Sammy
4.02/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Good dark colour level, nice foam and lace. Powerful carbonation. Ginger-nutmeg nose. Coca-cola taste with spices. Lots of carmel, dry spices and bitterness and malt. Great change of pace. Very drinkable, and drying aftertaste assures that. Did I tell you how this reminds me of Coca-Cola?

 289 characters

Photo of t0rin0
3.48/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I think I'm going to have to go against the grain and say that this wasn't nearly as good as the other years that I've had. Granted this is now 3 years old and the others that I've tried the past few months have all been aged different amounts, but it had a stragne funk to it that I didnt care for. That was of course offset by the good qualities.

The beer looks like every anchor christmas beer does, that is it pours a black/brown color with a good amount of clarity to it. This one was still fresh enough to produce a nice fluffy 2 inch head that dissipated fairly quickly and didn't lace the glass. The foam, while it lasted, was a nice tan color.

The smell was partially of dark malts and fruits (prune/raisin) and some strange spicess that I've detected in the other years of this beer. Theres a subtle hint of lavander that was real strong in the 07 version. Not sure what else is in this beer. The taste was strange and kinda harsh, not sure what this tasted like new but if its this noticeable at this age I can only imagine how strong that weird taste was when it was new. Its got a bit of a piny taste of hops or possibly some clippings from an actual tree, who knows. There was a nice sweet raisiny flavor possibly from some dark malts, but not quite roasted malts (no coffee flavor present). I know this beer is already 3 years old but I think its still aging and would like to try it again in another 3 or 4 years.

The body was medium/light with a good amount of CO2 to help it out. Definitely drinkable just strange.

 1,535 characters

Photo of brentk56
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a dark, ruby clear brown with decent head retention; a bit of lacing

Smell: Yeasty at first, but then the dark fruits -figs, dates - take over; elements of cinnamon and clove are also present

Taste: Very complex progression of flavors; starts out a bit woody and then the spices and hops kick in; simultaneous burst of cinnamon graham crackers and bitter orange that continue to build through the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, perhaps a little thin; modest carbonation

Drinkability: Very good effort; best winter warmer I've had yet this season

 577 characters

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of Unclemattie: Poured a deep dark brown color ale with a nice light brown foamy head with good retention but no lacing. Aroma of big caramel and toffee malt with light spices, which may include spruce. Taste is also dominated by some spices with huge caramel and toffee malt with some moderate sweetness. Full body with average carbonation and no apparent alcohol.

 381 characters

Photo of oline73
3.4/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a large bottle into a 4 oz. tasting glass at Max's Christmas in July event.

Appearance: Pours a murky brown with a some red coming through when the light hits. There is a layer of light tan head that leaves a ring around the edge of the glass.

Smell: Malty with notes of caramel and brown sugar and some mild spice.

Taste: Very malty with lots of molasses and brown sugar flavor but not too sweet overall. Some holiday spices with a bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with very mild carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: Perhaps a bit past its prime. The spice has faded, mostly malt. I'm glad I got to try this.

 633 characters

Photo of oberon
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights when held up to the light with a huge blooming slightly oof white head that sticks like glue to the glass,some deep molassis notes with some mulling spices (nutmeg,cinnamon,etc...) with a noticable piney evergreen aroma as it warms more.Taste has a peppery note something I wasnt expecting,woody and piney as well.Some medicinal notes for such a low abv% beer wow this is complex to the hilt,those mulling spices are there but are secondary and not the main focus wich is kinda cool.Holy shit my new favorite winter seasonal and its not some big bad ass over the top beer just a complex well made ale,will stock up this year thats for sure.

 680 characters

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a deep, dark brown body with a full, though quickly thinning, light beige head.

Smell: Earthy, smokey dark maltiness, some chocolate and caramel with notes of aniseed, nutmeg, cinnamon, and even allspice.

Taste: Dark malts with minor hints of sweetened cocoa and dark caramel. There's still a big sprucy spiciness present, but it's definitely died down over the years. There's still a dull, earthy bitterness surrounding the maltiness. Touch of fruit, along with citrus and candied ginger in the background. Wisp of smoke. Drying finish with a lingering taste of spiced cocoa powder.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium low carbonation.

Drinkability: A pleasing wintery treat from yesteryear.

 711 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The loud opening 'pffft' led me to expect a large, glass-topping head and that is exactly what I got. And a fine looking lid it is too. Buttered wheat toast brown with an impressively sticky (almost gooey) upper surface of large, softly popping bubbles. Not much more than a few stray scraplets of lace though. The beer itself is roasted pecan brown with the expected infusion of garnet. The best looking OSA that I can recall, largely due to the magnificent crown.

No surprises when it comes to the nose. I'd love to do a vertical tasting of this beer to see just how each year varies. They're similar enough and I drink them far enough apart to preclude any hope of year-to-year comparison. Chocolate malty with earthy pine and the usual semi-pleasant mustiness. Most years don't stand out from the standpoint of aroma and this year is no different.

Memories of OSAs of old come flooding back with the first sip. This iteration doesn't seem to be as dark malty as some of the others. There's more of a sourness than I remember and perhaps a tad more spruce and spice. I wish I knew how each year's version varies, but I suppose that would take away some of the surprise and the magic (for some). Again, a vertical would be instructive. And entertaining.

At least this 2004 bottling, being not yet two years of age, doesn't taste as tired and worn out as some of the earlier beers. Of course the difference is that I've drunk them all relatively recently and this one is more fresh at the time of drinking than the others were. It just proves my point--to me if to no one else--that OSAs don't age all that well. Show me a 5% beer that does.

Warming brings nothing of interest, just the same basic ingredients (roasted malt, sour fruit, aged spruce) arranged in the same basic fashion with, perhaps, a somewhat tighter fit. The body is never anything larger than medium, although this one is as smooth and as creamy as possible given that constraint. Even though my sense memory is San Francisco foggy on the matter, the mouthfeel seems superior to other years.

I'll never be a huge fan of Our Special Ale, but I do enjoy seeing what Anchor has come up with each year, even if it's simply a variation on a so-so winter warmer theme.

 2,249 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Christmas Ale from Anchor pours a dark brown with a beautiful beige head. Great lace, too.

I always smell pine needles with this beer, like putting up a Christmas tree. While I know that each year this brew has a different recipe, they are all strikingly similar. In fact, I'm now in the habit of storing a six-pack from the previous year for comparison purposes.

Dark chocolate flavors are dominating here. Very full body with a carbonation that is below average, but still works for this--almost chewy. The aftertaste features more chocolate and a touch of hop bitterness. However, it is not a sweet beer--more like a spiced porter. The spruce aroma does not show up in the taste; in fact, I really don't detect a lot of spices here.

Yet, all of this comes together nicely and it does provide the essence of a Holiday ale that is not duplicated as far as I know.

 878 characters

Photo of Jason
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz brown bottle with a coded freshness date on the back label ... looks like it was bottled Nov 2nd 2004.

A- Deep shaded brown that could be mistaken for black, decent initial foam subsides to a tan lace.

S- Tart, earthy, woodsy, minty with a faint watery citric and pine smell.

T&M- Smooth and a tad creamy in the medium body. Quick bite of roasted malt, hops have held together well ... decent dry malt character. Spice, citric and pine unfold on the palate with fruity notes in the back. Finishes semi-dry with a powdery light roasted grain flavor.

D- Not too bad at all, not as good as other vintages ... does not seem like this one will age as well as the other either.

 689 characters

Photo of TMoney2591
3.23/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served in a Half Acre shaker pint glass.

Big thanks to whartontallboy for helping me finish my vertical!

The Sixth Day of Beermas... It pours a murkily opaque black-brown topped by a healthy tan foam. Best-looking offering thus far. The nose comprises light mint, chocolate, cardboard (corrugated, o' course), nutmeg, brown sugar, light molasses, ginger, and stale Rice Krispies. The taste comprises fishy cocoa, fig, light green apple, ginger, nutmeg, and some more o' that cardboard. The body is a Stimpy medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a grainy feel. Overall, another step in the right direction, but there's still a good amount of ground to be made yet.

 673 characters

Photo of Gagnonsux
3.44/5  rDev -14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The appearance of 2004 is almost perfect. The color is dark brown, almost black, with a creamy head. A layer of leftover foam rests on top throughout the beer. The only aroma I get off this is a spice, I think it is nutmeg. It smells alright, but isn't what I usually want from a beer. Taste is sweet and spiced. Nutmeg is the spice of choice here. Not bad at all, but not something I crave or go nuts over. As for drinkability, I could chill with this all-night, but I think I'd rather not. This is my first OSA, and I'm interested to see what they do next year, however for this year I guess I'll be the dissenting reviewer. For me this is very good, not great

 662 characters

Photo of woodychandler
4.22/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Wow, what a beer! I got a huge head that was dark tan/light brown in color with lots of CO2 bubbles. The beer was a really deep brown color bordering on black. The nose was an intriguing mixture of pine, caramel, and chocolate. It had a really thick mouthfeel, almost like a shake. I got a lot of sweetness on the tongue, but the finish was of a lingering pine flavor. It was definitely interesting, but one at a time would be sufficient.

 438 characters

Photo of Billolick
3.98/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12 ouncer sampled in a snifter. Pours a murky cloudy very dark and dense brown. Head is dark tan, dissolving to a thick tiny bubble film and leaving stringy, well developed lacing. nose is winter spicing, vanilla, chocolate milk, Yum. creamy dense mouthfeel, notes of cocoa, vanilla,cookies and cream, mint, nutmeg. Drying hops in the finish for balance. This yeas OSA is well balanced, super tasty and enjoyably warming. Its just been hitting stores the past month or so and its tasty and fully ready to enjoy, no need to age this one for very long, enjoy it now!

 564 characters

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Nearly clear, deep crimson coloring, shining ruby bright around the edges, beneath a most attractive cookie-ish cushion of foam, toasted tan, creamy and inviting.

Aroma: yeast and malt are thrust forward, matched well with spices, and sweet toffee-ish, cookie-and-cake associations. Sweetness, but not cloying. gingerbread, raw cookie dough, cinnamon, ...

...more will enter my mind, as we turn to the Taste: Full in the mouth, massive, malty mouthfeel, very tasty and smooth. Finish hangs in there for a while, leaving traces of ginger and clove, creamy and just about lush. Thoruoghly satifying texture, richly rewarding flavor. I'm usually pretty content with this beer from year to year, even overjoyed at times, but this one will probably get more purchase from me than usual.

Definitely the best winter warmer I've had so far this season, and it could still be beaten, but I doubt it. Really does the trick!

 935 characters

Photo of GClarkage
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11/29/04- Purchased at the local Safeway in San Mateo, CA

Appearance- Pours a dark brownish color. Kind of like a mix between a brown ale and a stout. A tan-brownish 1/2 inch head appears. Decent lacing around the edges.

Smell- Not sure what the hell I am smelling. Maybe some coca-cola scent and some kind of definite tree. Not sure if it's pine or redwood or birch?!?! Very odd scents. But not bad scents.

Taste- Wow, this beer had some funky tastes going on here. Definite darker taste. Maybe some roasted nuts? Maybe a little porter-esque? Maybe a brown ale kind of taste to it. Lots of stuff going on here.

Mouthfeel- Thicker and darker than I expected. Nice carbonation.

Drinkability- Wasn't at all expecting a taste like this. But, then again, I have never had an Anchor Christmas beer before. Very different and very pleasant. Can't wait to try the 2003 I have in the fridge.

 899 characters

Photo of WesWes
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark brown color with a thick frothy tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great! It has a very smooth and creamy malty scent that boasts of crystal and chocolate malts along with a slight hop aroma. The taste is good. It has a dry and malty flavor. It also has a spice addition that boasts of ginger and nutmeg. It goes down easy and finishes dry and smooth with a slight chocolate aftertaste. The mouthfeel is good. It is a full bodied beer with good carbonation. This is probably the best winter ale I've had this year. I love the aroma; a good drinker.

 586 characters

Photo of DoubleJ
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Where was I when this beer was released in 2004? For starters, I couldn't drink legally. I was in my first year in college. I only had alcohol on two occasions up to that time. And perhaps most strange when I look back at it, I thought that wine would become my forte among alcoholic beverages. I never thought that I would be interested in beer, let alone re-checking my vision to see if those were indeed 2004 vintages of Our Special Ale that I picked up a few weeks ago. Christmas Day is winding down, so let's pop the crown of one of the bottles, and on to the beer:

The "pfft" sound coming out of the bottle is a good sign of things to come. Its color is very dark brown, nearly black, with definate ruby brown hues. The head forms ½ inch thick, and settles to a creamy lace which kicks up spotty lace. There's a lot to like from the aroma. There's powdered cocoa, spotted dick, a little nutmeg and ginger. All around pleasant.

I've recently had the current 2011 edition, and this tastes like a mellower, rounder version of that. Plum pudding, molasses, dry cocoa, assorted drying spice. A little bitterness builds and finished off the beer with a spruce note. It's medium bodied with low carbonation yet a moderately silky texture.

The individual pieces are very good in Our Special Ale 2004. That helps make it a heck of a beer. Now what should I do with the other, unopened bottle?

 1,395 characters

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I've had this beer twice over the last couple of months. The first time in Chicago, the second time in Atlanta compliments of Ding- thanks so much for the opportunity! In a vertical tasting of the 2003-2007, I thought this the best, but in a different tasting o the 2004-2007 I liked the 2005 best. Oh well, cellaring can be fickle.In any case this review is based on my first tasting in Chicago.

Pours ruby brown with a thin head that fades to a slight ring and leaves some spotty lacing. Smells exactly like gingerbread. Notes of crystallized ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, with a light breadiness in the background.Slightly sweeter than the '05-'07. Taste is quite similar to the smell, but with a very slight grain/spice sourness on the finish. Mouthfeel is creamy and it tastes as delicious as always.

 817 characters

Photo of biegaman
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A special thanks to CRJMellor for the trade!
2004 vintage, aged 2 years, cheerfully enjoyed Christmas 2006.
The cap opens with loud hissing noise, a magic looking stream of smoke rises from the bottle. Lots of response - big head and plenty of bubbles, some of which stick to the side of the glass and others rise to the top. Appears the carbonation has held up phenomenaly!
Poured out the bottle a really soft brown colour, appears darker in the glass, lots of dark tapioca head would rise, then settle as an outlining.
Multi-dimensional beer, both in taste and smell. A bold aroma, lots of ginger upfront. A green, earthy character, plenty of malt in this years offering. A very decadent note of dark chocolat, a lot of toffee/nutty, perhaps some roast, a fantastic aroma fit for any porter or the likes; fantastic fragrance.
Flavours offer plenty to ponder and guess at and lingers for some time after. Good malty backing to what is otherwise a very spice-filled beer. A surprisingly tasty herbacious flavour. The spices contribute so much to the flavour but don't hinder any drinkability. The mouthfeel has mellowed and blended for a mild, soothing, wonderful drink.
I've read from others that these peek at 2 years, and based on my limited experience with these offerings I'd believe it. This is my favourite OSA to date.
A great brewery and such a great seasonal!

 1,381 characters

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.17/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown color with a frothy thick light brown head. When held up to the light it shows a brilliantly clear deep ruby color. The aroma is rich and smooth, with notes of molasses, hints of sassafras bark, definitely smells reminiscent of a dark rich spice cake.

The taste has notes of chocolate, and finishes with a bit of chalkiness. There is a bit of sharpness here in the middle, that should age out after a bit, but it does not really detract and actually balances the sweet creamy character that is also found in this beer. This is definitely quite a bit more subtle in spice character than any recent vintages of this beer, it is actually the least overly spice brew of this line that I remember. There is the typical molasses note here as well, that I rather like. There is a definite woody, bark like component to this beer, I am not quite to sure what it is, but it is definitely there. Whatever it is this is definitely quite tasty, and even quite drinkable now, though I do think it will smooth out with a little bit of age.

 1,047 characters

Photo of Zorro
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a really dark clear brow brew with red highlights when held up to the light, looks like a porter.

Smell clean and yeasty with a nice perfume of spices, mostly caramel, ginger and cinnamon.

Taste is drier than expected with a rich roasted malt flavor up front. Fair amount of bitterness to the finish the hops are just right. This warms you up nicely for the mild alcohol content; probably it is the ginger that gives this it's warming effect.

Mouthfeel is good.

A nice drinkable darker beer, wonder if it is really just a 5.2 beer.

 549 characters

Photo of Halcyondays
3.4/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle at Naja's Place,

A: Pours a murky very dark brown, almost black, with a light cap of tan foam, very much a mysterious look.

S: Notes of dark malt, light fruit - fig, cola, and some winter spices.

T: Intersting mix of malt and berry flavour. Definite pine needle character. Sugary element in the end with some cinnamon.

M: Light carbonation, nice spicy feel overall, oily.

D: This is a good beer though I think it has already peaked. Nice one to drink and the oldest OSA I've had, if you see a bottle check it out.

 532 characters

Photo of wl0307
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Purchased at the UTOBEER stall in the Borough Market, S. London. The bottle marks 5.5%abv., BB OCT 06, served cool in a large Burgundy bulb wine glass.

A: just like the 2005 vintage, it pours an extremely dark brown to nearly black hue, quite murky; the tan beer head comes effervescent and forms a thick layer of froth on the top--decent look.
S: thick note of preserved dark fruits, esp. dried longan fruits, as well as profoundly sweetish spicy, almost mulled-wine like: nutmeg, cinnamon-honey, mixed with a thick edge of melted black sugar on top of a very creamy dark-malty base... a quietly flowery note of American hops (due to my limited experience, Cascade is my best shot...) hovers in the background along with a warmish alc. feel. Very rich, more spicy, balanced and complex than the 2005 vintage.
T: from the first second onwards a very creamy-smooth textured and rich dark fruity flavour, like fruit-cake, expands steadily and elegantly... the fruit-cask is sprinkled with nutmeg and fat raisins, with a nice sour-sweet fruity edge (exactly like longan-fruit tea), while the dark malt overtone conveys a chewy, slightly coffee-ish and dried-herbal+spicy (esp. nutmeg, clove and licorice) bitter-sweetness attached to the deep ends of the sides of the tongue, backed by an understated entry of hops in the finish--not lingering extremely well for that matter, yet providing a nice backbone to highlight and balance off the semi-rich malty fore-taste.
M&D: pretty smooth mouthfeel, as the soft carbonation works out well on the palate, yet the body, just like the 2005 vintage, falls slightly thin against the fullsome flavour and aroma. Still, this one outperforms the 2005 vintage by some length, for its better balance and its nice execution of spiciness vis-a-vis maltiness, even if they are not made to the same recipe anyway. A lovely beer to savour, even now that it's summer!!

 1,902 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.06/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer pours a dark opaque brown body with a little tan head. I can only see an occasional tiny bubble rise up the side of the glass.

S- The smell is a slightly sweet cider hint with some dark malt balancing it. The finish has a faint chocolate malt note.

T- This beer has a smooth soft taste of dark malt in the beginning and a hint of sour oatmeal in the finish. The finish has a faint hop bitterness to it also.

M- This beer has a medium-light mouthfeel with some lots of fizz that makes it seem more full.

D- The flavors are very subtle but not really interesting. The fizz is big but it really is missing any character.

 672 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Our Special Ale 2004 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 214 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.