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

very good
214 Ratings
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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.

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Ratings: 214 |  Reviews: 193
Photo of umustdrink
3.82/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Accidentally filed this one under the 2006...

A - Deep brown color, opaque. Small head.

S - Funky complex smell....smells like A1 steak sauce! YUM

T - Thankfully doesn't taste like steak sauce...It is however very spicy. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, raisins. Very complex.

M - Very light biting at the beginning, after that it's all smooth.

D - I'm not wild about the smell and I was a little afraid to take the first sip but I really liked this beer and would have it again.

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Photo of ellisdee97
4.88/5  rDev +22%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to my new Brother-in-law Charlie, who gave this to me as part of a mix case for Christmas.

A: Pours motor oil black with blood red highlights around the edges. A one finger thick coffee colored head tops the brew which slowly dissipates leaving a beautiful ring with wonderful light sticky lacing.

S: Chocolate malt, toast, licorice, vanilla, orange rind, slight coffee and some smokiness as it warms.

T: Smokey licorice up front. Toasty and biscuity malt and then deep chocolate and coffee. There is still a nice bite of hops after two years in the cellar.

M: Creamy and sweet. Like the best milkshake ever. Still has nice carbonation.

D: Awesome. Wish I had more than one, I'm just going to have to wait for this years to age.

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Photo of orfeu
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Notes from a three-year vertical tasting of Anchor Our Special Ale, 2004-2006:

Served slightly chilled, 2004 Anchor OSA pours a deep, cloudy mahogany color with blood-burgundy highlights and an impressively-proportioned, dense and creamy manilla head with a slight pink tint. Very sticky lacing. The bouquet, while subtle, is very inticing, with vanilla and caramel notes coming to the fore as scents of dark plums, raspberries, and clove bring up the back. The recognizeable aroma of prune and pine also emerge, identifying this as a true-blue OSA. A bitterness smacks the palate at first, bearing qualities of dried young spruce cones and alcohol bite. A vinous blackberry and raisin flavor emerges next, with clove and nutmeg following. A slightly sweet caramel-clove finish leaves a mellow and earthy aftertaste, very reminiscent of spiced rum. The mouthfeel is smooth and "settled" with a medium body providing plenty of substance. Two years in the cellar has made this thicker and heavier; it now expands on the palate. I haven't had one of these in over a year. I remember enjoying it then, but time has done this beer well. This is my last sample, and I imagine that this won't get much better than it is right now. Perhaps the last year of OSA worth cellaring? The vinous qualities coming through at this point are enjoyable, but I can see them becoming stronger and making it a less drinkable beer than it is right now. Very fine winter warmer from Anchor. A traditional release I'll always look forward to.

[Side note: This year's bottling has a pop-top crown, rather than the current twist-off caps. Could this have any effect on quality? Probably not, but I'll always wonder...]

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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!

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Photo of stephendr
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Opened 12/21/06 - 12 oz. bottle - color of dark brown tan head - nose of coffee , chocolate , nutmeg , and hint of sweet white corn - taste of coffee , bitter chocolate , nutmeg , malts, earthy , and a little alcohol - dry on the palate - aftertaste of coffee grounds , milk chocolate , and short pleasant

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Photo of ohitsbrad
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 February 2006, Best Before Oct 06

Black in colour with a red tinge. Tan coloured thick dense head. Good lacing and head retention. Smells like a good stout. Roasted chocolate malt and some coffee. Sweet caramel and spices (clove) in the aroma too. Tastes of burnt caramel, chocolate, coffee, dark fruit cake, prunes, licorice and spices. Some bitterness from the malt. Smooth mouthfeel. Medium to full bodied. Low to moderate carbonation. Unusual taste at first, plenty of spice - first time I've tried this style.

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Photo of Dogbrick
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled at the Odds and Ends Tasting on 8/16/06: I was defintely curious to find out how this held up after 2 years of aging. Dark brown color with a ruby halo. Thick and foamy light tan head, with lacing coating the glass. The aroma very spicy, with some malt and pine too. Medium-bodied and easy to drink as before. Loads of spice and malt flavors, along with a touch of dark fruit (plum), pine and even some chocolate here and there. The finish is zesty but with an underlying caramel sweetness. This beer aged very well.

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.07/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a strong head with decent retention into a thick foam and then a thick ring. Color is a deep ruddy brown, a murky brown. Som alright lacing too. Smell is a herbal Starbucks special blend coffee aroma and proter like malts. The flavor is like "special" brownies. What I mean by "special" brownies is that theirs alty chocolates mixed with herbs and lots o' Xmas spices. Very relaxing beer.

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Photo of goschool
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The label has some number/letter code on it that I'm choosing to ignore, since I know this beer ages forever and I hate it when brewers use codes. The pour is dark brown with ruby highlights. The beige head fades, but never really disappears. There's a Christmas tree aroma to go with dark fruit, something spicy, something sweet, and something vinous. The flavor is tart, yet smooth and creamy, roasty and spicy. Season's greetings in late June!

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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!!

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Photo of haz77
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Pours a very dark brown with an inch of tan head. Small bubbles of low carbonation.

S - Cinnamon, Christmas pudding, brandy, faint smell of ginger. Good stuff.

T - Not quite as good as the smell would have suggested. Maltiness at first, with the spices taking over and running almost all the way through the drink. These drop towards the end leaving a muted brown sugar aftertaste.

M - Thin to medium, but creamy and smooth. Low carbonation.

D - One of these was enough. The initial appeal of the appearance and smell was let down. Not bad, but I would be in a hurry to try another.

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Photo of VoodooBrew
3.76/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This vintage OSA was supplied by Texashammer. Thanks Jules!

OSA04 sits in the glass a deep brown with ruby highlights and a generous light brown head. The nose is, honestly, too faint. Perhaps it just required extra time to open up and reveal some faint malt and dark fruit. A big dallop of malt greets the palate with heavy sweetness then a mild tartness. Faint spice follows on into a finish that includes roasted malt bitterness and some residual fruitiness. This drinks fairly soft and easy except for what is probably an excess of tartness and astringency on the finish, and it did begin to coat the palate by the end.

Some people are devoted fans of this beer year in and year out. I guess I've yet to join the faithful.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.31/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Appearance - large pillowy head of mocha atop this dark garnet brew..

Aroma - grainy, a little soapy, a whiff of chocolate.

Taste - starts out with a softer licorice taste than the '03 or '02 version. The malts are definitely more pronounced with this fresher bottle, lending more chocolate flavor and grain to the profile. A nice dark chocolate flavor on the swallowy, some balancing hops (non-existent in the 03/02). The aftertaste is a very nice and lengthy chocolate and mild hop bitterness mix.

Mouthfeel - solid body and carbonation, bolsters an already tasty beer.

Drinkability - after a vertical of the '02, '03, and '04 tonight, I conclude that fresher is better for this beer.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.38/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This brew pours a brillant black color. The head has a light tan body with a white top and is rocky all around. Very interesting looking. The aroma is of ginger, nutmeg, and cream with some chocolate malt peaking through giving it some nice complexity. The taste isn't as big as the aroma, but it is a big aroma. The malt plays more of a factor in the taste than it does in the aroma, with the spices almost taking a backseat. Almost, but not quite. The mouthfeel is spectacular, smooth, creamy and well carbonated. Overall, this is a great winter brew. I liked the 05 a lot, but I like the 04 a bit more.

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Photo of nvsblman
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | 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. Chocolate and spruce are most noticable in the aroma. The taste is a little mocha-like the way the coffee and chocolate flavors blend together. Really nice spice quality. Also the last little hints of the hop bitterness is lingering in the background. Medium mouthfeel with a little more carbonation than the '03 verison. A great winter beer!

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Photo of cracgor
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

So I'm sitting down for my first vertical tasting of any beer. A 2004 and a 2005. The first is a 2004 tasted in 2005. It is quite an attractive beer. A flimsy thin head that looks soft and velvety. Sticks loosely to the glass and is dark brown, coca-cola color. Smells sweet and spicy. From what I have heard about last year's attempt, it was supposed to be a spice bomb. The year of aging seems to have mellowed all of this out. It tastes vanilla like and spicy. Spices are very festive, like nutmeg and maybe some allspice. I also notice some almond like nuttiness in it. Not as spiced as I'd heard, but it is well done. Very delicious. It is a nice drink. Soft, medium body. A nice winter beer to be enjoyed at the fireside. I only wish I had more than the one to enjoy.

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Photo of Pete9094
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Saved this bottle all year and figured Christmas Eve was as good a time as any to sip this one.
Beer pours a dark reddish brown hue with thin creamy head which nicely laces on the side of the glass with each sip.
First smell is spicy with fruity elements mixed in.
Nutmeg,cinnamon, and pine tastes apparent up front balanced wuth sharp hop bite at the back. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy.
Overall, a good offering from Anchor. I

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

Tasted along with 03 and 05 for comparison.

Pours a dark brown color with ruby highlights, topped by a one-finger tan head that's rather short-lived. Nose has a predominantly vinous character, along with roasted malt, dark brown sugar, dark fruit, and a hint of hops. Palate is well-balance between light roasted malt and mild fruity hops. Notes of dark fruit, brown sugar, light cocoa, and plum/prune. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, though not quite as enjoyable as the 03. As always, an enjoyable winter warmer.

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

Followed a 2005 tasting

Identical in color to the 2005, dark brown, opaque, chestnut edging.
Thick, dense, head more substantial than the 2005, with nice curtains.
Smooth bitter chocolate with dry coffee grounds in the nose, with a suggestion of wood embers.
Spicing steps forward, nicely blended after a year.
Grapefruit lurking, followed by orange peel, nutmeg, cardamon, cinnamon bark.
Nose finishes with a smooth bitterness and warming.
Medium body and starting to get creamy.
Roasted, chocolate covered coffee beans on the pallet, followed by a moderate bitterness.
Mellowed spicing integrates well into the mix, becoming less astringent.
Nutmeg, clove, citrus, hints of ginger, spruce, cinnamon.
Finish lingers with fading spice, bitterness, and roast.
Quite similar to 2005, but mellower, less astringent, and becoming more sophisticated.

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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?

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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.

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Photo of silver0rlead
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drinking this at just over a year after bottling (november 10th, 2004): Pours a murky brown with some red highlights, and a thin tan head that retains well. The aroma is still sharp after a year: gingerbread, fruitcake, nutmeg, allspice, cinammon, toasted bread, plum, fig, berry, molasses and chocolate. The flavor is instensely malty with big fruit character (plum, fig, raisin, blackberry), gingerbread, spices (clove, cinammon, nutmeg, allspice), molasses, chocolate and some toasted bread. The mouthfeel is medium with moderate carbonation (surprisingly enough) and drinkability is good. I enjoyed this beer, and it tasted fine after a year but im not sure if it gained anything from cellaring though...i found a bit more sherry notes but nothing really noticeable, if you're holding onto one of these go ahead and drink it.

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Photo of doubleipa
3.3/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Been in the cellar for about a year. Aroma is toasted with some mild coffee. Almost all hoppiness has vanished. Additional smells of allspice and nutmeg. Head is creamy, light-brown with excellent lacing. Body is clear/flat and black in color. Initial flavor is lightly sweet with a short fonish. Taste is watery/flat with a moderate alcohol finish. I don't think this stood up as well as some people think it does. I can't see holding any of this for another year. Didn't progress well, at all.

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Our Special Ale 2004 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 214 ratings.
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