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Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

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Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
29 Ratings
Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): not listed

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-06-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 29 |  Reviews: 21
Reviews by DrunkMcDermott:
Photo of DrunkMcDermott
2.77/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

Sample taste at Chicago Beer Society vertical tasting, Dec. 1. This particular sample has gone flat. It’s still got a nice chocolatey component. But that can’t get around it being flat, and just a bit vinegary. We only opened one bottle, so I’m not sure if it was just one bad one. So it tastes, looks and smells all right, but a ding off for mouthfeel on just this one bottle.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of lordofthewiens
2.98/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Recently had this and the 1997 version. The 96 was disappointing. It was a dark brown color with a thin, almost non-existant head. Spicy, dark fruit aroma, a little musty. Taste was muted. A little fruit, a litle spice. Maybe some hops late. Very thin and flat. Maybe it didn't age well. I had to struggle to finish the bottle.

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Photo of Jason
4.4/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz pear shape brown bottle with an “Anchor Brewing” freshness coding on the back label. This vintage show the “quercus alba” or white oak as a flavouring. This brown sediment is very well compacted and does not move while pouring.

Appearance: Nearly black with reddish brown hues playing against the light, rich foamy head is a surprise and leaves a well endowed rich tan “Brussels lace” that give a trailing path in it wake.

Smell: Long drawn twang of tree sap, a bit tart with molasses and earthy undertones in the aroma.

Taste: Medium body with a low carbonation from a hard pouring and five years of aging. Smooth mellow mouth feel that is near perfection in texture. Mild tart twang from the roasted malts but more from the maple tree flavours and aged hop and blended well to make for a refreshing brew. Light molasses flavour flow around the taste buds as well as big earthy flavours of wood and nutty yeast. Malt flavour a light and whaftty, toasted and roasted but not to extreme. Light vinous notes detected giving some show to the mellowed alcoholic esters, minimal oxidation. Hops are almost nowhere to be found other than a very faded bitterness. Near bone dry finish with a bark flavour within the dryness.

Notes: So damn complex, this ever changing yearly concoction is the most underrated vintage beer. After around five years of aging this may have peaked or may be ready to endure more years of cellaring, one will never know until that day comes. Most likely this beer will last another five years.

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Photo of olradetbalder
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of acurtis
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of mjsarch
3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into a gold rimmed acid etched Anchor special ale glass dated from 1994:

Appearance - poured to what I consider near perfection: 1/2" head, clear, with mahogany color. Head retention very good, settling to about 1/8" with some nice lacing around the glass,
Smell - spruce, chocolate, coffee, and a little black patent malt,
Taste - a bit astringent, with little bitterness,
Mouthfeel - somewhat thin,
Drinkability - after 10 years, I don't think the beer has aged for better or worse. Credits to Anchor for brewing such a clean beer, but I wouldn't hold the beer any longer in hopes it will mature at all.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
3.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of Thunder
3/5  rDev -15.7%

Photo of Thorpe429
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to bmanning for sharing this bottle. Served in a wine glass.

Pours a moderate reddish-copper with a thin off-white head and some nice lacing. The nose carries a bit of spice and faintly-sweet malt. Slight spice and mild bitterness to the flavor. Faded, but still fairly good. Only light oxidation. Body is pretty light. This has held up quite well.

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Photo of Imstillthegman
3.68/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I decided to break this one out and share it with a friend during my Christmas party. Merry Christmas to us!

Poured a dark mahogany with about a half inch of light tan head. I was surprised to see any head at all since I didn't hear any carbonation when I opened the bottle.

The aroma was of the traditional OSA spices with a touch of sourness and a slight bit of oxidation. Dark fruits also mingled with the spices. Overall, it smelled pretty tasty for being bottled up for so long. Again, I was surprised that scent of all the spices stayed strong for so long.

The flavor is full of malt with a solid spice backbone. Some spruce as well. The sourness came through even more in the flavor, which was unusual compared to my previous experiences with these.

Mouthfeel was good for such an old beer. A little thin with very little carbonation, but that's what I was expecting. It was nice to pop one open during the Holidays, but I am a little bit afraid to see what my other bottles will be like in the next year or two.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.14/5  rDev -39.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 1.25 | overall: 1.75

Well well well. What is there to say? This is a vintage review. 1996 Our Special Ale acquired by chance for $1.69 at a SoCal bottle shop near Santa Monica. "Ale brewed with spices with natural flavors added." 22nd anniversary. 12 fl oz brown glass bottle with gold generic unbranded pressure cap served into a conical Samuel Smith's pint glass in me gaff in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. To be clear, I'm drinking this 17 years after its release. Will it hold up? I strongly doubt it.

Served straight from the fridge. Side-poured with extra vigor as extreme lack of carbonation issues are anticipated. It's fucking 17 years old, lads.

A: All I got from the vigorous pour is a quarter finger pleasant khaki colour head of great cream, nice thickness, and okay (~1.5 minute) retention. For 17 years, you'd expect far worse. The khaki is a spot-on, desert military type khaki. Vibrant and appealing. The body colour, however, is a rather dark brown-black. Nontransparent; opaque. It's not a jet black, though. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. For its age, it's pretty good.

Sm: Reminiscent of a barleywine. Malty as hell. The refined malts of age. Deep caramel malt. A bit sappy. Biscuit malt. I don't get any oxidation; I'm impressed. Maybe a deep toffee-esque note. Brown sugar. Depleted fermented sugars contributing a refined richness. I don't get any yeast or alcohol. Whatever the starting ABV was (it isn't marked on the bottle), it's since come up. I'd peg it at 7.5% ABV based solely on the aroma. Caramel is dominant. A moderate strength aroma. I'd call it appealing; I expected a vinegary weak mess. (See my 1978 La Trappe Amber review).

T/Mf: Okay... Caramel, toffee. Sauce on the finish; perhaps soy or A-1. A bit tar-like; the mouthfeel in the third act is tough, chewy, and relentless. Definitely too coarse and dry; the finish is near intolerable. Raisin. Maybe there was maple syrup character 10 years ago. Any and all spice has deteriorated. No yeast character or alcohol. None of that refined rich malt here; that was aroma only. This has gone off. Boy, that's just not good. Imbalanced and poorly built. This might have been great once, but it's garbage now. Far too thick. I'm not enjoying this.

Dr: Please. It's not at all drinkable due to the thick chewy disgusting mouthfeel. Reminiscent of chewing on tar. Why this was aged so much, I'll have no idea. At $1.69, I saw fit to buy it, but I wouldn't do it again. Interesting as a vintage experiment. I might end up just cooking with this one; it's pretty bad. That said, it's still not vinegary - which is impressive for its age. I got through about a third of it, and I'm calling it quits. Drinks like a cobweb. I can see where it might have been good in the past, but it's far since fallen off. I wouldn't recommend buying this now, but it might have been great 12-14 years ago.


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Photo of Crotor
3.92/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

If you have any of this left, drink it now, because I don't think it's getting any better at this point...

Poured a deep, chesnut brown. Amazingly, after seven years it still pushed up a respectable head (one finger), but it quickly dispersed. More than I'd expected...

The aroma was the most impressive aspect of this beer. Big sweet treacle. Caramel-molasses goodness. Simply amazing malt aromas...

This malt, however, didn't really carry over into the taste. While present, the biggest element to the taste was a slightly sour roastiness. All spicing had disappeared. There was a hint of soy. Overall, a bit lacking at this point. I just have the impression that there's a vacancy in the taste profile, one that would be filled by a bit more sweetness and/or spice.

The mouthfeel was a bit lower than I'd expected. I attribute this to the breakdown of solids brought on by seven years of aging. This negatively impacted the experience.

Certainly, Anchor OSA is an excellent beer, and an excellent candidate for aging, but I think seven years is certainly several years too many. Drink this one a bit younger.

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Photo of stakem
3.03/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

First off id like to apologize to my friends whom I shared this with. 18 years have really done a number on this brew.

Cap pries off clean, it pours a clear color of lightly browned and ruby tinted molasses. Even though a light fizz emits, there are no visual signs of carbonation. The smell is sweet with raison and then it goes straight to soy sauce. A light intermingling of sherry and fruity alcohol, faded spice also faintly noted. The taste is a replica of aroma, raison before a bounty of soy sauce and slight oxidized leafy autumn foliage.

If you have a bottle of this...do yourself a favor and marinade a steak in it. I sure wish I did...or, do a reduction and pour it over leftover chinese food. You can thank me later.

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Photo of putnam
4.57/5  rDev +28.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Chocolate-brown pour with a respectable blanket of foam colored coffee-and-cream.
Intriguing bouquet of malty resins and spices : I find suggestions of toffee, coffee liqueur, Spanish almonds, English jams, marmelade and oolong tea. Heathery, truffly, sweet, pungent soil aromas.
In the mouth it is wilting, yet still airy. Claret-like tannins begin to occupy space immediately. They are sweetened by little, viscous rushes of currants, cherry wood, liquorice, brine, raisin, brown sugar, molasses and Madeira. This has the rusticity of a middle-aged Moulis and the perfume of an old Barolo. It is spicy and foresty both and perfectly contained by its age. Its passion is now ether : aroma. On the finish it shows its sinews in a way that may seem shocking and slightly unseemly at first. Bitter, woody flavors assert themselves there. With repetition, my discomfort turns into admiration though. Unmistakably from the west coast. Unmistakably Anchor.

... ... ... ... ... It is blasphemous to give numbers to this beer.

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Photo of spycow
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of NEhophead
4.34/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12 fl oz brown bottle; served in nonic.

Pours a thick, syrupy dark walnut in color. A faint filmy sheet provides no noticeable lacing.

Complex toffee and molasses sweetness with a dried, rounded spice profile: nutmeg, mellow brown sugar. Deep, aged fruity esters: raisin, date, and fig that all blend together remarkably well with the warming, mellow alcohol whaffs.

Deep, sweet molasses with notes of rich milk chocolate and caramel. Deep, dark fruity esters lacking a sweetness, which works out rather well: raisin, fig, aged cherry. Notes of earthen, floral hops with a not so dry almond, hazlenut, and nutmeg spice. The finish adds a quick dryness with notes of molasses and hazlenut in the aftertaste.

Almost full in body; almost a watery texture, which is most likely due to aging. I'm still impressed with how this was able to hold up over the years in flavor and somewhat in texture.

A wonderful treat practically 13 years after its creation. The flavors remain dominant with a nice rounded-mellowness, despite the beginning of the texture's demise. If you have been aging this vintage, it's time to crack this one open and enjoy it with some friends.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
2.36/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to jmgrub for sharing this one at AndrewK’s tasting.

Pours a clear dark brown with a tan head that quickly fades to nothing. No lacing on this one. Smell is of malt, slight spices, and a distinct aroma of A-1 steak sauce that is completely unexpected. Taste is pretty watery and thin with some malt, brown sugar, mild spice, and an underlying sourness that is odd. This beer has almost no carbonation with a very flat and somewhat thick mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty poor beer as it stands right now and aging has not been kind to this one over the almost 16 years since it has been bottled. With that being said I am glad I got to try this one for sure.

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Photo of simmons
5/5  rDev +40.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Very dark with a tint of a red when held up to the light. Thick brown head that lasts awhile.

Aroma: Smell like Christmas!!! The malt shines through with a roasted and sweet earthy sent that you have in your home when your Christmas tree is up. Not much if any hop aroma is present

Flavor: Full of malt flavor that is very grainy, most likely brown malt and not as roasted as you would think guessing by the aroma. It almost fells like you are drinking an evergreen tree & after drinking, a nice aftertaste lingers. As for the hops just enough bittering hops to ballance this beer. Not much if any flavoring or aroma hops.

Mouthfeel: Very thick & extreamly well ballanced. CO2 levels are just right, carbonated some what low yet it holds enough to notice. (slightly higher than a cask ale)

Drinkability: Well done!!! this beer hits this style right on the nose. Every time someone talks about a Christmas beer this is the first one that I think about. Everything is just perfect. Everything a Christmas beer should be.

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Photo of Onenote81
2.27/5  rDev -36.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Awesome extra received from calise1122 in a trade awhile ago. Huge thanks for this very unique beer, Brett!

Popped the cap, and spurt of carbonation fizzles out. Good sign. Poured into a pint glass, this pours a very thick, dark mahogany with a thin tan head on top. Some ruby shades to this foam. Retains weakly, and leaves little-to-no lace on the glass. Scents of old apples, prunes, figs, dates, leather, soy...you name it. This is crazy how much "flavor" is in the nose.

The body still retains a good amount of depth and good carbonation bite, almost a little harsh. I wasn't expecting so much "bite" to this. I thought it would be mellow with no carbonation at all. Shows how much I know. Unfortunately, the flavor on this did not do it for me. I think this beer has gone past it's prime. At first sip, I get a wash of old mushy apples and slightly tart cherries. This is what gives this a 1.5 instead of a 1.0: I liked that first sip. As I continue to drink though, this becomes a musty, dry, vinegar-y, dirt-flavored soy sauce. I thought this had characteristics of a good Old Ale, but it became a drain-pour. I hate to admit it, and I very RARELY pour out a beer, but I could not get past the third or fourth sip on this one. This may have been good a few years ago, but it has lost whatever good characteristics were still clinging for dear life long ago.

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Photo of msimmons32
4.32/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I was lucky to have this beer over the weekend at The Stuffed Sandwich. My friends and I celebrated by opening the 1996 Xmas ale magnum. Sam chilled it for us in the freezer for 30 mins and then popped the cap for us.

As soon as he did this foam immediately started coming out of the top of the bottle. The first pour has plenty of head that surprised everyone a the table. The aroma was absolutely amazing with lots of spice, chocolate,and hints of bourban. The first taste sent my tounge into over drive tasting large amounts of chocolate, pine, and xmas ale spice. The taste lingered for several minutes on my touge and had me coming me back for more. As the beer began to open the flavor mellowed out and began to taste like a 13 year old beer. The flavors had melded so well that each sip lened itself to another interesting flavor. It also had gained so much complxity that it was hard to pick out indiviual flavors as we got to the end of the bottle.

Believe it or not I lucky to have a 98'xmas ale magnum later that day that tasted awesome, but the 96 tasted fresher and younger. I would highly recommend the 96, but must you must find a place or someone who has stored it correctly. The magnums also seem to last longer due to the fact that there is more beer in the bottle allowing it age more consistanly.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.32/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have a sneaking suspicion that this Winter Ale may be on the verge of ending its wonderful drinkable life. Maybe another year, perhaps two. It's a mute point, however, because I don't have another one with which to judge.
It pours a nearly impenetrable ruby tinged black. There is virtually no head or lace, except for a thin beige rim. A piney aroma is backed by the smell of cherries, sweet malt, vanilla and warming alcohol. The aroma is supported by a lightly musty and woody smell. The body is fairly thick and oily. Flavors of cherry cough drops, toffee, light lemon citrus and faint taste of sweet chocolate flow into the far reaches of the taste buds. An oaky flavor seems to carry a light taste of vanilla and sherry. And ever so slightly, a taste of tart apples begins to emerge. I would like to try this again next year, so if anyone is cellaring this vintage, perhaps a trade can be worked out.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.55/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Are you kidding me with this bmanning? An ancient OSA to share at a recent tasting. Thank you!! Very thrilled.

Beer served in a snifter. Beer is brown, a little hazy, appears almost still, a little legs on the glass, no real head or lacing or carbonation.

Beer smells a little raisiny, a little like sherry, mild, very mild spice.

Beer is sweet, medium bodied, still on the palate, a shadow of cinnamon remains, the beer is not as oxidized as you might expect, nicely rounded, sweet, strong, tastes a lot like raisins. Overall much better than I expected for it being so darn old.

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Photo of Floydster
4.55/5  rDev +27.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle purchased from Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel for six dollars, tasted alongside the 1995 and 1997 vintages last night, poured into my Stone pint glass, color is a dark brown with ruby red edges, 3/4 inch foamy light beige head that stays around for a very long time for a twelve year old beer, aroma consists of spice that is mostly spruce and cinnamon, also vanilla, white pepper, figs, roasted malts, and sweet nutmeg, flavor is somewhat subtle and mild when still chilled, once it warms an array of flavors come to the surface, deep dark chocolate mixed with vanilla at first, roasted malt and spice in the middle, finish is slightly fruity but has a nice rounded spicy character, love how this is so complex and works so well together, vanilla component mixed with the spruce does wonders on the palate, mouthfeel is perfect with a balanced or roasted, slightly sweet, and roasted sensations, medium bodied, still a strong level of carbonation regardless of its time in the cellar, could drink a magnum of this and I am glad I bought one of this vintage, this stuff goes down so easily for its style, what a great warmer for the colder months, I am going to buy as much of this as possible ,the 1996 is my favorite Anchor Xmas beer to date, it has aged incredibly well, will be drinking more in the future but I want to see what another three or four years do to it since it has already aged so well for over a decade, highly recommended

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Photo of shelby415
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of TheHopMonster
4.6/5  rDev +29.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I was given this by a co worker over the summer and damn did he miss out on an awesome aged ale. This ale was kept on its side while it aged and saw very little light. My father, my uncle, and I cracked this baby open to see what 14 years has done to this massive bottle of holiday ale.

Poured into a snifter, very dark almost black but you can see hints of red light shine through, seems thick but not quite a syrup, It has maintained a very desirable viscosity. To my surprise it has carbonation. I almost cried when I saw the tan head form and its lacing still sticks . This is such a beautiful sight.

Smells of dark burnt caramel malts, figs, plums, and dark chocolates. It doesn't smell the least bit spoiled. Pleasant alcohol esters rise towards the nose. I cant get over the complexity of the aromas.

Tastes smooth, not harsh. Creamy notes of burnt sugars, and taffy. Chocolate along with fruits such as plums, and raisins seem to make a very strong appearance on my palate. Some hop characteristics but not that noticeable, but thats fine this has soooo much going on and as it warms up to room temp the flavors are even more noticeable.

Everyone who tried this 14 year old ale this evening was super impressed and satisfied, we must have spent literally over an hour after drinking this talking about how amazed we were. It kinda breaks my heart knowing that its gone and I will never in my life taste something like this again.

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Our Special Ale 1996 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.56 out of 5 with 29 ratings
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