Our Special Ale 1997 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

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Our Special Ale 1997 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 1997 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Very Good
27 Ratings
Our Special Ale 1997 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 1997 (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 02-27-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 27 |  Reviews: 20
Photo of Andy
4.7/5  rDev +23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I look deep into this beer and I see myself...literally. Huge earthy nose, some hints akin to A-1 steak sauce. Complex flavor profile that is slightly oily and malty, with fewer pine notes than in past versions. While complex, the flavor quickly dissipates as it warms (unlike the 1996).

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Photo of tavernjef
4.67/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The OSA 1997 was made with Scotch Pine -pinus sylvestris - which in smaller stages is one of the more popular Christmas trees grown in the Northern Great Lakes areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A close relative to the Norway Pine and Red Pine. In open-grown landscapes they can reach 50-70 feet high with irregular crowns depending on wind shear.

Nice color of dark chocolate brown and a nice dark tan top about a finger high lightly fluffs up. A collar remains present throughout the serving, lace in miniscule spots.

Aroma is well distinguished of aged wonderment, the Scotch pine is still incredibly resin filled and of fresh cut lumber. Pleasantly soft and rounded, very fresh and dusty of pine lumber. Great notes of licorice and anise underneath. But that fresh cut lumber smell with sap, resin, bark, needles, and dust is sublime! They got the whole tree in there, super fresh like a sawmill full of Scotch pine lumber.

One taste of this aged wonder and it nearly brings you back to 97', the air, the water, and the wood used has all aged nicely. Quick malty roasted front that gets pushed away quickly to let the spices of the tree resin, sap, and needles swell in over some ginger cookie sweetness, darkened vanilla, thinner molasses, anise, and partial cocoa. The Scotch pine is favorable with an overall mild tone keeping some notes peeking here and there. Not as present as what the smell leads onto, but still good nontheless. Lingering long is some toasty caramel and the fresh pine resin and needles sticks around for a decent length with an overall dryish tone. Nice complexities through and through.

Starts thin and malty but thickens with spice, malts, and even a bit of fluffy textured carbonation that gets pretty full at the midway point, but falls out a bit too soon yet continues to give out a nice lingering finish thats layered well in complexity.

Some very nice stuff, aged completely now, it has taken out alot of roughness, I imagine, its smooth, bold, complexing, and above all, yummy and damn drinkable! Big thanks to Steorn for the Birthday presents!

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Photo of jahred
4.43/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Wow - I was incredibly lucky to find a very dusty 6-pack of this stuff on the floor of a local liquor store. Reviewed 3/12/04.

Amazingly enough, after all these years the beer pours with a huge amount of carbonation. The beer is a very pretty, dark brown/almost-black color with a surprising amount of lace that sticks around on my glass.

The smell is quite complex. Lemons, licroice, anise, cinammon, and a biscuity malt flavor. The taste is initially very creamy and minty. This stuff is incredibly easy to drink. I'm trying to go through it slowly as I review - this requires a lot of effort on my part. Th e best description of the complex flavors as the beer warms is liquid sponge cake. The orange peel flavors are holding up quite well after all these years, and as the beer goes down there's a nice tickling/prickly feeling on my mouth. After 6+ years, I guess it's reasonable to call this beer a classic.

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.23/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes. Sheep, you're a champ. Poured from a magnum. Deep brown to black color with a 2 finger head that fell to coat the top. The nose was nice, with some woody/pineyness, maybe even spruce with a big molasses sweetness rolling around behind it. The flavor was also big in molasses with some slight pine. Very full flavor with a bit of soy sauce as well, but not offensive. The feel was moderate to full with a moderate carbonation. Overall, this brew went down easy. The big nose and flavor were really my bag baby. Good solid offering.

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Photo of DrewBeechum
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled in June 2003 from a 1.5L bottle

Deep brown and porter like in the glass with an almost non-existant tan head.

Aroma is sweet with chocolate and sweet nutmeg and caradmom rounding out the edges.

Flavor is drier than expected and there's an initial sharpness that fades into a pleasant and plummy beer.

The finish finally sees the arrival of ginger with the dessert character of gingersnaps.

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Photo of SheepNutz
4.11/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

1.5L magnum poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a deep black color with four heaping fingers of dark tan head. There is lots and lots of Belgian Lace on the sides of the glass. The smell is very sprucy. Nutmeg and clove hide behind the dense spruce aroma. The tasty is also spicy. There's some cinnamon in there, and of course the rush of pine needles across the tongue. The mouthfeel is just a little light. The drinkability is great though, and this was an awesome brew.

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Photo of Vancer
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to timtheenchanta for the vertical tasting, from 2005 to 1999 – WOW! Year 1997 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.

Citrusy malts, coriander, dark fruits and pine in the aroma. The piney hops have softened nicey over the 2 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.

Still funny how drinkable, tasty and enjoyable these ol’ Anchors can turn into over the years.

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Photo of clvand0
4.08/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to sheepnutz for sharing this magnum (and all the other OSA magnums). Pours a very dark color with a moderate head that falls quickly but leaves a lot of nice lacing on the glass. The aroma has a lot of dark malts and a lot of pine and a little sweetness. Similar to the '98 version, but less pine. This one tastes like it has a bit more alcohol than the '98 version. Has a big roasted and chocolate character to go along with the pine flavors. Pretty well balanced. Mouthfeel was thick and the drinkability was pretty good.

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Photo of spycow
4/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of UnionMade
3.97/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this directly after the 2000 vintage. 2.3.09. This one was brewed in the year I turned legal drinking age.

Opaque dark brown, nearly black, with a thin topping of sandy colored head. Small blotches of lace stick to the glass. Again, the head drops to nothing about halfway through. Not enough carbonation to support it.

The aroma features a bit more spice than the 2000, with a light whisky barrel vanilla note. A touch fruitier, with a distinctly woodsy character. Gentle and softly roasty in the way of a good schwarzbier.

The flavor is soft and very gentle. Smooth carbonation is a touch more than the 2000 bottle, with the same dry, lightish body. Similar malt profile, with perhaps a bit more of a papery presence. A pleasant little whisky taste in the background. Very woody, spiced with nutmeg and vague ginger and cinnamon notes. Like I'm chewing on an evergreen twig, particularly in the aftertaste. Finishes with bittersweet malt and nutmeg.

Probably in better shape than the 2000 bottle, but still a bit past its prime. Enjoyable nonetheless.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to bmanning for opening this. Reviewed from notes.

Pours a dark cola-colored brown with a thin off white nose. Nose brings forward a good amount of fairly sweet malt along with some pine and general spice. Taste brings together some sweetness with a bit of bitter spice. Mouthfeel is a bit thin, but has held carbonation fairly well. Drinks quite nicely, and is one of the vintages that has inspired me to attempt to make a Christmas tradition out of OSA verticals.

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Photo of hopdog
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | 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.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This followed the 96, and it was like night and day. Everything about this beer was more intense. It was a dark brown with a small head. Dark fruit (raisins, plums, cherries) aroma, as well as a little yeastiness. Nicely balanced taste. Fruit/spice/hops. This was a fun beer to drink.

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Photo of warmstorage
3.86/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Elsewhere on the Beer Forum, I agonized over whether to plop down $27 for a 50.7 ounce magnum of the 1997 Our Special Ale (OSA.) Excellent advice from fellow BAs recommended bartering, and I struck up a conversation with the exceptionally unknowledgeable owner of my LLS, and got it for $15.

I should note here that storage conditions were highly suspect for these bottles (five other magnums were on the shelf with it.) They have been on the shelf, apparently uninterrupted by refridgeration, since at least January 2004 (I'm writing this March 20, 2005). The current owner of the store thought the "1997" on the bottle was like a wine vintage date (ugh.) I explained that it wasn't, but it quickly became clear that it wasn't worth it to go into much detail.

Visual: beautiful 50.7 oz magnum, with foil wrapping on top, in good condition, clean label, etc. (Relative to concerns about age, this is good.) A little dust on top, and price tag flaking off. This was *not* the same price tag as used on the the other (new) items in the store: clearly, had been around for a LONG time.

Pour: I poured it like homebrew (slow, steady, at a very shallow angle), to avoid sediment clouding the waters, and then poured the last 2-3 ounces by itself, vigorously. Interestingly, there was almost no sediment/solid detectable, in either pour.

Color: pours dark rubyish/brown, in a pint cylinder, is near opaque. Has a shockingly active head, given the advanced age and gentle pour: nearly an inch of foamy, non-dense foam on each of the three pint glasses.

Smell: relatively neutral at first, warms up to a hint of sweet spice (like carrot cake?). Definite notes of pine tree sap.

Taste: Solid: sweet and spicy, a definite winter warmer, and similar to the fullbodied spiciness present in the last several years of Anchor OSA brews I've had. Pronounced pine and sap hints, with sweet spices (guesses: pumpkin? allspice? cinnamon?). A solid example of the style (Xmas/winter warmer) despite its advanced age. Definite malt presence, well balanced with the sweet spiciness, and limited hop presence. In a few words: bold, sweet, spicy. It is surely past its prime, but not in a soured or stale way, just a little more pronounced on the big flavors (pine sap, sweet, spicy) and lacking some of the nuances of less senior vintages.

Mouthfeel: full, with noticable but not overpowering carbonation. Leaves lace foam lines on sides of glass.

Overall: I feel good about the purchase, for $15 for three full pints, and lots of novelty value. I would buy it again (and probably will buy the remaining four bottles) if the LLS owner will sell it at the same price. I wouldn't, however, drop the original $27 give-it-as-a-gift price.

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Photo of mjsarch
3.82/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Consumed from a 1994 gold-rimmed commerative etched pint glass from Anchor:

A - nice rocky head upon pouring, settling fairly quickly to a thin head rimming the glass,
S - to me, spruce and maybe a bit of orange peel, but consistent in this beer from year to year. The reports are that the recipe changes yearly, but I've not been able to discern to the degree that's true,
T - a bit astringent, with some roasted chocolate malt. Again, I feel a spruce character comes through a little strongly,
M - full, with some bitterness,
D - nice, but not too exciting. I guess I'd have to add that holding the beer for 9 years does nothing to add or detract from its quality. To it's credit (or not) Anchor does a nice job of brewing a consistent beer (for this year) that will age with no great degree of improvement or degradation.

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Photo of DrunkMcDermott
3.77/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sample taste at Chicago Beer Society vertical tasting, Dec. 1. This one is darker still than the more recent beers I just finished in this vertical. Nice inviting brown color. My first note is of chocolate covered cherries and the smoothness of book leather.

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Photo of Rhettroactive
3.75/5  rDev -1.8%

Photo of smithj4
3.75/5  rDev -1.8%

Photo of Jason
3.63/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 12 oz pear shape brown bottle with an “Anchor Brewing” freshness coding on the back label. This vintage shows the “pinus sylvestris” or Scots Pine as a flavouring. This brown sediment is very well compacted and does not move much while pouring.

Appearance: Close to black with reddish brown hues drawing next to the light. Lively foamy tan head that leaves patches of lace down the glass.

Smell: Mild soured aroma though not necessarily from the age of the beer, perhaps partially from the pungent sap from the tree. Mild charcoal and chicory smell also.

Taste: Smooth beyond belief, creamy in the back. Medium carbonation knocks out quick. Light twang of tree sap, light piney sweet flavour. Roasted malt is quite prevalent with the signs of oxidation but not to the point of being undrinkable. Hops are hard to find through the tick of it all. Bit of burnt sugar and wild yeast sourness are in the back ground. Earthy without a doubt, the pine flavour mellows out towards the finish and adds to the beer with a sappy needle like flavour. Nearly bone dry in the end.

Notes: This sample at this time is showing its age, still good but it is certainly on its way of passing its peak. A good buy even after roughly 5 years+ aging.

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Photo of beerluvr
3.55/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A hard pour only manages to rouse a short dirty tan head that settles out rather quickly over opaque brownish-ruby liquid. Nose is slightly oxidized and faded spruce/pine, pruney, malts and zero hoppiness. Taste is bitterness, slight prune juice, somewhat spicy, malty, dry and winey. Finishes up dry...it seems a bit past it's prime, yet not without some enjoyability. I'd rather have the chance to sample an older version than not have the chance at all.

Kudos to Davo for the bottle!

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Photo of acurtis
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%

Photo of shelby415
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%

Photo of AlexJ
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Similar in appearance to the 96 with a nicer head that retains fairly well.

Aroma is dark malts upfront with jammy plum/prunes, dates, cinnamon, nutmeg, and scorched brown sugar.

Flavor is dark fruity malts, baking spice, prune/plum, and a faintly piney hop finish . Has more oomph than the 96.

Body still seems light, between light and medium. Carbonation is light but the texture is slick and creamy aiding it's drinkability.

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Photo of Floydster
3.28/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle purchased from Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel for six dollars, tasted alongside the 1995 and 1996 vintages last night out in the IE, poured into my Port Brewing pint glass, color is a dark brown with some milky body in the light, 1/4 inch tan head that had big bubbles, not much retention at all, no lace, smell is made up of maple syrup, coffee, peppery cocoa, burned malts, earthiness, and tart cherries, flavor is sweet at first with molasses, chocolate in the middle, finish has an earthy texture and also dark fruit lingering in the aftertaste, spice does not come out until it fully warms, quite a bit of pepper in the finish, mouthfeel is thick with roasted and earthy accents, full bodied, low level of carbonation, could drink a few of these this time of year, not too filling, smooth most of the time, probably the least favorite of three I had last night but still not bad, age has made a lot of the spice stand out more, might hold up for a little while longer, worth trying

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Photo of t0rin0
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%

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Our Special Ale 1997 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.82 out of 5 with 27 ratings
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