Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
3.91 | pDev: 9.72%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Notes: This is the forty-third annual "Our Special Ale" from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale's recipe is different every year, as the tree on the label, but with the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with it's seasons, appears born anew. Our tree for 2017 is the Santa Lucia fir. Extremely rare, it is native and limited to California's Santa Lucia Range.
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Reviews: 90 | Ratings: 258 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Blackop555:
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Blackop555 from Michigan

3.88/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours brown. Thick, medium, tan head that lasts a while.

Smells spices, roasty, earthy bitter, bready, dark fruit and Piney.

Taste roasted malts, spices, bready, light caramel and a little pineyness creeps in towards the end. Finish is semi-dry with a bready linger. Medium body and creamy lower carbonation.

Aug 09, 2018
More User Reviews:
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teromous from Virginia

3.47/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I don't see any bottle date other than the 2017 from the label. On the back there is "7OJ"

Appearance: This beer looks absolutely fantastic in the glass. The head is this thick, frothy, light khaki cloud that coats the glass in sheets of lacing. The beer itself is a dark brown that appears mostly black in the glass. It has great head retention.

Aroma: The beer has a light caramel aroma with just a light touch of what smells like charcoal. The aroma of the beer is very faint.

Taste: Up front it is earthy with a bit of a black tea character and a touch of acidity that bites the tongue. It has just a touch of a sweet caramel flavor that is quickly overtaken by the taste of alcohol. It's pretty interesting for the alcohol to be so present in such a low ABV beer. It finishes with a bit of carbon flavor. There is an odd flowery aftertaste with a bit of a juniper quality to it.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is light with a wet finish. Mild to low bitterness from the grains and just a touch of an acidic bite. Because of the alcohol flavor it is a bit of a sipper.

Overall: It is an interesting beer that is a welcome addition to the Christmas beer lineup. It would work well when paired with something gamey, heavily seasoned, or smoked. I would recommend at least trying a bottle because it isn't the average winter beer you are likely to find on the shelf. I would drink it again.

Nov 12, 2017
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garymuchow from Minnesota

4.02/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Seems early, but there it was in all it's glory. Plus it's been colder than hell here for a few weeks and it feels like time for a Christmas Ale).
Bigger head than normal and maybe a little darker than typical too. Much tighter aroma with the malt more prominent and less of the spicing.
Smoother flavor with malt more prominent. Less pine and more nut and berry qualities. Still dries out well but again a little less than the previous ones I have had. Some drying from the spicing too. Little hints of sweetness.
Still a nice heavish body for a smaller beer. Soft yet full carbonation. Some warmth to the gut fulfilling the winter warmer designation nicely. Nice smooth feel.
I like the more subdued spicing of this years batch. What is there blends very nicely with the malt, whereas in the past there were many distinct flavors and less sense of the blending of the whole.
I'm more likely to want several of these in a sitting, whereas previous ones are typically one and done.

Nov 07, 2017
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drtth from Pennsylvania

4.24/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The dark reddish brown beer pours out into a Duvel glass with a 2" tan head that recedes slowly leaving lots of irregular lacing on the sides of the glass. Even to the end of the beer there's an island of foam on the surface and lacing on the sides remaining. Sipping creates small scattered patches and legs of lacing even after the layer of foam becomes a ring and island on the surface.

The aromas include some chocolate, a bit of coffee and some dark roasted malt. In the background there's some dark fruits and some spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

The flavors are much as expected from the nose with the dark malt, coffee and chocolate. In the background there's the dark fruits, cinnamon and nutmeg. A bit of sweetness from the malt softens the slightly burnt character of the dark malt and slightly herbal bitterness.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly smooth with light, persistent carbonation. The finish begins as the sweetness and some of the fruit. spice and malt flavors being to recede allowing some light herbal and dark roast bitterness to close out the with a slightly bitter and dry ending.

Overall, I'd say this is a quite good beer with lots of complexity in the flavor profile. The spices are not overdone and compliment the rest of the flavors nicely. I'd certainly enjoy having another and think it's one of the better versions of Our Special Ale that I've tried.

Dec 24, 2017
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mothmanscott from Georgia

4.02/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a brown so deep as to appear black. Holding the beer to a bright light does not help with determining clarity. Also the garnet or ruby highlights often seen when held thusly are not readily visible with this brew. The pour produces over 2 fingers of deep tan, moderately lasting, frothy head that recedes to a decent surface cap & collar leaving only a few wisps of lacing. Aroma is dark chocolate, molasses, toasted pumpernickle, roasted nuts, dark fruit, a hint of coffee & wood with Christmas spice hints & a faint vinous sourness. The spices are less prominent in this year's offering & it has a pleasant earthiness to it. Taste is rich & cake-like dark malt bready, with dark chocolate, molasses, dried figs & roasted nuts. It finishes by adding coffee, faint smoke & a earthy note giving way to an earthy, bready, spice, roasted & lightly bitter aftertaste. As with the nose the spice complement is reduced from previous offerings. Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with medium carbonation, velvety smooth, creamy, lightly tongue coating & slightly wet fronted but drying in the finish with a light prickle. Another great example of this long-running fine beer. Thanks Anchor for your continued efforts and a job well done!

Nov 27, 2017
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Having saved empty bottles of Our Special Ale as far back as 2003 (and having Had this Ale in the previous Century), I believe I'm entitled to note a milestone....
While sitting on the pedestal as the godfather of the craft movement, Anchor was purchased by shorter-term investors in 2010 who intended to take the brewery to its next level. In sum, they did.
This year, it was announced that Sapporo Industries would purchase Anchor.

Ok. What will Sapporo do with their purchase ?

My advice. Understand this beer. It is quintessential Anchor. It is also quintessential business, a slow progression on a great base (in this case, malt.) Anchor's style is cautious innovation, nada extreme. Perfect for a big brand company like Sapporo.
And if I were the Sapporo executive, here is what I would taste... and preserve.
A basic brown ale with spicing that seems similar enough to carry on the tradition, although slightly different every year. Those small variations always give me something to think about... and come back for the next.

12/20/19 Last copy saved for the Solstice tasting. Still good. Mellower. But two years is enough to cellar.

Dec 21, 2017
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smcolw from Massachusetts

4.19/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Deep, deep brown but bright light can shine through the edge easily. Hard to tell, but it looks to be clear. Significant foam for the head initially, but the lace is limited to random spots on the glass.

The smell in this year's batch has far less of the typical tree bark/pine needle notes. In its place is an attractive sweet chocolate with salted caramel aroma. Faint notes of raisin and alcohol deep in the background.

The taste approaches a Barley Wine but falls short with a more average body and lighter (but noticeable) alcohol notes. The taste has many darker malt elements: some chocolate, tree bark, light smoke. The beer is balanced but it's hard to draw out any distinct hop or burnt malt. Yet, there is a mild sweetness to the beer. This is one of their better versions of an annual favorite of mine.

Dec 02, 2017
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JerzDevl2000 from New Jersey

3.53/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked this up right before Christmas, as is the case nearly every year for nearly the last decade and a half. I love how this beer has a different label and a different taste to it every year. Some years, it's nice and full or full of fruit and spice but this year, I didn't get any of those vibes at all. Heavy in taste but thin in mouthfeel, this came across as quite somber and sticky which would be fitting given the national mood and frozen wasteland that this area has become in the last few weeks!

Esoteric references aside, this had quite a dark pour to it as the beer looked like cola, topped with a light raspberry head that was full and bubbly. Plenty of lacing was left behind on the side of my pint glass but the aroma didn't live up to the appearance as there was some winter spice, molasses, brown sugar, and a bit of dark fruit to be found in the mix as well. Very tough to pick out the hops this year as the pine took a back seat to aforementioned darker notes that slowly emerged as this warmed up. Dry, sticky, and lightly carbonated, this almost came across as a Wassail as a woody undertone took hold near the end of my session, and in the aftertaste once this finally went down.

Not a lot of alcohol in here but it was one of the few beers that I've had lately that tasted stronger than it was in actuality. While not one of the better editions of this annual favorite of mine, I still enjoy it on a cold night with the holiday lights on here in the house. Worth getting to celebrate Christmas with, but I'm hoping for a bounce back with next year's release...

Jan 11, 2018
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Hellpop65 from Kansas

4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 21, 2018
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jmbranum from Oklahoma

4.64/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I've long loved Anchor's OSA but missed out on finding any last year. Thankfully I found this beer on tap (at McNellie's in Midtown OKC) and in bottle this year.

The following review is from a pint on tap...

Very, very pretty dark, almost black beer with a big dense tan head.

Layers of aroma: maple, caramel, hops, pine.

Flavor is rich and intense - lots of malt but backed up with sprucy hops. And some very dark chocolate.

Some spices but I would have gone for more.

Nice thick and full mouthfeel.

This is good, very, very good.

Dec 29, 2017
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cjgator3 from Florida

4.01/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass. Pine, spices, licorice make up the nose with a nice malty taste. This is one of those few beers I associate with the winter time, I will always pick up at least a sixer each year.

Nov 30, 2017
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zeff80 from Missouri

3.92/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap. Poured a dark, dark brown color with a small, khaki-colored head of foam. It smelled of nutmeg, spices and vanilla. Spice with a toasted caramel backbone.

Dec 21, 2017
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emerge077 from Illinois

3.99/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Nov 24, 2019
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gordavidson from Maryland

4.15/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nov 23, 2018
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cozmo from New York

3.82/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Jan 21, 2018
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Georgiabeer from Georgia

4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Slightly higher alcohol this year, and supposedly they tamed the spices a bit. I do think there are less of the baking spices, but more pine this year, which I've always liked in years in which it's more present- it adds a nice tannic note to balance the sweetness of the base beer. The last few years the pine has been almost absent and you got more nutmeg and mace. I hope this heralds a return to a more spruce forward Anchor Christmas.

Dec 14, 2017
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kencarman from Tennessee

2.4/5  rDev -38.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.25

Aroma was spices: ginger and maybe some clove.Malts way behind that. Mouthfeel carbonic bite to a high side of medium carbonation. Flavor: like ginger ale with some malts but so background is closes in on a mix between a tasteless dark soda and ginger ale. We bought a magnum and ny the end Christmas it was annoying.

I had high hopes. I used to love everything Anchor, thought the original recipe for their Porter better than Nevada's. The last we bought: Foghorn, was phenolic: medicinal. Anchor gave us our money back. I thought it an anomaly. A lesser rater migt have thought this tainted too, but, no, this is a balance/recipe problem.

Dec 25, 2017
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metter98 from New York

3.81/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a two finger high light tan head that died down, leaving a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of dark fruits and berries are present in the nose along with hints of spice such as cinnamon and nutmeg. As the beer warms up, aromas of gingerbread become noticeable.
T: The taste follows the smell, having flavors of dark fruits with notes of chocolate malts and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer seems to be fruitier and less spicy compared to the Christmas Ales of past years.

Serving type: bottle

Dec 11, 2017
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Tone from Missouri

3.68/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours a clear dark brown color. One inch head of a tan color. Great retention and decent lacing. Smells of strong roasted malt, slight sweet malt, slight hops, hint of yeast, slight all spice, and a hint of licorice. Fits the style of a Winter Warmer. Mouth feel is sharp and crisp, with a high carbonation level. There is also a noticeable dryness. Tastes of strong roasted malt, slight sweet malt, slight piney hops, hint of yeast, slight all spice, hint of nut, and a hint of licorice. Overall, sharp, good aroma, but sporadic blend.

Nov 29, 2017
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Bouleboubier from New Jersey

3.79/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

(12 oz bottle, split between two snifters)

L: dark brown ale to porter hue, good clarity; sudsy collar... little lace

S: leather, brazil nut, wood bark, brown malt, subtle hints of ginger and musk... leafy, lightly minty hop essence

T: mellow mesh of licorice, molasses, and thick spine of dark fruity caramel malt... light-moderate sweetness, with a cola-like nuance, and a dark berry-like vinousness... does sport a broad, lovely roasty/spiced bitterness - could perhaps use a marginal bump of sweetness

F: silky soft, medium body; slight alcohol warmth... lovely richness, but light enough in the finish so it doesn't tire the palate

O: kind of drinks like a strange mash-up/hybrid of a ruby English ale, brown porter, and Belgian dark ale... this beer is probably best utilized as in a food pairing with herbed-up xmas chicken or pork, stewed fruits, stuffing

Dec 20, 2017
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tedho21 from Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dec 26, 2017
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bcsbeer from Florida

4.31/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 04, 2018
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LXIXME from New Mexico

3.79/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Dec 02, 2017
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322wingedfoot from Pennsylvania

4.1/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dec 24, 2017
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freewill35 from Indiana

4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dec 05, 2017
Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 258 ratings