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

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.70%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

View: Beers | Events
User Reviews & Ratings
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 89 | Ratings: 251
Reviews by Georgiabeer:
Photo of Georgiabeer
4/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

 440 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of teromous
3.47/5  rDev -10.8%
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.

 1,390 characters

Photo of garymuchow
4.02/5  rDev +3.3%
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.

 996 characters

Photo of drtth
4.24/5  rDev +9%
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.

 1,410 characters

Photo of mothmanscott
4.02/5  rDev +3.3%
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!

 1,233 characters

Photo of Beginner2
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
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 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 does 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.

 996 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.19/5  rDev +7.7%
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.

 824 characters

Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.53/5  rDev -9.3%
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...

 1,585 characters

Photo of Hellpop65
4.25/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of jmbranum
4.64/5  rDev +19.3%
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.

 539 characters

Photo of cjgator3
4.01/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

 210 characters

Photo of zeff80
3.92/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

 162 characters

Photo of gordavidson
4.15/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of cozmo
3.82/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of kencarman
2.4/5  rDev -38.3%
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.

 642 characters

Photo of metter98
3.81/5  rDev -2.1%
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

 719 characters

Photo of Tone
3.68/5  rDev -5.4%
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.

 536 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
3.79/5  rDev -2.6%
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

 868 characters

Photo of tedho21
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of bcsbeer
4.31/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of LXIXME
3.79/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of 322wingedfoot
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of freewill35
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of biboergosum
3.93/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

355ml bottle - another year, another Christmas beer from Anchor, and now, the fine folks at Sapporo.

This beer pours a clear, very dark orange-brick highlighted brown colour, with a near teeming tower of puffy, rocky, and chunky beige head, which leaves some splendid densely webbed lace around the glass as it slowly but surely abates.

It smells of gritty and grainy caramel malt, some blended seasonal spice (maybe spicy cinnamon and nutmeg standing out), a bit of woodsy char, some fig and prune fruitiness, a bit of musty yeast, faint cocoa powder, and some understated earthy, leafy, and floral green hop bitters. The taste is bready and doughy caramel malt, medium chocolate, more now obfuscated Christmas spice, a bit of well-steeped black tea, mild fruity cough medicine notes, some free-range roastiness, faint estery yeast, and more weak leafy, weedy, and musky floral hoppiness.

The carbonation is adequate in its palate-caressing frothiness, the body a decent middleweight, and mostly smooth, with just a soupcon of edgy spice making a fuss as things warm up a tad around here. It finishes off-dry, the robust malt, spice, cold cocoa, and gentle smoke making for a warm lingering experience.

Overall - this seems to be one of the better recent iterations of this annual offering, much fuller-feeling, and lacking that usual overbearing musty yeast character. Kind of a mix between winter warmer and American-style stout, which still obviously works, as the snow, she's a flyin'!

 1,497 characters

Photo of dsa7783
3.93/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at Bonds Tavern in West Orange. Pours a jet black ebony hue with moderate frothing. Assertive aroma replete with hints of chocolate and mocha. Similar overall flavor profile.

 181 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Our Special Ale 2017 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.89 out of 5 with 251 ratings