Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
3.79 | pDev: 12.66%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Notes: This is the forty-fifth annual Our Special Ale from the brewers at Anchor. This ale, made with natural flavors, is sold only from early November to mid-January. Its recipe and hand-drawn tree change every year, but 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 its seasons, appears born anew. This year's tree is a western arborvitae (tree of life), an evergreen conifer native to Northern California.
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Reviews: 90 | Ratings: 192 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of backblast
backblast from Alaska

3.14/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Kind of disappointed with this one. Found it very thin - watery, a bit bitter, slight biscuit, slight hop but not much else. Not sure what to think about it. As some others have said this 2019 is their least liked offering.

Feb 10, 2021
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.04/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Very glad that I saved two of the six-pack. If I hadn't saved two, I would have broken my string of 14 Special Ales in a row. 2004-2018, annually I tried to discern the spicing from one year to the next. For about the last five years (since I've been on BA), I've been meticulously storing vintages and ritualistically tasting side-by-sides with my nephews until the ales are gone.

With such a long history between me and this ale, familiarity, thankfully, has never bred contempt. I relish it every year. So much in fact that I think it un-wise to discern in writing how it differs from one year to the next... except for the label. Because in my multi-year side-by-sides, the ingredients do deteriorate modestly. And while last year's vintage can be different and even preferred, it rarely is better because it lacks the freshness of this year's offering.

Hence, 2019 is, essentially, the same as 2018... And so the string goes on.

Nov 29, 2020
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cyclonece09 from Wisconsin

3.94/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Pours deep red with a nice fluffy off white head. Smells of caramelized grain and fruitiness. Tastes of caramelized grain with fruit, nice and balanced, with berries dominating. Beer is light/medium bodied and easy drinking, good carbonation. Overall, a very good beer.

Nov 06, 2020
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Beersnake1 from California

4.06/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from fridge temp and allowed to warm at least 5-10 degrees. Pours dark brown with nice tan head. Nose is immediately bursting with dried fruits - prunes, dates, apricots, figs, raisins. A touch of molasses, red wine, pine. Taste is fantastic! Definitely a nice pine needle note immediately, balanced with a sweet candy/brown sugar note. Tons of dark fruit, but not as dominant as on the nose. Quite malty. Very earthy, with some dirt, hay, tree sap, and dirty shoe flavors. Really nice balance of sweet and bitter. Mouthfeel is light and somewhat dry. A lovely beer.

Jul 26, 2020
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puck1225 from Texas

3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Had all of thes since 2015 and I believe this is my least favorite. Still pretty good.

Didn’t get a chance to taste this until June 2020, and the way 2020 is going, it is comforting to have something from 2019!

Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass. Dark reddish brown color with decent initial head and good lacing. Smell of dark cherries. Taste of dark sweet cherries and othe dark fruit. A hint of warm spices. A bit thin. Looking forward to their 2020 offering.

Jun 14, 2020
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just1cho from California

3.3/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

*Poured into a Teku glass from a 12oz bottle*

This beer poured a medium roast coffee brown with an off-white finger thick head. It had a decent array of rocky and micro foam. It didn't have a whole lot of retention to it, but it leaves a nice lacing around my cup when the head dissipates.

The aroma on this was pretty unpleasant, not gonna lie. It was weirdly papery/cardboardy upfront and was paired with a bit of a phenolic peppery aroma to it. I also got a slight dark fruit note to it witch some notes of black licorice in the back-end. Other than that, there's not a whole lot of redeeming qualities to its aroma. I like to think that I just got a bad one, but the aroma didn't really make me look forward to tasting this.

The taste was definitely better than the aroma, but wanting to hold your breath before every sip doesn't necessarily make this a good drinking experience. I found that there was a dark caramel sweetness upfront which was coupled with the same peppery note I found in the aroma. These flavors developed into a coffee-like bitterness towards the end which were paired with a slightly grapefruit bitterness from the hops.

The feel of this was medium bodied with moderate carbonation to it. There was a noticeable moderate lingering aftertaste to this. Not much to say here.

Overall, I felt like this was an average to slightly above average beer which could've been fantastic, but the weird papery/cardboard aroma on this kind of ruined this beer for me. Probably wouldn't buy or drink this again.

Jun 11, 2020
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HardTarget from Texas

4.3/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Murky brown glass struggles to hold a thin cover of tan foam with a halo that doesn't stick. Head drops off toward the end of the glass and the carbonation fizzes out.

Aroma: Gingerbread, malt, earthy hops, and what has to be the Evergreen tree as the constant background.

Taste: Slight citric, lime peel note on top of a dry, roasted grain base. Earthy, pine/evergreen, mineral water, and deep down there somewhere, just enough sweetness to keep all the above interesting.

Mouthfeel: Medium body leaning towards light. Same on the carbonation level which are on the edge of fizzy. Gritty texture, a little warmth, then a long drying and slightly numbing finish. A touch of a metallic feel but not really the taste, guess it's just the bone dry finish.

Overall: I love this beer, so it's hard to be objective. This year's version isn't my favorite. The evergreen note is a bit too mild for me, I want to chew on a freshly broken branch. I see this beer as a primal celebration of the solstice. It's not something to drink on a weekly basis, so it's in another category in terms of scores. I highly recommend getting one every year.

Apr 18, 2020
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Captain69 from Illinois

4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

another great xmas beer from anchor /lightly malted , smooth in taste . A great beer for sitting around with friends . have several years saved , hope to do a taste testing with fellow beer geeks.

Apr 16, 2020
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KTCamm from New Jersey

3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

1/12/20....pours medium dark brown with off white foam that settles. Malty nose, slight cola, very flat. Taste leads w/ vanilla and hints of pine. Light bodied. Low carbonation. Pretty good though slightly off.

Mar 28, 2020
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mothmanscott from Georgia

4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a brown so deep as to appear nearly black. Held against bright light it appears almost burgundy with garnet highlights and rising effervescence.The pour produces over 3 fingers of tan, somewhat lasting, foamy head that recedes to a thin surface cap and collar leaving almost no lace on the side to the glass. Aroma is earthy herbal spice, light chocolate, toasted dark bread, dark fruit, a hint of coffee and wood with a faint vinous sourness. Taste is cake-like bready dark malt, molasses, toast, raisin, caramel, chocolate and a hint of coffee. It finishes adding a distinct fruitiness, faint smoke and an earthy herbal spice which develops into an earthy, fruity, toast and lightly bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel is on the high side of medium bodied with moderate carbonation, smooth, wet fronted, lightly tongue coating it dries late in the finish with barely a whimper of its former self for an aftertaste. Another good example of this long-running fine beer with annual recipe tweaks. Thanks Anchor for your continued efforts and a job well done!

Mar 01, 2020
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brewandbbq from New Hampshire

3.86/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle.

Pours dark brown with a massive head of tan. Plenty of tattered lacework with decent retention. Roasted malts with hints of coffee, menthol, and spruce. Medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Mild notes of chocolate, coffee beans, and pine on the palate. Finishes dry with lingering roasted chocolate, coffee, and spruce.

Feb 29, 2020
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Ollie63 from Ohio

3.74/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Looks a lot like cola in the glass. Dark brown with a fluffy white-ish head. Lots of caramel and malt in the nose. Get a little more earthy hop in the taste. A bit of cocoa is there as well. Finish has a faint bit of spice lingering around.

Feb 27, 2020
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imnodoctorbut from Texas

4.04/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

poured from can into tulip

A: cola brown body, and a fluffy white head with low retention but decent amounts of lacing, and leaving a solid cap across the surface
S: solid caramel malt, slight cocoa lingering, and faintest pine hop background.
T: malt forward, following the nose; earthy pine hop backing; slight spice/cocoa
F: medium carbonation, medium-thick body. pine-dry-fresh finish

Overall (personal opinion):
Christmas in a bottle. malt blast going forward with enough pine and earthy hop backing with a little spice to round it all out. great entry

Feb 25, 2020
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WanderingRonin from Canada (AB)

3.32/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Clear but fairly dark reddish brown color to it a bit like Dr. Pepper, pours with less then a half finger of thin, white head that has little retention and only leaves a watery ring of lace to slides down the side of the glass.

Malty aroma to it with a nice caramel sweetness present and faint hints of coco with a good amount of English ale style, noble hopping on the back end.

Malty flavor of the bat with a mild sweetness to it, caramel with light notes of coffee and a faint caraway seed flavor that develops toward the back end.

Medium/ heavy bodied with a very slightly above average amount of carbonation to it that leaves a nice little tingle on the tongue.

Finish is moderately bitter with a sappy, pine flavor, with a faint floral note of elderflower and fruit hints of currants and red grape skin that gives a give a slightly dry, tannin quality that rolls around the tongue on the aftertaste with a hint of black licorice or anise, along with a nice malt backing with a bit of a coffee bite to it.

Different then most winter warmers, tasted a bit more like a SOB/ English bitter, hoppier then then a sweeter, spiced beer, lots of flavor to it that is blended fairly completely, with little variation from front end to back end, hops land quickly on the front end, and malt lingers long on the back end, I have to admit its pretty good but I prefer a sweeter, heavier beer for the cold winter seasons.

Feb 23, 2020
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottles on several occasions. Comments largely based on NYE 2020.
Pours clear but very dark reddish-brown, looking nearly opaque in the glass with an attractive ruby- brown color displayed when held to the light.
Spicy aroma and flavor but the spiciness is lower than the aroma suggests and, i think, lower than it was when younger.
Feel. Excellent; medium body with a moderate level of carbonation that's about perfect for this ale.
Happy New Year (it has gotta be better than 2020 for most of us, right?).

Feb 21, 2020
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TooManyGlasses from Canada (AB)

3.79/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Dark brown pour with half finger of khaki head.
Aroma is earthy, a bit weedy, coffee grounds, some nutmeg, a bit of plumy vinous note in, and slightly metallic.
Taste starts with a bit of sweet dark malt, molasses bread, brown sugar, but quickly distinct bitterness of piney earthy hops.
Medium mouthfeel - creamy, sweet, vigorous carbonation but with that bite of hop bitterness that sits on the palate.
Not my favourite iteration of this annual must, but solid and easily drinkable.

Jan 25, 2020
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kemoarps from Washington

3.64/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Thin cola brown/black. Crisp and clear. Nice fluffy off tan head.

Smell is creamy roasty malts, somewhat sweet. Light and creamy. Reminds me of corn for some reason.

Flavour leans into (what I think of as) german style malts. Earthy and churning and maybe a little bit of caramelized something. Some earthy German impression hops.

Smoothe with effervescent carbonation.
I've been collecting this vertical for years now and have enjoyed meeting each different iteration on its own merits. Honestly, this one doesn't excite me as much as some of the others have. I'll be curious as to how it evolves over the years, especially seeing how the 2014 I'm drinking next to it has changed.

Jan 22, 2020
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HattedClassic from Virginia

4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a nice off-white head that takes a while to dissipate. After the initial head settles down, it leaves a nice foam blanket across the surface. The beer itself is a very dark brown with a slight purple to it and is opaque.

The smell is good. It has a fir and pine note upfront that is followed by a gingerbread note. That note then transitions to a sweet and slightly sugary caramel malt note.

The taste is roughly the same as the smell. The fir and pine bitter hop notes come out in the front and followed by a spiced gingerbread note that lingers on the for the rest of the taste. The malty caramel note still comes out but mixes with the gingerbread instead of being distinct.

The feel is pretty good. The beer itself has a heavy body but a thin texture to it. There is very little tingling from the carbonation.

Overall, another winter, another decent version of their winter ale, which is still somehow the same but different.

Jan 20, 2020
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JerzDevl2000 from New Jersey

3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Every year, I look forward to this beer and every year, I enjoy seeing how the label changes with respect to the tree that's put on it. It's not often that I still buy 6-packs in bottles but this is always a favorite of mine and of course, this didn't let me down this year. It was much crisper and lighter than iterations from years past and had it been a bit more spicy and heavy, it would have been one of their better editions!

The pour to this was a dark plum with some light coming through around the edges. Not a lot of head topped it off and the lacing was quite sparse as most of it was concentrated near the top of my pint glass. Dark fruit, currant, and bitter chocolate could be found in the nose as the taste was quite thin and crisp. Pine and a clean, outdoorsy feeling could be felt from the first sip as the usual dark bread and winter spice was relegated to the background. Dates, figs and plums filled the flavor profile of this with the feeling of a fresh snowfall on top of it as pumpernickel and fruitcake lingered in the aftertaste once this went down.

Not a lot of booze in this but the slight warming I felt was enough to keep the festive holiday mood going. Though this won't win any awards, I love having this every year and this year's take wasn't the best or the worst - just one that I found myself enjoying in front of my house's Christmas Tree on a quiet night. Bottled on 9/12/19, I couldn't think of anything better to kick back with here in January!

Jan 17, 2020
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dcotom from Iowa

4.02/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured cold from a 12-ounce bottle into a tulip glass. Deep brown body with ruby highlights and a thick light-tan head that left some spotty lacing as it settled to a thin ring. Malt forward as expected, with aromas and flavors of caramel and dark bread and some floral and spicy notes. As this warms toward cellar temperature, the spices begin to come through on the palate. Good carbonation, not too sweet, with a touch of bitterness. The finish is quite dry, with a little tannic astringence (think cinnamon). Overall, a very good beer and probably my favorite of the series so far.

Jan 09, 2020
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NeroFiddled from Pennsylvania

3.94/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Anchor Brewing Co. "Our Special Ale 2019"
12 fl. oz brown glass bottle coded "PKG090519" and sampled on 010820
$2.99 @ Total Wine & More, Cherry Hill, NJ

Notes via stream of consciousness: Some years I look forward to Anchor's Christmas ale and others not. I've got my fingers crossed for this one, and I'm in the mood. It's poured a very dark mahogany brown body with clear ruby highlights in the center of the glass beneath a creamy head of light tan. The aroma is quite floral, fruity with dark skinned fruits, a touch spicy, and only mildly piney. The flavor offers very dark caramel that's almost on the way to becoming burnt and a pleasant fruitiness (apple, plum, cherry, raisin) that mix together really well with a little bit of spiciness. Some mild pine and floral character come through at the end. The floral note lingers with bitterness, soft spice, and a bit of the dark caramel and cherry for quite some time. So... that's a little weird. It's not as I remember it, although I haven't had it in a few years; and I notice that it's now made with "natural flavors". I like it a lot better than some of their early chewing-on-a-pine-tree versions, but it is different. And why not? In the mouth it's medium bodied, gently crisp, and then smooth. In the end it's an interesting, nicely balanced, and somewhat strong beer to celebrate with.
Review #6,889

Jan 08, 2020
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mvanaskie13 from Pennsylvania

3.45/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a grip shaped goblet: color is brown with dark amber edges, head is tan with fine bubbles and presented quite large (2+ inches) and dissipates quickly to a solid top of fine and small bubbles.

Smell is toffee malt, very light chocolate, caramel, light earth and subtle spice blend.

Taste is similar with a light flavor - a seemingly light spiced ale just in terms of spice punch and/or malt character. Malt notes are toffee, caramel, subtle chocolate, light sweet fruit with moderate earth hop and mixed spice blend. Spice is not overpowering and not defined by anything particular.

Mouthfeel is moderate carbonation, moderate sweetness and then some light drying. Sweetness lingers as the tongue dries out from bittering qualities.

Overall this is a moderately spiced Christmas ale with a slightly thin spice and malt character - just a bit more in spice or malt character would amplify the base concept well.

Jan 07, 2020
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lucius10 from California

3.94/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sweet and dark, roasted malt, hint of chocolate, and hint of spice nose on this one! Taste follows with sweet choco-vanilla vibe upfront...hidden spice in there. If finishes with a subdued chocolate coffee and light hoppy bitterness. This is a little thin, but it has decent mouthfeel and a smooth swallow! Good!

Jan 04, 2020
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stevoj from Idaho

3.66/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Magnum from Brewer's Haven. Pours brown with medium beige creamy head. Substantial head that lasts. A gingerbread cookie of a beer, aroma of nutmeg gingerbread. Taste is mildly brown sugar sweet with a hint of dark chocolate bitterness. This is a near perfect Christmas beer.

Jan 03, 2020
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Darkmagus82 from Texas

3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass
Appearance – The beer pours a super dark brown color with a one finger head of tan foam. The head fades very fast leaving just a trace of lace on the sides of the glass.
Smell – The aroma of the brew is of a toasted malt smell mixed with some very nice smells of pin hop. There are also lots of caramel and molasses smells as well as other smells of chocolate and a touch of a toast.
Taste – The taste begins with a roasted and toasted malt flavor that has a good showing of molasses and caramel as well as a little bit of cocoa. As the taste advances some of the hop that was detected in the nose comes to the tongue with some pine flavors as well as a little bit of a citrus and herbal hop coming as well. A touch of nutmeg and coriander spice come at the very end and leave one with a nice smooth, roasty, and pine/spiced taste to linger on the tongue.
Mouthfeel – The body of the brew is medium in thickness and creaminess with a carbonation level that is rater average to slightly lower. The feel is great as the medium thickness accentuates the dark and hoppy flavors well all while not overwhelming one, with the carbonation level doing the same.
Overall – Another great Anchor Christmas Ale. Super flavorful and balanced and quite easy drinking. Well done!!

Jan 03, 2020
Our Special Ale 2019 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 192 ratings