Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
3.89 | pDev: 10.54%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Reviews: 400 | Ratings: 462 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of KensWorld
KensWorld from Florida

4.27/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This baby has 9 years of age on it yet it still pours like it was new. Plenty of carbonation and 2 finger brown head. Looks almost ruby red. Smell is the classic Anchor Christmas, no off smells at all. Taste is quite different then the other vintage years I’ve had. Lots of herbs, semi sweet mellow malty aftertaste. The feel is extreamly smooth as expected for its age. Somewhat watery and lacking a bite. Overall I lucked out on this one, it has aged perfectly.

Jan 20, 2018
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mnj21655 from Massachusetts

3.76/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours very dark brown with ruby accents when held to the light, there is a bit over a finger of light brown head that settles to a thin head but hangs around forever. Aroma is lots of dark fruits (think raisins, dates, prunes) and some dark malt. Taste tempers those dark fruit notes a bit and presents a more rounded flavor profile. Mouthfeel starts medium on body with moderate carbonation but then falls off and turns very thin and aqueous in the finish. Overall this beer held up quite well over the past 8 years. I wouldn't advocate saving these quite that long but this beer is proof that a well brewed beer can evolve over time and still give an enjoyable drinking experience.

Dec 21, 2016
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Stevedore from Oregon

3.32/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2008 vintage. Served in a snifter glass 8 years later in 2016.

Pours a dark cola brown body, minimal half finger white head, short retention time, no lacing. Smells of dark fruit, a bit of soy sauce, pine, raisin. Nothing special. Flavour is similarly heavy on the raisin, dark fruit, dates, soy sauce, and a touch of pine bitterness. It's definitely malty and didn't do all that well with time. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a tough one to get down. Overall... not terrible, but I can't imagine it's any better than it was fresh.

Jun 06, 2016
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Beginner2 from Illinois

3.97/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

I found this copy in July 2016 at The Beer Temple.
Ritualistic about buying a six pack and saving three and having one each successive December to compare recent vintages, my hypothesis has been: Our Special Ale can be kept for 3 years.
The reviews just below me provide some confirmation that 3 years is enough. Except for a few outliers (BA is famous for its outliers), the average review/rating is much closer in the first three years, but deteriorates thereafter.
For the qualitative test, I opened this 2008. The aromatics of the season are familiar to my run of fourteen successive vintages. The taste is punctuated by the same, but amazingly the bubbles prickle my tongue and I notice less the seasonal spices and the signature malt in the mouth.

So... does age matter ?

Unfortunately, YES!

Always eager to prove my hypothesis wrong, I go get a 2014 copy from the cellar. Same color, same aromatics that remind me faintly of a sack of spices for mulling apple cider. But, 2014 is not prickly on the tongue!

Conclusion: two years old will always better than 8.
After all, "The Terrible Twos" will always beat 8 years old when adults expect you to be good and you prefer not to.... but let's not take the analogy too far.
Our Special Ale, to me, is at its best in its second year.

May 15, 2016
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stakem from Pennsylvania

2.41/5  rDev -38%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.25

A magnum bottle (because Anchor knows that bad decisions are best served in a 1.5 liter format) poured into a 20oz thistle. The beer is dark chestnut to mahogany in color with a khaki cap. Ok, at least it looks good.

The aroma consists of soy sauce, pine needles and some mild fruity tinges like raison. The more I think about, this smells of christmas wreath and crushed dreams. Hey, there is some chocolate too.

The taste also includes soy sauce, chocolate, roasty almost smoked molasses and fruity hints of raison rubbed against a green air freshener and lost in your couch cushions. Some minerals and meaty dog food make for an earthy aftertaste.

This is medium bodied, modestly carbonated and overall a train wreck. I know "its a thing" to cellar and drink this beer with age but holy hell you wont catch me drinking this beer ever again unless its a freshy...and even then ill be hesitant.

Jan 23, 2015
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mfnmbvp from Illinois

3.83/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, with a more than obvious vintage date. Code on the back label reads 80U. Vintage 2008. My fourth beer from the annual Anchor winter releases.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter.

A - Pours a deep dark mahogany colored body; opaque in the glass with just the tiniest bit of ruby showing around the edges when held to the light. One finger of creamy tan foam that thins to a bubbly ring quickly. Some nice thin tan lacing. Looks good.

S - Smell is of amber / red malt, tea leaf sweetness, brown bread, yeast must, herbal spice rack notes, faint licorice / anise, and some jammy berry scents.

T - Taste is of oak wood, dark chocolate malt roast, caramel, cream, dirty herbal earthiness, mineral water, and piney hoppiness. Roasty chocolate malt seems to dominate this year's vintage.

M - Smooth and creamy. Thin and light-bodied with good carbonation. Finish is mostly clean with some mild stick.

Overall, not the best of the vintages I've had so far, but it was still a worthy addition to the line-up. I would be interested to see where this one goes with another few years of age on it, but alas I may never know. Definitely worth the try.

Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale 2008 ---4/5.

Dec 25, 2013
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Pegasus from Texas

4.02/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep mahogony in color, with a massive dark tan head with incredible persistence. The lacing rings the glass wall with exquisite tide marks.

Aroma: Massive dark malt and massive spruce notes. Bitter chocolate and earth are prominent in the aroma as well.

Taste: Opens with dark, earthy malts, and spruce. Dark, roasted malt notes dominate the taste, wit the spruce tips and hops in a supporting role. Finishes with lingering dark malt notes, and a persistent, mild earthy bitterness.

Mouth feel: Smooth, soft, velvety, and very pleasant.

Drinkability/notes: A superb example, which did not suffer from cellaring.

Presentation: Packaged in the ubiquitous Anchor twelve-ounce brown glass bottle with a pry-off crown, served in a New Belgium Brewing chalice.

Aug 15, 2013
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jimmah120 from Minnesota

4.24/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz with no date (hehe...)

dark look with a suprising amount of fluffy head. smell is heavy on the gingerbread with holiday spice and Christmas spruce tree. taste is similar, with the malt and hops being swallowed up by figs and holiday spices, with a gingerbread finish.

held up very well, now I need to try the rest.

Jul 16, 2013
Photo of scottfrie
scottfrie from California

3.58/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Magnum into snifter. Consumed on Christmas 2011.

A: Pours a very dark ruddy brown with a very thick dark tan head that faded into a long lasting fuzzy film.
S: Scents of clove, cardamom, raisins, ‘tree’, caramel and tangerines.
T: Follows the nose with the usual OSA flavors. I get a hint of chocolate as well. Not as much pine, spruce etc as some of the other years, although it’s not as caramely and sweet either.
M: Medium body, slick chewy mouthfeel with low but bubbly carbonation.
O: Not the best of the years that I’ve had. This beer is still pretty sweet too. A decent drink, no hurry to open it if you have it.

Dec 30, 2011
Photo of weisserj
weisserj from Massachusetts

3.84/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Consumed Christmas night (12/25/2011). 3 year vintage.

Pours dark brown, almost black, into Chimay chalice. 2 finger off-white (beige?) head that does not last too long but instead descends into a small halo of foam. Shocking how little aromas I am able to detect but I’m getting a tiny amount of pine and maybe a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg? Again, it’s very hard to tell and perhaps I’m a bit congested from allergies but it seems extremely mild even when I put a nostril right up to the bottle. Taste is milder than I was expecting after reading all about the Anchor Christmas beers through the years (this is the 34th edition). Malts are in the front and a bit of piney aftertaste in the back. Goes down extremely smooth with no bitter or biting aftertaste. The cinnamon is present but thankfully not overdone-just right. Not boozy-tasting in the slightest but this truly is a winter warmer and can get you feeling very nice after just a few sips. I drank the first half fresh out of the fridge and let the second half mellow a bit in the glass to see if I could get more smells or flavors to stick out. A bit more aroma emerges and now it kind of reminds me of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

Is this a go-to ale? Well, not really since it’s now 2011 and the 2008 vintage is probably almost all consumed by now. I like it quite a bit and would definitely pick up another bottle if the opportunity arose.

I had found and purchased two bottles and even though I really like it I’m sticking to my plans to gift the second one to a friend. After all, it is the season of giving!

Dec 26, 2011
Photo of korguy123
korguy123 from Canada (ON)

3.43/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage opened 12/17/2011

A- Super dark brown/black pour with three fingers of light tan head. Slowly the soapy mass deflates leaving a thin ring and bunches of lacing.

S- Nutmeg and ginger, cinnamon with a slight buttery presence. Black coffee and figs with slight rum soaked raisin.

T- Brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins. Slight cardboard tastes.

M- Light to medium bodied, light carbonation, sticky on the lips.

O- Not bad. Definitely Christmas in a bottle.

Dec 18, 2011
Photo of nickd717
nickd717 from California

3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle at The Bruery, 2008 vintage, vertical with 2001 and 2002 vintages. Review dated 2/4/2009.

Dark amber color with an off-white head. Aroma of roasted malt, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Flavor is the same, malty with spices, not quite as mellow as the oldies but good. Medium-full body.

Aug 26, 2011
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jondeelee from Massachusetts

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

The 2008-2009 release has a pleasant aroma, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, light cloves, and pine.

These flavors continue into the beer, though nutmeg and pine dominate the palate, along with a sugary current reminiscent of the candied fruits that often accompany Christmas stockings: specifically banana and mango. Hops are kept to a modest level, mostly providing a stabilizing effect to keep the sugars from becoming overwhelming.

Overall, quite a delicious beer; especially considering I'm not overly fond of beers that have added "natural flavors" and "spices," as per the label.

Aug 14, 2011
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UCLABrewN84 from California

4.14/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2008 vintage which makes this approximately 2.5 years old at this time.

Pours a semi-clear crimson red color with a 2 inch light beige head that settles to a small cap. There is a complex lattice work of lacing on the glass on the drink down. The smell on this beer is very complex. Overall, it smells like an arts and crafts store around Christmas time. There is an earthy smell, with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice. Very much like mulling spices used to make apple cider. Absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately the taste is not as great as the smell. The same tastes as present as what I get from the aroma but in a watered down way. Almost as if a bag of mulling spices was left to steep in a generic ale. Carbonation levels are somewhat low which could be a factor due to the age of this beer. The mouthfeel is slightly flat and watery but it's not too far gone to be unenjoyable. Overall, this is a good beer still with perhaps slight signs of aging. I really liked the 2009 version of this beer and I know that each year the recipe changes. I bet the 2008 version fresh was pretty awesome. I have one more of these in my cellar so I am curious as to how further aging will affect this beer.

May 18, 2011
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dragonWhale from New York

2.72/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

a little foam over from this cute little bottle. rich dark amber with a khaki head, sexy lace.

smells of thick sweetness, like a batch of my buddy's homebrew that i wanna really like but have to tell him its got promise but its way too sweet.
it's decent, but hardly very drinkable. were this a bomber, half would've likely gone to waste just so we could get on to drink something better. thick dextrinous malt, spruce and pine, not much else spice. too much sweetness.

Jan 16, 2011
Photo of gford217
gford217 from Georgia

3.8/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 bottle.

Pours reddish brown out of the bottle and settles in an opaque mahogany that only has ruby hints around the edges. There is a healthy beige head that recedes to a hefty cap with good lacing.

Aroma is sweet and malty but with lots of subtle spices mixed in, including cinnamon and nutmeg. There is also an interesting juniper berry and evergreen character. Almost a minty type aroma.

The taste has an initial juniper kick alongside the sweet caramel malts. The spices become much more evident in the finish where I'm left with a cinnamon and herbal zing on the palate.

The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth with lots of spices popping on the tongue.

This a really well crafted and very drinkable winter warmer. After 2 years, the spices have settled down a bit and let the sweetness of the malts come out.

Jan 09, 2011
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BB1313 from Ohio

4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. I was fan of this one in '08, so I ended up saving a bottle to have for the future. Pours a deep burgundy, slight haze, w/ white fluffy head and decent lacing. Very good looking beer. This one has some woodsy aromas going on w/ some berries; bittersweet. Very interesting and unique flavors going on here. Mouthfeel is nice, but pretty slick. Drinkability isn't bad, but the flavors will take it's toll on you. Low abv helps for good drinkability though.

Very interesting and unique beer, glad I saved one. If you ever come across this vintage, enjoy!

Jan 05, 2011
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deapokid from Pennsylvania

4.16/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Liquid is a dark amber topped with a thick finger of brown foam and dense and substantial lacing. Carbonation is also very prevalent, making this model stand out much more than previous years. Visually stunning.

Scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, cayenne pepper and grandma's fruit cake are all on hand, as is a blunt dryness brought on by the sugar and yeast.

Flavor profile packs in a ton of plum, which is followed by subtle maple notes and a dry conclusion. Spicing seems to be the usual; think nutmeg, cinnamon and pine needles. Beer is smooth, but not rich, allowing some nice roasted aspects to linger on the tongue.

This model has a bigger aroma and flavor profile than the previous year and that's certainly reflected in the amount of time it took to drink the 12oz bottle (you could count the minutes on one hand). Another great version of America's best Christmas ale.

Jan 01, 2011
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Jimmys from Pennsylvania

3.58/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Deep walnut colored brown, nearly opaque. Light leathery brown dense two-finger head.

S: Syrup & cookie dough. Cinnamon on the tail-end.

T: Sweet molasses. Mild sour, vinegar-like cloy. A big bunch of clove towards the end and finishes with a delicious linger of french roast coffee. The vinegar aspect almost made it out to be spoiled at first, but after a few more tastes definitely added more complexity to the body.

M: Medium to full body with a mellow smooth carbonation.

D: Got several of these in the cellar. Gonna have to crack another one around this time next year and revisit my review.

Dec 31, 2010
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hooliganlife from Missouri

4.19/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

vintage 2008 (obviously)

pours dark brown, almost black. hint of light breaks through here and there. light creamy head, nice light retention.

sweet candied fruit, spicy, light red licorice.

really starts out with the juicy dark fruit, cherry, candy and spice and then turns quite dry with a light roasted finish.

sweet and juicy, ends dry. mild carbonation

quite good. i do not remember this fresh, it's been 2 years. this has hung on well, flavors are still quite bold.

Dec 20, 2010
Photo of claspada
claspada from New Jersey

3.98/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The aromas is first and foremost dark caramel malts, not ropasted but brown sugary dark caramel matls. There are still some notes of clove, all spice and maybe ginger.

The taste is superb. You get a mouthfull of raisins and dark fruit with a subtle mix of cloves and cinnamon. Some vanilla been and subtle alcohol heat comes out as it warms. A slight bitterness and very dry finish.

Overall I was skeptical of this beer because it is only 5.5% ABV and I dont trust low ABV beers to age but I loved this beer when it came out and love it now, but for different reasons. Definitely one of the best if not the best Winter Warmers on the market.

Nov 20, 2010
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bobhits from Kentucky

2.88/5  rDev -26%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark cherry amber body, almost opaque in the glass. An ok darker almost milk chocolate head that sticks, leaves lacing and is as creamy as it can be.

Fruity amber aroma. Cherries, dates, caramel, and some hits of Christmas spices.

I've been told these beers can age 20+ years. This one is making me suspect of that. There's some hops, spices, and it is mostly malt but nothing is jumping out at me what so ever. A bit of cherry and some maybe raisins. There's certainly a spice characteristic here as well. Add in an almost vanilla creamy flavor which seems out of place. That said I almost feel like I'm drinking a beer fresh after brushing my teeth.

This beer creates the illusion of a medium body with a nice creamy carbonation but it is definitely thin bodied. That all works well with this style I feel.

Very drinkable and very sippable. I love how Anchor has crafted this beer. It just works and there's nothing left to say.

Oct 17, 2010
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Brewfanatic55 from New Hampshire

4.47/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Decided to pick up this vintage at the Barley Pub in Dover, New Hampshire. Not going to lie; split it amongst two other fellow pub-goers. It was like a wine tasting, only I enjoyed it.

A: Appearance was quite dark, with a great looking smoky-tan head. Decent amount of lacing is left behind.

S: As the bottle clearly states, "Pinus Jeffreyi" the scent is a hint of pine. Jefferey Pine apparently (I'm no arborist). Immediately you can't help but smell fruit, ginger & other various seasonal spices.

T: Slightly sour, right off the bat. Molasses (almost like a cookie), spice, hint of pine. All in all, a great smooth holiday brew. Not overly hoppy, nor too malty whatsoever. The fact that this bottle was approaching 3 years old I think the aging aspect heavily influenced the smoothness. One of the others joining the tasting of this beer pointed out the taste of raisins which I then picked up.

D: This beer was all in all a terrific holiday beverage. The fact that it has a slight spiciness to it, along with that pine and caramel-esque flavor only makes me wish I had second one at hand.

Oct 14, 2010
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wl0307 from England

3.58/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Purchased at the UTOBEER stall in the Borough Market, London; BB 09/2010, served cool in a straight pint glass.

A: very dark brown in colour, coming with an ever-growing light tan frothy head fed by constant streams of lively carbonation (bottle-conditioned, this one?).
S: the aroma consists of strong notes of (lots of) fat black or brown prunes, broken black sugar blocs, toasted fruits, mixed spices (ginger candy, licorice and nutmeg for sure), milder hints of dark malts... a touch more sour than desirable, but I suspect it's what was meant to be? The overall balance falls on the dried stone-fruit & soothingly spicy side, not as assertively hoppy as the other vintages I've tried. However, as the froth ebbs away, the sweetness somehow overpowers the other elements and comes one-dimensionally dominating.
T: a light-bodied swallow of sour-sweet brown prunes (semi-smoked) and dark malts leads towards a clean palate of sour black prunes, mild spices, then finishing rather quietly and light-flavoured in the end, leaving but a touch of herbal bitterness. The spices do not lend a huge influence on the overall taste & balance, and the malts & hops taste somewhat much weaker than the previous vintages.
M&D: the mouthfeel is generally light, softly-carbonated, but not very smooth, due to the unbalanced flavour profile and light body, I think. Well, this vintage is tasted very close to its suggested expiry date, so maybe this fact might explain why it is not as good as its forbearers?

Aug 31, 2010
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armock from New York

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

A - Poured a very dark brown color with a tan head that fades quickly but still leaves lacing behind

S - This stuff smells like Christmas nutmeg cinnamon and pine

T - Things take an interesting turn here lots of dark fruit flavors upfront with the Christmas spices being pushed to the finish

M - This beer has a medium body with medium carbonation to it

D - This is an excellent beer even almost two years after buying it tastes great its summertime but this stuff makes it feel like Christmas

Aug 29, 2010
Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 462 ratings