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
Reviews by bark:
Photo of bark
bark from Sweden

4.24/5  rDev +9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The colour is deep brown, the liquid is clear. The high head sinks slowly down to a beige lid, leaving lots of lacing.

The smell is spicy and rich. Sweet notes of rye bread, cloudberry jam, nutmeg, apricots, cloves, red wine, ginger and hints of coffee.

The taste is dry and quite bitter. Dry spicy notes of nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. There is almost no sweetness at all, but still a fine fresh malty flavour. The aftertaste is wine-like with a fine fruity bitterness and hints of caramel.

The carbonation is medium to mild; the bubbles are small. The liquid is mid-smooth.

A surprisingly drinkable beer considering all the spicy flavours.

Dec 04, 2008
More User Reviews:
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kmo1030 from Massachusetts

4.2/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

OSA 08 pours a dark barely translucent brown, with a moderately sized light khaki colored head.
the aroma contains a slight husky malt character followed up with a good dose black licorice, nutmeg, maybe a touch of ginger,some rootbeer, and some other spices. it's got a bit of a highly sugared chocolate aroma (not heavy or overpowering at all, just reminiscent of chocolate from cadbury or something). it's also a touch piney, probably partially formt the hops, partially from the spicing.
the taste hits you with anise, rootbeer, an underlying bitter chocolate. there are touches toffee tinged non-sweet caramel. you catch some cinnamon towards the finish with some interestingly minty hebal hops. powdery. seems a little more bitter than years past. ginger in the aftertaste.
medium bodied with mmoderate carbonation. anchor hits it right, with this much complexity, i don't need a anything fuller than this.
the drinkability is good, this is one of those beers that i look forward to coming out all year long, this year did not disappoint.

Jan 11, 2009
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CrellMoset from Virginia

3.45/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the Brickstore Pub, Decatur, GA. Served in a traditional American pint glass.

Appearance: A dark brown beer with garnet highlights rests under a creamy, two-finger, foamy tan head. Retention is above average, and it leaves little columns and speckles of lacing. Nice.

Aroma: Cloves and nutmeg are the most prominent aromas here, if my sniffer is working properly - it smells very similar to pumpkin bread, really. Slight sweet maltiness accompanies the spice presence, though a simple, faintly roasted sweetness. A few light fruits, perhaps, though nothing I can affirmatively identify.

Taste: Fairly delicate, or to frame it slightly less positively, everything's very faint. Spice is again the main contributor to the mouth, with more of that clove, allspice goodness. Faint piney notes. Very bready malt profile, with some toasted overtones. Tastes like a faraway holiday, appropriate given Thankgiving hasn't even arrived yet. However, I doubt it will become more flavorful as we move in to December.

Mouthfeel: Incredibly light, largely even. The lightness is partially a product of a thin body, but also of the moderately high level of carbonation, enough to make a fluffy party of it. Anchor-like.

Drinkability: Having only had the 2007 Anchor OSA, I don't have much of a reference point for this one, but I can say that I enjoyed this year's version far less than I enjoyed this one. Perhaps that's a result of my palette evolving, or perhaps a result of this one needing a bit of age. Or maybe it is just a thinner, less flavorful beer. Either way, worth a try for posterity or inclusion in a vertical, but it's lacking in enough ways that I won't be making many repeat stops ygis Holiday season.

Nov 26, 2008
Photo of arizcards
arizcards from North Carolina

3.95/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a sixer from BevMo in late November for $10.99.

Beer poured a mahogeny brown with a brown one inch head to start, Nose is holiday spices. Taste is malty with molasses, allspice, burnt sugar, finishing with a dry hop. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly lively on the palate. Overall drinkability is good. Initially I thought I was sipping cookies left for Santa but this is one that grows on ya!

Dec 21, 2008
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LordHammer from New Jersey

3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: A deep, nearly opaque mahogany with about an inch of tan head. Held up to the light, it is a deep ruby. Head lingers a significant time.

S: Nose is mainly spices (cinnamon and clove) and stone fruit. A barely discernible bit of hops hide at the back. Certainly smells enticing.

T: This is a complex sucker. Opens with mild to moderate hops, tart fruit notes, and a bit of the spices, although much less than in the aroma. Finishes with roasted malts and a pleasant sweetness, as if scrubbing the palate for the next sip. Really a bit much in the fruit department for my taste.

M: A nice, heavy brew that is a good pair for a winter day. Carbonation is light but present.

D: This is one that really should be savored, although I've been guilty of having three on occasion.

My first year of OSA, and this was not disappointing, given the tradition associated with the brew.

Dec 08, 2008
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alexgash from Connecticut

4.03/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle.

Dark maple syrup brown body. Tall, thick, dense, bright khaki head. Great lacing and retention. Christmas-y nose of brown sugar, anise, figs, cloves, and a dash of cinnamon. Reminds me of a caramel sprinkled with baking spices.

Doughy caramel leads off with mild brown sugar sweetness. Nutty, toasted malt follows, joined by moderate levels of spices. A little vanilla, clove, allspice, and who knows what else mix together festively. Scorched sugars, yeast, hints of roasted coffee, and dark chocolate bitterness finish things off. Medium-bodied. Not too spicy, which I like. Another fine, but not outstanding, installment in the series.

Dec 19, 2008
Photo of Goliath
Goliath from Illinois

4.03/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark, ruby hued brown with a one inch light tan head sitting on top. Good retention and some tiny bits of lacing.

The aroma is excellent. Big banana notes with a splash of cherry. It's got the whole banana bread thing going for it, mmm.

The taste is good. Some nice fruit presence with cherry and banana, but with the additional presence of toasted malt. A bit of caramel and biscuit, as well as a slightl phenolic quality all start to come through. I think maybe even a touch of chocolate.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and appropriately carbonated with a very fine and soft bubble.

Drinkability is high. I'm a fan of the OSA's, and this one is just as tasty IMO. Could put down a few of these and be a pretty happy guy.

Dec 16, 2008
Photo of katan
katan from Colorado

3.36/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle

A - Pours a dark ruby color to almost brown. The head is light, perhaps an 1/8th of an inch. Very well retained. The color of the head looks more like a porter or stout as it is mocha.

S - Malty on the nose. Lots of 2row barely combined with something a little more roasted. A secondary yeast scent exists. Overall a sweet impression.

T - Starts off balanced in profile, with more of a roasted assertiveness. There is a spice in here that at this stage is hard to distinguish. Finishes with a sweet and spicy combination of malt and what is almost pumpkin spice. Little aftertaste on the palette.

M - Moderate body - neither thin nor thick. Carbonation is light and not stinging. Is somewhat clingy with the residue - perhaps somewhat oily.

D - Smooth going down - light on the stomach. ABV is manageable. Flavor is a bit wearing as I approach the bottom of the beer due to that unusual spicing. Not something that is very sessionanble.

Worth a shot - glad I tried it but wouldn't get again.

Dec 27, 2008
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bobsy from Canada (ON)

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

12oz bottle acquired in a trade with voonder - thanks Alex!

2008's pour produces a redolent chestnut liquid with a huge, sticky tan head, that lasts forever and laces like a dream. This is exactly what I'd hope for in a winter warmer, and the richness of colour combined with the dramatic lacing hits perfection. Huge treacle toffee aromas mingle in with spice to produce an intensely rich bouquet that seems a little hop-shy. The flavour is pure parkin. For non-British BAs, parking is a spiced cake using molasses, and traditionally eaten in the run-up to Bonfire Night. The resemblance is so close its uncanny. Like a Southern Tier novelty beer. Chewy body, that feels smooth. Goes down exceptionally well.

For comparisons sake, this is how this beer ranked against other edition of Our Special Ale that I've been lucky enough to try:
2007: Caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg, with light hints of pine (4.3)
2008: Spice cake and molasses (4.25)
2009: Chocolate, mint, vanilla and cola (3.8)

Mar 15, 2009
Photo of ViveLaChouffe
ViveLaChouffe from Georgia

4.32/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It's dark. A nearly opaque brown, with a dense, creamy tan head. The nose is piney and sweet dark malt with hints of mocha and dark chocolate.

Very piney in the mouth. The hops are bittersweet with the underpinnings of some roasty porter-like malt. Did I mention it's piney? Roasty and sweet in the finish. The piney hops dominate the aftertaste and the mouth is lightly sticky.

A good one yet again but with Anchor OSA, that's the norm.

Dec 17, 2008
Photo of steelcutoats
steelcutoats from Pennsylvania

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

Anchor Brewing 2008 Christmas Ale

This special beer came in a mixed six pack that my caring Mother bought me for Thanksgiving. I poured the entire 12oz. bottle into my crystal snifter. There was a great foamy head with a good bit of foam lacing around the inside the glass. The color was dark, and didn't yield much when held up to a light. The aroma was a mix of hops and dark toasted malts, with some subtle spicy flavors in the background. I'd be willing to bet that some cloves or cinnamon were added to the boil. Overall it is a very enjoyable beer that will definitely be on my "to watch for" list for next year.

Nov 29, 2008
Photo of asabreed
asabreed from New York

3.82/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ah, the time is here. I wish I would've been aware of these years ago, but only recently did I jump on the train.

12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Dark amber with a mocha-colored head, nice carbonation shooting to the top, and some scant circular blobs of lacing kicking around the glass.

Smell: Initially almost a cherry chocolate rum cake concoction, with lots of sweet, malty, chocolate flavors, and honey and candied-fruit, along with cake a cookie dough batter. A bit of booze and some hops to give it some sourness in the nose and citrus flavor. Certainly fitting for the season.

Taste: I'm thinking in its green state the hops are coming on a bit too strong, lending a tartness, sourness, and bitterness too much to the malt flavors, which come through later in the long finish with bitter chocolate and hints of cookies and sweet dough. The wonderful aroma I was hoping would come out in the taste, but it seems to be too far in the back, with the sour cherries and citrus and mildly acrid bitterness coming up. Don't get me wrong: it adds an interesting hoppy element to a celebratory and usually maltier kind of brew, but it seems a little too strong to me. That said, I can see the hops dissipating and this sucker being fantastic a few years down the road. I'm going to try my best to save some.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with nice full carbonation overall, which means I can see it holding up in the cellar for years to come.

Drinkability: The 2004 I had about 6 months ago was wonderful, and seemed almost perfect to me. I wonder what some age will do to balance out the bitter chocolate and sour fruit flavors, which are nice now if you're into that sort of thing, but I have a feeling this could be great in a few years. Why not try it fresh and lay some down? I'll be trying to do that, but I'm not sure I'll be able to.

Nov 18, 2008
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BoitSansSoif from France

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

A-Pours a dark brown w/nice beige head. Excellent retention as thin cap persists long after pour. Decent frothy lacing.
S-Sweet ginger, spice, Ginger and candy sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, piney hops. Fruit emerges as the temperature rises...cherry and fig.
T-Slightly sweet malt dominated by light burnt sensation, and a bouquet of spices. Midpalate opens up to grape, cherry, fig, and transitions into a more bitter finish of hops that cleanse w/pine resin and juniper. Aftertaste is of light spice and hops, with faint remnants of sweet, burnt malt.
M-Light-medium bodied w/lively carbonation. Balance is peculiar, as the sweetness is offset by the burnt sensation that dominates in the finish, but it works.
D-Easy to drink.

Jan 11, 2009
Photo of John_M
John_M from Oregon

4.29/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Always a beer I look forward to. The grandaddy of all X-mas beers (at least in this country). On tap at Max's the other day.

The beer pours the expected dark brown color with some red hilights. This is the way OSA has looked for a number of years now. However, this beer has very good head retention and lacing, and just looks attractive. As is always the case, the aromas in this beer are otherworldly, and IMHO, are it's best feature. There is just so much going on... clove, allspice, nutmeg, brown sugar, molasses, perhaps even a hint of ginger. There are also dark fruits in the nose, with the beer reminding me more of beery equivalent of a fruit cake. The flavors on the palate generally replicate the nose, except there is also some chocolate and vanilla, along with the fruit and spice. There's just enough hops to keep the beer from becoming heavy, but otherwise there is a creamy mouthfeel in this year's version that I don't recall from previous years. Some prior years have seemed just a bit thin on the palate, but I can't say that this year. According to the beer menu at Max's, this year's version is 7%, which I think gives it a fuller mouthfeel. Drinkabilty is pretty good, though with all the spice, there's no way you're going to pound down several of these at a sitting.

I would hesitate to call this the best OSA I've ever tried (I've had quite a few and who can remember them all at this point), but it's a damn good one. Well done Anchor. Season's greetings.

Nov 17, 2008
Photo of philbe311
philbe311 from Pennsylvania

4.03/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Rich brown color away from the light... Translucent cranberry red when held up to the light... Chunky tan head retreats to leave a truly inviting lacing... Leaves nice rings on glass throughout the session...

S - Sweet and fruity with a subtle hint of spiciness... Caramel... Malt... Cranberry... Miscellaneous other dark fruits... Cinnamon... Nutmeg... Just an ever so slight hint of piney hops...

T - Cranberry... Roasted Malts... Caramel... Nutmeg... Clove... Blackberry... Surprising amount of hops are noticeable... Very tasty...

M - Medium bodied... Slightly syrupy... Lush carbonation... A lovely complex texture... Finishes ever so slightly on the dry side...

D - Phenomenal Winter Warmer... Looks good, smells good, tastes good, feels good, and all at 5.5% ABV... You really can't ask for anything more... A perfect beer for the winter months... Thanks Anchor...

Note - Surprisingly, I found this to be better out of the bottle than on-tap... I'm not sure as to the integrity of the tap-lines as I grabbed a draft in the train station while traveling, but was pleasantly surprised to find the bottle version to be superior to the tap version I had earlier this season...

Jan 11, 2009
Photo of BuckeyeNation
BuckeyeNation from Iowa

3.53/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wet pine cone brown with burnt orange accents. An enthusiastic pour generated half a pint glass full of golden sandstone colored foam that looks especially firm and creamy. Delicate rings of feathery lace wrap up the appearance on a good note.

It's impossible to remember the previous version when it comes time to review the next, but this 2008 seems more chocolate malty and less spruce-like than I remember. It could also stand to have more power, although there's still some foam between nose and beer.

This 34th iteration of Anchor Our Special Ale tastes more subtle than in years past. There isn't as much dark maltiness and the Christmas tree vibe is softer as well. I've had them aged much longer than 1+ years, so that can't be it.

The beer tastes like a decent (though far from special) American porter with a hint of hop bitterness and a few handfuls of spruce tips. Warming brings a bit more boldness, though not enough for the next highest taste score to be a consideration.

It's doubtful that any of the brewery's year-to-year changes include using less malt. It sure does taste and feel that way, however. The mouthfeel is on the thin side and the carbonation is right where it should be.

I'm pretty sure that the differences noted with Anchor Our Special Ale 2008 are due to the beer itself and not due to my palate. This series has never blown me away, but it's still well worth a look every winter. Gotta keep the tradition alive.

Jan 16, 2010
Photo of nasty15108
nasty15108 from New York

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

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a goblet.

A- Poured a deep dark brown, almost black color with lots of garnet hues. The pour produced a head of thick tan foam that held together until the end. Good carbonation and spotty lacing throughout.

S - Malty aroma of sweet spicy Christmas cookies. Reminded me a little bit of gingerbread.

T - Malty and sweet up front. Hints of herbs and spices. Well balanced flavor. Finishs off with slight hints of bitter coffee.

MF&D - Medium/full bodied but very drinkable. A great Holiday choice!

Dec 23, 2008
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Sammy from Canada (ON)

3.73/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Enjoyed on-tap at Cole's with Mike. A sipper, too extreme to be great drinkable. dark with red highlights and with a little head. A bit barleywinish, with chocolate,pinish, licorice, a little cherry and some sourness, though above average mouthfeel.

Dec 10, 2008
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whoneeds8 from Texas

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

Pours black with a off white head that stays the entire tasting. Very good lacing. The smell is of roasted chocolate, very sweet smell. The taste is sweet up front, that dies down to not much of anything, only to follow up with a roasted malt aftertaste. It seems like the middle flavor that is missing could be better if it had more of a hop bite. The roasted cocoa flavor almost makes it taste like a Coca-cola. The mouthfeel is very nice, just the right amount of carbonation. Over all this is a nice brew, but nothing great.

Dec 24, 2008
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slyke from Minnesota

4.15/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

OSA 2008 pours a deep red with an ample tan head that sticks and laces very well.

The smell of OSA is one of the most interesting I encounter each year. This year there is a great deal of juniper and something that reminds me of old-fashioned cough syrup (menthol?).

Taste is a pretty balanced - a little more hop than malt to my tongue - and a pleasant spiciness.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a fairly clean finish.

Drinkability is good for this beer. It is a great sipper after dinner.

Dec 10, 2008
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Clydesdale from District of Columbia

4.15/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: A deep, dark ruby brown color with a big, surging, fluffy tan head with nice staying power. Lacing is also rather good.

S: Cinnamon, clove, some pie spices and ginger, plus toasted malts and some piney hops. Alcohol whiffs become more pronounced as the beer warms.

T: Semisweet chocolate up front with a big, zesty spice profile reminiscent of gingerbread. Cinnamon and clove are detectable, along with the obvious ginger. Toasted malts provide a nice backbone, and there's a bit of vaguely piney hops at the finish. A definite alcohol flavor as well - I wonder what the ABV is on this one...

M: Medium bodied, with a tingly profile. A drying, somewhat bitter finish that lingers on the palate.

D: This is a really tasty winter seasonal from Anchor. Definitely festive and interesting, it's clear they didn't just add some cinnamon to their year-round beer and slap a Christmas label on it, unlike some other brewers. I'll be picking this one up again in the future.

Nov 21, 2008
WOLFGANG from South Carolina

4/5  rDev +2.8%

Jul 08, 2013
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MrIncognito from Virginia

3.65/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Dark red, almost opague when held up to the light. Stout-like in appearance if not examined well. Khaki head about 1-2 fingers that is fizzy and quickly subsides to a nice lace. Nice lacing on the glass.

S - Spices come right up front with dark malts to chase. Some allspice in there and perhaps a little cinnamon. A cacaughony of spices and malts, no alcohol.

T&M - A nice rich draw into the mouth with nicely roasted malts. The spices quickly kick in and overwhelm the tastebuds with nice holiday flovors. Moderate carbonation adds a crispness to the brew and enhances the spiciness on the tongue.

D - A very nice brew to sip during the holidays or on a cold night. I enjoyed this more in December and January but was still nice in front of a fire on a rainy, damp March evening.

Mar 16, 2009
Photo of Billolick
Billolick from New York

4.2/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A classic of the U.S. micro world and an old friend still doing quite well....Pours the expected darkest of dark amber, long lasting dark tan head, then gobs of splattered lace all over the glass. Spiced up nose, pine, nutmeg, spruce. Delicious, complex, winter sipper. More nutmeg, dark malty goodness, molasses, with a hint of dry dark chocolate. A welcome and comfortable part of the start of every winter season. This stuff likely will find its way into several thanksgiving dishes this year. (Just like last year) can remember

Nov 22, 2008
Photo of naterock
naterock from Missouri

3.51/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured from 12 oz bottle into a tulip.
dark brown with a red hue, this head that doesn't last long.

smells of a sweet malt, Nutmeg is out front but some cinnamon and chocolatey malt in the background.

taste is, thin. chocolatey with some spices, but too thin to really pick apart the flavor. to me this should be a bit more of a hop character.

mouth is too carbonated, overpowers the flavor. By far not the best vintage of this great seasonal tradition.

Nov 07, 2008
Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 462 ratings