Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
Ranked #19
Ranked #10,207
4.05 | pDev: 5.68%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Reviews: 24 | Ratings: 46 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Yorick
Yorick from Wisconsin

4.06/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Quick review: Dark ruby color, good lacing, touch of slightly burnt toffee on the nose, chocolate/roasty/coffee and just a hint of spice in the taste. Good body with fine bubbles that make this a good beer to pair with dinner.

Look: dark, ruby-brown color is nearly opaque. Light brown head.

Aroma: Burnt toffee, cocoa, and just a hint of coffee. I also pick up a bit of molasses and a passing hint of baking spices.

Taste: Very drinkable and well balanced, this year's version brings a good dryness that makes this great beer to pair with food. Cocoa and burnt toffee carry thought with the baking spice lingering well after the swallow.

Glad I picked up a few 6-packs.

Yesterday at 10:32 PM
Photo of osheamatth
osheamatth from New York

4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I figure I've been drinking this ale yearly without fail for about 35 out of it's 46 year run. As a neophyte beer drinker I thought this was the bees knees in the 1980s. I haven't felt that way for a long time. The 2020 version is a small step forward to the last decade. Started with a stately head that faded into nice lacing. The bouquet is full blown mocha malt melange nice and big. Well balanced with chocolaty tobacco malt forward flavor and thankfully a little restrained on the spice notes which in years past have been a bit over the top. They're there still, in the allspice vein but still balanced. Finished nicely with some roasting grainy cocoa meeting the allspice, cinnamon spice.

Yesterday at 12:47 AM
Photo of BillAfromSoCal
BillAfromSoCal from California

4.02/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like the dark brown color for this season. It suggests richness and warmth. Nice head; about 2 fingers in a tall tulip glass. Nice lacing. Not huge smell coming off of it but I am not very sensitive to smell. Nice spiced taste with hints of orange (peel?) and ginger coming first among the more subtle flavors of dark toast and maybe some nutmeg among others that I have a hard time distinguishing. I found that I liked this one a lot better with food (turkey) than as a sipper without food. Perhaps because I typically sip on stouts or IPAs and this clearly is not meant to match those, even though my mouth anticipates those experiences.

Sunday at 04:53 PM
Photo of BEERchitect
BEERchitect from Kentucky

4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

As the brewery that basically invented the concept of "seasonal beer", Anchor Christmas Ale kicks off another holiday campaign with their 2020 Christmas Ale with a similarly classic, robust, roasty and toasty flavor with which we've fallen in love for over thirty years. Its smoother roast, lighter char and a softer, more chocolaty palate the ale shows subtle refinement through each of these decades.

Its dark, bark-brown color is nearly opaque except for its extreme margins of dark crimson. A sturdy ivory meringue sits atop with a mocha-stained hue. Deeply toasted and yet floral aromas revel coffee, cocoa, perfume and campfire with a hint of burnt cream. Over-cooked caramel, cream and molasses begin to reveal the old-timey horehound sorghum candy flavor early in taste.

Though dry and drinkable, the flavors come along slowly and steadily on the middle palate. Burnt toast, dark and freshly roasted coffee, cocoa powder and charred wood decorate the malt complement while nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger all carry a smoky and toasty character themselves. Shaven wood with a smoldering ember is off of smoke give the final taste a bitter and sprucy finish.

Medium-bodied but trending dry and of char, its roasted off-ash dryness ensures a surprising level of drinkability once again while being robust and roasty in taste. As hints of grilled currant, grape, fennel and licorice announce as the ale warms, its afterglow of bitter baker's chocolate continue to show refinement even in its forty-sixth year.

Sunday at 02:32 PM
Photo of Historiker
Historiker from Ohio

4.08/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I was absolutely put off by the 2019 Christmas beer - bought a 6 pack, and dumped 5.5 bottles. Happy to say that this year is a totally different story.

Poured a clean, deep brown with a 1 finger beige head and nice lacing.

Smelled primarily of dark chocolate and coffee, faint whiff of burnt cigar. I fully agree with rodbeermunch that the aromas are very subdued.

Taste - Anchor's website describes their 2010 Christmas Ale as "subtly spiced and sumptuously smooth," and they're 100% correct. I'm getting some allspice, and that's about it. In other words, subtle! Other more prominent flavors include dark coffee and dark chocolate, along with some faint orange peel and anise on the back end. The taste is really good, but not overly spiced or sweet. You don't immediately think "Christmas beer" with this - rather, you think darn good beer, and realize its a solid winter warmer.

Medium bodied beer, with just a tiny oily feel. Very enjoyable to drink, and again, Anchor nailed it when they called it a smooth beer.

Overall: Listen, I love stouts and porters, but I don't mind a spiced up Christmas beer - they're a fun seasonal beverage. The 2020 Anchor Christmas Ale is different - its a mature, well developed beer that doesn't need any bells and whistles. Certainly redeemed itself from last year - Ive already had 3 of my six!

Friday at 01:06 AM
Photo of lordofthewiens
lordofthewiens from New Mexico

4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark brown, almost black. Small beige head.
Roasted malt aroma, dark fruit, light spice.
Chocolate, prunes, cinnamon and nutmeg. Some licorice in the aftertaste.
Medium bodied, good winter ale.

Wednesday at 05:38 PM
Photo of oberon
oberon from North Carolina

4.08/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

My first winter warmer/CHRISTmas beer of the season,fitting it's this annual classic.Pours into a standard pint a deep walnut brown with a thinner beige head atop.Aromas of graham cracker,mocha,and a tinge of dark fruits,more holiday-like than the past few incarnations in my opinion.Mildly roasted thru out on the palate,nutmeg comes thru clearly along with some earthiness not sweet by any means.Like a few others have noted a licorice/anise element is there as well and gets bigger as I drink more.I really like the flavor profile here,spiced but not sweet.One of the better OSA's in awhile in my humble opinion.

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of rodbeermunch
rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.64/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a six pack of this for the first time in almost 10 years. Had been drinking them since '98, but looks like 2011 was the last time I bought a 6 pack.

Pours a chestnut cola dark brown, seems like this is the same color its always been, consistent. Beige head, 2/3", very small bubbles, excellent retention and lacing. The aroma is a little bit forest, mild chocolate malt, toffee, roast, hint of dark fruit, everything is pretty mild aroma wise. Assertions of spice rack pungency have been exaggerated.

Taste is pretty smooth, there isn't much of a bitter hop or tree presence, more nuttiness than that, it handles the abv just fine in the mouth feel. In a way its like a dark mild but with the strength of a winter warmer. I imagine the last 5 bottles, 2 or 3 will get drank this season, and 1-2 will be left for years to come. Definitely drinks easier and lighter than the appearance for the uninitiated. I think I still have a 2007 in the fridge.

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of Nass
Nass from Florida

3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

I like the bottle label art, great use of color. The pour is jet black. The taste is anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, prunes, roasted malt, leather, & cigar char. The taste is like liquid fruit cake. Cheers! B

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of Troy-Hawaii
Troy-Hawaii from Hawaii

3.71/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bought a 6-pack bottles $14.99 Whole Foods
34 days old
Dark black color
Light chocolate smell
Medium mouthfeel
Medium carbonation
Taste some coffee, some spices, licorice, light chocolate finish
Overall a nice beer. My first year trying this Christmas Ale. Tastes are not as bold as I had expected.

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of etfp
etfp from Illinois

3.9/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark color
Malty scent. Little chocolate. Little licorice. Funny enough almost reminds me of smoking black & milds when I was a teenager. Don't know what's that about.

Taste, light, warmth, layered and smooth. Notes of raisin bread.

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of 57md
57md from Pennsylvania

4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown to black color with a finger of head. The nose has the essence of dark malts with some anise. The flavor has licorice upfront with some mild sweet prunes, a trace of spruce and roasty notes, as well. The finish dries out nicely and the body is hearty.

This is the best Anchor seasonal that I have had the pleasure of sampling.

Bonus: this year's bottle proudly notes that Anchor beer is now union made by the Longshoremens' Union (ILWU).

Nov 20, 2020
Photo of GoBearsWalter34
GoBearsWalter34 from Illinois

4.18/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours like used motor oil with a one-finger, creamy tan head.
Smells of spice, malt, black licorice and coffee bean.
Taste of pumpkin bread, malt, rye, raisin, Cinnamon, finishes with a hop bite. Very interesting and complex.

Nov 17, 2020
Photo of lastmango
lastmango from Pennsylvania

4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured black with a one finger tan somewhat fizzy head. No lacing. Looks like a porter rather than the lighter winter warmers that I am use to. Light nose of malt, fig and molasses. Taste is very sweet malt, fig, and allspice with a lingering anise and pine hop finish. Moderate body and light carbonation and a bit lip smacking stickiness.

Nov 17, 2020
Photo of Roguer
Roguer from Georgia

4.03/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Surprisingly dark. Porter-like, with a head closer to tan. Good retention.

Cola, pumpkin spice. Fruit bread.

Lively, a touch slick and thin.

Really nice balancing hops of Orange, pine, and grapefruit, blending with holiday spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice, layered on a creamy malt body of pumpkin bread, rye, and wheat. Prune, raisin, cola. Bright up front, becoming more malty through the sip.

A really nice, drinkable, and unique beer. Very approachable for the ABV.

Nov 14, 2020
Photo of allengarvin
allengarvin from Texas

4.28/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

It's been a few years since I reviewed any beer here, but I thought this year's OSA deserved one.

This year, it's quite dark, with a tan head. Aroma this year is very malty, sweet, none of the normal evergreen sprucyness. Tastewise, this is an unusually sweet porter type beer, fruity, highly malty, without any roast. In the finish--just a few hints of the typical pine-flavor we're accustomed to in OSA. It's good! I like it when Anchor does something slightly different. This one is a solid after-dinner beer, strong and worth savoring.

Nov 14, 2020
Photo of beergoot
beergoot from Colorado

4.05/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark mahogany body; one-finger thick head, lasting. Spruce and other pine notes; anise. Malty flavor overall; muted spices and star anise; light licorice; muted hop bitterness. Heavy body; soft and billowy; mild bit of alcohol warmth; semi-sweet on the palate with some resinous dryness.

I'm liking this version of Anchor's 'Our Special Ale'. Well-balanced and sublime in character. It speaks softly and carries a mellow yet mean stick. Sugar and spice and a lump of coal just to keep you on your toes...

Nov 08, 2020
Photo of HoppingMadMonk
HoppingMadMonk from New Jersey

4.19/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Solid black appearance with medium light carbonation. Body is above average with a thick creamy feel.
Aroma is dark fruit, prune bread, malt,molasses, spice and some fruit cake
Taste is dark fruit with some bitter earthy hops. Spice shows up,dominates a bit and lingers. Leaves a spice hop dry bite in the mouth.
Overall its unique, well done and worth a try.

Nov 08, 2020
Photo of Beersnake1
Beersnake1 from California

4.31/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from fridge temp. Pours black with a nice amount of head. Nose is tree sap, molasses, licorice, dark fruits, mint, clove, and some nice bread notes. Lovely and really interesting. I can't say that I have ever smelled something like it. The taste is fantastic - rich, full, complex, and interesting! Definitely picking up some tree sap/bark bitterness, a touch of hops, toffee, black licorice, coffee grounds, raisins, figs, leather, clove oil, some general Christmas spice, oak, and some earthy dirt notes. I love this beer!

Nov 07, 2020
Photo of pkalix
pkalix from California

4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Tis the season for our 46TH annual Christmas Ale release! Our secret recipe is at work again with this year’s ale being the darkest and highest ABV (7%) we’ve ever released. With rich, chocolatey flavors and a smooth, easy-drinking profile, this will be a Special Ale to remember! The Sequoia trees on the label are Yosemite’s famous Three Graces, chosen to represent togetherness in a year when we had to spend so much time apart. Our Christmas Ale will also be supporting Meals on Wheels this holiday season and their efforts to put warm meals on the table for everyone in our community.

thought i'd add it as nobody else did...

Nov 07, 2020
Photo of RaulMondesi
RaulMondesi from California

4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hmmm, umm, hehhhhhh... It’s kind of Christmasy - as if Santa did some yoga and lost a few lb’s - but yeah, it’s not big and large and in charge like usual Santa pushing 450 after a steady diet of pasta Bolognese and a few bottles of Chianti. Anyway, what the hell do I know? I’m outta here.

Nov 04, 2020
Photo of AJM_Beers
AJM_Beers from California

3.71/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Many in this style will often overdo the seasonal spices, and while this one does not do that -- they could reveal themselves a little more. Still good, something you should try during the season, but I probably won't go for it again until next year.

Nov 04, 2020
Photo of dsa7783
dsa7783 from New Jersey

5/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Top-notch Christmas Ale from Anchor. Probably the best seasonal selection I've come across in a long time. Spices abound with a strong malty backbone boasting flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Easily downable and makes an excellent pairing with any holiday food. Recommended.

Oct 25, 2020
Photo of Greywulfken
Greywulfken from New York

4.35/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Interesting, complex, and rich - full of thick malts sweet with molasses and hints of licorice and chocolate - almost stout-like in some regards - chewy chicory edge and a charred bitterness keeps if from running too sweet or too long... Has a certain savory element, too - perhaps something herbal and earthy - as well as a bit of sticky bitter pine shellac... Relatively full-bodied but fluffy at the same time... A nice treat...

Oct 25, 2020
Our Special Ale 2020 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 46 ratings