Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

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Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 341 | Ratings: 420
Reviews by Kinsman:
Photo of Kinsman
4.03/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Found this one still on the shelf at the local store and decided to give it a try. At first the idea of a Christmas beer 2 months late seems kind of odd, but good beer knows no seasons. Anyway its nice to be able to find this now even though the shelves are getting flooded with the new spring seasonals.

Appearance took me back a bit at first. Perhaps life is like each years new release of "Our Special Ale", you never know what you're going to get. The body pours dark brown, almost black except for some light coming through near the stem in my glass. Head is a nice foamy tan, but faded too quickly even with a rather hard pour.

The nose is upfront with the rather obvious cinnamon and nutmeg spices. Which spices are actually used you can never be sure with but those two would be my guess. Also in there is a sweet scent which suggest the possible use of a caramel malt.

Taste is every thing you would expect from the nose and then some. A solid backbone of malt provides some sweeter notes followed quickly by the spice. Finishes with a little bitterness but nothing really out there.

Solid medium body feel with a nice warming effect from the spices. Really helps make this a "Winter Warmer"

Overall a very drinkable winter warmer. It's a shame Christmas is at the beginning of winter because this could be perfect all season long for a nice warming beer after a long day in the cold.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of climax
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one poured a real dark brown, red in the glow with a massive head.

Nice nose, spices galore! Spicy pumpkin pie, bubblegum, pepper, pine, and some dark fruitiness.

Flavor was more chocolate and coffee than the nose. Other flavors included: caramel, spice, and warming alcohol. It was mostly sweet, however, a dry roasted finish rounded it out.

Body was good, almost as heavy as a porter. Carbonation was mild, smooth, and fizzy. Feel was and slick with a dry finish.

I really enjoyed this one, it was unique and had no downfalls. Perhaps it would have been even better if it felt like winter outside (60 degrees on a California night in January).

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Photo of nh2032
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of Gmann
3.85/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a chestnut brown color with a frothy tan head that settles into a solid cap. The aroma is roasted malt with a hint of chocolate, spice, candied orange, juniper and sprucey hops. Big sprucey hop flavor hits first followed by a rich roasted malt, chocolate, some buttery notes as well as juniper. This year the OSA is big on the malt, the hops are just along for the ride. The feel is full bodied with tingly carbonation; sweet from the malt but finishes sour from what I will say is juniper (but it might not be). This is a nice big roasty brew with a nice earthy spice profile. The sour aspect limits the drinkability for me a bit.

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Photo of madtrixter787
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured bottle into Ommegang Chalice

Appearance: About a 1 finger head that left some light lacing in the glass. Appears a dark brown.

Smell: Well, it smells like christmas. Egg nog, with some nutmeg and other spices. It is very appealing.

Taste: Good malty flavor with light spices afterwards.

Mouthfeel: Enjoyable light carbonation that does not detract from the flavors.

Drinkability: This beer is very drinkable, and probably one of my favorite christmas beers of this season.

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Photo of MrHurmateeowish
4.77/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased at McKinnon's in Salem. Pours a slightly hazy red-brown body with a good inch of light tan head. Citrus, berry, nutmeg, cloves, and toffee dominate the aroma, with some chocolate, vanilla, and graham cracker. Tastes fruity for sure, with graham cracker, chocolate, nut, citrus peel, nutmeg, cloves, and hunts of toffee, chocolate and coffee. Medium-bodied with ample carbonation to make this one an easy-drinker despite the complexity. Stellar. Their best yet that I've had. Complex, balanced and very quaffable. Superb. My favorite Christmas beer yet again.

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Photo of ianjsullivan
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

ST: 12 oz poured into a wine glass.

A: Dark, dark brown, almost black with a thick finger length brown fluffy head. When held to the light, it becomes a lighter shade of brown (barely), but I can still not see through it. It leaves very beautiful lacing.

S: A great aroma: cinnamon, chocolate, fig, malt, raisins, nuts, and a bit of floral.

T: It begins with wonderful fruit and spice; the roasted malt takes over in the middle and rides all the way into fruit, smoke, and coffee on the finish that lingers on the tongue. There is also some floral and toffee that is present at the start and finish.

M: Heavy and creamy.

D: Smooth and the alcohol is modest (5.5 percent).

Overall: I have a bit of a tradition around the holidays. I will buy a few seasonal beers, drink them, and leave one to age until the holidays return. That is right, this review is of a 2009 Anchor Christmas that I aged for a year. After this review, I will compare it to the 2010 (then I will repeat and let one age a year). Sadly, if you wanted this vintage it might be hard to find unless you found a collector, a liquor store that is not frequented much, or if you went to the brewery. I am just amazed at how good this still is. The nose is fantastic and the beer is more complex then it originally was. It has a lot of flavors that manage to be balanced; it is enjoyable from start to finish. Clearly, Anchor Steam knocked it out of the park on this vintage.

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Photo of atsprings
4.26/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Finally decided to pick this one up upon finding it for $7.99 on clearance. 1.5L magnum into a Duvel snifter pours a murky brown with a nice lasting khaki head. Aroma is a nice blend of burnt caramel malts, pine hops and decent spices. The taste is pine hops in front of caramel malts and spices with a nice lingering finish. The beer is fairly light bodied with decent carbonation. This is a very enjoyable Winter Warmer, much better than last year's which I sampled next to this one. Also, dare I say, better than this year's Highland Cold Mountain.

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Photo of sixerofelixir
3.63/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle, sampled in season late 2009. Review from notes.

Pours a pretty dark brick-red with a dense, sticky tan head. Smell is mega-spice, but not as bold as I would presume given the color? Taste is piney clove, cinnamon, nutmeg.. and milder and sweeter extracts predominate as well. Complex to say the least. Feel is good. Carbonated, full and dessert-like, satisfying. Repeat drinkability is low for me, as are most of the winter warmers. One (maybe two) and done.

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Photo of July2Nov
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

* 2009 edition has been in my refrigerator for close to a year and finally decided to review the last one today.

Appearance: Dark reddish color...almost black if you didn't know any better. Nice thin, frothy lace that holds up very well. Quite beautiful.

Smell: Smells like Christmas! Those "holiday" spices really come out. Has an egg-nog spiced scent that is very noticeable. Slight maltiness at the end. Mmmm!

Taste & Mouthfeel: Smooth upfront and very mild. Hints of dry-roasted chestnuts, chocolate, butter and a slight cherry syrup taste are noted. Dry and light acidic aftertaste. Tended to be a bit "chewy" on the tongue. Nice.

Drinkability: One of the Christmas beers that I look forward to at the end of the year because it doesn't disappoint no matter what they do to the recipe. This 2009 model was so good that I'm anxiously looking forward to the 2010 edition. Hopefully Santa stuffs a few of these in my stocking!

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Photo of lcmir23
5/5  rDev +23.5%

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is mahogany in color and poured with a finger high dense beige head that slowly died down but never completely faded away.
S: The smell is moderately strong and has aromas of dark fruits and spices.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell and also has a slight amount of nuttiness; there are some hints of bitterness in the finish.
M: It feels medium-bodied and smooth on the palate with a light amount of carbonation.
O: The beer is easy to drink for the style although the taste makes it interesting enough to be savored and slowly sipped.

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Photo of BillyBoysPie
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From a bottle into a pint glass.

Pours chocolate/espresso color with slight garnet notes. Beige head, 1 inch. Settles down into a layer of foam, nice lacing. Beautiful.

Delicious smell. I can't quite place everything - but I got a six pack, so I'll revise this as each beer gets consumed. Some roasted malts and coffee with bitter chocolate. Not much in the way of hops, but there's some there. I peg some pine and a touch of sap. Spices are really complex - to be expected from the OSA. Some cardamom, ginger, a little tiny bit of cinnamon and clove.

Now, for the delicious taste. Rich mixture of bitter chocolate, dark coffee/espresso, and roasted barley with a little buttery caramel. Not much fruit, but a little bit of fig. Malty without being sweet, the slight fruit flavor is quite nice. Spices are well blended into the flavor - they do quite what they should in a Winter Warmer - make the beer richer without detracting from the base flavor. Ginger, clove, and cinnamon come through.

A nice robust mouthfeel. Almost velvety, the carbonation is completely subsumed into the flavors and is easy to forget.

I'll probably drink a couple on Christmas unless I decide for the Sam Smith Winter warmer or a Delirium Noël instead. Great seasonal brew.

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Photo of mendvicdog
3.02/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Photo of ManuelHerrera
4.05/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I was pretty impressed with this beer overall. As another mystery beer pull and no prior knowledge to this special ale, I was more than a little curious about how the meeting would go down. I'm don't find Anchor Steam to be an amazing beer considering its cult status, but this output by Anchor Brewing was pretty good.

The beer pours a deep ruby with a decent 2 inch head and fine lacing. The aroma fills the nose with malt sweetness with light hints of espresso and caramel.

This beer isn't particularly heavy, though it does have the syrupy flavor of those wintertime ales. There is an earthy spiciness to it that complements the malt flavor pretty well. The carbonation makes this beer seem a bit lighter and easier to drink, so overall the beer works pretty well.

Not bad, guys. Not too shabby.

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Photo of DrinkinBoy
3.94/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

This years Anchor Christmas appears a deep dark brown, allowing a small amount of light in. The head is a deep creamy tan, but only has okay retention.

The smell lacks really any recognizable smell of beer except for a faint roasted note. Mostly it smells like egg nog along with some other Christmas scent staples.

Its taste immediately brings in the egg nog/ nut meg that reflects the smell. On the mid palate cinnamon spice is more pronounced. It finishes with roasted and chocolate taste that is very familar with this dark of a beer.

On the mouth the beer is heavy with a little more carbonation that I would have liked.

Overall, this is a really good seasonal offering. It is a little different that most Winter Warmers because the spice is delicate and it doesn't have a huge fruit character. I enjoyed the complexity and would definitely suggest it.

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Photo of micromaniac129
4.8/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Purchased a case of this great holiday beer and of course two sixes to my beer cellar to savor in the upcoming years.
Pours a deep brown with ruby hightlights and a big thick dense head that lingers through to the end. Looks to be well carbonated.
Smells of malty sweetness like a gingerbread cookie.
Drinks with sweet maltiness with some roasted notes. Spices come through nicely but not overpowering like gingerbread or pumpkin pie. A dry puckering finish awaits you.
Smooth and heavy mouthfeel but a bit thin around the edges.
Looks and drinks great. A good swirl will towards the end will get you some more foam head proving it is well carbonated plus some additional flavor. Drink it in a wide mouth goblet next to your fire for best results.

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Photo of Jmamay22
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark ruby brown that's nearly black. A creamy toffee colored head leaves some nice webs of lacing once the glass is empty. Smells of pine, caramel, roasted malt.

The taste is simple at first, but each sip reveals a new layer of complexity. It is similar to it's nose, but has more subtle complexities of various degrees of darkened and burnt sugars. The pine and slight bitterness balance the sweeter flavors. The mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium. This isn't the typical over the top full bodied winter brew, but a more delicate and subtle beer. Very drinkable and always worth a try each year.

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Photo of dontcostnuthin
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Cant say that I am quite as impressed as some of the other reviewers, but still found this to be a tasty winter time beer.

Deep ruby mahogany coloring with a small but long lasting tan head. Decent lacing.

Smells of faint spices, with cinnamon present. Reminiscent of tea and has some wood smells.

In taste the wood taste is certainly there, along with a variety of complex spices. Not a great deal of carbonation, wish there was a little more. Again something reminding me of tea. Almost nonexistent is any hoppiness.

Mouth feel is medium. Fairly drinkable, could have two or three, but not something i would seek out before other winter warmers.

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Photo of NickMunford
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of aventinus829
4.01/5  rDev -1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: A very dark brown/red; only barely translucent. When aggressively poured, it formed a creamy, distinctly tan, two-finger head. Also leaves behind some great lacing.

S: A lot of yeast and some malt in the nose. Hints of peppermint and spiced cider- nutmeg and cinnamon perhaps.

T: Slightly bitter at first, but not overpowering. Zesty with hints of chocolate and dark fruits. Finishes nutty.

M: Decent amount of carbonation, but still very smooth.

D: Very drinkable, especially considering the low (5.5) ABV.

Notes: Very pleasantly surprised. From start (awesome appearance due to the creamy head and lacing) to finish (great nutty aftertaste) this was quite an enjoyable Christmas evening treat!

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Photo of BeanBone
4.4/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: A deep brown body, nearly black body pierced by crimson highlights. Up top, over two fingers of creamy, tan-tinged head that sticks around nicely and leaves great lacing.

Aroma: Lots of spices, including healthy doses of nutmeg and ginger, over a sweet and creamy malt body. The spices are really fabulous this year.

Flavor: Quite similar to the nose; a bouquet of spices over a roasty and somewhat nutty malt backbone. It sounds simple, but in reality, it's complex and thoroughly interesting. The spice character leads to lots of egg nog and ginger snap flavors, which is perfect considering the season. Roasted malt and residual spice in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, creamy, and wonderfully silky with good carbonation. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: Unlike many holiday specials, this is light enough in alcohol content, and possesses a mild enough flavor profile, for this to be easily drinkable.

Verdict: This is only my second year of Anchor Christmas, and while I enjoyed last year's quite a bit, this year's is even better. Complex, different, and thoroughly drinkable, I know that this will be clashing with Sierra Nevada's Celebration for my session choice all winter long. Knowing that each year I'll get to try another beer like this bring a big smile to my face.

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Photo of jooshnookbrewery
3.83/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Not a bad holiday beer, by any means - quite enjoyable actually, but not without a few things to consider.

A: Dark beautiful red with a thin layer of medium-brown head that dissipates rather quickly. Nice to look at.

S: Has a scent of very slight fruitiness in the background, coupled with an almost chocolately, old country-ish aroma that is reminiscent of rustic settings. Good job in that department, although the smell isn't quite as strong as it could be, which would definitely contribute to its overall score. Still, not bad. Barely any spice notes, surprisingly.

T: A latent bit of spice coupled with a perfect amount of bitterness from the hops. Not overwhelming at all, but present - the way it should be. A miniscule lacing of caramel sweetness rounds it out. The spice and hops, however, seems to be this beer's strong point because other than that it seems a bit unremarkable in this category.

M: The mouthfeel for this, as a near session beer despite its ABV, is surprisingly good. Maybe the tiniest bit on the light side for my own tastes, as well as for what I know this style is capable of, but altogether very well done.

D: It's definitely not the type of beer you're going to consistently pound back all night long, but having a few of these on a good occasion with friends and family wouldn't be out of the question. One or two would suffice for most, but I could see going through the whole six pack in a night, if one were so inclined.

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Photo of Patrick999
3.99/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Anchor's beers always know how to fill a pint glass, and this isn't an exception. Creamy-looking tan head just keeps going and going, leaving lumpy pockmarked craters and gobs of lace. Body a dark amber with red highlights. The beer looks absolutely delicious.

S - I get notes of tree bark, pomegranate, cherry and cranberry in the nose. Seems more fruity than in years past.

T - They aren't kidding when they say this is a different beer every year. Some years, this beer is like taking a bite out of a Christmas tree. Others, it's a little roasty. Spicy, often. This year, I say it's fruity, following the nose. Fruitcake, with a more restrained hand on the spices and roastiness. It seems to mostly avoid being over-spiced, typically the main reason why I'm never much of a fan of winter warmers. Some cinnamon in the end, but it doesn't beat me over the head.

F - Feel is mostly creamy and soft.

D - I'm still not a huge fan of the style, but I'd like to think I can recognize good beer. Given the relatively low ABV, it would not be a chore at all to drink a few of these with a meal. And of course, I'll sock away a couple to see what happens to it.

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Photo of steve8robin
3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Decided to try this one. '09 bottle...

A: Looks very good. Dark with slight ruby highlights around the edges. Thick white head that fades quickly.

S: Hard to get a good scent, but the scents I do get are of pine with slight hints of sugar. Good smell.

T: Good but not awesome. Hops with hints of pine and sugar.

M: Good amount of carbonation.

D: Goes down a litte harder than I would like due to the hops and pine. Otherwise, ok.

All in all, this is a decent brew to try once. Anything more than that is not necessary. Good if you like the pine / hop flavor. Otherwise avoid this brew.

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Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.05 out of 5 with 420 ratings