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)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by blackie on 11-02-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 341 | Ratings: 418
Photo of ThreeWiseMen
4.18/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. bottle poured into a New Belgium globe. At this point, the beer's a little over a year old.

Appearance: A slow, straight-up pour nets over an inch of dense, luscious, tan foam. Head shows excellent retention throughout the session, and drags layers of bubble bath-like lacing. Body is dark brown - nearly black - and appears opaque at first. When held directly to light, earthy brown and red hues glow around the edges.

Smell: Cardamom, gingerbread, and jam-filled pastries are the first aromas I get. Root beer also comes to mind. Light cacao, a medley of holiday spices, and eventually dried herbs round out the nose. Really complex and interesting, even with one year of age.

Taste: Chocolate thumbprint cookies, gingerbread, red currants, and flaked dark chocolate. Dry, semisweet, and certainly complex.

Mouthfeel: Medium-to-full in body, moderately carbonated, dry, and spicy. The mouthfeel matches up with the taste and the aroma very nicely; they all meld together harmoniously.

Overall: I can't remember if I ever tried this beer fresh, but it's tasting really nice right about now. Complex yet mellow; very enjoyable!

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Photo of gigaknight
4.25/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Purchased after a solid year in the bottle (I don't seem to possess the patience to let good beer sit untouched for too long), poured a little-bit-too-cold into a tulip glass. There's a Monterey Cypress on the label, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the beer. Lovely finger of patina ivory that dissipates rather quickly leaving some sticky lacing here and there. The nose is pretty straightforwardly butterscotch, with a little dried fruit. Man, this smells tasty.

This is definitely tasty. While being one of the most atypical winter warmers I've ever had, it is very pleasant. Almost no hop bitterness to speak of, as the only bitterness noticed seems to cling to the tartness of the fruit notes in the flavor profile. Big dried cherries and maybe some dried apricot too, with just enough sourness to make it interesting. The flavors are juicy, but the textures are rather dry, giving the mouthfeel a thin crispness (some chew would have been lovely). It has some malt vertebrae, but that isn't the focus of attention here. I truly don't know what gives this beer such a dried candied fruit taste, but it's excellent, and ought to be strived for by those aiming to make fruit beers.

Overall, it's a very strange and enjoyable brew, but I feel that it could have complimented itself a little better with some bigger body and more oiliness. Maybe it was just the year in the cellar, but this beer seems to be missing a little strength. Nonetheless, definitely a find if you come across it.

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Photo of jazzyjeff13
4.07/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A 355ml bottle with a BB of Oct 2011. Picked this up from my local beer specialist - an old Christmas beer from last year. The label states that this is a US import, and has a cool drawing of a cypress featured on the front. I hope the age hasn't caused too much damage!

Poured into a pint glass. A deep brown colour - almost black, although has a deep reddish hue when held up to the light. Forms a large light-brown head with good retention; it subsides to leave a film of fine creamy bubbles on the surface. Fantastic aroma of sweet malt with lots of hoppy pine and citrus notes.

Tastes of rich, sweet malt with plenty of hops to add flavour. Slight bitterness, but mostly lots of pine and citrus notes. Nicely balanced between sweet and bitter. Body feels a little thin, although it goes down smoothly with mild astringency. Interesting hoppy aftertaste.

In summary, an impressive beer with a big flavour. As I've not tried it before, it's hard to judge how the taste profile has evolved since brewing. The body seems slightly weak but I love the pine notes. I'd recommend it, but I doubt there are many left...

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Photo of ommegoose
4.37/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I'm doing a side-by-side with an '07 and an '09.

A dark ale, nearly opaque, but more of a raisin color rather than black. Purplish at the edges and semi-transparent with extra light. The head also reflects the purple hues. Not huge and doesn't retain endlessly, but leaves a sufficient ring. No visible carbonation.

Dark sweet fruits. Stewed plum and cranberry. Cobbler-like. Berry, cherry. It does seem Christmassy. I would think there are cinnamon and nutmeg in here in some dose. If other editions recalled dark fruit, this is darker fruit, almost like a Belgian dark ale even.

Really fruity malts with a hint of tartness. Some cranberry-like bitterness. A little bit of piney hops. Bock-like raisin and prune notes. Black cherry. Spices do not seem to be all that forward. Maybe the age has taken them down a bit. They start to make a comeback after some palate fatigue. Finish does have hop bitterness and plum fruitiness. Complex.

Body is on the full side for a beer that is not particularly heavy. Light carbonation, very smooth.

Deadly drinkability, but I think my thirst for a delicious beer is skewing me. Still, I would gladly throw a few of these back. The only problem is slowing down so as to properly savor it. This is certainly drinking really well at over one year now. I'm glad I held on to one last bottle for review.

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Photo of deapokid
3.62/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown body with slight, white head and a touch of black cherry-colored lacing. Carbonation is rather low and the head leaves behind a brown film after it dissipates. If I didn't know better, I'd think this was 10 years old. Frankly, it looks a little oxidized.

Aroma is nutty, backed by the usual dose of sugar plums and cinnamon sticks. Scent could be perceived as perfumy, if it wasn't so light and appealing.

Flavor is dry and smoky, counterbalanced by Belgian ale-style spicing and a nectarine's sweetness. Sugary peppermint (like a candy cane), fruit cake and nutmeg are also evident, despite the fact that the dryness is a bit too much for the subtler nuances.

Mouth is very smooth and the concluding dryness is intense, but capable of limiting the acidic qualities of the fruit flavors. Liquid coats the tongue nicely and warms the body enough to make the cold weather tolerable.

This is just as drinkable as the previous editions, which might be due to the dry backbone, which thwarts off any medicinal notes that may be brought on by the spicing.

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Photo of TheHoppiest
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Like the previous reviewer below this review, I saved this from last year to see how it would age. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Pours a deep mahogany with ruby highlights near the bottom of the glass.

Has a spicy aroma of cinnamon, mint, and clove. Smelling more like tea than beer, I'm surprised and pleased that the age has not cut down on the smell of this beer.

Tastes much as I remember it; somewhat sharp to start, with an herbal flavor, topped with clove, nutmeg, and a woody, earthy quality that really sets this Christmas ale apart. While the spice smell is strong, the beer itself is mellow enough that you don't feel overwhelmed with spice taste.

Medium bodied, this has a pleasant, low bitter feel to it.

I find I'm enjoying this beer much more that I did last hear. Aging has done well for this beer, and if you have a 2009 vintage lying around, I recommend drinking it today!

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Photo of beerdown77
3.7/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I first had this last Christmas. I remember it being a little too spicy and piny in taste and smell. I saved one to see if it would mellow out a year later; which turned out to be true. It poured dark brown with a nice head on it. The smells and flavors were much more rounded out and pleasant. I could smell caramel and toasty, but the taste was bitter and not sweet...similar to an ESB. This was definitely better than it was a year ago.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
3/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

My first review of 2011.

The house is calm again, so I can relax and have a quiet beer, slowly. My football team won 6-1 today and 7-2 on New Years Day, so this is my celebratory drink for both games.

Poured into my Westmalle chalice, the brown 355ml bottle had a best before date of 20 Oct 2011. Imported into the UK by James Clay and Sons.

The beer was a lovely ruby red when held up to the light, darker in the dull lighting of my living room. The full cream coloured head soon left, leaving behind a small wisp and nothing else. The beer seemed to be in good condition, so I was suprised the head 'did a runner' so swiftly.

No great smells, some hints of coffee and malty molasses, expected more.

The taste was all malt, well carbonated (again, why the disappearing head), with a hop roughness more than bitterness in the aftertaste.

The 5.5% ABV sat nicely within the brew and could be found easily as the beer warmed in the glass, not so obvious when the beer was colder.

I was expecting more to be honest, not a bad beer by any standards, but not the rich, creamy special I hoped for!

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Photo of Zorro
3.7/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Clear brown colored beer with red highlights when held up to the light. Tall light brown colored head.

Smells spicy and with ginger and cinnamon. Bread and brown sugar with cardamom. Chocolate and caramel with a hint of spiced apple.

Starts out sweet with chocolate and bread. There is a strange taste here that I can only call cardamom, I only ever taste it in Indian restaurants. Vanilla and caramel about round out the flavor.

Mouthfeel is good.

An OK winter warmer. Still I had to buy the Magnum sized bottle of this, which is a bit much.

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Photo of Verecund
3.18/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From notes. Opened 12.22.2010; this has been in the refrigerator for a year, so it isn't really "aged" by standard measures.

Pours a dirty reddened brown. An island of bubbles sits on the side of the glass.

Sweet and bready brown maltiness, brown sugar, raisins, chocolate, cinnamon, and pine. Taste adds cardamom/clove and orange peel. There's also an almost ferric note on the finish, which doesn't really go away.

The body is just a little thin but the just under medium carbonation makes it feel fuller than it is.

Not much of a fan of how this has aged. This was better (to me) fresher, and other vintages of OSA have been better for my palate.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.48/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

The Tenth Day of Beermas... It pours a murky black-brown topped by over two fingers of dirty ecru foam. The nose comprises rye bread, dark wheat, gingerbread, brown sugar, and a touch of cocoa. The taste does not stray far from this formula, especially the heavy amount of rye bread and wheat, though some ginger makes a strong appearance, as does a vague sense of peppermint in the aftertaste. Were it not for that, this might not be so bad, but instead it's as though I'm eating a poorly baked gingerbread cookie that happens to be dotted with candy canes instead of gumdrops. The body is a lazy medium, with a light carbonation and a nearly slimy feel. Overall, a relative disappointment, considering this vertical has trended upward with the years. The spices just didn't do it for me this time.

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Photo of mothman
3.03/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Magnum bottle.

Poured into a pint glass.

Pours a large layer of tan head, probably about 2 fingers. Good retention leaving some sticky lace. Color is bark brown.

Aroma and Taste: Holiday spices with some caramel and toasted malts. A bit of chocolate with some dark fruits. A distinguished cherry flavor shows as well. Pretty malty, but a bit of pine hops show as well.

Mouthfeel: A bit fizzy and creamy. Medium bodied with a bit higher amount of carbonation for the style. Ends malty.

Overall, not my favorite recipe for the series from Anchor. I finished the magnum over a few hours so it wasn't too terrible, but I could have gone for a different vintage.

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Photo of rootbeerman
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Magnum opened for family.

A: pours dark reddish brown, with a two finger creamy looking tan head, that leaves a small amount of lace.
S: like sweet spiced fruit, and a bit of fruitcake. clove, cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg.
T: served at about 50-55 degrees. is a winter warmer, very warming flavor. sweet fruitcake spiced malt. cinnamon and nutmeg are smooth.
M: smooth carbonation, lingers around but is not syrupy.
D: will most likely do the same with the 2010 OSA magnum.

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Photo of TheQuietMan22
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Straight pour into a pint glass. The color is a ruby brown. Two fingers of slightly tanned head developed and dissipated to leave a paper-thin lacing and ring around the edge.

Smell: Very Christmas-like. Cinnamon spice is most noticeable, and there is a hint of pine as well. Toasted chocolate, caramel, nutmeg, and dark fruit (something like figs) follows.

Taste: Mirrors the aroma, but is very smooth and the flavors create a nice, balanced medley. There is immediately cinnamon and a little pine spice, which is tamed by the usual suspects from the smell: toasted chocolate, caramel, nutmeg, and fig.

Drinkability: Good stuff, and good luck getting a bottle.

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Photo of ianjsullivan
4.32/5  rDev +7.7%
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 GeezLynn
4.08/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed side by side with OSA 2010.

A: Cloudy dark brown with a dirty white head. Good retention.

S: Buttery, with unidentified spices an herbal smell and some sweet brown malt. Starts out nicely, but becomes a little stale as the beer warms.

T: Flavor is malt-driven with a strong buttery character. The body is made up of light roasted and chocolate malts, and finishes with little evergreen and slight hop bitterness. Not as heavily spiced as some versions, but nutmeg is easily discerned.

M: Medium body with very smooth carbonation.

I enjoyed quite a few of these last year, and it doesn't seem to have changed much over the year. What I'm describing as a butter character is unusual, but doesn't detract from the flavor. OSA is one of those beers you have to pick up every year.

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Photo of xnicknj
3.68/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into snifter glass - thanks joe

Pours a deep auburn with some burnt hues, a lighter white head bubbles up, dissipates and leaves some spotty lacing on the glass.

Plenty of spice in the nose, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of sweetness. Piny notes really make this smell like the holidays.

Begins with a nice wave of malty caramel, mixed in with dates and figs. Spice is the main flavor though with some piny hops and brown sugar. Finishes pretty clear with a note of sweetness and slight cherry.

Lighter medium body, mild carbonation, smooth feel and solid drinking. Not something I'd want to drink all month long, but a nice one to share with friends during the holidays.

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Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at Casey's, Newtown Square, PA

I like this slightly more than the '07 batch, mainly because it definitely wasn't a Mad Elf rip-off this year. Dark brown pour, semi-opaque with a tan head and some lacing. Aroma is more sugars and spices, and less fruits. Taste similarly yields less honey and fruit than previous years, and more light brown sugar and coffee taste to it, with a dash of spice. Medium bodied, slightly syrupy with moderate carbonation. Pretty easily drinkable.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at the Thorpe residence. Thanks Mike and Amy!

A: The beer is a dark walnut hue. After a somewhat vigorous pour from the tap, the beer yields a thick beige head that leaves a few random traces of lacing.

S: There is so much going on in terms of the aroma. Christmas spices, brown sugar, nutmeg, caramels, clove, cinnamon, and more.

T: Easily identifiable as a Christmas ale, no denying that. The beer has mellowed nicely with an extra year of aging. I do believe that I like this beer better with a little age on it. There is a sweetness throughout that is present but not cloying.

M: Medium bodied with moderate to low carbonation.

D: A great beer to enjoy by the Christmas tree and celebrate the holiday season.

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Photo of nerdrocker101
3.87/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a magnificent mahogany brown with a thick, cream colored head that lingers like a snowfall.

The smell contains copious amounts of sweet cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Tastes like sugar coated dark fruits, more plum than raisin, but both are somewhat mild. Spices much like the nose with some bready notes. A little cardboard on the back end.

Medium body, sweet and spicy overall. A little dry and yet sticky. Mild carbonation.

Nice winter warmer. Hasn't aged that well though.

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Photo of zoolzoo
3.42/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

About a year in the cellar, lets see...

A: Pours a rich looking mahogany. Thick off white head, approaching light brown. Excellent retention, yet little to no lacing.

S: Still nice and spicy. Orange zest, anise, black pepper. The ginger has held up well in the aroma. Dark fruit is quite present here, perhaps more now than when fresh. I'm getting a touch of chocolate and, well maybe this is a stretch, but a little coffee bean? The aroma is a little wild but as a whole it screams Christmas, so high marks here.

T: Up front is dry, bitter and woody...in a spicy tree bark sort of way. Dark malts gently roll in along with crystallized candy ginger sweetness. Once again, gobs of ginger. I appreciated it a bit more in the nose....it's becoming a bit soapy. bitter and perhaps almost tart on the back of my tongue.

M: Mouthfeel is right on point, smooth and creamy yet with ample carbonation.

D: Not bad, but eventually becomes tiring on the palate. This is an interesting take on a winter warmer. However, at the end of the day I would probably choose something more typical.

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Photo of BlackBearForge
3.88/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found some cases of this 2009 Edition at Richey's East in Pensacola while visiting over the weekend. Said what the hell, I've been wanting to try this for years and it never makes it here to Tallahassee. Pours dark mahogany with a small tan head leaving minimal amounts of sudsy lacing.

The aroma has little in the way of hop character, smelling mainly of dark malts, hints of chocolate and coffee and a generalized fruitiness with a little ginger.

The flavor is a smooth amalgam of dark toasted malts and dark fruits with a generalized spiciness that doesn't spell out any given flavor though there are hints of ginger and cinnamon. With warming the flavors come more alive and mouthfilling though they are all still melded together. Slightly bitter, just a touch sour in a nice fruity sort of way. The flavor definitely grows on you the more you drink.

Mouthfeel is medium-light, very smooth and somewhat slick striking me as somewhat porterish though with a bit more carbonation.

A year unrefrigerated on the floor at the liquor store doesn't seem to have been ideal for this beer but conversely it doesn't seem to have hurt much either. I really need to try a fresh model, perhaps it will get here this year!

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Photo of SpdKilz
4.02/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This has been in my cellar for I'd say a year now. Had one last year but never got around to reviewing it. Here goes!

Appearance - Pours a mahogany color with about two fingers of tan head that recedes at a moderate pace, leaving slight lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell - I remember this being "in your face" pine needles last year. With a year on it, it has seemed to have softened a bit. There is still an obvious and distinct aroma of pine needles, pine sap, dark fruits, brown sugar, and caramel.

Taste - Damn. With a year on this it is freaking great. I remember having this both in the bottle and on tap and it was a bit of an overload for me last year. With a year on it the spices and pine have mellowed a bit, and have allowed the caramel and dark fruits (i.e. read raisins and plums) to make a more strong appearance. Licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted malts, etc. are all present here. This really is Christmas in a bottle.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, decent carbonation.

Drinkability - As with many spiced Christmas beers, this is more of a "one and done" type of brew. I do freaking enjoy every drop of it, though having a few of these in a sitting may be a bit much. It is nice to switch it up between having a SN Celebration and then one of these, and then another Celebration Ale. Glad I kept a couple to age for a year and more pleasant than I remember from last year.

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Photo of July2Nov
4.15/5  rDev +3.5%
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 Morey
4.23/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aged one year. Consumed 11/18/2010. Thought for sure that I reviewed this last year, but apparently not. Too bad, I was hoping to compare.

Looks dark brown almost black in color, but when held up to the light you see deep red colors with good clarity for such a dark beer. Nice fluffy beige head with pretty impressive retention. An intriguing beer to say the least.

The aroma seems to have mellowed a bit with age. I'm getting some caramel and molasses with a hint of dark ripe fruits.

Taste is very unique and hard to describe as usual. Incredibly smooth. Spices have mellowed a bit and settled into the beer making it tough to discern and pick apart this holiday ale. Think porter meets an easy drinking pale ale with holiday spices thrown in.

Medium body with relatively soft carbonation.

I could easily drink more if I had more. Instead I'll be moving on to a fresh 2010 bottle next!

Morey's Bottom Line: The recipe changes yearly, but not by much. This is one unique beer, and Fritz knows it. They're not going to stray too far from the base recipe. It's too darn good.

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Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
4.01 out of 5 based on 418 ratings.
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