Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company

Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
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Winter Warmer
Ranked #68
Ranked #25,993
3.88 | pDev: 11.6%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Very Good
Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Notes: This is the forty-seventh Our Special Ale from the brewers at Anchor. This ale, made with natural flavors, features a new recipe & tree every year, but the intent with which we offer it is the same:joy & celebration of the newness of life. Trees symbolize the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew, the natural beauty of the California high desert is epitomized by the western Joshua tree. Threatened primarily by climate change, it is a candidate for the protection under the California Endangered Species Act.
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Reviews: 23 | Ratings: 41 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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JonnoWillsteed from England

4.19/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The first review here from outside the US of this festive brew. No surprise perhaps that I bought it from Wholefoods in London - a good place to find American holiday F+B products. --- No bottle lables or the other reviews below have been read yet, it's blind-tasting - I just find I learn more that way... also means my impressions can be plain wrong!
Woah, I can smell this from literally a foot+ away during the pour, most unusual for my nose in winter-time...

L- Pours notably dark and held right up by a light none comes through the glass. Topped with a 15mm mid-tan whipped cream like fine-bubble pillowy head, this later forms lacing down the side...
S- Deep and complex but I am still congested and this could be a deep fruity/spicy note and/or perhaps liquor barrel ageing.
T- BOOM! First sip of beer today and this is impactful, plus it's not hard chilled at all so this is opened right up. This has a deep-roast aspect, verging near a bit charry, though I don't detect any smoke. I don't know the ABV% but this comes over with a bit of tongue-tingle... ABV%? or spice?... hmmm
F- It's big, pungent and deep but the latter tingle somehow brightens it more into balance. Certainly styled somewhere along the deep winter-warmer spectrum.
O- Yep very very nice indeed, I'd happily enjoy this one again, it's supremely balanced and seriously polished. It's journeyed a long way but tastes super-fresh. Two thumbs up. I know theres mucho going on here I have yet got to the read up on, but I do the reveal next and that's when I learn... :-)

Review#2043 Bought from: Wholefoods London, £2.99 355ml bottle, BB: 08-2022 plus a code: 081321

Yesterday at 06:06 PM
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

i knew this changed from year to year, but i guess i sort of forgot they all got their own listing, its been years since i had or reviewed one, a shame, because i have always like this, regardless of what form it has taken. much darker this year than it has been in any of my past experiences with it, sort of in that porter range in terms of color and body, in my mind it was always more of a hoppy amber type. in any event this is nice stuff, pretty in the glass with a creamy inch plus of light brown head, almost nitro thick, on top of a shiny near black base beer thats slick looking and almost greasy in appearance. the nose is lightly spiced behind the roast, a warming clove note with the more obvious dark chocolate character of the grain, perhaps not overly complex, but what is present is enough. its warming in flavor while also being quite drinkable, there is some body here but its also gorgeously carbonated too, three or four of these in a sitting is easy. the spice part is kind of light, it has some hop backing, and perhaps most importantly for drinkability it finishes dry. bitter dark chocolate, light anise and licorice, raisin, coffee beans, and pine, delicious. now i am bummed i have overlooked this the past bunch of seasons, my loss, these are always good and more different from one to the next than i gave them credit for being. killer this year!

Yesterday at 03:26 PM
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LesDewitt4beer from Minnesota

4.04/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle pkg date 9/10/21 into a dimple mug.
L: Pours black with a tall 2.5 finger creamy khaki head that recedes to a 1 finger soapy edged head with a creamy center then down to scattered foam 1/2way thru the glass. Some lacing and no visible carbonation.
S: Scent of dark rum, fruit cake, dark sweet bread, allspice, ginger cookie and very light cocoa.
T: Semi-sweet caramel, rather light booze, pale malts, light sourness, raisins, subtle coffee char, grapefruit zest, light vanilla, nutmeg, allspice and very lightly bitter baking cocoa powder.
F: A wet med-bodied gently tawny mouthfeel with a semi-dry long finish. It feels wooden and aged.
O: A well crafted earthy tasting well balanced Christmas Ale that is straightforward. Nothing is over the top or out of place flavor and feel-wise. It is excellent in it's style.

Sunday at 10:58 PM
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damndirtyape from Ohio

4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, packaged 10/27/21, served in a Libby globe porter glass.

Appearance: Very dark brown, with a bit of cola color at the edges. Dark tan head that slowly died back to give some sheets and strands of lacing that slowly dissipated. This beer is approaching stout territory in color and appearance.

Smell: Roasted malt, citrus, herbal.

Taste: Roasted malt, orange peel, a bit of pine, some definite spices (but I can't place what they are), a bit of toasted malt sweetness for balance, and roasted malt bitterness with a tiny bit of char, coffee, and ash.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, nice thickness, a bit sticky on the teeth.

Overall / Drinkability: There is an aspect of sitting around a fireplace a winter - it's the char and ash notes mostly, but the pine, orange peel, and roasted malt just yell out "year's end cold evening" to me. I made sure to let this one warm up a bit before drinking, and I think that's why I'm getting all the flavors that if cold I think would have been muted. Overall, very enjoyable, and a pretty good Winter Warmer.

Friday at 11:44 PM
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BeerAndGasMasks from Virginia

3.17/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

From the bottle, it pours a very dark brown, almost black, color with reddish tinged edges where the light passes through. The nose gets a pleasant mix of roasted malts and Christmas spices. The taste is slightly less pleasant, with dark fruit notes that lay heavy on the tongue, with notes of black and roasted malts with christmas spices. Probably would benefit from aging awhile.

Wednesday at 11:11 PM
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beergoot from Colorado

4.15/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Nearly black mahogany brown body, pretty much opaque in nature; fine, thick head, dense and creamy, tan in color; thick, sticky rings of foam circle the glass. Rich, spicy aroma infused with notes of spruce and wood; dark bread crust scent. Big dark malt taste with an underpinning of pine and holiday spice; figs and molasses; moderate hop bitterness. Heavy body; fairly dense residual sugar presence; chewy; a touch of dryness accentuates the overarching sweet mouthfeel.

This edition has a rock solid winter warmer taste and appearance. Neither the sweetness nor spiciness are overpowering and the mouthfeel is fantastic.

Poured at 50 °F

Wednesday at 10:01 PM
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JacobusFavier23 from Texas

3.67/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

L-Pours a dark black color with a nice frothy tan head.
S-Nutmeg, allspice, caramel and an almost sweet soil aroma. Slight toffee and chocolate notes are there as well. Vanilla bean is present.
T-Sweet and a bit bitter. Vanilla bean and nutmeg is there in the flavor, followed by a roasted malt coffee flavor. There is some hint of pine as well, which gives the beer a certain earthy quality which is nice. Overall, the taste of this beer is muted to me. I don't mean this in a bad way necessarily. There is nothing off-putting about the flavor in anyway. It just leaves me wanting more.
F-Medium bodied with a bit of a dry finish.
O-I've had better from this series. I know they've made a ton of these, but when it comes to Winter Warmers, I prefer a bit more holiday flavor. Again, there's nothing overtly wrong about this beer, I just feel like it deserves more flavor.

Wednesday at 05:09 AM
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Greywulfken from New York

4.46/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Been knocking it out of the park the past few years - this is no exception...

Moderated sweetness, fruity like with raisins, and with a dry dust of cocoa and wood...

7% abv, has rich spice and pine, somewhat stout-like in a lot of regards, but really just a luxurious dark ale - officially a "winter warmer" - a perfect ale for the season - label might as well say "Happy Thanksgiving" as well...

Wednesday at 04:47 AM
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HardTarget from Texas

4.13/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black murky glass holds a thin brown halo and shows ruby with strong backlight.

Aroma: Pine, Christmas spices (nutmeg, allspice).

Taste: Pine sap and needles, spices, (nutmeg, hint of cinnamon) slight hint of malt sweetness in the finish with a very mild metallic note.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, low carbonation makes it seem heavier, clean finish.

Overall: A nice variant of the annual treat. Spice level is nice, there but not overwhelming. Not a lot of classic beer flavors, had to hunt for malt, not real hop notes, but the total package comes across as well balanced and pretty easy drinking.

Wednesday at 02:22 AM
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mynie from Maryland

4.56/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours quite dark for a warmer, with a visibly firm body and retentive brown head.

The aroma is much more stouty than past iterations of this beer. Chocolate, orange peel, and charred barley.

The flavor is wonderful: straightforward, unpretentious, excellently crafted. Holiday fruits and spices up front, giving way to lightly bitter grain in the middle, and a nice finish of citrus and bitter malt.

Nov 21, 2021
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BB1313 from Ohio

3.92/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2021 vintage. Bottled on 10/27/21. 12oz bottle poured into a tulip.

Pours almost black; big fluffy khaki head that falls leaving great retention and sticky lacing.

The aromas are floral along with some mild hints of vanilla cream. Some chocolate. Some citrus and orange peel. Malts are there. As it warms a bit, the aromas really open up and become complex while remaining subtle.

The flavors basically follow the nose. More floral notes. More chocolate. Some pine needles in the mix. More orange peel along with more subtle hints of citrus. Some spices, but it's not your typical holiday spice profile. Some roasted characteristics. Moderate bitterness. Mild sweetness. Solid malt backbone. Alcohol basically goes unnoticed.

Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with moderate to active carbonation. It's fluffy, slick, smooth and slightly sharp.

This is a nice brew. It has everything that you'd expect from an "Our Special Ale", more or less. It's fitting for the series and the holidays. Well done. I like it.

Nov 19, 2021
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 8/13/21; drank 11/16/21 @ the Yarchives.

Brown/black appearance.

A rough pour yielded a huge tan head; thick, frothy tree-rung lace.

Spruce, mint, spring water & faint chocolate notes in the nose.

Medium mouthfeel.

STRONG mint and spruce flavors up front; faint chocolate notes on the finish.

Interesting and very bold; not sure I love it, but I certainly like it!

Nov 18, 2021
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Gatch from Massachusetts

3.79/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottled 102621. This is decent for a Winter Warmer but overall disappointing. A bit watered down and thin body with a mediocre malt bill. Not sure if this is a representation of Anchor these days as I haven’t had a beer from them in so long. But it’s definitely not a great representation of the Joshua Tree!

Nov 18, 2021
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milkshakebeersucks from Maryland

3.8/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Solid black appearance with a large, long lasting beige head and light lacing. Aroma is not buried with seasonal spices as I remember from past years. Picking up some nutmeg but even that is laid back. More like molasses and maple syrup. Getting leather on the first pass on the palate followed by dried fruit. Some coffee in the aftertaste. Bittersweet mouthfeel that is modestly carbonated. Not the most memorable year but far from the worst.

Nov 17, 2021
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Troy-Hawaii from Hawaii

3.09/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bought a 6-pack bottle $15.99 Whole Foods
36 days old
Smell of chocolate, cola. Alcohol smells appears when it warms up.
Dark black color
Heavy mouthfeel, kind of creamy
Low-medium carbonation
Tastes of chicory, burnt overly roasted coffee, bitterness finish
Overall not good. Last year was the first time I bought this and I liked it so thought I would make it an annual tradition. This year not good so may stop the tradition. If you want to try it I suggest you buy a single and not a 6-pack.

Nov 17, 2021
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ATL6245 from Georgia

3.3/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Jet black, tan head with good retention

Aroma: Roasted malt, coffee

Flavor & Aftertaste: Spicy, roasted malt & coffee like flavor. Moderate bitterness.

Mouth feel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Slightly astringent. Lengthy bitter finish.

Overall: Pours out an inky, jet black with a frothy tan head, good retention. Quite spicy at the onset with roasted malt flavors are prominent. Has evergreen spiciness to it. Medium bodied. Alcohol is barely noticeable. Very stout-like. This got more difficult to drink the further you got into it. Has a lengthy bitter finish that builds. Not one of my favorite renditions this year.

Nov 17, 2021
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osheamatth from New York

3.3/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I've been drinking this ale yearly for about 35 years and this one really departs from some of the more recent versions. It is super dark and thick like a Russian Imperial Stout in an appealing way. Then the nose verves into the realm of say a chocolate stout with lots of burned caramel notes merging with the heavy malt. Not the best flavor profile however. Tastes a bit like tree bark with overwhelming malt & burned bread notes. Rather astringent too. None of the inviting aroma aspects make it into the flavor. Sadly it's missing all the familiar spice notes of past years or perhaps they're just buried in this mess of a brew.

Nov 17, 2021
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allengarvin from Texas

3.86/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

The 47th OSA from Anchor, and somewhere around the 28th or 29th for me. I bought a six pack of this, and for some reason, every single bottle has the label tilted, slightly offset to the left. I'm reviewing the last of the six pack, so I've had several already.

This year's pours very dark, borderly opaque. Pretty much no head formed on it. The nose offers a bit of the traditional spice, reminding me of juniper this year. Flavor this year is definitely varying from their normal recipes, with a strong roast malt character. Other than the roast, there's not much of a chocolate malt taste, and it's fairly dry. The traditional OSA piney spice is pretty restrained this year, but still lightly present. Finish is roasty and dry. Mouthfeel is substantial, and this year is stronger than most.

Not one of my favorite years, and I may not buy a magnum this year, but it's still a quite decent beer.

Nov 14, 2021
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mike22ne from Massachusetts

4.02/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle dated 9/14/21. Looks from the initial reviews this year's recipe might be a bit polarizing. I like it!
A dark and roasty ale, verging on a stout with clear black roast and a bit of astringent bitterness there. Mild spice and dark dried fruit, with a resin/herbal tone and dry finish.

I initially only picked up a single to try first but I think I'll get a 6-pack more before the season is through!

Nov 11, 2021
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RaulMondesi from California

2.43/5  rDev -37.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.25

Straight up: this one is hog nasty. Like, you know that episode of the Simpson’s with the Flaming More with the secret Ingrid’s t of cough syrup? That’s what we have here: Christmas cough syrup. And Raul is not pleased.

I’m done.

Nov 08, 2021
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BillAfromSoCal from California

3.96/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This looks like someone screaming "winter holiday". Very dark brown with lovely dark tan head that is voluminous and pretty long lasting. Could easily be mistaken for a porter based on looks. Leaves no lacing. Not a powerful aroma, but hints of leather, mocha and (very subtle) holiday spice. Taste follows nose. Nothing dominates, IMO, this is nicely rounded out and balanced. Medium body or perhaps the slightly thin side of medium body mouthfeel. This is a nice holiday offering that is likely to appeal to a broad audience since it is neither too heavy, too bold, too spicy, or too anything.

Nov 01, 2021
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maltmaggot from California

2.49/5  rDev -35.8%
look: 5 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

dark roasted malt flavor...
there's a scent of juniper or cardamom or something of like nature that overpowers the malt and creates an unbalanced affect.
the same flavor dominates this years offering and quite frankly transforms it into the medicinal category.
at least for me.

Oct 31, 2021
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Hophazzard from California

3.83/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Much darker and heavier than previous versions. Roasty almost. Reminds me a little of an English stout with spice. Nice but not what I’m used to. Still good though

Oct 31, 2021
Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 41 ratings