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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Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Winter Warmer
Ranked #18
Ranked #14,509
3.94 | pDev: 9.9%
Yesterday at 11:08 AM
Oct 31, 2021
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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Ratings by OtisCampbell007:
Photo of OtisCampbell007
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by OtisCampbell007 from Tennessee

Dec 08, 2021
More User Ratings:
Photo of StJamesGate
4.19/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
by StJamesGate from New York

Deep opaque brown with crown sepia head that clings; spice, berries + dark bread on the nose; pretzel crust, rye bread, a hint of tart fruit, piney end; medium, smooth, lingering bitterness.

4.25 4 4.25 4.25 4.25

As much as I get this every year, it’s not one of my favorites: it’s usually a Frankenstein beer, parts bolted together in search of novelty for an ever-changing annual recipe.
This, however, is surprisingly integrated; spices don’t taste tacked on like some years (I’m looking at you, cinnamon) but play more like rye spice, the cranberry and raspberry lend just a slight tang, it’s not too sweet, and the California hops wind things up nicely, rather than just yanking out the plug.
Deep English Brown-ish malt base, medium carb, not too syrupy on the palate, doesn’t cloy or burn - the first winter warmer in a long while, from Anchor or anyone, that I’m happy to stay sipping.

The best version in years.

Yesterday at 11:08 AM
3.84 by mothmanscott from Georgia on Tuesday at 01:29 AM
Photo of Wattie83
3.77/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
by Wattie83 from Pennsylvania

12 oz bottle poured into a chalice. Pours a dark, rich brown with a khaki head falls to a ring leaving some lacing behind. Smell is some cinnamon, plum, clove, cocoa, a bit of roast malt. Taste starts off sweet with dark malt, plum, spices, middle sees some fruit like dark cherry, raspberry jam. Finish is cocoa, roasted malt. Body is medium-light solid carbonation. A bit of a tongue-coating occurs. Overall, a good beer to sip during the winter. Didn't get around to this over Christmas, but I think it would have fit well with the turkey, stuffing, etc. we enjoyed for dinner. I'll check it out again next year.

Sunday at 12:52 AM
Photo of DanO1066
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
by DanO1066 from Maryland

Draught pint (in a pint glass) at The Brass Tap here in Baltimore: A spiced porter?

Saturday at 09:19 PM
Photo of mvanaskie13
4.23/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
by mvanaskie13 from Pennsylvania

Poured into a grip shaped goblet: color is black, head is tan with fine bubbles, head presents 2 fingers thick and lingers with a solid top and some spotty lacing.

Smell is toffee and dark chocolate/cacao, base malt, light toast, then light smoke, more dark bread, raisin, earth, pine and herbs, maybe some subtle clove. Not overtly spicy but a complexity and depth to the aroma.

Taste is dark chocolate, toffee, dark bread, hints of smoke, raisin, earth, pine, herb, juniper, herbal spice, subtle clove and very light cinnamon spice. Similar to the aroma a unique to this ale spice blend that is aided by the dark but not quite porter/stout like dark beer style.

Mouthfeel is moderate carbonation, moderate sweetness, lower bitterness but a spiced beer bite that lingers on the tongue.

Overall a spiced winter ale that leans on the border of dark brown/porter/stout - dark enough to be a stout but a malty character of brown/porter (depending on style); spicing is subtle but unique and not overdone (mouth numbing). Should have picked up a 6 pack.

Jan 12, 2022
Photo of CTHomer
3.96/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by CTHomer from Connecticut

A: opaque; very dark brown in color; 1 finger finely pored medium brown head that receded to a wispy cap with a thick collar; nice lacing;

S: ripe bananas;

T: chocolate and ripe banana from start to finish;

M; medium bodied; moderate carbonation; moderately dry finish;

O; very nice;

Jan 11, 2022
Photo of Thomas_Wikman
4.35/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
by Thomas_Wikman from Texas

Look: black with a fluffy mocca head

Aroma: milk chocolate, ginger and nutmeg, coffee, floral

Flavor: The flavor is malty, sweet, a little bit of milk chocolate, ginger and nutmeg, some coffee and piney

bitterness towards the end.

Body/Overall: medium body, pretty smooth, overall I think it was great

Jan 10, 2022
3.79 by MICAMD from Maryland on Jan 09, 2022
Photo of sp_jalego
4.6/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by sp_jalego from California

Definitely the best of the seasonal Christmas Ales I've had from Anchor. This one tasted nice and rich, cut with a really nice spice blend – ginger, cinnamon, and just a general nice earthy taste.

Jan 05, 2022
3.81 by VashonGuy from Washington on Jan 05, 2022
4 by Holderness from Massachusetts on Jan 04, 2022
4.25 by MonkeyPilates from Minnesota on Jan 04, 2022
4.44 by chiefz1 from New York on Jan 02, 2022
2.75 by DerwinWentworth from Utah on Jan 01, 2022
Photo of HattedClassic
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by HattedClassic from Virginia

The beer pours a light brown foamy head that takes a while to dissipate while the beer itself is an opaque dark brown that looks nice.

The smell has its usual spice notes of cinnamon and ginger with a dash of nutmeg alongside a light bread and cocoa note.

The taste is a bit better than the smell even though it has the same notes. It strongly resembles a ginger cookie from the start to the finish and a mild cocoa note lingers a bit in the finish and aftertaste.

The feel is good. It has a heavy body with a velvety texture to it and slight tingling carbonation that creates a good drinking experiencing.

Overall, this beer never fails to be enjoyable during the season and this year's is no exception.

Jan 01, 2022
5 by doctorgary from New York on Jan 01, 2022
Photo of eluvah
4.14/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
by eluvah from New York

I look forward to this every November. I buy at least a case every year since 95. Just got around to reviewing this one. This year has a nice dark malt nose. Taste of cinnamon comes through most this year. Finishes very smooth

Dec 31, 2021
Photo of jlindros
3.47/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3
by jlindros from Massachusetts

Pours a 1 finger tan to brown thick creamy head with moderate retention, plenty of soapy lacing, very dark brown almost black beer

Nose some cocoa and roast, dark malt, a hint smokey, some baking and winter spice, mild herbal earthy hop, cocoa dust

Taste brings more mild cocoa, earthy root beer like spices with earthy spicy hops as well, med bitterness, general winter spices, getting a touch like a pine tree wood bitterness, mild roast and a bit of acrid smokey character, mild sticky sweet finish

Mouth is med to fuller bod, hint of warming alcohol, med carb

Overall meh, hints at decent porter but the spices and earthy piney woody characters clash a bit, not a fan of this one.

Dec 30, 2021
4.24 by odenbr12 from New Jersey on Dec 29, 2021
3.52 by bendukes86 from South Carolina on Dec 29, 2021
3.77 by khargro2 from Tennessee on Dec 29, 2021
Photo of dacrza1
3.56/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5
by dacrza1 from New Jersey

DATE: December 28, 2021... OCCASION: seated comfily by a fire, blessed with a Christmas tree view, I welcome this beer as a sign post of the season--and the Joshua tree is a good choice.... GLASSWARE: Citrabellum tulip pokal... pours a feverish, roiling black body devoid of light, with its three-fingered light brown head bubbling and percolating with life... its retention is worth noting... plum, malted barley, blanketed citrus, vegetable, mellow oats and some aromatic flora notes--fitting for the season, though not overly done... creamy, easy-spirited, and settling in the throat, this makes a sipping companion that masks its 7% ABV quite well... the roasted malts, plum, and oatmeal sweeten the deal, with a candied cherry finish... hard fruits also factor in this profile, with light pine and a bit of resin... a pleasant experience, one that hits the mark for the season and reminds me why I love tradition--keep on brewing this, gents....

Dec 29, 2021
4.16 by cwd from Kentucky on Dec 28, 2021
3.67 by Scotchboy from Idaho on Dec 27, 2021
3.81 by cgrunin from Texas on Dec 27, 2021
3.63 by bschmidt_37 from Illinois on Dec 26, 2021
4 by Dsimenson from California on Dec 26, 2021
Photo of Chris7482
4.04/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
by Chris7482 from Illinois

Pours brown with a decent amount of cream head. Malty, nutty aromas. Light, drinkable ale, really reminds me of Sam Smith's Nut Brown ale. Light but creamy mouthfeel. Good brew to share on this Christmas day

Dec 25, 2021
3.72 by Jsalz21 from New Jersey on Dec 25, 2021
Photo of DavetotheB
3.8/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75
by DavetotheB from Pennsylvania

From a 12oz bottle dated 11/10/21 into a wine glass.

Pours a thin opaque black with about half a finger of tan head that dissipates quickly leaving minimal lacing.

Nose reveals light cinnamon, a touch of pine and herbal notes.

Taste follows. Mild cinnamon and nutmeg, light mint/spruce. Taste opens up some on warming.

Smooth medium bodied mouthfeel. Mild bitter coffee aftertaste. Low carbonation.

It's a special Christmas beer. Not as complex as previous years, but still pretty good.

Dec 25, 2021
3.94 by 322wingedfoot from Pennsylvania on Dec 25, 2021
Photo of JerzDevl2000
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by JerzDevl2000 from New Jersey

This is the 16th iteration of the Our Special Ale that I've reviewed on here and there still isn't a beer that I look forward to every year more than this one. Once again, this was wonderful and familiar while just being new and nuanced enough to hold my attention and help me through the cold, dark winter nights!

No garnet in this year's version as this poured like root beer with just a bit less carbonation and the usual slickness to it. Enough khaki head topped it all although the lacing left behind was nearly nonexistent. Lots of dark chocolate, plum, and woodiness in the nose as the taste had a bit of spice, vanilla, and cherry in the mix to liven things up. Some cola, birch, and bark made this lively with a bit of cacao and cocoa in the back as this not as lively or spicy as recent versions that I've had. Regardless, this was a wonderful beer that was slick and left a nice licorice feel in the aftertaste.

The booze was here as this felt every bit as strong as it's listed 7.0% ABV. Dated 9/29 on the back of the bottle, this was as fresh, lively, and deep as any of the Our Special Ales that I've had over the years. Sure, I keep the sleeve because the tree on it differs year in and out but the liquid was just as refreshing since this felt unlike any of the other ones that I've reviewed on here. Loved this beer and I'm sure that you will too!

Dec 25, 2021
Photo of MikeWard
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
by MikeWard from Pennsylvania

12oz bottle into a tulip. Packaged 8/23/21, so 4 months in the bottle.

Looks very good in the glass. Black body with a generous tan head which eventually shrinks to a ring and covering, spidery lacing early on.

Dark fruit, a hint of vanilla?

On tasting, there is certainly a lot going on here. Dark and malty, seems stronger than the abv listed. Plenty of dark skinned fruit and dried berry fruit. A little bitterness and char come in at the end. Warming in the back of the throat.

Mouth above medium, finish is a slightly bitter plummy taste.

Overall, a lot of character crammed into a 12oz bottle. Certainly going to enjoy the rest of the six pack in the cold nights ahead

Dec 25, 2021
Photo of bobv
3.89/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
by bobv from Vermont

12 ounce bottle.

Moderate pour yields a one inch plus tan head over a near black body with sticky lacing.

Nose of spice, evergreen resin, dark malt, and dried fruit

Taste is very complex with spice, bitter resin, dark malt, chocolate, cola, dried fruit, and burnt wood.

Good mouthfeel with fairly long lasting head.

Overall, yet another unique and tasty "Our Special Ale" from San Francisco.
Cheers to 47 years of flavor, and trees!

Dec 25, 2021
3.83 by MikeBogert53 from California on Dec 24, 2021
4.04 by zestd from Idaho on Dec 24, 2021
Photo of 1009
3.94/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75
by 1009 from Massachusetts

The tradition continues. Scrambled to pick up a six pack, but finally found one. A delightfully frothed ale with a head than lingered longer than the 8 days of Hanukkah. A very airy beer that looks like it’s gonna be thicker than Santa’s gut, but is surprisingly light and drinkable. Very malty with some dark chocolate notes. A lovely beer to sip on while wrapping the gifts on Christmas Eve. A highly drinkable ale that we look forward to each year. Cheers! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas from all of us at the 1009 Brew Review!

Dec 24, 2021
Photo of mothman
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
by mothman from Minnesota

Bottle. Khaki head with lace. Caramel dark brown color.

Pine and spruce notes. Caramel and cocoa. Lots of spices. Earthy and a bit herbal.

Medium bodied. Very unique.

Dec 24, 2021
Photo of mxking
4.68/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75
by mxking

Nuts to you! Incredible nutty, dark, smooth taste. Best in a few years. Glad I got a supply to last awhile.

Dec 24, 2021
Our Special Ale 2021 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 144 ratings