Our Special Ale 2010 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

very good
355 Reviews
Our Special Ale 2010 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2010 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by EgadBananas on 10-31-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 355 | Ratings: 512
Photo of notchucknorris
4.07/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is my third year trying the Special Ale. The '09 was incredible, the '10 was so so, and this one is definitely back on track.

A: Very dark brown with a light brown foamy head that disappears pretty quickly.

S: A lot going on here: licorice, milk chocolate, a bit of cola nut, hazelnut and a little creme brulee as it warms.

T: A little lemon upfront with some slight, tingly carbonation and then some coffee and something a bit medicinal. For some reason, this reminds me of a figgy pudding. Pretty tasty.

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Photo of LazyL
3.85/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not really knowing what to expect from this Christmas gift, thanks Bobby.
Pours a really dark brown with some nice ruby highlights. A thick mocha coloured head that fades to a nice cap but leaves allot of chunky lacing on the glass. The nose is winter warmer. Chocolate, fruit cake, clove and smoky coffee.
Feel is like a porter and there is vanilla, some other spice and dare I say Dr Pepper? The body is medium with a slight sour bitterness in the middle then sweetness on the finish. Its dry and seems to me to be quite balanced.
All in all an interesting ale that is both refreshing and very tasty.

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2.46/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

A: Just over one finger of creamy foamy light brown head sit atop a dark ruby brown body. The head has respectable retention and provides a thin coat of lace in sheet form. With light as a backdrop, bright clarity is revealed.

S: Full of spice and herbs. Spruce, cinnamon sticks, allspice, sarsparilla, anise & dried apples. Basically liquified potpourri.

T: Bitterness seems like it could have been aided by spruce tips or some other tea-like plant although I personally doubt it (nor have I heard anything that suggests it).

M: Perfectly carbonated with a medium body and a texture that rolls right off the tongue, which works out favorably for me since I'm not a huge fan of the flavor. Moderate teabag-like astringency.

D: A six pack to last the year would be more than enough for me.

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Photo of SickGnar
4.07/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown and almost purplish ruby when held to light. Quite clear for color. Huge light tan head with decent retention and pretty alright lacing. Nice cozy look.

S: Mysterious and interesting. Trying to place what it is but I am getting cola, licorice, root beer, really light mint, mild spiceyness (but NOT the usual cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). I place it as spruce and perhaps juniper (berries?). A rich evergreen, but not pine, scent. There is also a pretty good dose of sweetness coming through this too. Sweetness has a heft ester and fruity side to it, but also some malt driven dark dried fruits and molasses/ burnt sugar. Fascinatingly inviting & appealingly complex.

T: Like the nose, but less sweet. Or at least the other aspects come on relatively stronger. It is more bitter and like chewing on a tree. But not in a bad way. I am definitely going with spruce and juniper as the driver of the interesting flavor and aroma aspect in this beer. A nice spicey cola flavor, light anise, lightly minty, litghtly peppery - heavily interesting. There is a nice really dark brown, almost a porter, beer behind this. Rounded malty sweetness with some soft roasty and chocolate notes - especially toward the end. Sort of lightly burnt toast with some molasses and almost burnt toffee along with slightly tart dried cherries and cranberries. Hops hide out in the background just barely contributing an earthy and peppery character. I am still not getting the ubiquitious "pie" spice, which is more than fine.

M: Mouthfeel and carbonation seem pretty standard. The finish is a tad biting, almost astringent. It is drying and sort of minerally, but then with some lingering sweetness.

D: Perhaps the most unexpectedly interesting and different holiday beer I have had this season. The spruce/juniper really contribute an appealing and nearly unique component to an already pretty interesting brew. It is so flavorful that it is not really a session beer, but I must have another to study all the interesting and attractive things that are going on - fortunately the relatively mild abv easily permits this.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.12/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark brown color with a hint of brown mixed in. Finger of thick creamy head that has good retention and nice lacing.

S - Lots of sweet carmel malt comes through. There is also some nice dark fruits elements and some spices. Really pleasant aroma.

T - Stars with some nice spices (some cinnamon and nutmeg among others) and some nice lightly roasted sweet carmel. Through the middle more of the spices come through and a bit almost brown sugar sweetness. The finish has more of the spices, some balancing sweet malt, and even a touch of hops. The spices linger for a while.

M - Medium bodied with a moderate-low amount of carbonation. A touch thick at the finish and leaves a syrupy finish in the mouth.

D - Vary drinkable. The christmas style spices are nice and not overdone. The beer feels fairly well balanced. The aroma in particular is really nice. The aftertaste can be a bit strong after a while.

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Photo of Durge
3.67/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A very dark black color with a fair light tan head and pretty decent lacing. The aroma is a polite but certain juniper malt and perhaps a slight nutty-cinnamon idea in there. Very pleasant. The flavor offers a surprisingly crisp berry tartness and more juniper hop. This is bright, light bodied with very fine carbonation and plenty drinkable except I don't think that this is a flavor I want to overdose. It's unique and tasty for a couple of Chritmas toasts but not what I want to pound. Recommended in 2010 as in most Christmases past.

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Photo of nick76
3.5/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The aroma is like an herbal porter with a hint of spice and cola. The appearance is medium brown with a medium head. The taste is like the aroma. The palate is average for the style. Overall a really easy to drink and average seasonal beer. This one is pretty strait forward.

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Photo of dogfishandi
4.4/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle pulled from my fridge poured into an imperial pint glass. bottle code indicates it was bottled in october 2010.

pours out a dark ruby color with a big 3-4 fingers of fluffy light biege colored head. great retention, slowly faded to a thick retentive layer leaving some spotty lace. looks ideal.

big christmas spice in the aroma. lots of cinnamin, ginger bread, raisons and other dark fruits, anise, some roasted malt behind all that.

lots of delicious spice. ginger bread and cinamin at the forefront. anise, roasted malt, heavy raisons and other such dark dried fruits. finishes bitter.

medium bodied. the mouthfeel might have been my only gripe with this beer. maybe a touch weak and watery, and a tad astringent. carbonation is plentiful as well.

drinks too easy, i want to drink the whole six pack, but i plan on saving some as i bought a sixer late in the season, and im not sure if i can get more. overall, doesnt have that sprucy goodness i come to love in anchor xmas, but still one of the best winter warmers.

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Photo of BeefyMee
3.88/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Nice head and lacing. Color is a flat, dull brown but unique in that it's the darkest OSA I've seen.

S: Smells of big chewy caramel, faint raisins, and an odd mintiness that lurks in the background.

T: This has to be the strangest OSA yet. The usual sprucey/piney tree like flavor is out, and a very weird, often understated and constantly changing flavor profile is in. Every time I go back for another sip I get something new. What started off as mint changed to roots and licorice, then began to take on a sweet vanilla character as the raisin notes from the aroma made their reappearance. Not sure what to make of it but extra points for uniqueness.

M: Good and chewy but some astringency on the palate.

D: While I want to drink a whole six pack to figure out what the hell they put in this beer, I'm kind of ready to move on after the first one.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
3.45/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Aroma is strong with woody, evergreen and spicy components, the latter mainly cinnamon. It pours a dark, barely transparent brown with a fairly thick, if not too persistent, head. Flavor is woody and spicy with a malty hint and just a pinch of citrus. Texture is smooth and just a little fizzy, leaving behind a subtle tingle.

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Photo of Dan3279
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Getting lost in a sea of Christmas holiday ales this beer really stood out. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a mix twelve pack of Christmas style Ales and out of the twelve this was by far my favorite.

I had the Magnum sized bottle and poured into a regular pint glass. I loved the dark black color and it had a 2in head. The taste was outstanding though its hard for me to describe I really enjoyed it and it was very easy to drink. Infact I drank the entire Magnum sized bottle by myself without much effort in one night. Having an ABV of only 5.5% it was a very balanced and easy for me to drink the entire bottle.

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Photo of bmwats
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a standard pint.

A: Very dark brown. Pours a large, foamy, brown-white head. Settles very slowly, leaving lots of dry sticky residue as it does. Substantial lacing remains as you drink.

S: Roasted malt, lots of cinnamon, and lots of nutmeg.

T: Coffee roasted malt with a nice subtle hop note. Licorice, and nutmeg.

M: Hearty roast in the front, sweet and slightly dry finish.

D: Great savoring quality.

Atmosphere is great. Deep dark appearance, great head, and a ton of lacing. Nose is a nice malt, with strong cinnamon and nutmeg. Flavor follows suit with a great balance of grain and winter spice. Overall, this is a great quaff.

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Photo of srandycarter
3.94/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Dark cola, small head leaves fast to rim. Some spotty lace.

S - Deep bread smell. Lush, lots of others smells too. Anise, winter spices, etc.

T - Malty with a definite holiday spice pack along with it.

M - Pretty evenly balanced.

D - Kind of heavy on the palate and the brain. Nice but not for too long.

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Photo of Rhettroactive
3.15/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From bottle to Bruges hybrid glass on 2/10/11

*I'm performing a "Spring Cleaning" of sorts, and finishing off the holiday beer in and around my home - this being one of them.

A: Dark ruby, when held to the light it shimmers slightly. A frothy 1.75 finger head appears after a generous pour with standard lacing.

S: Like sugar plums dancing in my nose. Sweet yet herbacious.

T: It's certainly got that holiday-esque vibe going on. It really comes off a bit like caramelized figs up front, and as it moves back, it's like the figs get left on the stove too long and begin burning. It's got a mild amount of oxidized copper to it. I'm not suggesting the beer's infected or soured, it just seems to have bit of a metallic pinning in the back of the throat.

M: Thinner in body then I would have liked. The carbonation is a bit over the top for such a rustic brew.

O: Maybe my palate's grown up a bit, but the '10 was not nearly the beer I was hoping for. I know the recipe changes each year, but I remember previous years having a bit more oomph.

Regardless, Anchor's Our Special Ale is a holiday staple, and one I will forever look forward to. Here's to hoping that the '11 is worth the wait, as this one was not.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.2/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

This final day of Beermas was a long time coming, but, dammit, it's here. It pours an ever-so-slightly garnet-tinged deep brown topped by a half-finger of glowing off-ecru foam, which dissipates into a soft layer fairly quickly. The nose comprises red apple, mild port, cocoa, light roasted malts, graham crackers, nutmeg, and red grapes. The taste holds notes of red apple skin, cardboard, fig, raisin, very light orange peel, and a sharp, slightly bitter tinge of dark chocolate powder. Things do not mesh well at all here. The body is a straight medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a very lightly chewy feel. Overall, a winner...unless taste is factored in. Either something akin to oxidation has gotten to this, or the spice combination doesn't sit right with my 'buds.

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Photo of Shadman
3.7/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Dark as hell. Only the faintest mahagany red hints of color make it thru when held up to light. Nice tan head, fizzes away a bit too quick. No lacing.

Not as spicy as some WW. Dark malts, chocolate cake, and some cinnamon spice.

Cinnomon tends to make headway along with a watery blandness. Aftertaste is the saviour. Dark chocolate ckae (black forest?), coffee grounds, and a nice slighty spicy dryness.

Maybe a bit watery and light given the style and the 5.5% abv.

I liked it. Not as sweet and overspiced as some I've tried. Liked the chocolate flavours in the middle and end.

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Photo of harrymel
3.48/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 3L magnum.

A: brown, great clarity. Three finger light mocha head retires to just one finger. Pretty thick lacing.

S: clove, banana, cinnamon, nutmeg. Decent malty Graham base.

T: complex and toasty. Bitter up front, with nice congruence of nose in mouth. Decent.

M: medium body with low carb. Average.

D: decent, but one is enough. Fills the mouth quite a bit, very resonating.

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Photo of Jimmys
4.18/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: deep chestnut, not entirely opaque. big fluffy coffee hued head. some carbonation bubbles can be seen through the dark body.

S: cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. spice pretty much dominates the nose pushing any hop aroma

T: sweet caramunich. coffee, graham cracker, cocoa nibs. the spice is a lot lighter than in the nose, just a bit of clove. great balance with all of these flavors playing off each other. subtleties of each flavor works really well.

M: nice soft/medium carbonation on a moderate body.

D: i thought waiting well past the holiday season would diminish my appreciation for this brew. i was way off. great warmer and of my vast special ale reviews (this is merely my second) this is my favorite.

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Photo of aerozeppl
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

That time of year.

A: The look is always the same. Super dark brown in color with a finger of creamy and coating lacing. Looks great.

S: Spruce tips, molasses, malt a plenty. Little bit of pine cone and nuts thrown in. Always a great nose no matter the year.

T: Lots of spruce up front this year for me. The malt is so smooth and works so well with the spices. This year I feel is one of the more balanced years I have had recently.

M: Very smooth and creamy. Great body.

D: The spices can cut down the drinkability a little bit but this is a joy after some shoveling. I get a six pack every year and I am never disappointed.

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Photo of vapodge
3.82/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle into pint glass

A - dark and porter-like, verging on stout blackness; moderate head that dissipates quickly

S - lotso spices & malts -- clove?

T - surprisingly sweet and the spices are more prominent on the tongue than in the nose

M - thin mouthfeel belies the appearance, but not disappointingly so

D - heavily spiced beers tend not to be my thing, although the sweetness strikes a good balance -- for me, perhaps not for others

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.15/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown with highlights of garnet held to the light. Thick tan foam head of approximately one centimeter, which held for a few minutes in my chalice (incorrect glassware but allows for more aeration...the sacrifices we make). Definitely looks like a winter warmer in its displayed richness and body. The labeling is also classy, this wouldn't be a full review without addressing my initial draw to the bottle.

Spice, tremendous notes of sugary vanilla, cinnamon, and a subtle pine. The aromatics are not as forthcoming as I would have hoped, I have to spend 5 minutes with my nose a millimeter away from the beer's froth just to catch a whiff. However, the vanilla is strong on its own and comes out the strongest.

Cocoa, vanilla coffee bean, and caramel. All warm flavors, the spice takes on a nurturing, background role to complement the beer's richness. The coffee is mainly the bitter my palate feels in the aftertaste, a slight burnt sugar lingers as well.

Unfortunately, this beer leaves a cardboard, polluted snow, carbon filter aftertaste that coats the palate and overpowers the mouth. Otherwise, the beer is buttery and smooth, rich and flavorful. The balance is slightly off in regards to the undesirable aftertaste, but overall a delicious winter-warming appeal.

A delightful experience with a reasonable price tag. I like that the recipe changes yearly, I look forward to the 2011 brew. The beer is sippable, I enjoyed the colder temperatures despite the recommended 45-50 degree serving temperature. This beer would pair well with a winter dish, possibly a stew.


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Photo of ColdPoncho
3.62/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - impressively dark mahogany body. A big head that with impressive retention. Not sure why everything's impressive...perhaps having to do with low expectations.

S - Caramel, molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon. Very wintery.

T - Very bland next to the smell. a bit watery. there's a neutral spice taste with an odd bitterness on the finish. Is that chocolate? Where was that in the nose? This started off very promising, but this taste is just not doing it for me.

M - decent, medium-bodied beer. a little bit drying. Not very interesting, but i suppose it's about right for the style.

D - It doesn't really taste good, and thats really the biggest thing here. But its not hard to drink, and is fairly smooth.

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Photo of Bizz88
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a very dark mahogany with a awesome tightly bubbled three fingered khaki head with alot of sticky lacing. On the nose aromas of sweet malts and holiday spice. Really impressed with the complex flavors on the palate, one sip being a warm cinnamon, the next cloves and molasses. Medium bodied with a slightly acidic finish. Without a doubt one really good winter warmer.

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Photo of zoso1967
3.96/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Anchor's 2010 version pours a very dark reddish brown color with a nice light tan head. When a bright light is shone through the beer it takes on a nice deep red hue. The head has marathon staying power and leaves nice lacing on the glass.

The aroma is quite spicy with plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg and a bit of ginger. There is also some rich toffee, caramel and brown sugar malt character, as well as some breadiness and raisin. It is a very sweet smell overall and the spices are preventing me from picking up much more. Strangely the spice aromas seems to fade into the background as I drink this.

The spices are thankfully much tamer in the flavor. It is mostly bready and malty with some nice toffee caramel and biscuit character. Raisin and dried cherry notes are also present, as are some cinnamon and nutmeg spice. The flavor is well integrated and this beer has a flavor that is quite enjoyable.

The mouthfeel is on the hefty side of medium and insanely smooth. It finishes very well with some spice and toasty bread character. I would say that the mouthfeel is one of the best aspects of this beer.

This is beer is quite drinkable and is somewhere in between an easy drinker and a sipper to savor. This is the first Anchor Holiday ale I have sampled and I am sure I will be back again to try next year's version. I was pleasantly surprised by this brew.

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Photo of ShogoKawada
4.33/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz into Alpine pint glass.

A- Rich dark brown base and a brown sugar head that is 2 fingers thick and sticky on the glass. Wow, nice pour.

S- Like mulling spices, very inviting.

T- Fruity- plums come to mind... bready, and a bit of pine sap and hop bitterness. Ginger? Hmmm... nice mishmash of flavors.

M- Supremely tasty and well-balanced. Very good.

D- Fairly high. One of the best winter warmers I've had. I drank a few of these in a row and will buy some more before they get cleared off the shelves.

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Our Special Ale 2010 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
3.91 out of 5 based on 512 ratings.
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