Dismiss Notice
Extreme Beer Fest:Los Angeles

Join us December 9th in Los Angeles for the ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity!

Learn more...
Dismiss Notice
Introducing: Project Extreme Brewing (a Dogfish Head + BeerAdvocate project)

Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

Your Rating: None

Want it   Got it 
Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
136 Ratings
Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2002 (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 kbub6f on 11-07-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ratings: 136 |  Reviews: 126
Photo of Boilermaker88
4.87/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Grabbed up a stray bottle of Anchor's OSA at Whole Foods in Pasadena, thinking I got a 2003 and not paying much attention to the rather pedestrian label. Shoulda looked closer. Glad I didn't as I might have done something idiotic like put it back.
Poured from the rather stubby brown bottle, the 2002 OSA has a really dark brown hue with a great foamy tan head that dwindled down to a thin ring and some wispy lacing. The smell is an enticing blend of molasses, stick cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. I actually went rooting through my spice rack trying to match up what my nose was pulling in from the beer. The taste was a gloriously rich and soothing mix of caramel malt, molasses and brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, with a dash of dark rum added for kicks. The feel was full, smooth and rich.
Anchor's 2002 OSA, having ripened for a year, brought back memories of the Christmas cookies my Dad made when I was a kid. A delightful beer to enjoy for the holidays and thanks for the memories of simpler, care-free times.

 1,020 characters

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.82/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark, nearly black color. Rich, full, cocoa/tan head. Aroma:sizzles with flavor! Espresso, chocolate, a little anise, tons of cinnamon and nutmeg, others I can't quite get my nose into. Sweet and velvety. A charge in the mouth on first taste, great carbonation, easy texture, glorious flavors: this is utterly sublime! I truly feel Anchor's Our Special Ale the finest winter ale ever crafted.
Screw Santa! This is the ultimate reward for the beer lover who's been good all year 'round.
I'm also getting a little piney/juniper or other arboreal flavors in here. Did they start adding Christmas Trees to the boil? Works great with all the other flavors in there, but nutmeg-haters should stay away.

 699 characters

Photo of ithacabaron
4.7/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pulled out from my cellar, and served without chilling (about 50-55 F) to celebrate the true coming of this year's winter weather (January 17, 2005). Raised back numbering reads #201.

Appearence is a rich, deep, toffee-hued brown, with amber highlights when held right up to the light. There is a admirable inch or so high of creamy brown head that settles down into a smooth film. The lace that follows it down the glass is delicate and lovely as well. Beautiful.

Aroma is heavily vinous, with a notes of port, carob, toasted graham cracker, and oh-so-mellow honeyed hops. The spices are still there, but way, way back, as a base for the malty flavors. Even with all this going on, it's an organized, clean scent, uncomplicated and familiar. I could smell this all day.

Taste explodes with rich, enveloping malt, but not in a traditional sense. The warmth of this offering is evident, and it's rich, aged whiskey notes whisper at you, but there is almost no feeling of alcohol at all -- all the rich taste, and none of the booziness. An amazing accomplishment, and a grand change from the more brash character it took only a few years ago. Finish is clean again, mildly bittersweet from the spices and hopping. Everything has come together so well in this beer. Its taste is not one of many elements and aromas, but instead a new sensation unto itself. Masterful.

Mouthfeel is right on the dime, pillow-soft and creamy.

Drinkability is right up there -- I have fond memories of times past with this beer, and drinking it takes me right back there. I only would want to drink one (as I did back then as well) and I think only having one is appropriate. It was a marker of that brewery's year, and so each occasion with it becomes a marker of the drinker's life as well.

A supreme accomplishment, made even better with age. Besults like this are why I cellar the bottles that I do. I wonder with anticipation as to what my remaining bottles will taste like in 10, or 20, or 50 years.

All in all, and I wouldn't say this lightly -- this is one of the world's finest brews.

 2,091 characters

Photo of jeffboo
4.67/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Ho,ho ho......What?? As Santa see's what's been left on the table for him as he makes the rounds. He pours a dark,blood red fluid into the pint glass and holds it to the light. Vivid red streaks shoot through the glass, and the aroma, hmm vanilla,orange, mixed spice ,maybe nutmeg and cinnamin,and a touch of clove? Not your usual eggnog here. He sips and is struck with vanilla bean and orange peel, a nice long finish which is both roasty and toasty. This drink is as creamy as the eggnog
but the warm fuzzy feeling....nice.Santa decides to grab the remaining 6-pack in the fridge as he heads up the chimney. Merry christmas to all.

 635 characters

Photo of mzwolinski
4.63/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Very dark brown, ruby in color, with a thin, creamy, dark tan head. Porter-like in appearance. Aroma starts off dominated by bubblegum/candi sugar, with spicy highlights. As it warms sappy scents become more evident. Candi-sugar notes are also present in the flavor, but balanced by stronger sprucey/piney notes, and a solid malty body. Roasted malt is present throughout and its bitterness is a nice counter-emphasis to the sweetness of the sugars, aided by an understated but noticeable hop presence. The body is creamy, the finish is slightly dry, and the aftertaste is a delightful melding of roasted malt bitterness, sweet candi sugar, spice, and a slight alcohol warming. A truly great winter beer.

 704 characters

Photo of hyuga
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thick coffee-brown/black brew with a dark tan head floating atop it, and staying quite nicely. Hugely spicy (and great) aroma! Eggnog is big here, along with peppermint and some herbal notes, sugar sweetness, and some tree-leaf character as well. Definitely something you'd associate with Christmas! Taste is malty sweet and a bit toasted with huge spiciness. Leafy spice character and more peppermint, but the eggnog character from the nose is much more subtle here. Sugar sweetness is present again as well. Hops aren't left out at all, they make themselves known with a very subtle piney bitterness. Not quite full-bodied, but the spices make up for that. Smooth and silky mouthfeel, but a bit tingly from the spiciness. More hoppy in the finish. This is truly impressive, the best spiced winter beer I've had so far this year, no contest. Nothing gets cloying here, as can happen with a spiced beer. This beer immediately made me think of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". It'd be great to enjoy a few of these while reading that or watching one of the many movies based on it. In fact, I think I'll do that, since I'm definitely picking up more of this before the season is over. If you're into spiced winter beers, this is the one to get!

 1,248 characters

Photo of Lupe
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark ruby color with a nice creamy tan head that leaves generous lace. Aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon with sweet malt in the backround. Full bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Toasted grain flavors with some spices and a hint of tree sap. Floral hops balance and nicely round out this brew. Definately will get you in the holiday spirit! Highly drinkable, hard to put the glass down but sit back and enjoy. Or buy a case!

 425 characters

Photo of UnionMade
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Opaque dark brown, nearly black. Thin topping of beige head. Laces the glass well with a scattered speckling of foam.

Aroma is sweet, with nutmeg readily apparent. Deep and woody, with some gingery, plum-like notes. Mellowed roastiness.

Flavor opens up soft and elegant, with caramelized malt sweetness. Spices are well present, namely nutmeg and ginger, along with some prune fruitiness. Not nearly as much of an oxidized presence as I expected from a seven year old beer. In fact, this almost tastes fresh if not for the mellowed gentleness. Very woodsy, in the best possible sense. The overall flavor is reminiscent of a nice hike in early fall. Foresty, damp soil and pine trees, earthy, soothing and warm enough to still wear a t-shirt. Finishes bittersweet, spicy and soft. This one has aged to develop those kindly laugh-wrinkles around the eyes.

 855 characters

Photo of doerickson
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep, deep dark ruby/brown, almost opaque. Tan, fine-bubbled head that clings. Complex aromas of coffee, chocolate, dark fruit, and vague sharp pine. Moderate carbonation; very creamy mouthfeel. Notes of milk chocolate, cappuccino, and raisin in the flavor. Rich yet very drinkable. This is an outstanding beer; an absolute treat to drink.

 347 characters

Photo of TastyTaste
4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Looks picture perfect with a well sculpted head that rises above the body of the black beer, shaped by my August Schell tulip. Smell is of cinnamon and clove, very spicy and inviting, mulled for the winter months. It's about 38 degrees here, raining and windy. Perfect timing for this beer. The beer is spicy and lightly smokey, mellowed from the 3+ years of aging this beer has recieved. Hops are not very present, but the cinnamon and ginger flavors just send this beer off into aftertaste. Not a very carbonated beer, but I like the experience overall. I think the aging has done ths beer some good. Very good.

 613 characters

Photo of WesWes
4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The beer pours a very dark burgandy color with a tan head that hangs around then fades for good lacing. The nose is of cinnamon, ginger root, and nutmeg; an extremely good balance of different tastes. The taste is much the same. It's quite malty, but the spices come through clearer. The nutmeg and ginger lead the way. The beer leaves little aftertaste and finishes smooth. The mouthfeel is slightly higher than medium, but it drinks better than any other specialty spice ale I've ever tried. A masterpiece!

 508 characters

Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.59/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber, borderline black. Initial smell is of pleasant pine and sap, the smell of walking through the woods on a mild fall day. The same pine is in the initial taste combined with a creamy, light spicy, feel. A slight creamy milk/eggnog aftertaste is brilliant. Very complex and interesting, this is clearly the best winter brew I've ever had.

 355 characters

Photo of Jon
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Complexity is the key word with this beer. Pours a deep mahogany color with a fairly durable head which leaves nice lace down the glass. Aroma is diverse with notes of maple syrup, spruce, hops, spices. Taste is exceptional -- so many different flavors going on here. Big notes of pine, chocolate, spice (notably ginger), etc. Almost too much for my palate, but in a good way. Mouthfeel is quite creamy and pleasant. An all around excellent brew.

 446 characters

Photo of tavernjef
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Its a shame that they change the recipe for this Special X-mas Ale, cuz this was just a super awesome surprising delight.

Color is almost black with a very deep, dark ruby hue coming through the edges. No head transpired from pouring and what bubbles did appear faded into oblivion.

Has a faint aroma of plum, kinda sweet. Also notes of cinnamon, fig, and nutmeg. Its very soft on the nose. It reminded me of the smell of sweet potatos(yams).

Taste is all over the place, mostly subtle flavors, nothing sticks out. Ahh, but whats there is so very interesting, its lightly, silky smooth with what I believe to be mostly tart cherry with hints of clove, vanilla, and sweet spices. I raised my eyebrows more then once while drinkin it.

The feel is light to medium bodied with a great, quite strong little tart hold on the tongue that is super nice. The finish quietly gets dry and intices you into another swig. I only wish this had a heavier body feel, but thats beside the point of this beer. Its all about being subtle and suprising.

I sure hope they hold onto this recipe and use it again, but I also can't wait to see whats in the next batch.

 1,159 characters

Photo of ZAP
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I'm re-rating some of the winter beers I rated when I first got on board and have since tried several more times..This is a great seasonal winter beer and really is what winter seasonals should be all about. I like this better than last years but last years was very good too.

The nose is huge on the nutmeg....also almost like a good cigar tobacco smell, and a little bit of the tree bark notes.....it is awesome....it is a midnight black in color but some light does shine through....pours a fluffy head of an inch or so, then settles down to very little...body is medium...slick and creamy texture....great mouthfeel..

The taste is very complex....nutmeg...tree bark....a tich of molassis...dark cocoa beans....vanilla....it gets more intriguing as it warms....finishes on a mild dry note which is a perfect ending for a nearly perfect holiday spiced beer.

 865 characters

Photo of mophie
4.53/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have heard that Fritz has lost his passion for brewing and is pursuing other interests, and as a result the quality of his beer is in decline. Maybe so, though I hope not. In any event, "Our Special Ale" is still special, and it still evokes an immense amount of holiday spirit, at least with me. Deep, dark brown with ruby, and a full rich, tan head. Lovely. Roasted malt aromas, rich and warm, gently spiced. Juniper? Taste is slightly sweet, roasty-toasty malt, with a mild tang, gently spicy and medicinal. Mild carbonation. Easy bitterness like a warm blanket lingers on the tongue. Perhaps not as full as in years past, and certainly not as hoppy, but this is still a very nice way to welcome the season.

 712 characters

Photo of StevieW
4.5/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep dark color, some subtle ruby hues in the light. Head is a thick, rich, creamy tan layer. Initial smells of rich spices, christmas spices, nutmeg, and cinnamon, less noticable than last year. Less spicy but still pronounced pine aroamas carry through. Taste is smooth and rich. Subtle sweet shot of molasses, chocolate malt and thinner finish. Warming alocohol and earthy wood finish. Almost syrupy slick finish, but in no way hinders the flavors. A great beer, one that I look forward too. Every bit as good as the 2001 version.

 533 characters

Photo of inebrius
4.5/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's got me humming "over the river and through the woods"; lounge style, of course.

Rich, deep roast coffee-colored brew that poured a healthy khaki head that is now nearly gone but the spiced orange and chocolate aromas are inviting and you want to pound it down but you are patient and you sip and there it is again the chocolate, only now you taste the spruce buds and dark-skinned fruits ripe to the point of decomposing and the velvety liquid washes over you and spreads and you sip and sip again, and now it's gone.

Sometimes it's cool to drink old beer. Thanks Evan!

 580 characters

Photo of jtw5877
4.48/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark red brown color with a thick thick head, WOW that is s spicy beer. Nutmeg abounds a pine nutty kind of spiciness. Smooth finish. In a league of their own. A really excellent Holiday Beer, truly original. Not just a dark ale with cinnamon added to it.

 263 characters

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.47/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2002 OSA - Sampled 1 Year Old

Presentation: Short squat clean lined 12 fluid ounce standard seamed Anchor bottle. The OSA format is maintained, the cream colored label has red writing and a green picture of a "Populus Fremontii" (Fremont Cottonwood) as the chosen foliage for the 2002 label.

Appearance: Light mahogany color that ha a very deer ruby color when held to my desk lamp - Wow! - looks good. A very thin tan-brown head, struggles to form, even when the beer is agitated to its maximum. Almost flat appearance, dregs of carbonation and very low conditioning.

Nose: Complex nose, lots of dark malts that have been soaked in spices of many kinds, but ginger is the one spice that seems to leap out and is the on that is easily detected. Hmmm, I like ginger. Coriander hides in the background.

Taste: Spicy introduction, much more complex than the 2003 that I just had. Time has merged the dark malts, fruits and spices into an emulsified Ale with some seriously enticing and very smooth characteristics. Coriander is still detectable in the beginning but the best part of the beer is the Ginger Snap like crack of the beer that pops and dances on the tongue, it finishes with a moist McVities Ginger Cake like ending that is to die for. Fantastic.

Mouthfeel: Given the almost zero carbonation, this is a very smooth beer in the mouth. It has all the gorgeous juiciness of a freshly soaked Dundee cake, the alcohol is there but soaked in and with dark fruits. Has the feel of a ginger soaked Dundee cake on the tongue – very nice indeed.

Drinkability: I only had the one. Damn. I wish I never gave my other bottle away now. I must try and get some more, one way or another.

Overall: I only managed to get two of these as broken singles, one of which I gave away. So I figured after a year it was time to crack this one open, I could wait not longer. I’m glad I waited the year though. The OSA’s definitely get better with age I find, if cared for at least, and whilst I never tried this “fresh” as I will now do for the subsequent releases, this has definitely improved with age I feel.

A lovely offering, the “ginger cake aspect” especially made it all the more appealing. Lovely! I must remember to pick up 6-Packs of OSA from now on.

 2,276 characters

Photo of beerguy101
4.46/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Deep dark red color, large foamy head. Aroma is malty with nutmeg, clove and chocolate. A medium bodied ale, fraught with spices most noticeably nutmeg. Very warming, smooth taste. Perfect combination for a winter beer. Lots of flavor. If my memory is correct this year's version reminds me of some of the late 80's early 90's vintages. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is slightly bitter with a hint of nutmeg.

 446 characters

Photo of Pegasus
4.45/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep mahogony brown in color with a large caramel-colored head with remarkably good retention. Mildly carbonated with lots of broken lace. Very sweet spicy aroma with prominent nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and lesser malts. Spicy flavors and alcohol dominate the taste, along with an undercurrent of toasted malt, rising to cinnamon and raisin notes at the midpoint of the taste. Towards the end, mildly bitter and earthy flavors appear. Finishes with a lingering mild citrus bitterness at the back of the mouth. In conclusion, an unwaveringly superb beer that, alas, alas, will never be brewed again. Enjoy this wonderful once-in-a-lifetime beer while you can.

 659 characters

Photo of jahred
4.45/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Wow, did I hit the jackpot when I came upon a 6-pack of this in Binny's when most stores are out of the 2003 vintage of OSA (tasted on 1/10/04)!

Pours a dark brownish-black color with a very thick head and a beautiful lace pattern stuck on the glass as I drink. It's dark enough that it looks more like a stout that anything else. Beautiful for a spiced beer.

The smell is also quite amazing - mint, anise and allspice, and possibly some other spices as well that I couldn't quite recognize. The definite signatures of a holiday beer.

The taste? Almost as good as the smell. The predominant taste is of sweet caramel and lemons, with a bit of a hoppy flavor and roasted malts coming thru as the beer warms. Toward the bottom of my glass (I had to pace myself so as not to drink this too quickly!) I also noticed vanilla, nutmeg, an interesting and generic nutty taste, and ... lemon spice cake! Mmmmm...

The mouthfeel is also impressive - the beer is rich, thick and very creamy. As for the drinkability, I easily moved on to my second glass. Maybe it's because the beer was sitting on a shelf for a year, but this was definitely smoother than the already-fantastic 2003 OSA.

 1,187 characters

Photo of objectivemonkey
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 edition sampled 12-1-06.

Into a pint glass, pours a mcuh darker than expected black, dark tan head that stuck around for a few minutes, leaving a nice film. Aroma is strong, immediately struck by a noticable alcohol, warm, nice chocolate and espresso notes, as it warmed a very distinct brown sugar sweetness, very nice complexity in all. Taste is thick, again good complex almalgamation of flavors, a bit xmas spicy, warming malty middle with a dry end. Mouth is thick up front, but somehow sometimes dries out, thins out, or otherwise loses that first hearty mouthfeel, kind of a wierd thing going on in an otherwise great beer. For whatever reasons, I've never been turned on by Anchors brews, but this one gets an OK high five from me.

 747 characters

Photo of Gavage
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown color with a spotty head. Some light lacing is produced during the drink. The aroma is unique as evergreen, pine, allspice, and nutmeg dominate. The flavor is mellower than the 2001 version I recently sampled which surprised me for one year less of maturing time. Evergreen and pine is less notible on the tongue. The spices are also a bit toned down. A roasted malt finishes out the flavor.

Thick bodied with a smooth mouthfeel. Slight tingling noticed during swallow. The pine and evergreen last long on the tongue. Nicely drinkable, and with the flavors toned down just a bit, one of the better years I have sampled.

 642 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.02 out of 5 with 136 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.