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

very good
126 Reviews
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.

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Reviews: 126 | Ratings: 136
Photo of drabmuh
3.97/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer poured from a bottle into a 2002 Anchor Our Special Ale pint glass with a gold rim. Yep, I have a 2002 Anchor OSA glass.

Beer is dark brown / ruby with these woody looking chucks on yeast that came out immediate, not settled at all. Nice tan head, some lacing, moderate carbonation.

Aroma is sweet and strong, mild soy-sauceness but nothing too horrible, malty, mild spiciness, good overall.

Beer is medium in body and has this nice chewy finish to it, I don't drink hte yeast bits but the rest of the beer tastes old, malty, sweet, mild tobacco again, mildly bitter but not dry on the back palate. Nice. I'm excited to try a few more older ones.

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Photo of nickd717
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review dated 2/4/2009.

Bottle at The Bruery, 2002 vintage, drank it December 2008, vertical with 2001 and 2008 vintages. Dark amber color with an off-white head. Aroma of roasted malt, nutmeg, ginger, and brown sugar. Taste is the same, malty and spicy, not quite as mellow as the 2001. Medium-full body.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.23/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

The Fourth Day of Beermas... It pours a dark ruby-tinted black-brown topped by a minor bit of dirty white foam. The nose comprises cocoa powder, brown sugar, walnuts, and maple syrup. Unfortunately, there is a twinge of fishiness, of staleness weaving its way through everything. The taste holds notes of nutmeg, brown sugar, figs, red apples, cocoa, and a light bi of vinyl. The body is a chunky medium, with a light carbonation and a slightly oily feel. Overall, things are definitely progressing, but there's still a ways to go.

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Notes on an aged 2002 OSA.

Pours a dark brown, slightly muddy color. Still a decent carbonation level. Slight woodsy and "herbed" aroma-reminds me of a very mild Jagermeister like smell. Decent malt and slightly spiced flavor. Faint hint of treacle and caramel. Some molasses fading into the backround. Again somewhat woody and grainy tasting. Mild lingering sweetness of the lips. Decent enough body. Has aged quite well considering the low abv. Still very drinkable and enjoyable.

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Photo of NorCalYeti
3.47/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

taste- creamy roasted malts, licorice, bitterness, complexity, prunes

color- deep chestnut

clarity- clear

smell- chocolate, licorice, prunes, spice, roasted flavors

body- medium-full, hop bitterness at the front of the palete

appearance- dark, clean, slight foam ring

overall impression- interesting

notes- amazing how this beer still holds up with six years of age in a 12oz bottle. bottle still characteristic of anchor's beers, carbonation is still present. 28th release of this beer. this review is for a 2002 vintage tasted in 2008

glassware: pint

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Photo of aerozeppl
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle given as an extra by ianslee. Thanks!.

A: Super dark brown with no hints of light getting through until held up directly to the light. Impressive 3/4 finger of brownish head. Not bad for a 7 year old bottle. Impressive lacing as well.

S: Little bit of sweetness. Starting to get a touch oxidized. Some spruce is there. Not nearly the christmas tree in a bottle this beer can be fresh. Has that aged flavor as well which is always a plus for me. Quite a bit of malt and a touch of molasses.

T: This really melded together nicely. Wow the christmas tree and the malt have come together well. I have never tasted something like this in a beer before. Little bit of black pepper in there at the end. Leather maybe as well.

M: Glorious. So creamy and good. Reminds me of a cask pour.

D: For a 7 year old 5.5% beer...damn. This has held up like a champ. I have a few more bottles and I will savor them during a nice blizzard in the next 10 years.

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Photo of Floydster
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle purchased from the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel for around six dollars, consumed 12/27/08 alongside the 2003 vintage, reviewed from notes, both were poured into small snifters, color is a dark brown with slightly red tint, minimal 1/4 inch bubbly light tan head that goes away rather quickly, no lacing, aroma is dark fruit, pepper, slightly oxidized malt, tons of different spices, brown sugar, and caramel, taste was rather spicy, malt in the middle, then pepper, tobacco, and molasses in the finish, mellows out as it warms and sugary caramel comes out, spicy and sweet mouthfeel, thin to medium body, low level of carbonation, could have drank a few more of these, especially on a cold night, not too heavy, spiciness could become overpowering after a while maybe, I like the recipe for this year but it came up short to the 2003 drank right next to it, would drink again though, recommended

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Photo of UnionMade
4.62/5  rDev +17.6%
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.

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Photo of Crosling
4.4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark mahogany colored ale with a long lasting white head. Very nice aroma showcases notes of fruit cake, vanilla, nutmeg and mint. Flavor is very nice and brilliantly balanced. Notes of cinnamon, pine, juniper and fruit cake. Very nice body to it and well as a nice finish.

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Photo of hopdog
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I tried 5 vintages on tap at the Stuffed Sandwich ('00, '01, '02, '03 & '04). The '01 was my favorite with the '00 a close 2nd. Nice subtle, malty, caramel aromas and tastes. Molasses. Light spices. I'm glad I had the chance to compare the 4 vintages on tap.

NOTE: did a tasting on 1/15/05 that included years '87, '90, '94, '97, '98, '00, '01, '02, & '03. The '02, '01 & '94 stood out as the best of the bunch. The '94 had a nice whiskey taste to it that the others did not. I thought the older vintages held up well over the years.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.53/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Review from Inaugural Issue of Beeradvocate Magazine.

An oddity, Anchor Christmas Ale is a beer that tries to defy time. Who would have thought you could cellar a beer that is less than 6 percent? It is simply amazing that most of the vintages have held up well over the years. Sure, you get a bit of oxidation and the hops fade too, but all in all the age does this beer good. When we tried it back in 2002 we noticed this version was not has hoppy as previous years.

Beer offers an amazing lace from a good two fingers of tan froth, a few shades lighter than black. The deep brown tone doesn't let much light in. Spicy, sweet aroma. Smells of hermit cookies, a fresh slice of fruitcake and faint spearmint. Very smooth, with a lush medium body. Baker's chocolate and toasted bread crust come to mind. Spicy, mildly minty, with a toasty flavor throughout. Twang of citrus with a dark, roasty, sweet maltiness, reminiscent of orange peels and burnt sugar. Very little hop character, but the slight vinous and fruity undertones keep things balanced. Four years of cellaring have certainly not harmed this beer at all.

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Photo of iasanlee
4.32/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Cloudy dark dark brown with a beautiful brown 3 finger head

S- Loads of dark fruit and malty sweetness,

T- Medicinal and floral. Black cherries and dark fruit is abundant. Coffee, Very sweet. Carmel. Wow. Absolutely delicious

M- Thick and coating. Carbonation is low, but not non-existant. A lasting malty finish.

D- A real treat, I love it. Almost barleywineish. I am so glad I found a six pack of this in my regular bars cooler (It had been there since 2002). Time has done it wonders.

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Photo of eberkman
3.52/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a pretty dark brown that glows reddish when held to the light. Deep, stoutlike tan head -- about a finger's worth that reduces within 2 minutes to a thin island on the surface.

Pleasant, warming smells of plums, prunes, dates and holiday spices.

Also tastes of wintery spices and dark fruit, but with kind of an unpleasantly astringent finish that's almost vinegary.

Medium bodied for such a dark beer. Moderate carbonation. Feels reasonably substantial in the mouth.

Not the most drinkable because of the odd finish.

But it's a 2002, so it's been sitting aroudn for a while and it's not particulary high ABV, so maybe it's really not meant to cellar this long.

I'll try the 2003 soon for comparison purposes.

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Photo of blitheringidiot
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dark brown eggpalnt hue topped with a craggy collar of khaki foam dripping down to leave no trace in the glass.

Earthy herbal nose of dirt, sawdust, caramel and red apple.

First swigs: Light apple vinegar meets a carrot cake malt backing. Dark fruits of fig, ripe pear and finishes off with a touch of lemon tea herbal notes. Dry soft cotton finish.

Soft subtle light carbonation almost seems like this is flat.

Last swigs: Sure it's interesting and fun to try after a few years, but it's more of an experiment.

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Photo of Vancer
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 – 5 years ago. How time flys and only ages these beauties like fine wine (or beer).

Classic pour of mahogany brown, deep cola like. Thin topper cap.

This was the year of the winter spices, along with plenty of dark fruits – heavy on the cherry. One of the better anchor brews, but donno if the aging really brought this one around. I’m a lucky stiff to be enjoying this thanks to Timtheechanta.

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Photo of Hibernator
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Anchor Our Special Ale (2002)
12 oz brown bottle
Brewed on date for 2 O K [October 11, 2002]
Served in an Allagash tulip glass

I stopped by a new liquor store this morning while I was in the area doing some shopping. To my surprise there were some nice selections like Stone Imperial Stout and Anderson Valley’s Brother David’s Double Abbey. I scanned the singles cooler at the end for the heck of it and on the bottom I spotted an Anchor OSA. I immediately realized that the label was not a 2006, but assumed maybe a 2005. After further inspection I noticed it was a 2002 and I slowly uttered '“holy shit!' to myself.” Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find this gem at such an unassuming store.

Pours a fabulous shade of rustic, dark brown with light ruby highlights on the bottom of the glass. A nice sized head forms on top then turns to a thin lacing that leaves random trails of spotted lace across the tulip glass.

The nose is not as pronounced as I was expecting. Mainly because I’m so used to enjoy the latest OSA release. I detect some whiffs of holiday cookies & spices, chocolate bar sweetness and black pepper.

Juicy malt profile up front with sweet caramel drizzle, brown sugar bombs, milk chocolate flavors, all spice, cinnamon sprinkles and a touch of ginger. Very similar to the 2005 & 2006 versions that I’m used to, but the major difference is how MELLOW this is. All of the complexity and depth that I love about this beer, but it’s very subdued overall. A mini hop presence comes through on the finish, but the mouthfeel and the corresponding carbonation is really enjoyable.


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Photo of objectivemonkey
4.42/5  rDev +12.5%
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.

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance- Pours a ruddy brown/ruby/garnet/ liquid brown sugar. A nice tan head is created that of which recedes to a nice film.

Smell- A little smokey wood and roasty malts. Like aged roasty mlats. A little herby too.

Taste- A nice mix of oak and spruce flavors to accopmany the very deep roasted and smokeyd malts. No hop presence noticed. This beer ages nicely almost reagrdless of the ingredients for that year.

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Photo of warriorsoul
3.62/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Truh for this unexpected goodie.
Dark brown in color with a full finger of light beige head...all but a fine layer fades rapidly and some thin lacing forms.
Spices in the nose...cinnamon, mild allspice, chocolate malt sweetness.
Taste is more of the same...has soured just a bit, but by no means distracting. Dry and quite clean in the finish...that sweetness in the nose is not present as I consume the pint.
Mouthfeel is a bit thinner than I was expecting...the carbonation could be less for me.
Either way, this one has held up pretty well after a few years, but I prefer it at no more than a year.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled some 2.5 years after the first one back in June '03.

Appearance is about the same, except for a much better head on this one. Light mocha, densely bubbled and receding slowly into a Paulaner 25cl tasting glass.

Aroma reminds me of Coca-Cola, with some really cool smelling spices added. Pepper, grapes, clove for certain. Very nice.

Taste - malt base is still there but not as forceful. Sweet, a bit like red wine. A mix of spices on the swallow, can't pick out many specifics. Herbal finish, some dark chocolate, and lots of licorice.

Mouthfeel is rich and smooth, not quite velvety enough to give it that heavy, filling feeling, but great solidness, really enhances the enjoyment.

Drinkability - it has changed of course, but is holding its own. I would go ahead and down any remaining 2002s in stock. Some of the finer malt aspects have faded, which I enjoy.

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Photo of KarlHungus
3.19/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This brew pours an opaque black color. The head is dark tan, creamy, two-fingers in height, and recedes slowly into nice thick lacing. The aroma screams of pepper that doesn't leave much room form anoything else to shine through. The taste is like the aroma: way too much pepper. The mouthfeel is mdeium bodied and very smooth. Overall, this is decent, but not the best OSA.

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Photo of DrunkMcDermott
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sample taste at Chicago Beer Society vertical tasting, Dec. 1, 2005. The 2002 vintage, at age 3, is another beer with a nice fruity smell. A bit of alcohol volatility, and this one’s a bit light on the Christmas spices. Some of the other tasters remark on a tobacco smell.

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured identical in color to '03,'04,'05.
Dark mahogany with chestnut edging, lively and full, dense, tan head.
Exceptional lacework on this vintage, with better head retention.
Aromatics becoming nicely woven and on the way to subtle.
A cocoa dusted orange rind, studded with spruce tips, anise, clove, and nutmeg.
Nose finishes warmly and bittering, with hints of ginger, celery, and cinnamon..
Medium bodied, with a creamyness that is interrupted by assertive spicing.
Bitter chocolate and mild roast leads off the pallet, followed by citrus zest, dried ginger,black licorice, and an underlying grapefruit pucker.
Finishes slow and warming, from both alcohol and spice.

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Photo of Bierman9
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

OSA 2002, 12oz bottle. A leftover "gift" from one of the BA Fests...

Pours a deep, molasses-brown color. Sporadic carbonation heads topside, towards the thin, beige head comprised of fine, tight bubbles. Head mostly clings to the edge of the glass, with some wispy lacing left behind. Has a rich nose of malty sweetness and spice (cinnamon?). Beneath the spices is a rind-like hop presence. Fairly enticing, on the whole. Body, though, is a bit less than medium, yet the bier is still rather smooth on the palate.

Flavor is semi-sweet, with some choco notes lying around. Spicy character is present; pleasant yet never overpowering. Seems, again, like cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg. Reminds me even of some pumpkin-like biers. Beneath the spice, once again, are some resiny hop aspects lending a touch of bitterness to balance and cut the sweetness. A thick layer of yeasties bottomed out the bottle; I swirled these in near the end. Besides clouding the bier up, it took the edge off the spiciness. A nice bier, all-in-all, though not one I'd crave real strongly.


overall: 3.9
appearance: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5


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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Gilt-edged pumpernickel topped by a busily bubbly head the color of almond shells. Despite the rapid pop, pop, popping, the cap lasts a while simply because there are so many tightly packed bubbles present. Although there isn't much lace, this is still an attractive beer...

... that is wonderfully aromatic. I caught a huge whiff on the pour and have been enjoying it off and on as I commented on the appearance. Even though the usual OSA aromas apply, this one seems bolder and more solid than most. The underlying chocolatiness gives support to the festive top notes of sweet spruce. No other beer smells quite like Our Special Ale.

My first impressions of the flavor are that this 'Populus fremontii' version is less chocolate malty, slightly sweeter and more evergreen-like than other years. I know that Anchor varies the recipe from year to year. It tastes like '02 was a year when they decided to go heavy on the tree branches.

That's a good thing. I was beginning to think this whole 'variation from one year to the next' business was so minor as to be impossible to appreciate without doing a vertical tasting. In any case, this version still has enough malt and just enough of a cocoa presence to maintain continuity with the series. Any more pine bough presence would be entirely too much.

I can appreciate a hint of spiciness on the finish of the finish. Which spice(s), though, is hard to say. If my (occasionally faulty) memory is accurate, the spiciness is toned down relative to years past. The mouthfeel on these beers is always less full than I would prefer and is less full than what I think is optimal for a winter warmer. This one isn't too bad though. It's much closer to medium than it is to light.

So ends my quest to fill in the holes in my tasting of OSAs through the years. I have no desire to go back farther than '98 since, despite what some believe, I've found that this beer doesn't hold up well after 4-5 years in the bottle. This vintage was one of my favorites, so it looks like I prefer them on the fresher side. If you have the opportunity, the '02 is still a worthy purchase.

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Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
3.93 out of 5 based on 136 ratings.
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