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 BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A good flavor for a winter warmer. Just needs to be warmer. Looks deep golden and copper. High carbonation forms an off white head. Head fades leaving nice belgian lacing. Smells caramelly sweet with sweet spices all over the place. Slight souring and earthy. Tastes toasty, caramelly, and bready sweet. Mildly yeasty. ...and now for the spices: ginger, nutmeg, all spice, cinnemon, mint, cider, and probably a bunch more that are hidden for me. Spices with hop flavor create a bittering that I've not experienced in any other beer; makes it a bit salty. Medium body that gives way to a nice finish. Finishes a bit hot and round. Heat mildly from the alcohol, but majorily from spices.

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Photo of oberon
3.55/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Looks like something you could pour out of a Quacker State bottle,seemed really thick coming out but when drinking didnt seem quite as heavy.Smelled like I was walking through the woods with pine trees everywhere,picked up the nutmeg as well in the smell.Very christmasy in flavor nutmeg cinnamon,and fruitcake flavors are almost overwhelming.Was pretty good but couldnt handle more than say 2 or 3.

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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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Photo of Jason
4.28/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz short brown bottle with a freshness code on the back label and the year 2002 on the front. “Populus fremontii” or Cottonwood is on the label.

Appearance: Dense two fingers of tan foam cling to the glass like a champ, mahogany brown with ruby highlights.

Smell: Suggestions of soft resin of tree sap, fruity with a twang in the back and a silky malt lines the nose. Pleasing and very aromatic.

Taste: Creamy in the mouth, very smooth with a level carbonation and full body. Malt is packed in pretty good with quick toasted grain and light roasted flavours abound. Flowery, soft at first but then it seems more of a robe around the taste buds. Not overwhelming but more comforting. A sweet brew that is for sure as the maltiness draws in closer middle to end with a faint roasted character tagging along.

Notes: An impressive ale every year and a must for me, give it a try if you are looking for a winter ale.

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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 Billolick
3.63/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

thick, dark and rich with spices, this is not my favorite style, but over the holidays, after a big holidaze meal, this one would foot the bill. Nicely balanced for this style, anchor allways puts out a nice product. Got this one in late 2003, (at a reduced price at my local beer dealer)must have been left over from last years batch. So this one came "pre-aged"

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.82/5  rDev +22.6%
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.

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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 Gavage
4.42/5  rDev +12.5%
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.

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Photo of Wasatch
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Anchor Steam glass. Black in color with a nice head, lots of lacing afterwards as well. Scents of sweet toffee/caramel, hops. Very nice taste for a three year old brew, never had a beer that old before. Medium body with a great sweet after taste. Not much of a warmer, but very drinkable. Would make a very nice session drink around the Christmas time, glad I had a chance to check some out.

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Photo of WesWes
4.6/5  rDev +17%
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!

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.02/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Sampled from a 1.5L bottle September of 2004
Pours a deep brown color, almost approaching a black. In the aroma I get notes of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon. The body is quite a bit thinner now after a couple of years of age. The taste is actually fairly dry, but it does have a complexly sweet molasses note at the same time. The finish is a bit astringent and dry. The astringency almost has a pine/ spruce thing going on that contributes to drying out my mouth after each sip. This is definitely past its prime, but my other bottles should still age interestingly enough.

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

Deep dark burgandy color. Clarity is apparant. A one finger creamy brown head recedes to a nice collaring within a minute. Shades of olive green can be seen on the head. Maltiness is evident on the nose as well as slight spruce and some spicing (ginger, nutmeg??). First sip is full of substance and spice. Complex to say the least. There's a nice little bitterness coming from either the hops or spices or both. Probably both. I'm not sure how they incorportate the cottonwood into the mix, but it seems to add a twist. Maybe a resiny sap-like presence. Cinamon and ginger seem to be the main spices. Dry woody character present. Figs, plums, raisin-like. Chocolate truffels. Man this has a lot of flavors if you look hard enough. Suprisingly, this brew's body is about light-medium. Another X-mas winner from Anchor.

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Photo of Suds
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown color with a bubby, tall, tan head. The head quickly falls into a thin, wispy film. Aroma is spicy and sweet….full of sensations of raisins, fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, and citrus. Taste is quite malty and sweet up front. The beer is creamy, thick, and full, but retains it’s spice character throughout. Finish is slightly bitter. This year’s version doesn’t seem as overwhelmingly spicy as it has in the past. It’s terrifically drinkable and wonderfully interesting.

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Photo of ZAP
4.55/5  rDev +15.8%
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.

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Photo of Gusler
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The 28th year of this special ale, and as it sets in my glass, all dark and handsome, I reflect back on the previous beers I’ve had dating back to my first special ale, actually the first Anchor beer I sampled on December 29, 1982.

The beer pours a deep sanguineous color, the head modest and chocolate brown, but it dissipates quickly leaving a fine sheet of lace to cover the glass. Aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice all hit you up front, caramel sweetness and malt underlying it all, “Complex” just seems inadequate to describe this delicious nose. Ambrosial at the front, the top quite thin and the finish minimally carbonated, hops all mingled in with the other spices, “Different" for sure, pleasant to the palate, and the aftertaste quite dry and bitter also long lasting.

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

Courtesy of the Hollingshead Deli in Orange, CA. I liked this one a little less than the 2001 version, which I tried yesterday. I'm not sure if it is because the recipe is different, or because the 2001 version had some time to mellow out. This one just seemed more rough around the edges. Pours a nice dark ruby/brown with a medium thick and lasting beige head. Minimal lacing. Aroma is nicely spiced and heavy on the nutmeg. Flavor is seriously spiced, mostly ginger and nutmeg, and a little cinnamon. Had a sweet finish that kind of reminded me of a flat cola. Overall this was decent but a little too much spice.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.55/5  rDev +15.8%
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.

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

'Interesting' is the word that comes to mind when I begin to review this beer. This pours a much darker than I anticipated almost blackish, blood-red colour with not much of a head to be seen. This smelled of pine trees, x-mas, malts, hops, and many other things. This tasted piney, and malty with some hops sneaking in as well. This has a nice after-taste and it was easy enough to drink. The mouthfeel was pretty good too.
An 'interesting' beer for sure
everyone should try it once:-)

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.47/5  rDev +13.7%
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.

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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 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 garymuchow
4.17/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A regular cornocopia of aromas. Too busy and too many to decifer exactly, plus I'm still working on clearly naming the types. Nonetheless an enjoyable indulgnce with wonderful spiceness. Mahogany in the light, otherwise brown and clear. Nice brownish head that stays pretty well, with some lacing. I may have let my bottle warm a little too much, which influenced my tasting, but an enjoyable mix of flavors with a good dark ale backing. Nice ale smoothness and richness to feel with some creaminess. I really look forward to making this an annual tasting event.

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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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