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

Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Liked This Beer
4.02 w/ 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.

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Ratings: 136 |  Reviews: 126
Photo of Hibernator
4.38/5  rDev +9%
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 +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.

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
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 -10%
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 +2.7%
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 -20.6%
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 -9.2%
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 +0.2%
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 -4.2%
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 -1.7%
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 Wasatch
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
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 BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
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 Goldorak
3.82/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Beersignal for poping this baby out of the cellar for our pre-Canada Day weekend tasting.

Appearance: Dark crimson with a creamy cranium.

Smell: Merry f'n'x-mas indeed! Ginger, mint, cinnamon, cloves, sugarplums, candycane. Add a turkey and you've got the whole holiday wrapped up in a bottle!

Taste: A little madeirized, it tasted like a melted gingerbread man (Not my gumdrop buttons!) and felt sherry sweet and glowing with alcohol. I'm no expert on cellaring and wasn't able to do a vertical on this Beer, but I think we got this one open just in time.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of Crotor
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer has the unfortunate disadvantage of competing with my idealized memory of it when it was fresh - I was new to beer geekdom then, in love with the world, and the '02 OSA was my first.

Pours with the standard dark brown and 1 finger of tan head - solid for an older beer.

Smells slightly yeasty and heavily vinous.

Tastes nice and roasty, with a significant vinous characteristic, and it's also slightly tart. There's a lingering "woody" element. The spices have broken down and melded, and there's little pine element left. Overall, a nice profile at this age.

It offers a delectably creamy, smooth mouthfeel and primo drinkability. It's a shame I only have a few bottles.

Overall, this might be a little beyond where I want it to be, but it's damn good nonetheless. The best of the vintage OSAs I've had thus far this season. Though I'll have to see what the '03 is like. I have a sneaking suspicion I might like 'em a bit younger than others do...

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Photo of RenoZymurgist
3.7/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark, almost black brew that allowed red light to shine through with a tan head that subsided quickly.
The aroma was of licroice and dark roasted grains, alcohol and some faint fruity esters.
Mellower than I remember when it came out, the spices don't dominate the flavor profile and it seems to have more of an alcohol presence. The roasted malt flavors are light yet linger in the finish with a blend of the spices and alcohol. Nice taste after having been aged two years I think that two years is about right for Our Special ales to be enjoyed.
The mouthfeel is nice and smooth, the flavor just rolls over your tongue with a slight prickling of the carbonation.
Very drinkable, so far I think this is the best vintage I have tried.

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Photo of ken3c
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased a six pack for $7.00. I thought it was a good deal and I was right. There were two other sixers. I hope they are still there.

Image of a cottonwood on the label. This beer is very close to black. There is a tinge of red at the corners. A Quarter inch lumpy head recedes pretty quickly to a ring of foam with islands. Plenty of foam sticks to the glass on every sip but it readily slips back down.

There are aromas of nutmeg and licorice but the overwhelming feeling is that you are walking through a deciduous forest. It smells quite woody.

The taste is quite sweet but turns sharply woody. The finish has a sense of licorice. I've tasted barks before. I wouldn't be surprise if cottonwood bark was in the list of ingredients.

This feels very astringent. It's also light to medium fullness and lightly carbonated.

I really like this beer but after a couple, my mouth gets really dry from the astringency. My typical rule is to drink an equal amount of water for every beer. I need to double it for this one.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.02/5  rDev 0%
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 StuFox
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My friends and I drank quite a number of these this winter (2003-4) before discovering that the they we were being sold year old beer. When we discovered this, we didn't slow down for a second. Spicy and almost kinda sweet, it combines the roasted nut and ginger spice flavors that are associated with the holiday season. This beer could get away with being all about the flavor, but it is also remarkably smooth. This beer is expensive, but worth every penny.

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Photo of stingo
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up on a lark just before Christmas 2003 in a magnum bottle. Waited til now to taste it (Christmas in July) and wow it was worth the wait - burnished hops flavor, strong but rounded is the main taste on the palate. Mouthfeel is very nice but I think I would have liked something slightly heavier (but ever so slightly). Very attractive burnt orange color in the glass. Was sorry to see it go, but glad it came to visit. Highly Recommended.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.02/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed on June 3, 2004, found an old case in the “Whip In”.
Aroma: Heavy spices, pine, allspice, nutmeg seem like likely candidates. Under all those spices I get a bit of roasted malt.
Appearance: Very dark, close to black but a shade of brown with some ruby highlights.
Flavor: Merry Christmas! The pine and spices are right there, I needed to reach for the beer under them. While the spice takes the first impression and a lingering aftertaste, in the middle is a good solid beer. It has some lager characteristics, clean and smooth with a hint of sweet, almost like an amber beer. The sweet takes the form of a brown sugar taste.
Mouthfeel: A bit of chew on a full bodied beer, but very smooth. The finish is a bit dry.
Overall Impression: They really unload the spice rack on these babies. While it is a treat, the overall effect is that one is plenty and it would be work to make a session out of these. This seemed to age nicely, I’ll hold off on the others.
Like a good holiday, it should be enjoyed rarely, but regularly.

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Photo of alexgash
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Aged one year.

Dark ruby-brown body with a festive tan head. Smell: spices. Cinnamon, spruce, nutmeg, eggnog, you name it. Taste is, not surprisingly very spice-laden. Vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg take the forefront backed by toffee/baking chocolate malt. Finish is roasty and bitter, with the bitterness lingering and becoming more pronounced. Nice creamy feel, but a little too much spice for me to drink all the time.

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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.

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Photo of Billolick
3.63/5  rDev -9.7%
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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Our Special Ale 2002 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 77.9% out of 100 with 136 ratings
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