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

very good
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 jahred
4.45/5  rDev +13.2%
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.

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Photo of RedBaron
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Man, this is one of the reasons I love Christmas ales. Once again, Anchor delivers a uniquely interesting holiday brew. I've kept a six pack of this 2002 version for over a year now, and decided to open it just before we turn the calendar to 2004.

The brew poured nicely, with a tannish head that sustained nicely throughout the drink, leaving Brussels lace in its wake. The color was a deep mahogany, nearly opaque. The aroma was about as I expected for Anchor Christmas ale: a great combination of pleasantly burnt malt, aromatic hops, and a figgish/sweet nose.

The mouthfeel was somewhat lighter in body than I remember in years past, but still delivered lots of nice and interesting spices. Initially, I detected chocolate/molasses, followed swiftly by cinnamon and anise, and I the finish had a nice bittering hop quality.

Because of the 'lightness' feel to this sample, it's certainly more quaffable than in years past. I'm not so sure this is a great thing, but it is different and yet pleasant. After all, Anchor will tell you that they put out a different character each and every holiday season.

I'm a big fan of this ale, and I hope that the good folks at Anchor keep up the holiday mystery year after year.

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Photo of mschofield
3.97/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This was aged for 1 year, 2002 vintage, tasted 12/2003
Populos Fremontii
Pours a deep dark mahongany-red with a 2 finger ivory-brown head.
The aroma is cinammon (which appropriately comes from tree bark) pine and ginger.
Spicy tree-sap taste, like the "tea" I'd drink in boy scouts (made from pine needles, spearmint leaves etc...), a malty beer.
Full taste, medium feel. The drinkability is good for 1 six pack a year, but I wouldn't see myself buying it all the time if it was a year round offering.

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Photo of Weissenheimer
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer has a lovely and distinctive medium-sized bubbly head with the color and sheen of a marshmallow melting as it toasts over a fire. As I drink the dark cola-colored beer the head fades, leaving little lacing.

The smell is nice and spicy. There are hops hiding in there too, and a blend of other scents that are difficult to nail down. I believe I smell caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and molasses.

The initial taste is one of hoppy coffee. It has a watery feel that reminds me of a cask ale. It's a little smoky and roasted, with a tiny bit of sourness in the finish. I believe there's a significant amount of molasses in there, too, but it's blended with a black tea flavor that I've since come to associate with this beer. It's challenging but delicious. I'll be seeking out more of this.

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

Pours a dark brown black black with a nice tan head. Tastes of spice and everything nice. Mmmm evergreen goodness. Nice balance with the malts and the spiceness. Potency is there in flavor, but just barely. I'm glad I waited a year to try the bottles of this since I really didn't enjoy '02 nearly as much on the tapskie.

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Photo of yankeeheel
4.34/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Man did I luck in to this. I walked in to the store last week and they had a whole case of 02 just hanging out on the shelf. I love it when they do the cellaring for me!

Pours a dark brown with a very foamy espresso colored head, which lasts a while. The smell is just heavenly; nutmeg, cinnamon , and a wee bit of toffee.

The taste is somehthing akin to drinking a spice cake. Lots of ginger and spice mixed in to the malt. Very smooth and creamy with just the right amount of hoppiness at the end. i could see downing a whole lot of this on Christmas. Good stuff.

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

Lovely bottle and label, but my fridge seems to be a bit cold. I've poured, but need to warm it some. Appearance is quite nice, a rich dark brown with ruby glimmer. The head is thin but its unchanging though the beer. Its also a dark brown color with tiny bubbles.

The aroma is somewhat mild but still nice. Some of the smells are quite familiar, but I can't pick out more than the malts, some very roasted, and a mix of spices. There's almost a arbor, anise, and molasses aroma.

Now that its warm, the flavors do stand out better. The body is kind of thin for the color, and the peated, smokey finish is nice. Otherwise its fairly sweat malt flavors.

Right after swallowing, there's a delightful peat dryness that makes you interested in having another.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
4.87/5  rDev +23.9%
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.

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Photo of inebrius
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
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!

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Photo of Rumrunner
4.27/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. bottle.

Christmas came a little early for me this year. A nice start to the holidays.

This beer pours a dark fudge brown. A nice tan head to start. It gets small but sticks around. Lacing is good. This is one nicely aromatic beer. Spices of cinnamon. Sweet molasses and ginger bread. There is also an airy crispness on the nose. A singed toast scent at the end is excellent. Great aromas.

The flavors start out with a touch of chocolate. Nice spices of cinnamon and mellow nutmeg. There is some sap and honey right before the flavors begin their slightly burnt toasted flavor. Some dark breads at the end. A very nice Christmas parade of holiday flavors.

This beer is just above medium bodied. It has a chewy feel to it. It is very smooth at first with a small amount of crispness at the finish. A very nice drinking beer. It just feels good to drink this beer. Happy Holidays!

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

Original review when first tasted 11/2002:

Poured almost pitch black with some reddish highlights and a nice light brown head. Aromas of nutmeg and other spices - a little too much for my tastes. Up front this beer is delicious, the spices are subdued, moderate carbonation, thick mouthfeel, and some chocolaty / roasted malt flavors. But then a bitter astringent component hits but not from hops - tree sap? WTF. Overall I'n not a big fan, but I will finish the six pack to see if it grows on me.

Review after aging 9/03:

Boy did time treat this beer right. The aromas were wonderful and not as overpowering as they first were. I picked up flowery, piney, nutmeg, and even curry flavors in the aroma. Had a thick like molasses mouthfeel and tasted like treacle, molasses, and burnt caramel. Very nice. I changed the smell, taste, and drinkability ratings to reflect the aged sample. I have a few left that I am saving for the winter season and I can't wait to buy the 2003 so I can keep it until 2004. This is one of the few beers I think is worth aging.

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Photo of hotstuff
3.44/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer had a small sized tan head that consisted of fine sized bubbles.The body was carbonated and the hue was dark brown.The nose was spicy and also of gingerbread.It had a malty, spicy and chocolate flavor to it and the mouthfeel was very smooth and it was medium bodied.There was excellent lacing with this beer.

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Photo of rastaman
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Very christmasy, but nice and restrained. Gingerbread biscuits, with some cakey, chocolatey flavours, spicy, with some late bitterness and a long finish, very nice. I had it on a warm London night, but could imagine drinking it in the colder months, beautifully warm and inviting mouthfeel.

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Photo of SheepNutz
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

July 25th, 5 months until Christmas, a good time for my very own personal Christmas in July. 12oz. bottle poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a deep brown, almost black, with one finger of tan head that dies fairly quickly. There is a little bit of lace on the glass. The smell is full of spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander are all detected in the nose. The taste starts out malty, with a good amount of cinnamon and coffee. The finish brings out the hops, and a little bread taste. The mouthfeel is very thick, it just dances on the tongue. The drinkability is fairly nice. I don't know if I can wait 5 months to break out the 1999 vintage. A big shout out to brewdlyhooked13 for this great bottle of beer!

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

Sampled on tap at "Christmas in July" at The Blind Tiger.

This ale poured a dark brown (opaque) color with tan foam that left some lace on the glass. The smell was a light malty aroma. The taste was tart and sharp: malt, caramel, cocoa, figs. The mouthfeel was smooth and relatively dry. The body was medium and the carbonation was modest. There was a nice, lingering aftertaste. This was a good holiday ale.

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Photo of beerguy101
4.46/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

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

Originally sampled on 28 December 2002. Anchor's annual Christmas present pours dark brown w/ a spicy aroma. It's Extremely drinkable, heck, my wife even liked it. The flavor is sightly sweet but it's a pleasure to take your time sipping it. This beer shouldn't be missed.

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Photo of marburg
4.07/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This delectable brew was on special for two (2!!!) dollars at my favorite local bar, so I figured I'd grab one while I still could. And at $2, it's one of the all-time bar steals.

Pours dark brown with hints of ruby red when held to the light. There's almost no head at all associated with this beer; it has a bit of a limp appearance, really. But the aroma is strong nonetheless, with hints of prunes, toffee, and roasted malts gracing the olefactory senses.

Briefly sweet, the flavor is dominated by the finish -- roasted malts with hop bitterness swimming just under the surface -- but one should not overlook the very subtle cinnamon undertones present as a fleeting notion, just a whisper of flavor.

The slight lack of carbonation, the weight, and the heavy flavors of this beer all contribute to a dense beer that could use a little liveliness on the tongue. But this is a great holiday warmer, and I'm sorry I didn't get to experience it sooner.

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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 fattyre
3.13/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This beer pours a clear very dark ruby brown with a medium clingy dark tan head. The mouthfeel is clingy dark tan head. The smell is anise, strong cedar, slightly malty and cloves. The taste is spruce, peppery alcohol middle and pumpkin spice(?). A fairly decent Christmas ale that probably has a little too much going on. Maybe the flavors will settle down a bit after a year of aging but for now are a little much.

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Photo of kwill
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours thick and dark with a nice one inch brown head that stuck around a bit longer than most. The smell was surprising and very good. Smelled like a good chocolate stout with a bit of coffee, malt, and hops.

The taste had an initial hint of the chocolate, but then it quickly changed to significant spiciness followed up with a hoppy bitterness. Mouthfeel was nice and thick and then finished up with a nice aftertaste, but a little too dry.

This is a really good beer that definitely surprised me. I was expecting something more along the lines of a Sam Adams Winter, but this one went above and beyond my expectations. I am glad I got a six-pack of this one.

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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 GeoffRizzo
4.59/5  rDev +16.8%
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.

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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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