Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

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Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2011 (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 Daniellobo on 10-19-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 286 | Ratings: 705
Photo of yamar68
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage, poured from bottle to standard pint glass at cellar temp:

Pours a murky hazelnut brown with a fat two fingers of light brown head that laces everywhere and eventually recedes to a thick collar.

Massive caramel, leather, toffee and butterscotch on the nose. Not even the slightest suggestion of oxidation. A bit of brown sugar as well.

On the tongue, there is some obvious root beer qualities. Too thin, but far from uninteresting. Some faint caramel and toffee that is accented with A&W and brown ale characteristics - hard water and almond. Such an interesting beer at this point. Love it.

I've enjoyed this beer fresh many times, but it makes for a very worthy candidate for the cellar. Great stuff.

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Photo of WastingFreetime
4.21/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours out dark brown color with several minute's worth of a 1cm sand colored foamy collar, minimal lacing left behind on the glass. The body is a sharp and crisp medium thickness with light levels of carbonation.

The first sniff upon pour smells like a mixture of fir tree needles and cinnamon dust. Further investigation pulls out aromas of cardamom and sweet brown sugar, a touch of banana taffy, a dash of juniper, aniseed, caramel, nutmeg, and plums. Very warm and inviting aroma that simply screams winter warmer.

The flavor is similarly spiced to the few gruits that I have ever had a chance to try. Alll of the spicing elements from the nose are present in the flavor, as well as a fair amount of fir tree woody resin, sap included. Has the same kind of sharp chalkiness / mineral quality in the finish as Anchor's porter does.

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Photo of liamt07
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle from wordemupg, 12oz into a tulip. Best before July 2013.

Dark brown body, tan head. Moderate retention and some good lacing. Nose of dark sugars, molasses, assorted winter spices - nutmeg and allspice. A light herbal/anise note as well. Taste has some molasses, black licorice (although mild), ginger bread cookies and more spicing along the same lines as the nose. Not too complex, but really fits into the winter warmer classification. On the lighter side of medium in terms of mouthfeel, and good drinkability. A good winter warmer, I think this would be nice for the cooler seasons if they bumped up the alcohol a bit.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.63/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Deep deep brown with an amazing head, and a decent lace as well. Completely opaque.

S - Notes of ginger, and a strong spice.

T - Coriander, walnut, slight ginger, and some citrus.

M - Medium body, a little light on the initial taste but fills out nicely.

O - Very drinkable but lacks the complexity i love from some winter/X-mas beers

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Photo of RyanGoodman
3.5/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First year I've tried this beer.

Dark chestnut color. Scent of, I don't know, spruce? Flavor delivered the same. Tree-like alcohol taste. Some dark fruit flavors melding. Aftertaste of tart, overly mature walnuts. Don't get me wrong, this beer isn't bad, just different.

Still not sure if I would have again, but glad I got to try something so different from the status quo.

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Photo of DrDemento456
3.65/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Damn I can't believe I didn't review this! What better way than with a four pack on clearance for 1 dollar a bottle.

A - Looks of a brown ale, very dark but clear and a 1/4 inch tan head that sticks around despite of little lace.

S - Smells of a light winter ale, mostly ginger and spruce tree but I do get mild spices of cinnamon or nutmeg.

T - Not as sweet as expected but still worth price of the admission. Taste starts of malty with a touch of nutmeg, spruce bitterness, and finish is brown malt and a touch of ginger. Not sweet or too bitter just Ok.

M - Medium bodied

Overall it's crafted well but it seems that most winter ales push toward sweet or spiced. This one is still very good even though it weird and toward the middle of both.

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Photo of JimmyW
1.9/5  rDev -50.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

I'm just confused. This isn't very good at all. I can't even bring myself to take another sip so I may give a proper review. Last year's was terrible. Tasted like a bitters & soda. This one tastes different. Maybe a little nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and I don't know why this tastes so bad. Mouthfeel is fine but I just can't drink anymore.

I just don't get this one.

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Photo of gkatsoris
4.01/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a 2006 bottle!!!! baby!

A: Clear okay brown. Thin whispy head that went away straight away.

S: Cherries. Clove. Cinnamon. Pine tree. Apple pie. Apple cidar. Fresh baked crust. Stewed peaches. Slight attic. Peach cobbler.

T: Malts. Pie crust. Slight cinnamon. Lots of clove. Cobbler. Cherries. Very mild tho, not a big beer.

M: Thin. Pretty good coat on the tongue.

O: Yummy!

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Photo of beerman21
4.38/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 12 oz edition.. Surprised to see a refrigerated six pack in the far back of the fridge yesterday. Cold conditioned.. Hmm should be interesting to see how this fairly small winter warmer held up after almost a couple years..

A- frothy active head... Deep dark brown color. Solid looking, inviting yet wearing looking to those not accustomed to complex beers.

S-Ginger up front, back slap of cinnamon, molasses. A lot of ginger and molasses in the nose, pretty much freh ginger bread.

T/M/O-sting spice ginger bread, molasses, sugar cookies, spruce, back flavor of mint leaves. Brown sugar coated smoke ham. Developed into smoky ginger bread cookie. Real tasty.

-surprised this beer held up well after almost two years
being the 5.5 abv. Always a treat every christmas but even more in the off season. Hopefully they won't change too much after new ownership. Time will tell.

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Photo of mactrail
3.38/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Very dark clear chestnut in the tall glass. Abundance of long-lasting foam. Well carbonated on the tongue.

Dark and spicy, but quite dry. Some nutmeg and a touch of dried orange peel. Not much malty flavor, though some dark and charred barley comes through. A bitter twang but not overly hoppy. A nice mouthful of flavor, but it isn't something you'd want a lot of.

I wouldn't call it one of the better years. Not excessively spiced, though the bitter scratchiness of dry cinnamon is less pleasant. A little malty sweetness would be welcome. One beer that would benefit from being really cold.

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Photo of andrenaline
4.07/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Huge props to my BA bro joemcgrath27 for the trade...

A - Pours a nice ruby red colour, finger of beige head with little retention and no real lacing.

S - Spiced caramel, nutmeg and cinnamon, hint of sweet cloves, vanilla, and rich toffee.

T - Loads of spices, but not to be interpreted as overly spiced. Nicely balanced with rich caramel and toffee, hints of molasses, some earthy greens and candied fruit, and a nice biscuit bready malt lingers. Reminiscent of a piece of Christmas Cake that's been aged with rum.

M - Medium bodied, smooth and a touch of dryness.

O - This stuff is fantastic. Loads of flavour, lots of spices coming through and a tasty malt backbone that blends well. Surprisingly drinkable given the complexity. I wish I had a bottle as big as the one in the picture on BA!

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Photo of thain709
3.92/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - This one poured with a massive three finger head...it was brown in color and became rocky as it fell to a full cap...the body was a chestnut brown...patchy lacing was left behind

S - Warm, holiday spices are present right away...cinnamon and nutmeg...there is also a sweet side to it that features some dark caramel

T - The flavors follow the nose pretty closely...it opens up with those holiday spices...cinnamon is the front runner but nutmeg and clove are close behind...it really reminds you of the holidays...again, there is sweetness lingering and taking the edge of the spiciness...dark caramel and rich molasses keep poking their heads

M - Light bodied...lighter than I expected/wanted...soft carbonation...spicy with a touch of sweet

O - This was my first encounter with an OSA...I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed this bottle...it really reminded me of the holidays, in a glass!

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Photo of litheum94
4.14/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brown body, essentially mahogany. Reddish-brown head Head is a full thickness that settles to a patchy cover with minimal lacing.

Molasses, cinnamon sticks, cranberries and orange peel. Some cedar. Holiday spice in a beverage.

Thick and satisfying. The aromas follow through, with molasses, cinnamon, cranberries and orange peel. Some cedar, but the woodiness goes a little further, tasting of delicate pine cone hops.

Once again, a can't miss winter beer. If you don't like this, you don't like winter warmers.

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Photo of CrystalShipMS3
4.61/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's one of the prettiest beers I've ever seen. Red, Christmas red, dark with crimson highlights. Nice somewhat fluffy tan head. Beautiful lacing all they way down.

Dark rich caramel malt smell. Slight warm alcohol and mostly bitter hops. Some spice and resinous pine.

This beer really comes alive as it warms up, in fact I'd serve it only lightly chilled.
Rich and complex malt and grain. Slightly sweet and dark fruitiness. Dark caramel. Hints of spice, not much but it's very definitely there and adds a third dimension which rounds out the malt profile perfectly. The hops are not as rich and play second chair to the malt, but they have a resin-pine bitterness to balance the sweetness.
The aftertaste is so good it gets it's own paragraph. There's a nice roasted malt earthiness and oily pine. It remains perfectly balanced even after the beer is long gone from your mouth. Perfect.

It's got a heavy mouthfeel but remains somewhat crisp. The warmth of the alcohol is supported nicely by the carbonation.

Overall it's a great beer. Nearly perfect except that it's gone and there will never be another just like it, but next year there will be an equally as good one with a different Christmas tree on the bottle.

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Photo of Louski
3.43/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a Standard Pint Glass

Appears a nice red-brown with a thin head. Smelled rich of fruit, cinnamon and other spices. Taste started off really well but finished very weak. I would have loved a more full-bodied brew as the flavors of this were too heavy for the lighter beer. Not a bad attempt this year, but I know Anchor is capable of much better.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.66/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear dark brown with reddish highlights in color with a finger tall foamy light tan head. This beer exhibits wonderful head retention and significant amounts of lacing.

S: The aroma is mostly roasted brown malts with more subtle aromas of woods, pine/spruce, molasses, Christmas spices, and something akin to bubblegum. It is not unpleasant but unexpected.

T: The flavor has a lot of roasted malts with some definitely woodiness - I get some subtle hints of pine/spruce, juniper, molasses, and very subtle nutmeg. There is a pleasant bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while.

M: Medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. I would also describe this beer as thinner than I expected/wanted.

O: Enjoyable, not my favorite recipe that has been used over the years and certainly not my least favorite either. It has a rather Christmas aroma and flavor which I enjoyed. I expected something a little less watery and slightly bolder in the flavors but I could enjoy another of these.

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Photo of django24
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From Notes. Served at cellar temp ~50 degrees F

Appearance: Clear, dark brown bordering black with mahogany highights. Small but decent khaki head.

Aroma: Strong toasty-roasty malt, dark fruits, a little bubblegum, maybe some chocolate? There's some kind of woodiness to this as well.

Taste: Fairly strong toasty bread, some cola, dark chocolate, and spices and/or spicy hops. Roasted bitterness nice with the hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body but tastes a little thinner than expected. Smooth upfront, little carb prickle and then hops and toasted/roasted astringency along with the hops fades to a small and nice lingering sweetness.

Overall: My first "Our Special Ale". Not what I was expecting as far as the taste. From the looks it could have been thick and heavy but it's actually clear and lighter at 5.5 abv. Pleasantly surprised. Put another bottle away in the cellar to see how it ages.

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Photo of mjurney
3.96/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Ruby brown color, see through. Lots of small bubbles rising. Thick creamy head. Lacing looks awesome on the glass.

Sweet malts, molasses, spices.

Malty up front. Toasted malts, slight roasted. Holiday spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, little touch of ginger. Mixture of dark fruit and red apples. Leafy towards the finish.

Smooth, medium bodied, soft carbonation.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.41/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice chestnut appearance, red, but overall, dark brown fits well, thin tan head about 1/2". Smell was a little woody, brown malt, usual hard to describe entity that is the special ale series.

Taste, almost no hops to it, lots of toffee, maybe some nutmeg. Carbonation is just right. No one big flavor leads the way, this is a lot of stuff in small amounts I'd guess. Substantial earthiness to the beer. Some cola like aspect to the beer, not just the appearance, shares some similarities with Rodenbach.

Even if they change the recipe every year, it is pretty consistent in terms of what to expect, this year's offering was right on the money as far as what I thought I was getting into. A neat winter warmer in a 12oz excursion during a Marquette/UConn game (at 9AM PST!). . . so its also fittingly nice in the morning, but I wouldn't go out and buy an entire 6 pack of this stuff, especially for a price which doesn't seem cheaper than $11.

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Photo of buschbeer
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle
Served in a pint glass

A - It pours a ruddy brown with some garnet highlights. A relatively tame pour yields me a mountain of light brown head.

S - I get a lot of the Christmas smells that one would expect, clove and cinnamon. I also get some faint pine and roasted malt.

T - The taste is more of the roasted malt. I get some caramel and toast. The spices and pine show up more towards the end. It does conjure thoughts of Christmas.

M - Medium. Not a lot of carbonation.

O - I know each year is a different recipe, but each year is very similar. I like the roasted malt backbone with the pine and holiday spices thrown in there.

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Photo of Arborescence
4.11/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Black, pours a very thick, creamy head.

Aroma: Spices, surprisingly fresh, grapefruit?

Taste: Light and fresh to begin with, but kicks with rich maltyness and a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I can’t put my finger on the (secret) extra ingredients, but they are not your typical winter spices, I can tell you that much. There’s no cinnamon or the typical warmth that you’d expect from a Christmas Ale, but that’s actually a nice change and distinguishes this from many other offerings. Fresh but rich and toasty maltyness, that about sums it up. The aftertaste is that of a porter, but you wouldn’t guess it from the aroma and the initial burst of freshness. A strange combination, but I’m getting to like it as I sip more.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, but quite light for a beer of this type.

Overall: This was my first encounter with the Anchor Christmas Ales, but they have been doing them for a while! Every year the (secret) recipe changes and they have a theme tree, which is the bristlecone pine this year. The label is quite pretty, featuring the tree. This beer grew on me as I went on and I would say that it’s an excellent addition to this year’s Christmas Ales. Also worth noting is that the ABV is not as insane as with many Christmas Ales, so you can have another one too!

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Photo of smakawhat
4.62/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale, where any day can be Christmas! Let's check out 2011, into a nonic pint glass you go.

A wonderful absolutely light tan to almost light creme colored head forms, so perfectly, so uniformly of pin head bubbles all throughout, leaving a cap of creamy retention and staying power. Body color is deep garnet red and brown. Just fantastic looking.

What a nose on this beer. Pine cone and spruce, mixed with sweetness. Faint airy dry nutmeg, maple sugar so hidden. Just out of this world smelling for a warmer.

What a great tasting brew. Rolling slightly velvet malts, mix with a dry pine spice, finishing with classic brown spices, nutmeg, allspice, clove and so forth. Tea like muted oolong richness on the finish. Even some sarsaparilla like cola and root beer.

Second time I tried this brew after having a very long aged 2010, man I am really enjoying this. I will look forward to trying this every year with much anticipation. I am almost eager for Christmas if I can try this now.

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Photo of brdc
4.12/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An enormous bottle served to a lot of guests during Christmas festivities. Poured into a tulip glass. From notes.

Dark brown color, with a light tan head, with reasonable lacing and retention.
Very nice aroma, with a lot of spices, from cinnamon to nutmeg, clove, anise, some dark fruits, and squeezed lemons. Light notes of bread and brown sugar.
Medium bodied, flavorful yet light, with relatively low alcohol which makes it perfect for long parties.
A blast of flavors that blend well include caramel, a lot of spiciness including mostly nutmeg and cinnamon, hints of citric notes, herbs, and orange tea. Non beer geeks loved it, I liked it. Will repeat next Christmas.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.2/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a very dark brown with hints of red. Beautiful three finger fine light tan head and massive lacing. Remarkable for a low ABV ale. Very nice aroma of cinnamon, wintergreen, root beer spices and mint. Nice. Flavor is subdued compared to the aroma, but very pleasant. Sweet malt, lighter toasted malt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spices, light earthiness. A very nice winter ale. Light to medium bodied. Somewhat subtle flavor, but not bad for the ABV.

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Photo of Durge
4.15/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A dark brown, mahogany colored brew with a substantial tan foam and plenty of chunkiness hanging onto the glass as you go. The nose delivers definitive juniper and delicate spiced malt. Very nice and a classy holiday appeal. The flavor begins surprisingly tart, pear and juniper over slightly chocolaty charcoal malt. Pear bleeds into berry and as you work through it even the evergreen ideas fade a bit and the tart and charcoal flavors take over. It’s easily medium bodied with a glassy feel touched by a bit of resin. It goes down easy enough and makes for a solid holiday brew, for yet another year.

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Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
3.85 out of 5 based on 705 ratings.
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