704: Our Special Ale

704 - Our Special AleName: Our Special Ale
Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: San Francisco, CA
Style: Winter Warmer
Alcohol Content (ABV): 5.5%-6% (The recipe on this beer changes every year, so therefore, the ABV potentially changes every year, too.)
First Brewed: 1975
Price: $1.99

Tasting Notes
While varying from year to year, the 2008 version, like most years, is dark mahogany color with a rich, tan head. The nose is a complete melange of spices with a tinge of bitterness. Flavors are likewise complex and spicy, with a chewy, rich malt background and a lusciously long finish.

Ricky’s Thoughts

In the Glass: I feel like I have had this. Not this year, though. The book shows 2008, but there is no way we could find that… Not even sure a beer bottled in 2008, with this low an ABV, would even be drinkable. Anyway, since the recipe changes every year anyway, the 2014 release will have to do! I wonder how many people realize the tree changes year over year… I didn’t!

This beer comes out every fall, and sits on store shelves for ages. It’s cheap, and Anchor is a pretty solid brewery. I wonder why they can’t sell it? This beer is traditionally available in 12 ounce bottles and magnums. I’ve never purchased a magnum, but this, like the 12 ounce bottles, sits on store shelves for months after the holidays.

I am excited to try this. The beer is darker than I imagined. I mean, it is a Christmas beer, after all. It feels like Christmas outside tonight… Cold, rainy and depressing. Not that Christmas is depressing, but… Wait a second. I shared these photos on Instagram, and Anchor just responded. Now that is awesome! Nice work, team. I am impressed. Forget what the beer looks like. Let’s smell it!!!

Nose: Whoa. That smells like Christmas. I am getting pine, evergreen and some dark fruit aromas on this one. I am serious with the evergreen, though. I mean, it smells like a malt dipped Christmas tree. Sort of makes me want to curl up next to the fire and sing Christmas carols. Or… Travel. We are traveling this year for the holidays. We are going to Dubai for Christmas this year. Think they celebrate the same way we do here in the United States?

Let’s drink!

Flavor: That is really good. The beer is quite complex, and I am getting several different flavors here. At first, cold, there is an explosion of pine and spice. I am looking for those flavors mentioned in the tasting notes. No lemon zest, though… That I can assure you. I wonder how many people at the brewery actually know the recipe. I mean, when they are sitting around drinking with their buddies, surely an ingredient or two has slipped. “Hey, what did you guys put in this?”

“Oh, some of this, some of that… You know, the usual.” If I had to guess, there is a serious amount of allspice in this. I bet the flavors really explode as the beer warms up. Is it December yet?

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is boring, but that’s OK. The flavor is incredible. I am serious. This smells and tastes like Christmas. Granted, I haven’t had a holiday brew in a few months. But this brings back so many memories. Even the burp is nice. I know… I am sure you wanted to hear that! But it is all a part of the experience.

Aftertaste: The finish lingers for a few minutes. The same flavors I was experiencing stick around. I am getting, as the beer heats up, more cinnamon and a lovely allspice finish. Think about gingerbread cookies dipped in apple cider sprinkled with evergreen flavors. Yep. That is the best I can do.

I wish we had the 2008 version… But the 2014 will have to do. In 2015 I plan to grab a few bottles to save. Not sure how long it will last, but I have heard it ages well. We will see. Find us in, oh, 2016 or 2017 around December late. We can have a vertical! Cheers to a delicious Christmas brew.

Our Special Ale – The bottle says: “This is the fortieth annual “Our Special Ale” from brewer at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew.”

Rating: 4/5

Sheryl’s Thoughts

When Ricky asked me to pick a beer for us to review tonight, there really weren’t a whole lot of great options. I picked the one that looked the most interesting to me, and that is the one we are doing. It is Anchor’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Ale. Weird to be doing a Christmas beer when February is almost over, but here we are.

The beer looks dark in the glass, almost like a porter or at the very least, a brown ale (which is what I expected). It had some head when Ricky handed it to me, but that is mostly gone now. It smells malty and slightly like pine. (Or maybe I’m just influenced by the Christmas tree on the bottle.)

The first sip tastes only a bit malty, and more like pine and spices. This is pretty much exactly what I would expect a Christmas ale to taste like. It makes me want to decorate the Christmas tree! Actually, no it doesn’t, because it was a pain in the butt to take it down… I’m not ready for that again for a few months. This is a good winter beer, even though we aren’t having it at the holidays. It’s got a good warmness and spiciness to it that is fitting. (When I say spiciness I mean holiday spice, not like peppery or hot spice.) The problem is that it’s getting warmer here in Arizona. It’s been in the 70s for a few weeks now. Our winter is over, and we’re almost ready for summer beers! But that’s ok… I like heavy beers any time of year.

Overall, this is a good one. I love the spices and the pine and maltiness to it. It’s definitely one I would buy again, especially around Christmas time.

Rating: 3.5/5

703 bottles of beer on the wall…

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