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Anchor Our Special Ale Tasting

It’s two days before Christmas, and I have a quiet night and some time off, so I figured I would sit down and enjoy my favorite Holiday-time commercial beer, Anchor’s Our Special Ale.  Coming in at around 5.5% ABV., and jam-packed full of spices, it’s amazing both how balanced and delicious it is, as well as it’s reputation for handling age well.  Usually beers that people lay down for an extended time have nearly twice the alcohol content, or are infected with souring microbes.  I managed to save one bottle from last year to try this Christmastime to see what a difference a year makes.  Keeping in mind that the folks at Anchor change this recipe every year, here are some thoughts on the beer:

2010 Our Special Ale

Appearance:  Pours a deep mahogany with burgundy highlights and a tan head.  The head quickly recedes into still, beautiful lacing.

Aroma:  Smells sweetly of tangerines, dark chocolate, cola, clove.  It’s similar to Dr. Pepper, though more complex, warm, and deeper.

Flavor:  The cola comes through first, then following with a bright citrus twang.  It finishes long with a dark chocolate aftertaste.  Absolutely delicious.  Some cherry-pie like fruitiness comes through on repeated swigs, reminding me of something akin to a Gulden Draak Lite.  I could drink this for a long while.

2011 Our Special Ale

Appearance:  Very similar to the 2010, but the head stays atop the beer the entire time, thicker and creamier.

Aroma:  After tasting the 2010, I did not think these would be too different, however one whiff of this one tells me differently.  I get freshly ground cinnamon and dashes of mint, as well as some of the cola/clove from the 2010.

Flavor:  My first impression is that it’s roastier and earthier than the 2010.  These beers are of the same pedigree, though, as the cola and clove qualities come through.  Touches of wintergreen lighten it before the dark chocolate finish.  The body is fuller on this one also.

Overall impression:  I am surprised at how incredible the 2010 tastes.  I did not believe that a year would be this kind to this beer, but I guess I was wrong.  Of the two, it is my favorite, though the 2011 is great in its own right.  It’s creamy with a nice roasty presence.  I can’t wait to see how it does in a year, or two, or three.


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