Beer: Our Special Ale (2013)
Brewer: Anchor Brewing Company
Style: Winter Warmer
What’s so special about it? Anchor Brewing Company is widely considered an influential craft brewery and has long been at the forefront for a variety of beer styles, including this rich holiday classic. The first Our Special Ale bottles were released in 1975, the first true Christmas beer since Prohibition, and have been released yearly since. What makes them so special is that every year features a new label and recipe; not only is it unique, but it’s very collectible as well. The recipe is a closely guarded secret with no part of it being discussed openly by anyone at the brewery.
Description: Our Special Ale pours a deep russet brown with a creamy light coffee-colored head that leaves a thick lacing on the glass. The aroma hints at notes of caramel, roasted malts, molasses, cinnamon, and piney hops. The taste is a nice balance between roasted caramel malts and sweet holiday spicing, with just a touch of hops in the background for a secondary touch of spice: not overly complicated but extremely enjoyable. The medium body and moderate carbonation allow this beer to have a surprisingly dry finish despite the heavy appearance of the spicing. Every year this beer is different, but every year is absolutely fantastic. The 2013 recipe is no different – this beer creates a great amount of holiday cheer all by itself!
Food pairing: Our Special Ale is right at home with virtually any beef dish, whether it’s grilled, stewed, or roasted. Braised short ribs are breathtaking and always a nice match. However, with the cold winter now enveloping us, try pairing this with a hearty beef stew. The heartier the better; the subtle spicing and sweet malt bill will pair very well with it and combine to create an almost entirely new dish once all the flavors fuse together and wash over the palate. This is also a wonderful beer to have with your holiday desserts, whether they are decadent Christmas cakes, cookies, or a simple bowl of ice cream.
The final word: Anchor’s Our Special Ale has a rich tradition within the craft beer world, and for many, it has become the go-to holiday beer, and with good reason; it is absolutely fantastic. The fact that the recipe changes yearly also creates quite the buzz. It’s a highly collectible beer and a great one to age. Many people have kept bottles going back nearly 20 years and will have huge parties when cracking them all open to do side-by-side tastings and comparisons. All of this celebration around one beer makes it a great pick to have around during the holidays to enjoy with your friends and family.
Rating: W W W W V
Where can I get it? Our Special Ale is released every year in several ways: 12-ounce bottles, draft, and 1.5 liter Magnum bottles. Magnum bottles are typically available at any retailer selling 12-ounce bottles, but there is a limited quantity available. Our Special Ale is currently available in 12-ounce bottles at: Krugel’s Georgetown Deli & Beer, Wilkes-Barre; Jack’s Draft House, Scranton; J & H Beer, Wilkes-Barre; and Exit 190 Beer Deli, Dickson City.
Available on draft at: Arena Bar and Grill, Wilkes-Barre, and Hops & Barleys, Luzerne.
Remember, enjoy responsibly! Cheers!
-Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer, and beer historian. Follow Derek’s beer blog at idtapthat.org.