Oh how I wait for this chestnut beauty every year. It and I share something in common—we both were first brewed thirty-seven years ago. It truly is one of my favorite holiday beers. Its got a fantastic malted pine aroma and looks stunning in the pint—a deep ruddy brown with sharp red highlights. It has a ton going on in it, and it comes out first with a chewy, malty, and an ever-so-slight, roasted note. It's rich and bready with a cane syrup and raisin quality. There's a mild bitterness, but its spice profile brushes its piney hop notes aside. Nutmeg and fig with a definite clove-studded orange flavor—like café brûlot without all the pomp and circumstance.
As much as I love this beer, I will admit, the last few sips are a bit much to get through. Think of it like that last bite of double chocolate fudge cake, it's awesome, but a little goes along way. In any case, Anchor's Our Special Ale—be it 2011, 1997 or 1974—will always be on the top of my Christmas list.