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Beer Reviews: Anchor Steam Beer

In the diverse world of craft beers, where innovation often overshadows tradition, Anchor Steam Beer stands out as a testament to the enduring appeal of heritage and craftsmanship. Brewed by the Anchor Brewing Company, one of America’s pioneering craft breweries, this beer not only carries the legacy of San Francisco’s brewing history but also represents a unique brewing style that has captivated beer enthusiasts for decades. This review delves into the essence of Anchor Steam Beer, exploring its flavors, brewing process, and the distinct place it holds in the beer community.

Anchor Steam Beer’s journey is as rich and storied as the city from which it hails. Its roots can be traced back to the Gold Rush era, a time when the lack of refrigeration posed a significant challenge to brewing. The answer to this difficulty was a unique fermentation process that combined lager yeast with warmer fermentation temperatures, a method that came to define the California Common or “Steam Beer” style. This innovative approach not only solved a practical problem but also gave birth to a beer with a distinctive character, one that has endured through the centuries to become a beloved staple of the American craft beer scene.

The name “Steam Beer” itself is a nod to the past, derived from the steam that was said to rise from the brewery’s rooftop as the warm San Francisco air cooled the fermenting beer. It’s a moniker that speaks to the ingenuity and spirit of adaptation that characterizes the city and its inhabitants.

Today, Anchor Steam Beer is a protected trademark, ensuring that the legacy and quality of this historic brew are preserved.

A Review of Anchor Brewing’s Flagship Beer

I’ve been a fan of Anchor Steam Beer since sometime in the mid-90s and have taken my duties as a fan seriously. I drink Anchor Steam and its sister beers often and recommend them often. When I heard about the sale of Anchor Brewing a few months back, I felt some trepidation. That trepidation was abated somewhat when I learned the company was purchased by the Griffin Group, led by Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio.

A little research into the Griffin Group helped ease my mind. Apparently, the Griffin Group operates, among other things, as a boutique merchant and investment bank for craft beers and artisan spirits. In addition to the Griffin Group, Greggor and Foglio co-founded Skyy Vodka. So, I’m hopeful the new ownership will maintain Anchor Brewing’s commitment to quality craft-brewed ales.

Now, on to Anchor Steam Beer, which is a hybrid beer style known as California Common, dating back to the mid-1800s. Basically, California Common was brewed with lager yeast at a time before refrigeration. Because the lager was fermented warm, instead of cooler as was traditional, fermentation was robust. The beer fermented more quickly than other lagers, resulting in a product sharing some characteristics with ale. Body, full flavors, esters, that sort of thing. Today, Anchor Brewing is one of the most famous producers of the California Common style in the form of their Anchor Steam Beer.

Anchor Steam Beer is a beautifully copper-colored ale. Modest carbonation supports an off-white head with good retention.

Malt presents itself in the aroma in the form of wheat and freshly baked bread and is supported by hints of sweetness. Malt’s presence announces itself with hints of either caramel or honey. The esters make it easy to think I’m getting a noseful of ale instead of lager. Hop aromas support other aromas with scents of citrus and faint hints of wood. Altogether, aromas come together nicely to give a larger variety of subtle, complementary aromas.

Taking my first sip, it’s easy to forget I’m drinking a lager again. Mouthfeel is slick, medium-bodied bodied, and well-rounded. The finish, crisp and dry, gives away this beer’s true lager nature. Anchor Steam starts me off with a slightly citrussy sweetness, moving quickly into a center that gives a delicate balance of malt and honey. Finish starts off with a bit of graininess, moving quickly into a crisp, dry finish with very little aftertaste.

Anchor Steam Beer rates 8.3 out of 10.

Overall, Anchor Steam Beer is delicate and balanced. The body is rounded, and the finish is crisp and dry. Flavors make themselves known without overpowering the senses. Anchor Steam is tasty and drinkable, showing you don’t have to give up flavor for drinkability or vice versa. I would recommend Anchor Steam Beer to anyone who likes lager but also likes some flavor and character in the beers they drink.

John Crafton

Written by

John Crafton

John Crafton, a seasoned beer reviewer with a decade's experience, is celebrated for his refined taste and extensive knowledge of brewing. His passion for craft beer has led him across the globe, tasting and reviewing a diverse array of brews. John's writing simplifies the complex beer world, catering to both newcomers and connoisseurs.