“Anchor Steam® Beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. Once a nickname for any Californian or West Coast beer brewed under these conditions, today the name “steam” is a trademark of Anchor Brewing and applies only to the singular process and taste of our flagship brand – San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam® Beer. The classic of American brewing tradition since 1896.”
Served in a footed flute glass. Pours a light amber to honey hue with a frothy three finger crown forming over the top. The head retention is excellent, gradually receding and omitting a thick sheet of lace down the walls of the glass. The aroma is that of a standard lager with the addition of a distinct spicy hop note coming forward. A touch of sulphur is unfortunately detected but it’s subtle and almost has a slightly burnt rubbery scent to it. Fresh herbs liven it up a tad and a somewhat sweet, bready malt fills it out. Not bad. At least there’s some character unlike most lagers we’ve tried. In the mouth it’s thin and a little watery in texture.Co2 is moderate and a fleeting bitterness develops late in the sequence. Body is light on and super sessional. To this beers credit the flavour mirrors the aroma….only better. A sweet, delicate malt is laced with a spicy hop character that combines beautifully to create a somewhat earthy mid palate. As it rolls on a kind of grainy biscuit note ushers in a herbaceous hop bitterness to finish off. Length isn’t too bad either. Honestly this was quite enjoyable, you won’t hear us saying that about lagers too often. Well, technically it’s half lager half ale and that’s probably why we’d choose a steam ale or a “California common” over a standard lager any day. They seem to just have that extra zing that lagers are missing. Good offering.
The California Common, or Steam Ale, has a few explanations that could all be easily believed if told by the right person. As it is part lager, part ale, the lager yeast is fermented in warm temperatures thus creating high levels of Co2 and upon tapping a new barrel it would create a kind of hissing sound like steam escaping from a small exit point. Most craft beer lovers would have either tried or know about the Anchor Steam Ale which almost every steam ale is modelled off. What most wouldn’t know is that Anchor Steam Brewery actually trademarked the name ‘steam ale’ which is why the alias ‘California common’ is used. OK, enough now let’s crack on with the review.
Served in a shaker glass. The gorgeous amber pour offers up brilliant clarity as a healthy two finger cap gradually reduces to a decent blanket, omitting wavy lace patterns as it ebbs. The nose does reflect the somewhat hybrid character of the style with slightly corny/DMS aromas, a hint of cabbage and cereal grains but a pleasant malt backing with hints of citrus gives it a bit more dimension. Undertones of earthy hops, a touch of spice and toast also come through. Not bad. Maybe a tad thin in the mouth, slightly watery in texture. The carbonation is moderate and the 44 IBU kind of comes and goes. Funny thing is (as we bought 3 bottles) we topped up with a fresh bottle and the mouth feel immediately became fuller and more effervescent. Slightly metallic upfront. As it progresses forward a hint of green apples combines with a mild bitterness midway. Quite a crisp finish with a faint hint of wheat and grains on the back palate. A little hit and miss here. The appearance and aroma were great, although it’s slightly let down in the flavour department. Essentially it’s a highly approachable beer and would go perfectly on a hot day it’s just lacking that final punch.
“The Steam is a crisp, certified organic ale. We incorporate a slap of wheat malt in the grist make-up and ferment it cool. We use Cascade and Citra hops to give it a fresh, zippy finish. Great as the weather warms up. 4.5% ABV, 22BU’s”.
Re-rate. Served in to a shaker glass, this steam ale provides a pale golden appearance with a delicate white head that fades quickly and leaves little lacing clinging to the glass. It’s offering aromas of mild tropical fruits, peach, grassy/herbal hops and grains with a bready, yeasty character. According to the bottle there is wheat malt used here although we aren’t picking much up. Flavours are quite crisp and there is mild bitterness upfront and also in the finish. It has a nice smooth texture with moderate carbonation levels in the mouth. Again citrus and tropical fruits in flavour with a firmer malt backbone that is detected through the mid. There is also a grassy component that would most probably be stemming from the use of Cascade and Citra hops. Very light, very summery and highly palatable and given it’s only 4.5% ABV it’s also extremely sessional. We love Mountain Goat but we found this was way too soft for us. On the flip side it would be a perfect summer session beer. Not bad.