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 presence announces itself with hints of either caramel and 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 lager full of subtle, complementary aromas.
Taking my first sip it’s easy to again forget I’m drinking a lager. Mouthfeel is slick, medium bodied and well rounded. The finish, crisp and dry gives away this beer’s true lagery 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.
Overall Anchor Steam Beer is delicate and balanced. Body is rounded and the finish is crisp and dry. Flavors make themselves known without overpowering the senses. Overall, 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. Anchor Steam Beer rates 8.3 out of 10.