THE ARCHETYPAL STEAM BEER from its actual trademark holder, Anchor Brewing, who adapted a 19th century recipe for modern release more than 30 years ago—relative aeons in the lifespan of most American craft breweries. Its combination of ale fermentation temperatures (i.e. high) with lager-style yeasts (which prefer cooler temperatures) yielded a beer somewhere between a Czech lager and English bitter, heralding America’s penchant for adaptable brewing techniques irrespective of European traditions. The beer itself proved to be more than just a novelty, but although steam beers (or “California commons” as non-Anchor versions must be called) can certainly be found outside of San Francisco, they never became a major movement in the thrill-seeking craft scene.
The Anchor Steam is a steady and sturdy beer using classic 2-row pale and caramel malts for a light but decidedly malty core with a middling copper complexion. Northern Brewer hops set the standard—a bit grassy, some pine and mint—at the outset but are kept modest by the caramel and grain in the body. Carbonation is high and body light, mouthfeel fairly round and alcohol (4.9%) slightly present in the finish. Some bits of lacing and a dramatic head with a few phenols and citric notes. Altogether an effective choice for someone looking for quenching refreshment without sacrificing too much in body. Also easy to pair with dishes from pub fare to cheese-based hors d’oeurvres. But perhaps just too plain by modern standards…
Served: 50 cl bottle