THOUGH IT MAY BE odd to think of any craft brewery as already middle-aged, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing is surely candidate number one to become ‘your father’s craft beer’. First founded in the late 19th century, the company was rescued from bankruptcy and reinvented by Fritz Maytag in the 1970s, effectively kick-starting the craft revolution on the West Coast. Since then they have had further innovations–single-handedly “inventing” Steam beer and copyrighting the name–but refrain from fads and deliberately cultivate an aura of antiquity.
And so Bigleaf Maple Autumn Red fits perfectly into their MO. A pleasantly assertive, medium-bodied red ale dosed with maple syrup, it’s decidedly fall-apropos without kowtowing to the Great Pumpkin madness of the masses. ‘Red’ is visually a misnomer (amber is more accurate), but Anchor’s wording better captures the generous blend of biscuity malts and firm hop resins that give Bigleaf its character. Syrup is drizzled judiciously throughout the aroma and flavor, never to sugary excess and easily kept in line by the bitterness. Indeed, the blend of Citra, Cascade, and Nelson Sauvin was well chosen, substantiating the back end while balancing the aroma and transitioning through each subset of flavors. Carbonation is a notch above medium and has a little soapy edge in the finish, but by hiding its 6% ABV there is no risk of Bigleaf becoming solventy.
Admittedly, Bigleaf lacks the boldness that many craft fans seek in autumn seasonals. It would also seem more staid than steady if it weren’t shelved alongside the garish philters of young ‘uns in the neighborhood. But it remains a balanced effort–all too uncommon in this style–and a safe choice for seasonal gatherings of adult children with their iron-haired and red sweater-vested parents.
Served: 12 oz bottle