The famous Anchor Steam
I remember hearing about Anchor Steam Beer when I first started drinking (never mind when -- they began brewing it in San Francisco in 1971, and it was well after that). I think I saw a program back in the day with beer reviewer Michael Jackson, and he seemed to really like the stuff. It registered, but for some reason, I’ve left it until today to actually give this beer a go.
Maybe it was the “steam” bit that put me off. It gives it a diluted, watery sound. Plus, it’s from California -- not exactly synonymous with beer. It might be some sort of spritzer-type rubbish coming from a place like that -- best to be careful. So much for judging a beer by its name. I should know better. Anchor Steam doesn’t taste the least bit steamy. Apparently, the left coasters used to call beer “steam” at some point in history. I should have been drinking this stuff for ages, whatever they called it and wherever it was from.
It’s a lager that almost seems like an ale. Several beers try to pull this off, but none are entirely successful. It is just too good of a concept to give up on, though. Anchor keeps things toward the lager end. A perfect summer beer that practically begs for a cookout. Except for the price, which is on par with the upper level of most imports, this could be a perfect everyday beer.
It pours well, as you‘d expect from a micro. They care about things like that. A not quite crystal clear amber with a nice creamy head. The aroma is sweet and hoppy. Some lemon. Some fruit. Not knock-you-over-the-head, but still interesting. The taste is much the same. It starts out like a pale ale, with a light to medium body. The lemon is still there in the flavor, but it is nicely balanced with some sweet malt. Then it ends like a lager, with the hops leaving things with a beautiful crisp, dry finish. The taste is soft throughout. When you just want a good American beer with a sliver more flavor than a macro, this beer hits the spot.
Anchor was one of the first small breweries that started the whole micro-brewery rage. It’s obvious why the style took off as it did. There was definitely a niche that needed to be filled in America. Most of the old-time local brewers, who added some diversity to the market, were dying out, leaving Yank beer drinkers the choice of a handful of very similar macros or skunky imports. Anchor, among others, came along and produced a better product and charged a bit more for it. They never aspired to compete with the swills. They wanted to make a decent beer for the handful of people who might care.
That’s what Anchor Steam is. It’s not trying to be the most unique thing on the market or copying a quality style from another country. It’s just a good American beer. An ideal choice to keep on hand for any beer-drinking guests. It’s close enough to the usual American macros to be palatable to the timid, but interesting enough for the more discerning. It’s a good food beer that’ll work well enough with just about anything. The 4.9 percent alcohol makes it an especially good choice when you’re having more than one. If you generally like American lagers, and you wouldn’t mind a little more flavor and price isn’t a factor, Anchor Steam Beer is what you’d want stocked in the fridge.