Gettin’ Steamy In Here…

Earlier today, I posted about Anchor Steam. Anchor Steam is just that – a steam beer. While doing the leg work on this beer, I realized that I’m largely unfamiliar with this style of beer, so I thought I’d share with you, too!
The cool thing about steam beer is that it was founded and used in the US – The American Northwest to be exact. In the early days, refrigeration was expensive, so brewers used special fermenting devices, called “coolships”. They were large, open and shallow, and could take advantage of the cool temperatures coming off of the San Francisco Bay. The key to the steam beer is that it is created with lager yeast, but at a temperature that one would normally brew with ale yeast. This gives the steam beer a distinctive taste that contains both lager and ale characteristics. In 1981, Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the name “steam beer”, so technically, they are the only brewery allowed to call their beer a “steam beer”. It is otherwise referred to as the “california common beer”.
The BJCP style guide gives a great overview of this style and explains what such a beer should taste like. You can also find an outstanding Wikipedia entry about the Steam/California Common beer, as well as Anchor Brewing Company. It delves into, not only how the style was developed, but it’s place in history and literature (we’re talkin’ gold here folks!).

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