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!).

Anchors Away!

I picked up a bottle of good old Anchor Steam. For being a widely available brew, I actually haven’t had this beer in a really long time. It was great to revisit it. Anchor Steam comes for the Anchor Brewing Company out in San Francisco. Check out their site for a great back story on how this beer got it’s name.
Appearance: Pouring with a fizzy white head, the body on this beer is a crystal clear, fizzy deep orange. Lots of bubbling and fizzing going on in this beer, though the head fades quickly and there isn’t a whole lot of lacing.
Aroma: The aroma on this beer is strong and sweet. There’s a toasted malt smell, slightly grainy and maybe faintly nutty, but I mostly smell the fragrant hops in this beer. Perfume and flowers, apple and citrus all resonate from this beer. There’s also a slightly earthy yeast smell inĀ  the background.
Taste: Whoa! What a wallop to the palate! On first taste, there are these really strong apple flavored hops. Definitely a granny smith apple taste. Then, those toasted malts and yeast come through, surprisingly strong. Rich and bready. Finally, there’s a really bitter hop aftertaste, but that doesn’t linger for long. The jump in flavors – from hop, to malt, back to hop – is extreme.
Mouthfeel: This had a fairly light to medium mouthfeel. Highly carbonated, this beer was a bit too fizzy for me, but that made it pretty refreshing. The hops in this beer made it a little drying, and coating on the palate, though, that made it a little less refreshing.
While this beer was a little coating because of that wallop of hops, it was pretty good. A great session beer and easy to drink, it’s no wonder that Anchor Steam is so widely available.

The Facts:
ABV: 4.9%