Anchor Brewing

2015 is the 50th anniversary of Fritz Maytag buying Anchor Brewing and giving a handy start date for the US craft beer movement. Thinking about it, it might seem a bit odd that I’d never visited Anchor before. I lived in the Bay Area for about seven years, but I wasn’t so much into beer way back then. On my periodic visits to SF after moving to Seattle I never planned far enough in advance for a spot on one of their tours – they were free and booked solid for several months out. But with this most recent visit, I figured I’d take a look and see if there was any possibility of getting myself on a tour. And lo and behold, Anchor had switched from self-booked free tours to a third-party, $15 tour-booking site. While a small part of me was bummed that tours were no longer free, I was much more happy that I could actually reserve a spot two weeks before my trip. And yeah, it was a great tour, with a healthy amount of beer sampling.

full steam ahead. well, half-full.

Sampling beer in the Anchor Brewing tasting room — San Francisco, CA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Double Liberty IPA – 8.2% – Caramel with light citrus, floral mix, touch of earthiness, and nice lingering flavors.
  • Zymaster No. 7 – 7% – Portrero Hill Sour-Mash IPA. Sweet caramel and light honey with herbal and light floral and spicy hops. Bit of sour mash tang in aroma, very light in flavor at end. Quite drinkable.
  • Zymaster No. 6 – 6% – Saaremaa Island Ale. “Estonian-style pale ale.” Something unique about the taste but hard to pinpoint. Herbal, tea-like, spicy, light caramel and toffee, hint of floral. Pretty fun. (After recently visiting Estonia (and Finland), I’m guessing the “hard to pinpoint” flavor was juniper, but I would need to have some more No. 6 to confirm…)
  • Summer Wheat – 4.5% – Good balance of banana, light breadiness, touch of lemon and hint of herbal hops. Light bitterness on finish.
  • Steam – 4.9% – Caramel and alcohol aroma and flavor. Touch of honey. As flavors fade, bitterness becomes more prominent. Very easy drinking.
  • California Lager – 4.9% – Crisp and light, caramel, to a touch of honey on finish, with light underlying bitterness. Nice balance. Also easy drinking.
  • Liberty Ale – 5.9% – Sweet floral aroma. Honey, caramel, floral, citrus. Sweet zing at end. Light underlying bitterness. Great balance.
  • Brotherhood Steam – 5.6% – Dry-hopped Steam. Tour beer for Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood. Fruity, melon notes to the steam beer. Adds a good extra level to it. Smooth, a touch creamy, fairly sweet but with just enough bitterness.
  • Porter – 5.6% – Lots of malt but not a big beer. Quite crisp and fairly light on the tongue. Honey, caramel, with coffee/chocolate on finish. Bit of dark choc bitterness. Very easy drinking.
  • Christmas 2014 – 5.5% – Smooth caramel malts with nice spices. Nutmeg? Bit of spruce/birch/pine on finish. Pretty fun.
  • Christmas 2013 – 5.5% – Big caramel malts with nutmeg. Touch of spiciness on the tongue. Very drinkable.
  • Winter Wheat – 7% – Crisp liquid caramel with touches of chocolate and honey. Very subtle floral hops. Pretty big body.
    The Rest

  • BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red – 6% – Biscuit, light caramel malt and floral hops, with a little bit of herbal. A fair amount of bitterness on the finish, along with a bit of maple syrup.
  • Saison Spring Ale – 7.2% – Made with lemongrass, lemon peel, and ginger. Lemony clove aroma. Light, with bready malt base and big clove, bitter lemon, pepper, and a touch of bubblegum and funk. Ginger is either too subtle for me or just blends in with the other flavors. Bitter finish.
  • IPA – 6.5% – Caramel and honey, herbal and citrus, bit of melon. Little more lingering bitterness than Steam, Liberty, California Lager. Pretty good but not my favorite.

I sampled eight different Anchor beers on the tour, and in the eight months since then I managed to try seven more. It’s great to see they keep doing new beers in addition to their regular line-up, and while they’re not pushing too many boundaries these days, they’re still independent and making solid beer. And they really pushed the boundaries for US beer back in the 60s and 70s, so respect.

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