Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Category 7: Amber Hybrid Beers

Beer: Anchor Steam Beer
Category: Amber Hybrid Beers
Subcategory: California Common

Love me some amber hybrids. Funny how certain styles can be born out of necessity. California Common, or steam beer as it is most commonly (lol) known, is fermented with lager yeasts on the lower range of ale temperatures, reaching back to the days when refrigeration was hard to come by. Anchor Steam Beer is the classic example of this style, and they only remaining brand of the original California Common beers, thus making it the golden standard for this subcategory. I've already had it, but I love it and I've never reviewed it, plus you can find it at most any decent beer store. Flying Dog Old Scratch is another great, more recent example of this subcategory.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful amber color with nice clarity and beautiful, visible bubbles sparkling through. Small but persistent white head. Some lacing. Overall very pretty. Not all that different from a nice IPA.

Aroma: Sweetness in the aroma, with the fruitiness of raisins up front. A little bit tropical pineapple as well. Very west coast. A little grassiness from the hops but overall lots of malt character.

Flavor: A nice toasty malt background with some cereal graininess and a little hint of sweetness. Definite detectable Germanic lager character with some sulfites present. Great west coast hop flavor, nice and floral but also a bit spicy and citrusy...definitely Northern Brewer hops. This beer is at once totally California and totally Germany, if that makes any sense. Completely balanced and totally satisfying.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-high carbonation. Crisp like an IPA but with a lager finish.

Overall: Drinking this beer is always a pleasure. It is very balanced and very drinkable, with enough complexity to stand out over other "drinkable" beers. The fact that it is a lager but is fermented at ale temps and aged/conditioned in interesting ways definitely adds to the complexity. This is one of the few American styles of beer that doesn't just shove a mouthful of hops down your throat. That can be enjoyable, and there is a time and a place for it, but Anchor Steam is a very balanced beer that could stand up to any type of food and be enjoyed any time of year. Definitely just a great session beer.

Personal: I will always remember this beer for being one of the first beers that I thought of as my favorite. A little while after turning 21, I had this guy on tap (it is especially good on tap) at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, and I loved it. Though I have moved on and just love adventuring through all sorts of beers, I do love coming back to this one. It never fails me.

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