While breweries like Goose Island, Deschutes, and Rogue can trace their history all the way back to 1988, if you want to go way back, the only place to look is at Anchor Brewing Company.
The history of Anchor Brewing Company can be traced all the way back to 1871 when German immigrant Gottlieb Brekle purchased a beer and billiards saloon and opened a brewery on Pacific Street in San Francisco. It wasn’t until 1896 however that the brewery was renamed Anchor Brewing by Ernst Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel. Nobody’s quite sure where the name Anchor came from, but it’s widely accepted that it was meant to be a tie-in with the booming Port of San Francisco.
A string of unfortunate events including the death of Ernst Baruth, the devastating fire and earthquake of 1907, and Prohibition in 1920 knocked Anchor down but not out. Between the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and 1965 Anchor Brewing saw its share of change, but in 1965 a new era started at Anchor, known as the Maytag Era.
It was in 1965 that Fritz Maytag, upon hearing of the planned final closing of the storied brewery that he loved, decided to purchase 51% of the brewery in a bid to keep the doors open and improve on the beer Anchor brewed and how it was produced.
In 1971, 100 years after Gottlieb founded the original brewery on Pacific, Fritz Maytag started brewing what would become the most popular and recognizable beer produced by Anchor still today: Anchor Steam Beer. Even though nobody knew what a microbrewery or craft beer was quite yet, it was pretty evident that Anchor was on to something great and was leading a revolution in brewing that was far from the light lagers that were popular at the time.
Jump ahead to 1984 and Anchor Brewing releases the first wheat beer produced in the United States since Prohibition to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Jump ahead again to 1993 and you’ll find another first for Anchor with the opening of their in-house distillery at the brewery; a first of its kind in the world.
Today Anchor Brewing is one of the most traditional breweries in the United States, producing one of the few remaining versions of the California Common, also known as Steam Beer. Anchor’s beers are still brewed in handmade copper vessels in their San Francisco brewhouse with the same level of care that Fritz Maytag instilled into Anchor nearly 50 years ago.
Anchor Brewing Company offers an assortment of beers ranging form their original Steam Beer to seasonal classics like the ever-changing Anchor Christmas Ale, which was first brewed in 1975 and comes in a different style and with a new label every year since then.
Being summer however, Christmas beers should be the last thing on all of our minds, which is why Anchor has a much more refreshing lineup for the warmer months.
The beer that started it all for Anchor, Steam takes its name from a nickname beers brewed on the west coast in the 19th century were given thanks to the lack of ice during brewing and the often warm conditions they were brewed in. Much like the name of the brewery itself, the actual source of the Steam nickname isn’t clear, but it’s believed that it comes from the cooling of fermenting beer on San Francisco rooftops by the cool night air, creating a steam that rose from the warm beer.
Steam was at one time a nickname for all beer coming from the West Coast, but today it’s a trademark of Anchor Brewing Company and only applies to this great beer.
Anchor Steam Beer smells of rich, semi-sweet malt with some bready, biscuity aroma paired with a slight hint of citrus. The taste can be described as slight caramel with a touch of citrus and the same buscuity maltiness found in the aroma.
Overall Anchor Steam Beer is a great, easy-drinking beer that is well balanced, not too bitter, and has more than enough flavor to never be considered boring or overdone.
Malt: Blend of 2-Row Pale and Caramel
Hops: Northern Brewer
Liberty Ale was first brewed on April 18th, 1975 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s historic ride, and it’s still made today. This beer is made with whole cone hops as well as dry hopped to create a delicate yet unique taste that makes this American IPA surprisingly easy to drink.
The aroma of Liberty Ale features citrus in the forefront with some bready, yeasty characteristics in the background. The taste can be described as having pear and grapefruit present with a balance of malt and bitterness. Liberty Ale is naturally carbonated, which gives the beer a unique higher than normal fizziness and unique mouthfeel.
Malt: 2-Row Pale
Anchor Porter features a thick, creamy head that sits atop a deep black beer that has tastes of chocolate, toffee, and coffee in a surprisingly smooth balance. This highly hopped porter is naturally carbonated to give it even more smooth mouthfeel and taste, and is the first American porter, first brewed in 1972.
The aroma of Anchor Porter is heavy on roasted barley with a subtle smell of chocolate, vanilla, and toffee. The taste consists of coffee with sweet malt, molasses, and a solid hoppy bitterness.
Malt: Blend of 2-Row Pale, Caramel, Black, and Chocolate
Hops: Northern Brewer
By far the newest beer in this list, Anchor’s California Lager was first brewed in 2012, but its roots go all the way back to the beginning of the brewery and the Gold Rush. Made after California’s first genuine lager, brewed by Boca Brewing in 1876, Anchor’s version is a re-creation of this historic beer.
While Anchor’s version isn’t cooled in a mountain ice pond like Boca’s version was, it’s still a true to the original version that will surprise you.
The first thing you’ll notice with this beer is the aroma, which is extremely floral, with some hop character showing through. The taste features crisp citrus notes with a strong, yet very drinkable bitterness that moves to the grassy, earthy category. California Lager has a dry finish that leaves a slight yeasty taste that is not unpleasant. California Lager is an excellent version of an American Pale Lager that has enough character to stand on its own and isn’t strong enough that it can still be paired with a variety of foods.
Malt: 2-Row Pale
Anchor Beers can be found in six-packs, cases, on draft, and in the unique 12-pack variety pack that features Original Wheat, Liberty Ale, Steam, and Porter. Anchor is proudly distributed by Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale.