Anchor Brewing: America’s First Craft Brewery?

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In 1849 German brewer Gottlieb Brekle (hence Brekle’s Brown Ale) settled in California. Purchasing a saloon a few years later in San Francisco, this later on became the brewery known know as Anchor Brewing – which officially was born in 1896. Over the next couple dozen decades, the brewery witnessed two of it’s founders die in freak accidents, The Great San Fransisco Earthquake, Prohibition, the brink of bankruptcy – and being shipped in a box delivered to the lobby of my apartment. My life is pretty awesome.

I open the fancy box, which was shipped from my friends at Dog and a Duck, and threw the beers right into the fridge. The other night while my fiancé was over, I figured this might be a good time to taste the beers. She isn’t a beer drinker, but on occasions she will order one. Additionally, I will usually make her try my beers sometimes if they are good to see what she thinks. She has been getting pretty good at picking out details of each beer, so I felt like this was a good idea since the Anchor Brews would be something she would probably like.

Anchor Steam Beer
Type: California Common / Steam Beer
First Brew: 1896
Availability: All Year-Round
ABV: 4.9%

This is the flagship beer, and as you can see was first brewed the year Anchor Brewing  was founded. The beer gained early popularity prior to the years of Prohibition, and in fact was the reason the company was saved from the brink of bankruptcy by one of its fans, an Stanford Graduate named Fritz Maytag. By the 1970s, the brewery began pumping out bottles of this recipe out of its newer locations.

The beer pours a golden, almost burnt auburn color with a thick white head. The Anchor Steam Beer has a blend of pale and caramel malts, which provides a bit of malty sweetness with a hint of biscuits. There is also a slight taste of minty, fruity taste (citrus/apricot) however not as much as I tasted in the Liberty Ale. The hops, which are Northern Brewer, which gives mild bitterness but far from overwhelming. Nicole mentioned she tasted something familiar, the only thing she could relate it to was Blue Moon. The smell of the beer is nice, mix of floral and fruit smell, which makes sense due to the taste mentioned above. The beer is finishes extremely crisp, and very refreshing. The carbonation level is almost perfect, and I think this would be a great beer to drink on a hot day. Highly recommend this beer, and after drinking it is no wonder why the company has been around for so long built of the back of this beer.

Liberty Ale
Type: American IPA
First Brew: 1975
Availability: All Year-Round
ABV: 5.9%

Although considered an IPA, this beer is extremely well balanced. The ale is brewed with pale malted barley, cascade hops, and a special top-fermented yeast. Liberty Ale is also goes through the process of dry-hopping which is the practice of adding fresh hops to the brew during aging. During this time period, Anchor Brewing also produced some of their other beers including Anchor Porter, Old Foghorn Barley Wine Ale, and it’s first annual Christmas Ale. For reasons such as this, they believe they are America’s first craft brewery/micro brewery – and to be honest, they are putting up a pretty good argument.

Once we put the glasses up to our mouth, we smelt the citrus, earthy, and pine smells from the cascade hops. The taste, was exactly like the smell – but with less bitterness then I expected considering there was a prevalent aroma of grapefruit and pine. The carbonation, which the company describes as ‘champagne-like bubbles’, makes the beer very drinkable. I recommend this as well, this was Nicole’s favorite due to the lemon-zest and resinous taste. If you girlfriend drinks beer, or is willing to try beer, this is a good beer to have her try.

Anchor IPA
Type: India Pale Ale
First Brew: 2014
Availability: All Year-Round
ABV: 6.5%

This is one of Anchor Brewing’s newest beers, and they included the press release in their package. From reading over the details, you can see the company went out to establish an IPA that stands out from the overcrowded space. According to their Brewmaster, Mark Carpenter,

“Right now a lot of Pas are so hop forward that your palate can only enjoy one because of the high bitterness . Our IPA will have a strong hop flavor so you know you’re drinking an IPA. But, the combination of malts we’re using are strong enough to hold up to the bitterness, allowing you to enjoy more than one.”

Once I poured the beer, I was able to tell there was a huge difference in the color from the other two beers. The first two, poured a golden/auburn color, this more of a bronze caramel color. I think the best way to describe the Anchor IPA is calling it the ‘Liberty Ale on Steroids’. Some of the same characteristics, but more intense – for example the piney hops taste. This is due to Anchor using Cascade hops, like the Liberty Ale, but with some additional hops as well. Also, they use five hops during the dry hopping process. The hops give a bitter bite to the beer, and the strong metallic after taste. Way to much of an IPA for Nicole, however if you are big into IPA’s, this is definitely the beer for you.

Where to Find?

On their website, they have a great Beer Finder App, which shows you where you can finder their products. After searching a 1 mile radius from Soho, I can see this a long list of places where I can find their beers. This includes both restaurants, bars, and stores.

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