Anchor Steam Beer… or “what I really drink at home.”


I don’t often write about beer on the blog, which is actually quite surprising considering how often I drink the stuff.

In case you have ever imagined me at home sniffing, slurping and then quaffing from perilously high Riedel glasses, let me dispel that image for you right away.

I’m a wine girl who drinks beer to relax.

By relax, I mean drinking something I enjoy without having to contemplate its balance of acidity or decide if it displays a chalky or limestone sort of minerality. I want to drink something that tastes better than water and yet doesn’t demand too much of my taste buds.

The thing is, most of the time, I don’t want to share these moments online. I might just have ordered un demi in Paris and be listening to my friend recount her day. It’s not worth clicking “Publish” for these kinds of thing.


Yeah, I brought out an old photo of me, in a car, swigging 1997 Bollinger RD straight from the bottle…. what can I say, I’m so, urm, classy! 😉

However, when there’s a story behind it and a person who made that drink, that’s when things change. I want to share that.

— There’s a story behind the Bolly 97 too… but that shall be saved for another day. —

Today I’m focussing on Anchor Steam beer, from the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, USA.

Anchor Steam® Beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. (Anchor Brewing website.)

Steam Beer basically means using bottom-fermenting lager yeasts (saccharomyces pastorianus) at a warmer-than-normal temperature, then leaving the brew to cool on a rooftop in the open air, thereby generating steam. In fact, the temperature at which they brew Anchor Steam beer is very similar to the temperature at which you would brew an ale (using the special top-cropping ‘ale yeast’ saccharomyces cerevisiae.) Anyway, this is getting rather geeky… What it means is that you end up with a very distinctive flavour profile – a beer which has the characteristics of both an ale and a lager.

Anchor Brewing trademarked the term “steam beer” in 1981.

History buffs might be interested to know that this type of beer was first brewed in 1896 and the first modern bottling was in 1971. It can also be referred to as a Californian Common Beer.

The reason why this is one of my favourite go-to beers is because it is just very pleasant. At only 4.8% ABV, I can drink a bottle and still get to the end of this blog post with only relatively few spelling mistakes. In terms of taste, it’s rounded, very balanced, lots of barley malt sweetness and thoroughly drinkable. It doesn’t have the bitterness that people often associate with trendy pale ales or IPAs; nor does it have the blandness of a classic English ale. Showing loads of toasted, malted, bready notes, it is not complex but nor does it taste weak or diluted as lagers sometimes tend to. In short, relaxation.


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