Anchor Steam

August 4, 2016 by Manny Hendra

Anchor Steam Beer owes its deep amber color, thick, creamy head, and rich, distinctive flavor to a historic brewing process like none other.

It is a process that combines deep respect for craft brewing tradition with many decades of evolution to arrive at a unique approach: a blend of pale and caramel malts, fermentation with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures in shallow open-air fermenters, and gentle carbonation in our cellars through an all-natural process called kräusening.

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. Once a nickname for any Californian or West Coast beer brewed under these conditions, today the name “steam” is a trademark of Anchor Brewing and applies only to the singular process and taste of our flagship brand – San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam Beer. The classic of American brewing tradition since 1896.


I’ve never been a fan of inverted funnel-shaped bottles like Anchor Steam uses. However, I was surprised it produced such a smooth pour with almost no kickback. The body is a clear shade of amber bordering on bright orange. It’s mostly clear but a tiny bit hazy. Not surprisingly, there is plenty of carbonation noticeable which lasts throughout the life of the beer (this condition is partly responsible for the beer garnering the “steam” nickname).

The head is a thick, two-finger layer of off-white foam which outlasts the liquid and leaves some lacing on the glass. The aroma is surprisingly mild with a mostly generic, slightly grainy scent. I also noticed a sweetness to the nose, but it was faint as well.


I didn’t know what to expect from Anchor Steam Beer. I knew it had a reputation for being uniquely brewed and I assumed its taste was just as unique. After my first swig I found myself befuddled at how familiar the palate actually seemed.

The best way to describe the taste would be something similar to an authentic niche German lager like a Vienna or Marzen. There is a slight caramel sweetness to the palate, but at the same time a noticeable dry texture. It’s followed by a fairly crisp palate not unlike most American lagers, but without the intense taste of grain or adjuncts. Overall, the taste is sweet but mild. I didn’t notice much hop bite or bitterness, but I did enjoy the sweet, malty flavors.


I would consider Anchor Steam to be a little above average when it comes to its drinkability. The mouthfeel is a little thin and watery but the crispness also makes its presence known. It finishes smooth, but not entirely. Considering its mostly sweet and fairly mild palate I’d certainly label it drinker-friendly.


Weighing in at 4.9% ABV, this is a rather light to average beer as far as density. It didn’t seem all that heavy in the drinking process, nor did it fill me up quickly or thoroughly afterwards. I think it lends itself to meal-pairing or sessioning but probably wouldn’t work as a party beverage.

Brew Facts

First Brew
First Modern Bottling
Alc. by Volume
Blend of 2-Row Pale & Caramel
Northern Brewer

Rating: ★★★★★★ ★ 7/10

★: Drink out of a paper bag in a gutter during a storm.
★★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★★: Best served mixed with something with flavor.
★★★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★★★: Impressive, something you can proudly share with friends.
★★★★★★★★: Fantastic addition to any bar or collection.
★★★★★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this.
★★★★★★★★★★: Nectar of the God’s, sell the house and move in next to the Distillery/Brewery.



POST BY Manny Hendra
Worked all sorts of roles in the industry, from bartender to Multi site Operations . Fan of anything with Lime, Sugar and Booze.
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