Anchor To Release Liberty Ale In Cans

Anchor Brewery announced today that they will be releasing Liberty Ale in 12 oz. cans, at least for a limited time. The cans are “a commemorative offering celebrating the 40th anniversary of the historic beer that started a revolution.” From the press release:

“I remember brewing the first batch of Liberty Ale with Fritz Maytag 40 years ago. We were both young and eager beer lovers and knew we wanted to create a beer unlike anything else at that time,” said Anchor Brewing Brewmaster Mark Carpenter. “We had come across a new hop variety called Cascade that had a distinct piney bitterness that we used in the brew. Through Fritz’s interest in history and travel he’d learned of a process European brewers used called dry-hopping; adding dry hops to beer fermenting in the cellar to boost its hoppy aroma. So we dry-hopped the ale with whole-cone Cascade hops, as well. During an era when light lagers were prevalent, Liberty Ale was a very hoppy ale for most people. Their palates were shocked and delighted by such a unique beer.”

The beer was originally sold to the public beginning in 1975, when the country was seized by bicentennial fever. Liberty Ale commemorated the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. Considered the first American IPA brewed after prohibition,” it was also “the first modern dry-hopped ale in the US and was the beer that popularized the now-iconic Cascade hop.” Beginning this month, Liberty Ale 6-pack cans, as well as bottles and kegs, will be available throughout the U.S.



  1. Gary Gillman says

    Jay, that first Liberty Ale was a one-off – it was not re-introduced until 1983 or ’84 from which time it became a regular production item. The 1975 one-off was “opaque coffee brown” according to James (Jim) Robertson’s taste note in the 1982 edition of his “The Connoisseur’s Guide To Beer”. The 1975 one used some sugar as well, per the British practise of using some sugar adjunct for pale ale. Robertson does not refer to hop character at all in his review, however he tasted the beer (clearly) some years after its release, so that probably explains it.

    Between 1975 and 1983, Anchor released annually its “Our Special Ale” for Christmas and New Year’s. These were orangey or fairly light in colour and some had a very pronounced Cascade character – this from my own recollection of them.

    The Liberty Ale that appeared from ’83 onwards was based on the last Our Special Ale which the brewery felt was particularly successful.

    Of course, between ’75 and ’83, New Albion, Cartwright, Sierra Nevada, Boulder and other emerging craft breweries had helped popularize the Cascade taste you might call it. So did the non-craft Blitz-Weinhard with its Henry Weinhard Private Reserve which made a point in its advertising of prominent hop character.

    So, not to disagree with anything you said as such, but this additional detail, which I’ve gleaned from reading or hearing interviews of Maytag and Carpenter over the years, and some of which as I said is based on my own memories, will be of interest I think to those not familiar with “the rest of the story”.

    The new can looks wonderful and I think this is a good move for Anchor. It should do the same for the steam beer.


    • The Professor says

      Spot on, Gary.
      Also, calling Liberty Ale the first American IPA since repeal is a mighty shaky claim, given the re-emergence of Ballantine IPA a year after prohibition ended. If I recall correctly, Fritz Maytag had even been been quoted in the past as acknowledging the influence of Ballantine IPA and Ballantine Burton Ale in the making of Anchor’s ales.
      But all that aside, it’s nice to see Liberty’s imminent availability in cans…here’s hoping that some of it makes it’s way to the East Coast. I could be wrong, but it seems as though Anchor’s distribution (at least in NJ) has been rather limited lately. I can’t even remember the last time I saw “Old Foghorn” on retail shelves here (and I think the last time I saw Foghorn on draft in NJ was in the late ’90s!)

  2. says

    Ditto on east coast availability–as in, hope it shows up. We get plenty of Anchor here in southern Vermont, but Liberty Ale has been a rare sighting of late.

  3. Dave Suurballe says

    Anchor has claimed that Liberty Ale was based on the 1983 Our Special Ale, and this always confused me, because my memory of that beer is that it was not hoppy at all. When Liberty came out right after that, I found it shockingly hoppy. So maybe the malt bill was similar, possibly the same, but the hopping was definitely dissimilar. If you can believe my memory 32 years later!

    • Gary Gillman says

      Well, that’s interesting Dave. I do believe you, I am not one who believes firmly held taste memories become altered necessarily with time. We should allow though for planning and production lag – perhaps it was the Our Special Ale of ’82 and it took time to ramp up the labelling, marketing etc. for the new brand. In the book by Robertson I mentioned, he reviews 3 Our Special Ales, the ’78, ’79, ’80 and ’81. Each of these stresses big hop flavour. The ’81 says, “pale orange [the ’78 was ‘cloudy yellow’], good sharp hop aroma, huge body, big flavor mostly bitter hops … complex and interesting”. The ’79 says “…canned fruity-lychee nut nose and palate”, which I’m sure is the Cascade working with the malt. You can see the roots of Liberty Ale I feel in these beers vs. what seemed an American “brown bitter” in ’75, however I accept that the ’75 probably did have a pronounced Cascade taste. If it came before the Henry Weinhard, which I think it did, the claim Anchor makes for it is broadly true.


      • Dave Suurballe says

        I think Liberty Ale is “based on” OSA 1983 in that they just hopped it more.

        OSA 82 was my first one. I was very new to beer and didn’t have much vocabulary then. However my recollection was that it was fruity and kind of sweet. I have always thought that 82 and 83 were the same flavor. I think it became a brown ale in 84.

        I say again: when Liberty came out in the eighties I was shocked at the hop level, and that makes it very distinct for me from OSA. In fact Liberty was too hoppy for me for a couple years, and OSA never came close to that, so they are different beers to me. Maybe OSA and Liberty had the same malt bill and the same Cascade hops, but the hopping level was definitely different.

        • Dave Suurballe says

          And thanks, Gary, for mentioning what Robertson said about the 1975 Liberty. I didn’t know it was brown. I always assumed it was some version of OSA 83 and modern Liberty, meaning pale. It’s interesting that it was totally different.

          • Gary Gillman says

            Dave, thanks (and as always to Jay for providing this forum where stimulating follow-up discussions can occur).

            The sources I’d mention are various interviews of Fritz Maytag and Mark Carpenter on youtube and also an interview of Fritz by Lew Bryson about 15 years ago, of which there is a transcript online, all quite easy to find by a search although I don’t have the links ready to hand.

            The final piece of the puzzle, in my view, is to identify the probable homebrewers who used the hop in this way probably even before 1975, i.e., between its release in ’72 and that first Liberty Ale in mid-1975. I’d guess in the Bay Area or further north, some homebrewers’ club was experimenting with this, probably to make their version of a classic English pale ale. The hop (Cascade) was available on the West Coast and must have been cheaper to buy and in better condition than English hops imported 10,000 miles! I wonder if the progenitor of Liberty Ale, New Albion Pale Ale (the recreation by Sam Adams 2 years ago was pretty good by the way), Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Boulder Pale Ale etc. was an imaginative homebrewer working away in ’73-’74 in northern California somewhere. Maybe the oldest archives of the Foam Rangers or a similar club has the answer… (or the memories of their oldest members still living, those in their 20’s in the 1970’s are only 65 or so!).


  4. Gary Gillman says

    Dave, I was just looking at Mitch Steele’s fine book “IPA – Brewing Techniques, Recipe and the Evolution of India Pale Ale” (published 2012).

    If you have it, parts are available partial-view on Google Books, look at p. 144. He writes that the Liberty Ale brewed in mid-1975 was brewed with an ale yeast, Hallertau hops, malt and some sugar. He says it was viewed as very bitter by the brewery. He makes no reference to malt types or colour of the beer or even dry-hopping with Cascade. He then writes that in Christmas of the same year, Anchor released its Christmas Ale, a revamped Liberty Ale recipe where the sugar was pulled out and “for the first time” the “relatively new” Cascade hop was used for bittering, flavor and dry-hopping”. He then states that the Christmas Ales (this was Our Special Ale) from ’75-’83 formed the basis of the Liberty Ale released again in 1984.

    While he doesn’t state in so many words that the Bi-Centennial Liberty Ale was dry-hopped with Cascade, I believe it was and I think his point about “the first time” is that the ’75 Christmas Ale used Cascade hops only, as it still does today of course.

    I have no difficulty concluding that Liberty Ale definitely started its journey in mid-’75 with the Bi-Centennial brew but it is also fair to say that the beer probably tasted and looked rather different to the Liberty Ale released as regular production beer from ’84. This is confirmed by Jim Robertson’s review I mentioned earlier.

    Anchor is a legend in the business and I wish I could taste the fresh steam or porter right now. At Tommy’s Joynt or the Ship, say. Or Toronado. :)


  5. Dave Suurballe says

    Gary, you have a lot of good books!

    Why can’t you have fresh Steam Beer? Where are you?

    What is the Ship?

  6. Gary Gillman says

    I’m in Toronto. But that’s okay, we get bottled steam and actually SN draft just became available in amazing fresh condition, throwing rings in the glass and fragrant.


    • Dave Suurballe says

      Thanks, I’ll check out the Ship.

      And about SN draft, I’m glad you like it, but I don’t. It’s not the same recipe as bottled Pale Ale. And the only place to get the bottle recipe on draft is at the brewery restaurant. I love the bottled Pale.

      • Gary Gillman says

        I’m with you on the bottled SN pale (we get this here too now). The draft pale is a slightly different formulation I believe, lower ABV and filtered roughly, but is is a good session I think. I like the Ship, you and Jay should meet there! It’s got a genuine history of the sunken boat and a nice feel to it, with a mixed crowd. It’s funny about Steam but (I guess like any craft beer) it varies here and there and even at the same place, but at the Ship it always tastes right to me.


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