Beer Birthday: Bruce Joseph

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Bruce Joseph, who’s been at Anchor Brewery for many, many years turns 61 today. There’s a big picture of him when he was very young in the stairwell at the brewery that I see every time I’m there. He’s been doing the distilling for Anchor’s whiskey and gin for a long while now and plays bass with the Hysters (Anchor’s big band) along with the Rolling Boil Blues Band (the Celebrator beer band that’s all industry musicians). If there’s a nicer person in the beer industry, I’ve yet to meet him. Join me in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.

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On stage at the Northern California Rhythm & Blues Festival several years ago.

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A self-portrait of Bruce and me at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2006.

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With Melissa Myers at the Falling Rock during GABF 2007.

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With Garrett Oliver at an industry event during GABF years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joe Allen

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Today is the birthday of Joe Allen (February 9, 1888-April 24, 1976). Allen’s parents were Irish and came to America, settling in Minnesota, in 1883. At some point, Joe made his way to San Francisco and was working as a brewer at the Anchor Brewery when it reopened after the end of prohibition in 1933 at 1610 Harrison Street. Unfortunately, less than a year later, in February of 1934, the brewery burned to the ground. Owner Joe Kraus then partnered with his brewmaster, Joe Allen, and they re-built the brewery in an old brick building at 398 Kansas Street, by 1st Street.

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Here, I’ll let Anchor Brewery’s website take up the story from The Era of Mass Production.

Kraus and Allen valiantly and lovingly kept Anchor afloat until Kraus’s death in 1952. By late 1959, America’s—even San Francisco’s—new-found “taste” for mass-produced, heavily marketed lighter beers had taken its toll on Anchor’s already declining sales. In July of that year, at the age of 71, Joe Allen shut Anchor down for what would, thankfully, be a brief period.

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Again, Anchor Brewing picks up the story, Surviving Another Challenge from 1960.

Lawrence Steese bought and re-opened Anchor in 1960 at yet another nearby location, retaining Joe Allen to carry Anchor’s craft brewing tradition forward. But one of Anchor’s oldest accounts, the Crystal Palace Market had already closed its doors. And Steese had an increasingly difficult time convincing loyal Bay Area establishments to continue serving Anchor Steam. By 1965, Steese—like Allen six years before—was ready to shut Anchor down.

The next year, 1961, the brewery moved to 541 8th Street, where it remained until 1977. Of course, in 1965, another owner invested in the brewery, eventually buying out the remaining partners. That, you probably already know, was Fritz Maytag. There’s not much I could find on Allen’s life before and after he worked at, and then owned, the Anchor Brewery, not even the year of his death. If anyone has any more information, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.

Liberty IPA

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When Anchor’s Liberty Ale was first released in 1975, few people knew what to make of it, and in the intervening years, I’ve heard debates on both sides about whether or not it’s a pale ale an IPA or something else altogether. Certainly it was the first beer to be brewed with Cascade hops. But Anchor seems to have an answer at last to that eternal question with the announcement today that they’re releasing a new beer, Liberty IPA, based on the original Liberty Ale. The press release is below, but all you need to know is in this sentence. “Liberty IPA is Anchor’s reimagining of the craft beer classic Liberty Ale, envisioned through the lens of today’s IPAs.”

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Today, Anchor Brewing Company announces the release of Liberty IPA™, a bold and modern twist on an original craft classic, Liberty Ale.

Like its predecessor, Liberty IPA (6.3% ABV) is made with two-row pale malt and Cascade hops. It is the combination of Cascade with new hop varieties—Nelson Sauvin and El Dorado—that creates the mouthwateringly complex and robust aromas of pine and citrus in this crisp, American-style IPA.

“Liberty IPA is a revolutionary brew—reimagined,” said Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann. “The beer is a bright straw golden color and boasts aromas of dank and resinous pine up front, with bold citrus and grapefruit notes on the back end. You can really taste the assertive bitterness, with hints of a light biscuit malt base and a smooth, dry finish. Liberty IPA is a celebration of the Cascade hopped IPA’s that Anchor first popularized back in 1975 and remain at the forefront of American craft beer trends.”

Liberty IPA is Anchor’s reimagining of the craft beer classic Liberty Ale, envisioned through the lens of today’s IPAs. Liberty Ale was first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and was the first American IPA brewed after prohibition. This revolutionary forerunner of the modern IPA introduced America to the Cascade hop and the nearly lost art of dry-hopping, a steeping process to infuse beer with bold hop aromas.

Taking cues from the original Liberty Ale packaging, the newly designed Liberty IPA label features the bald eagle, a symbol of strength and freedom.

Liberty IPA is available starting January 2017 nationwide for a limited time in 6-pack bottles and on draught at select bars, restaurants, and stores as well as at the Anchor Brewing Taproom in San Francisco.

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Anchor Spruce Beer

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After posting a different Anchor Christmas Ale label every day for the last 42 days, I guess I’m not quite ready to let go just yet. Old-timers like me may also remember that Anchor made a Spruce Beer in 1991 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival.

I recall it being available on draft at GABF that year, but the remaining beer was then bottled in six-packs and sold until it was gone. I picked up several six-packs during that time, and apparently I am one of the few people to have really enjoyed the beer. It had a very fragrant nose, almost like Pine-Sol or a spruce cleanser, but it was much more muted in the flavor.

Unfortunately, Anchor rarely ever mentions it anymore. Even Fritz Maytag apparently thought it was too strong on the spruce character. There’s nothing about it on their website, and the only mention I could find was in a Modern Brewery Age article from 1991:

The Anchor Brewing Co. is presenting a draft of brewing history with a “spruce beer” that will be sold only in the city of San Francisco and in Colorado. The production of the brew will commemorate the 10th Great American Beer Festival to be held in Denver in early October.

Spruce beer is a revival of an old brewing tradition that was originated centuries ago in Northern Europe. Spruce beer was also a part of United States colonial history, as it was required by the Continental Congress to be part of every American soldier’s rations in 1775.

According to Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing Co.’s president and brewmaster, spruce beer is one example of many beers popular in pre-industrial Europe and America, which were brewed at home with locally available flavors and spices.

“This tradition includes everything from root beer to wassail,” Maytag noted. “Making this historic beer is a gesture of exploration and celebration. It’s an essay, an attempt to reach back into brewing history to honor the 10th anniversary of The Great American Beer Festival, and to celebrate our modern brewing Renaissance.”

Personally, I wish they’d brew it again, but I’m almost certain that will never happen. Anyway, here’s what the label looked like. It’s a shame I don’t have any to open for Unbottling Day.

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2016

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It’s day forty-two, and the last one, of my Christmas canter to today featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2016 was the forty-second year that Anchor has made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-second label is a “1,000 Mile Tree,” or “Pinus Solitarius.” This is what I was drinking yesterday, and also what I’ll be drinking today, as well. I’d like especially thank Anchor Brewery historian Dave Burkhart for his kind assistance in this project and for answering my questions about the progression of the beer. Have a Malty Christmas and a Hoppy New Beer.

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2015

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It’s day forty-one of my jolly jog to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2015 was the forty-first year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-first label was was a “California Christmas Tree,” or “Cedrus Deodara.”

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2014

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It’s day forty of my fast festive flurry to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2014 was the fortieth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This fortieth label was was a “Giant Sequoia,” or “Sequoiadendron giganteum.”

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2013

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It’s day thirty-nine of my Rudolph’s run to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2013 was the thirty-ninth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-ninth label was was a “California White Fir,” or “Abies concolor var. Lowiana.”

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2012

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It’s day thirty-eight of my holiday hotfoot to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2012 was the thirty-eighth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-eighth label was was a “Norfolk Island Pine,” or “Araucaria heterophylla.”

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Anchor Christmas Ale 2011

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It’s day thirty-seven of my seasonal scurry to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2011 was the thirty-seventh year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-seventh label was was a “Great Basin Bristlecone Pine,” or “Pinus longaeva.”

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