Anchor Announces New Spring Saison

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Anchor Brewing just released a teaser video announcing a new spring seasonal: Anchor Saison. Here’s what the press release has to say:

Anchor Saison™ Spring Ale (7.2% ABV) is a traditional Belgian-style saison with a California twist. The distinctiveness of roasted Belgian wheat malt is enhanced by the peppery, clove-like flavors of a locally cultured saison-style yeast. And, for this release, Anchor chose three California ingredients — lemongrass, lemon peel, and ginger — whose synergy adds a tangy crispness and herbal spiciness to this sharply refreshing, uniquely Californian saison.

Brewmaster Mark Carpenter suggests pairing the Saison Spring Ale with sushi or Vietnamese cuisine, which perfectly compliments the tangy, citrus notes of the beer.

Released in California this March thru May, Anchor Saison™ Spring Ale will be available in 6-packs and draught at select retailers and at the Anchor Brewing Taproom in San Francisco.

The fourth Zymaster series beer was Fort Ross Farmhouse Ale, so I suspect it was popular enough to launch as their new spring seasonal, perhaps exactly the same or slightly tweaked; perhaps at some point we’ll learn the exact details. The Zymaster farmhouse beer was also 7.2% a.b.v., although the spices seem slightly different. For now, enjoy this old newsreel, a “Special Report” from Anchor Brewing Worldwide News.”

And below is the new label, created to resemble old fruit crate art.

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Anchor Announces New Fall Seasonal

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Today, Anchor Brewery announced that they’re releasing a new fall seasonal beer, BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red. According to the press release, the beer will be available beginning August 5 and will be around through October. In addition to draft, it will also be bottled in 6-packs and 22-oz. bombers.

BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red was inspired by a native California tree, its incredible leaves, its delicious syrup, and the colors of fall. The tree, known as Bigleaf maple, thrives along the banks of California’s mountain streams. Native Californians once made rope and baskets from its bark. Today, artisans handcraft its wood and burl into custom guitars.. Bigleaf maple sugaring in California dates to the 1800s; yet this tree’s unusually flavorful syrup remains the product of a small group of hobbyists. A hint of maple—including bigleaf maple—syrup in every brew perfectly complements the malty complexity, balanced hoppiness, and rich fall hue of BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red, a red ale like no other.

“When presented with the challenge of developing a new seasonal beer, all of our brewers collaborated to think fall and came up with this red ale,” said Mark Carpenter, brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. “We are very happy with the finished product, especially since we don’t do test batches here at Anchor. It requires us to be on top of our game when crafting new beers and BigLeaf Maple is a beer we’re all proud to share.”

BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red (6% ABV) is a quaffable, well-balanced red ale with character. Its malty complexity and coppery color come from a combination of two caramel malts, pale malt, and a hint of maple syrup. To complement these flavors, Anchor Brewing uses three additions of Nelson Sauvin hops in the brewkettle and a unique blend of Nelson Sauvin, Citra, and Cascade for dry hopping. The result is a distinctive fall seasonal with extraordinary depth and intriguing aroma.

Since the 1970’s, Anchor Brewing has worked with renowned local Artist Jim Stitt to create our beer labels. A distinct, handmade beer deserves a distinct, handmade label and BigLeaf Maple is no exception. In autumn, the bigleaf maple’s huge leaves, up to a foot across, can display a full range of color as they slowly turn from green to gold to red. Capturing this symbolic transition from summer to fall, a watercolor of bigleaf maple’s magnificent leaf is featured on our label and signed by Jim Stitt.

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Anchor Zymaster Series #3 Is Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout

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Anchor Brewing announced today the release of the third beer in their Zymaster Series, a stout to be called Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

From the press release:

Named after a San Francisco sailing legend from a time when stouts were first exported to the West Coast, Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be released in selected Anchor markets in January 2013.

Our Zymaster® Series No. 3 (7.4% ABV) is a dry, Irish-style export stout akin to those brewed in the 1800s for the long voyage to San Francisco. Black as night, this high-gravity, malty brew offers intense but well-balanced flavors and aroma, with hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee.

The arrival of a clipper ship in gold-rush San Francisco brought mail and news of “the States,” would-be miners and entrepreneurs, boots, shovels, pickaxes, butter from New York, cigars from Havana, and stout from as far away as London and Dublin.
The stouts that San Franciscans imbibed in those days were no ordinary ales. They were export stouts—dark, intense, high-gravity brews created especially to survive a long voyage like those around Cape Horn.

It took the average clipper three to four months to sail from New York to San Francisco. But not the Flying Cloud, which, in 1851, made the trip in 89 days and 21 hours anchor to anchor. With the exception of its own 89 day and 8 hour voyage three years later, its record remained unbroken until 1989. Thanks to this clipper’s “extreme” design and the savvy of its captain, Josiah Creesy, and his wife and navigator Eleanor, the Flying Cloud quickly became a San Francisco sailing legend. We celebrate it and a legendary brewing tradition with our Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

That sounds tasty, I can’t wait to give their new stout a try.

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The beer will be in stores and select bars any minute now. Here’s where it will be available.

Zymaster® Series No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be available in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale

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No, that’s not a judgment call on my part. I love Lagunitas. But that is the name of their new seasonal ale for 2011; Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale. They’re calling it that because the new beer is a temporary replacement for their popular — and usual holiday seasonal — Brown Shugga’, which they won’t be able to brew this year due to the installation of their new 250-barrel brewhouse.

From the press release:

It is a sad day at Lagunitas when we have to tell you that our favorite seasonal — Brown Shugga — will take a year off and come back in full force in the fall of 2012 after the installation of our new brewhouse.

A brand new beer that’s sure to please is our “Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale”….. it’s our BrownShugga’ substitute.

This beer is a Dry-Hopped ‘Cereal Medley’ of Barley, Rye, Wheat, and Oats…. full of complexishness from the 4 grains, and weighing in at 7.6% abv, it is mondo-dry-hopped for that big aroma and resinous hop flavor.

The entire project has a self-deprecating air about it, including the label notes, which are always written by Lagunitas founder Tony Magee. To wit:

This sad holiday season we didn’t have the brewing capacity to make our favorite seasonal brew, the widely feared BrownShugga’ Ale. You see, we had a couple of good years (thank you very much) and so heading into this season while we are awaiting a January delivery of a new brewhouse we are jammin’ along brewing 80 barrels of IPA and PILS and such every 3 hours. A couple of months back we realized that since we can only brew a mere 60 barrels of Shugga every 5 hours, that we were seriously screwed. For every case of Shugga’ brewed, we’d short 3 cases of our daily brews. The new brewhouse will help insure that this kind of failure never happens again. It’s a mess that we can not brew our BrownShugga’ this year and we suck for not doing it. There is nothing cool about screwing up this badly and we know it. Maybe we can sue our sorry selves. There is no joy in our hearts this holiday and the best we can hope for is a quick and merciful end. F*@& us. This totally blows. Whatever. We freaking munch moldy donkey butt and we just want it all to be over ….

My guess is that the new Lagunitas Suck Holiday Ale will be so good that we’ll all forgive them and Santa will not bring them all a lump of coal this Christmas. They do seem to be appealing to Santa’s better nature but putting a yummy-looking Santa cookie on the label. Perhaps they’ll leave some of them out on Christmas Eve so when Santa comes down the brewhouse chimney, he can eat himself.

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Pliny the Younger 2011

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Yesterday was Pliny the Younger Day at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. I arrived a little before eleven, and owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo let me in the back of the brewpub. The difference between last year’s release day and this year’s was immediately apparent. There was relative calm in the place, the bar was not three or four deep, with people pushing against the bar clamoring for attention. Perhaps most importantly, both Vinnie and Natalie seemed relaxed, too.

Last year, you may recall, Russian River sold out of of Pliny the Younger, their Triple IPA that’s released just once each year, in just eight short hours. The brewpub was filled to the gills and the staff was understandably stressed and exhausted. The main reason this happened last year was nobody expected so many people to order growlers, and having placed few restrictions on them, they continued to honor orders until the entire supply of beer ran out.

The line outside to get in was long all day

Having learned from last that experience, this year no Pliny the Younger growlers were permitted. They also managed the door and made sure it was never too crowded inside, which made for a much more enjoyable experience. A line of people that stretched down most of the block outside waited patiently for their turn to come inside. As people left, a new customer took their place so there was a steady stream of new patrons.

Pliny the Younger Day bar scene

I actually thought this year’s Pliny the Younger was even better than last year. It seemed more balanced and the hop wallop wasn’t as vegetal or oniony as I remember it being last year. There is nothing quite like having it fresh from the source on the day it’s released. And this year, they’ve allocated enough beer so it will be available for at least two weeks, giving many more people a chance to try get some.

Pliny the Younger in the sunlight

It will also begin appearing in select accounts around the Bay Area, so keep an eye on your favorite water hole. But act fast, last year kegs of Pliny the Younger kicked at some bars in a matter of hours.

Vinnie, me and Joe Tucker, from Rate Beer
Vinnie Cilurzo, me and Joe Tucker (from Rate Beer) enjoying a day at Russian River Brewing.

Below is a slideshow of Pliny the Younger Day. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

Anchor Christmas Ale Day 2010

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Time was when today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, was the traditional day on which Anchor’s Our Special Ale — a.k.a. their Christmas Ale — was released each year. Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor Brewery have brewed a distinctive and unique Christmas Ale, which is now available from early November to mid-January.

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From Anchor’s website:

The Ale’s recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew.

Until recently, Anchor’s Christmas Ale was not released until the Monday before Thanksgiving each year. A few years ago they bowed to pressure from their distributors, who wanted to have it earlier to compete against all of the other holiday beers that are released much earlier. So while I can’t argue it’s a bad thing to have this wonderful beer both earlier and for a longer period of time each year, I do actually miss it coming later on a very specific date. There was something I really liked about having to wait for it — admittedly vague and unspecific, but the feeling was there all the same. And there was something I admired about their stubbornly refusing to release it until they were damn well ready. I think it added something intangible to the beer’s mystique, making it more special somehow.

I realize I sound like a sentimental fool, but beer (and many other things) used to be ruled by the seasons and their availability was something that created anticipation and deep satisfactions, too. To me fruit is a great example. Wait, hear me out. There was a time when you couldn’t get almost every fruit year round, but now thanks to agreements with growers in the Southern Hemisphere, we can get most of them all year long. But the very fact that they’re around all the time makes them less desirable. How much better did a strawberry taste when you couldn’t eat one all winter and they suddenly appeared each spring?

Of course, I don’t really think Anchor’s Christmas Ale will lose much — or any — of its specialness by being released a couple weeks sooner each year. I know I still wait eagerly to try the new one each year. But I really think there is something to building up demand and the perceived value that artificial scarcity brings. And there are beers that have suffered for going from a seasonal to a year-round beer. Mendocino’s Eye of the Hawk comes to mind. Back in the early 1980s they only brewed it three times a year (for the 4th of July, their annual anniversary and Oktoberfest). They released the strong ale in 22 oz. bottles in limited quantities and it sold out quickly like clockwork every time it was released. That went on for years until around 1999, when they made it available all the time and in unlimited quantities. Sales fell and although it sold steadily, we sold more in three bursts than when it was always there. Let’s also not forget that seasonals are now the number one craft category at mainstream outlets like grocery and liquor stores. It’s clear people like picking up something different. I don’t think we’ll see popular everyday beers going away, but it should be remembered that limited and seasonal releases can have their own cache and sell better in direct proportion to the difficulty in obtaining them.

Today I’m celebrating “Anchor Christmas Ale Day” and picking up some more today, I’ll drink some tonight, and also save some for my Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday. This holiday will continue to be the Monday before Thanksgiving, to honor the idea that some things are worth waiting for.

But back to Anchor’s “Our Special Ale.”

Each year our Christmas Ale gets a unique label and a unique recipe for the Ale itself. Although our recipes must remain a secret, many enthusiasts save a few bottles from year to year—stored in a cool dark place—to taste later and compare with other vintages. Properly refrigerated, the beer remains intriguing and drinkable for years, with different nuances slowly emerging as the flavor mellows slightly.

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This year’s label has one more unique feature that makes it different from the 35 that preceded it. Take a good look at the label, you probably won’t notice it. I didn’t. Every other label included the Latin name for the tree. But this year’s tree was the Ginkgo biloba tree and our intrepid TTB would not allow the words “Ginkgo biloba” to appear on the label for fear that someone might think the beer contained the drug Ginkgo biloba, despite the fact that for the last 35 years having the Latin name has never been a problem. You’d think there might have been some precedent set, but alas, no. I’m told Anchor considered appealing the decision and fighting it, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth the effort. But it certainly feels like a bureaucratic snafu that serves no legitimate purpose. Oh, well.

Over the years, there have been 36 different labels and each year Anchor prints a beautiful poster with all of the past labels plus the current years’ label.

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Note: If this sounded familiar, I posted this same rant a couple of years ago, but decided it should be an annual thing.

Session #31: Summer Beers

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As this month marks the end of summer, our last summer Session takes on summer beers, courtesy of Peter Estaniel of the BeerBeerBlog. His take:

With the summer coming to a close, what was your favorite beer of the summer? It doesn’t even have to be from this summer. Is it a lager or maybe a light bodied wheat ale? Maybe you’re drinking anti-seasonally and are having a barleywine or Russian Imperial Stout. Why is this beer your favorite? Is there a particular memory associated with this beer? How about a city? Maybe there was a particular dish that made this beer memorable? Spare no detail.

For me, the most memorable summer drinking I did was in London, where I spent a week with fellow beer writer Stephen Beaumont visiting pubs, attending the Great British Beer Festival and endless (and vainly) searching for late night food. While by no means sweltering heat, London was, as always, more moist than the average California summer. They’d just come off a heatwave during the weeks before we arrived, and welcomed some rain. But it was certainly warm enough, staying in the narrow range of mid-70s to high 80s, even late into the evening.

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We walked around a fair bit of London, taking the tube whenever possible, but also sometimes we just wanted to be above ground, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. To be fair, there was another reason waking was more attractive at times. Besides even the mild summer weather, below ground it could be stiflingly hot, especially when we were sandwiched into the trains during busier times of the day, sweat pouring off of us.

To compensate ourselves, we’d often duck into a pub just for a quick pint, even though we were on our way to another pub, and one which quite possibly was only be fifteen minutes or so away. But thirst must be obeyed, and by god we were often thirsty. And there’s really nothing quite like a English ale on cask, the way nature intended, to quench one’s thirst. Not too cold, which would undoubtedly be a shock to the system, fairly low in alcohol (especially as compared with American beers), which meant we could enjoy more of them, and tasty as all get out. My favorite aspect of cask beer is just how much more flavor can be perceived; more complexity and, perhaps most importantly, more delicate characters. What more could you ask for in a summer beer?

Beaumont at the Dove
Stephen Beaumont at The Dove, a Fuller’s pub along the Thames near Hammersmith where we rested and recharged with a pint.

Even when most of the beers we enjoyed weren’t summer seasonals, but everyday offerings, they were ideally suited to the climate and the warm August weather. And they slaked our thirst almost perfectly.

Next Session Takes On Summer Beers

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Peter Estanial, of the Better Beer Blog, has announced the topic for September’s Session: Summer Beers.

With the summer coming to a close, what was your favorite beer of the summer? It doesn’t even have to be from this summer. Is it a lager or maybe a light bodied wheat ale? Maybe you’re drinking anti-seasonally and are having a barleywine or Russian Imperial Stout. Why is this beer your favorite? Is there a particular memory associated with this beer? How about a city? Maybe there was a particular dish that made this beer memorable? Spare no detail.

Get drinking, summer’s a’wasting.

Highway To Helles: Strong Beer Month Returns

Beginning on February 1, 21st Amendment Brewery and Magnolia Pub & Brewery, both in San Francisco, will team up yet again to host their sixth annual Strong Beer Month. Each brewpub will create six different seasonal beers — and if you haven’t figured it out yet, they’ll all be strong — that will be available at the two locations throughout February. Many of these dozen beers have been created especially for this month, and will be available only until they run out. Sample them all, and you’ll receive a commemorative glass.

 

 

 
And this year’s poster is hilarious, a near perfect parody of AC/DC’s album cover for Highway to Hell. Compare it to the original below.

 

 

Full Sail Re-Boots LTD Series

Full Sail Brewing in Hood River, Oregon will be re-launching their seasonal LTD series that they debuted in 2007. Though curiously, they’re starting over again with Recipe 01, so perhaps re-booting might be more accurate.

From the press release:

Full Sail proudly announces the return of its lager seasonal program — the LTD series. Our first offering is a wonderfully balanced medium, copper colored lager with subtle hop accents, and a caramel aroma, that goes down smooth – perfect for the winter season. Since its release last year LTD has been embraced by both the critics and consumers alike winning a gold medal in the World Beer Championship and becoming one of the fastest growing new beers in the U.S. (I.R.I 12/02/07) “We are excited to be able to branch out and brew some interesting lager beers as they are such a huge part of brewing tradition. It is one of the best parts about being an independent, employee owned company – we get to celebrate our creativity as well as the rich heritage of beer styles,” said Brewmaster Jamie Emmerson. “It is such a pleasure to brew these beers and have them develop such a fervent following — it is why I love my job!”

LTD Recipe 01 will be available in six-packs and in draught and will begin shipping from the brewery again in January 2008. The bottle labels describe LTD Recipe 01, as an easy drinking, nonetheless way tasty limited edition lager. Featured on the six-pack is a “Malt-O-Meter” that will tell you at a glance that LTD is a medium body, perfectly balanced malty beer with a lovely hop aroma and caramel notes. For the beer aficionados, or the aspiring ones, the bottom of the six-pack features an easy to read chart of “Today’s Recipe”, including hop (Czech Saaz, Hallertauer) and malt varieties (caramel, chocolate and wheat), Plato (16 degrees), I.B.U. (26), alcohol by volume (6.4) and even secret sauce! Full Sail will follow up with a limited edition bottling of LTD Recipe 02, this spring.