For my fifth Top 10 list I’m up to my eyeballs getting ready for SF Beer Week. Since Anchor Brewery is the oldest brewery in San Francisco still around, having been founded originally around 1864 (though it wasn’t called Anchor beer until 1896), I though I’d list my favorite Anchor beers. On Friday they’re debuting a new beer and I’ve very excited about it. I know what it is, but am sworn to secrecy. I could tell, but then I’d have to kill you. By Friday night the cat will be out of the bag, so to speak, and I’ll be able to reveal what it is. Suffice it to say, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Anyway, here’s List #5:
Top 10 Favorite Anchor Beers
|Bock Another of their newest beers, but I’ve never quite warmed up to it.
|Summer Beer/Wheat Beer The wheat build on the two is slightly different, but they don’t taste substantially different. Anyway, the Summer beer replaced the Wheat Beer in their portfolio.
|Small Beer Perhaps the finest example of recycling, and a great way to make a tasty session beer.
|Steam I know the Steam beer is one of the few original American beer styles, and I certainly appreciate it on that level, but it’s never been my favorite of their beers. It is a great thirst quencher, and works with a variety of foods — but you knew that, right?
|Spruce Beer Most people I’ve talked to about this beer have a love/hate relationship with this beer; they hated it and I loved it. I wish I still had some of this, though by now it would be toast. It had a very strong air freshener nose, which was oddly absent on the palette. But that spruce character was overpowering, and I think that’s what turned people off.
|Our Special Ale (2000-present) Since the Millennium, the spices in Anchor’s Christmas beer have been too restrained, but then I think if you’re going to do a spice beer you should go whole hog. It’s still better than almost every other spice beer out there, but I have a very warm (spicy) spot in my heart for their earlier efforts.
|Porter By the time this was first bottled in 1974, the style had almost died in England, sad to say. Maytag apparently spent a lot of time studying English styles in England and it’s quite evident in the beers that Anchor released in the early 1970s.
|Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale Another old English style that Anchor helped introduce to American drinkers is their barley wine, which debuted in 1976. I confess I’ve developed a taste for more generously hopped barley wine, but can still appreciate a maltier one like Anchor brews. And when you’re in the mood for one like that, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example on our side of the pond.
|Our Special Ale (@1994-99) These were the years (roughly) when the spices in Anchor’s Christmas beer really shined. I still have a couple of magnums from these years and a few 12 oz. bottles. Having done a few verticals stretching back pretty far, I’ve found about ten years in the max for aging Anchor’s Christmas beers, though the spicier ones, of course, have a slight advantage. Most people I know think their beers were too spicy at this time, but not me. These were my favorites.
|Liberty Ale You’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-purpose beer than Liberty. Its aromatic Cascade hops are almost pedestrian today but in 1975 it must have seemed revolutionary, which is fitting, I suppose, since it was released on April 18, the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s Ride at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Remember the time you drank your first decidedly hoppy beer? It was so different from anything else that it was almost confusing. In 1975, as a high school sophomore, I was drinking local lagers and cream ales in Eastern Pennsylvania. I can’t imagine what I would have thought of Liberty at that time. But now it feels positively sessionable, even at 6%. I know I treat it that way. It’s a beer I often start and finish a night out with. Their best, hands down.
I wish I had an opportunity to try the Ninkasi Ale they did in 1989 and also the Potrero Commons in 1990. Oh, well.
Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.