Monday, July 6, 2009

Anchor Steam Beer (2009 original review)

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - JAN 23, 2010
If you’ve been following my beer reviews for a while you know I’ve attempted to coin phrases and adages when it comes to beer-critiquing. Another one I’d like to start is, "Just because it’s a novelty or unique beer or has a reputation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s outstanding."

To back up that claim I’d point to Anchor Steam Beer. This is a beer known for its unique brewing process which is a bit difficult to describe. It’s a long, but fascinating story and I’d recommend looking up its history. It’s also important to note that the brewery has trademarked the title "steam beer" and all others brewed in style must be referred to as "California Common." As for the beer itself, I’d definitely have to say it’s good, but considering just how well known it is for its original style I was expecting something world class. However, I’ll settle for a solid performer any day.


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.


I’m always happy to try beers known for any unusual or original qualities they may have. In the case of Anchor Steam Beer I’m genuinely glad I tried it and would say that I liked it, but I was expecting something a little more impressive. But at the end of the day it’s still a good beer and that’s what matters, right?

Grade: 7/10

NOTE: See my 2017 re-review to BJCP specs here: