Interview With Anchor Brewmaster, Mark Carpenter

To accompany my latest review of Anchor Steam Beer, go check out an interview with Anchor’s Brewmaster. He discusses craft beer, the brewery in San Francisco and his personal tastes in craft beer.

Part of that tradition involves having a copper brewhouse, which has become quite a rarity in contemporary brewing. The brewery also has all open fermentation, and uses only whole-leaf hops, though Carpenter says the brewery will employ modern techniques where it benefits the beer.
As has been mentioned before on this site, the landscape of American craft brewing is constantly changing as new varieties of hops are introduced by breeders, challenging brewers to showcase them in ways that complement their products. Carpenter says that some of these new ingredients have directly influenced some of the new beers at Anchor.
“When we tasted beers with those hops we thought it would be fun to make a beer using that hop,” Carpenter said. “We didn’t want to copy the beer we were tasting, but we thought we would develop our own beer for that hop.”

Anchor – Steam Beer

ABV: 4.9 (Bottle)
HOPS: Northern Brewer
MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Caramel

This is one of the beers I picked up on my visit to the US. I have to admit the overall aesthetics of the beer packaging is nice. I think it might be the reason I decided to pick it up out of all my choices.

Anchor Steam is brewed in a more traditional way. The brewery is located in San Francisco using open-air fermentation and carbonation through an all-natural process called kräusening.

Anchor Steam® Beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. Once a nickname for any West Coast beer brewed under these conditions, today the name “steam” is a trademark of Anchor Brewing and applies only to the singular process and taste of our flagship brand – San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam® Beer. The classic of American brewing tradition since 1896.

Steam pours clean and clear. What looks like a dark amber beer reveals a more golden colour when held up to light. An off white frothy head puffs up and stays for awhile and a nice thick lacing remains through the session.

Give this beer some time to warm up or all you will smell is a plain alcohol aroma. Once it warms you will smell a very subtle sweet caramel malt. I get really light hints of chocolate as well. Somewhere in the back of the nose is lemon citrus from the hops but you can barely make out the hops.

Again, you have to give this beer the opportunity to warm up or you will get a bland, mouth numbing alcohol only flavour. The middle is sweet but the very end hits the back of the tongue in a dry bitterness. Unfortunately, that bitter taste sticks around well after you swallow. The flavours are very subtle. You can suss out a bit of caramel or toffee. Carbonation is nice and the mouthfeel is very clean and nicely carbonated.

This is a beer that I want to like but I feel something is missing. Add to that the unhoppy bitter aftertaste that lasts kind of puts me off to having another. I love hops but from this glass you don’t get much of the aroma or taste of the hops, just the crushing bitterness.

I get the impression I could probably only drink a couple of these in one session. However, I do want to try this again. Served from the tap might be ideal for this beer as the flavours might be more pronounced and the bitterness a bit mellowed out.

Still this is a drinkable and an above average beer that I would recommend you try out. It probably comes down to personal taste if you love it or think it’s just OK.