Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco’s pioneering craft brewery known for its signature “Steam Beer,” which is a beer brewed with lager yeasts at ale temperature, producing a very vigorous and effervescent fermentation, has been one of my favorite go-to breweries for just about as long as I’ve been drinking. When I’m stuck in the less beer-savvy hinterlands of Our Great Republic, I’m always relieved when I can find a six pack of Anchor Steam at the local Harris Teeter or Food Lion.
Early this year, Anchor bottled its newest beer and it is a home run right into McCovey Cove. Their “California Lager,” is a recreation of one of the earliest known lagers brewed in California by Boca Brewing in the Sierra Foothills in 1876. California’s temperate climate and the lack of mechanical refrigeration made brewing lagers–which require much cooler temperatures for fermentation than ales do–rather difficult. Drawing from this historic California origin, Anchor opted to use for its California Lager label a woodcut of a Grizzly that was the principal model for the bear that ultimately ended up on the modern California flag.
The California Lager is full-bodied but still very refreshing. The hops are definitely present but well-integrated and the beer finishes dry without being drying on the palate. Its closest analogue to my mind are the German Kolsch beers. These golden ales are warm-fermented but cold-conditioned, producing a richer depth of flavor while still being mild and refreshing, making for a beer that holds up well to grilled meat and spicy food while still being a welcome poolside beverage on a hot day.
By all reports the California Lager has been a huge hit for Anchor with their first shipment selling out very fast. Another round has just hit the shelves of shops in Southern California, so grab it while you can and stock up for summer.