As mentioned I took a tour of Anchor Brewing in Potrero Hill at the end of 2007. Since it was the heart of winter the brewers did not have the spring and summer release on tap for free sampling. Thus, when Anchor's spring seasonal hit shelves last week I had to pick up the beer because the staff treated me so well. But before I get to the spring offering (this is a back to back post) I had to give you Achor's flagship; the steam beer.
For those of you who haven't read any of Anchor's literature, the brewery has been around forever in San Francisco. To brew a solid lager in the strange San Francisco temperatures and before refrigeration was common place, new techniques had to be invented. With a new strain of lager yeast, Anchor created the Steam beer, which has subsequently been trademarked and thus referred to in the industry as the 'California common' beer. No one now knows why the beer was called steam beer; even the staff at the brewery. The beer label gives a plausible solution, but the tour guide gave a more likley explination: since the brewery use to place their vats of beer on the roof to ferment, the steam coming off the beer was seen by all local San Franciscans.
Anchor steam is a lager anomaly. It is a heartier lager and the hops are quite pronounced for this normally lighter beer. As you can see from the color, it is darker than most lagers and the taste is far more bitter. It can be best described as a hybrid between a pale ale and a traditional lager taking qualities from both.
On tap at pretty much every San Francisco watering hole, Steam beer is easy to find. It's a great local brew enjoyed by all due to its varying traits. If you haven't given it a shot yet, it's worth a try. I think you'll find something you'll like. Cheers