I was wandering up and down the beer aisle in Safeway earlier this week looking for a new brew to sample and write up. I had forgotten how much of Safeway's selection is devoted to name-brand brews, and how little there is to sample in the way of genuine crafts. With some trepidation, I grabbed a six pack of Anchor's Summer Beer. The trepidation had nothing to do with Anchor. They're pretty well-regarded, and as San Francisco's oldest and best-known craft brewer, I have to confess to a certain hometown bias. My worries had everything to do with the particular genre I had selected. I generally find summer beers disappointing. They tend to have very mild and uninteresting flavors. Refreshing, perhaps, but the same might be said for Corona or even a properly-chilled Coors Light.
Fortunately, Anchor's Summer Beer bucks the trend. This one is really hoppy for a Summer beer, about on par with what you'd expect to get out of a pale. But the taste is a little bit drier than your typical pale--much more earthy than citrusy. As is typical with the summer ale genre, this one is brewed with wheat rather than barley. But while the unmistakable wheaty smoothness is present, it is somewhat obscured by the hops. The beer is also highly carbonated. Not soda-level carbonation, but about as carbonated as you can expect to find in a beer. Combined with the healthy dose of earthy hops, this gives Anchor's summer beer a very crisp taste that lingers a bit on the tongue, which is the perfect recipe for a hot summer day.
I suspect that real devotees of the summer ale genre will be a bit put off by this one. Most summer ales opt for a soft and mellow wheaty flavor accented by fruit and citrus notes. By contrast, Anchor has opted for a starker, bolder take that uses the wheat as a springboard for a pronounced, but simple, crisp hoppiness. But what disappoints the summer ale enthusiasts is a boon for hopheads!