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Anchor Small Beer - Anchor Brewing Company

Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

420 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 420
Reviews: 319
rAvg: 3.11
pDev: 18.01%

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  3.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
"We believe you will find Anchor Small Beer delicious--similar to what modern brewers call a "bitter"--and we hope you will also enjoy the idea of reviving an ancient brewing tradition, which is something of great importance. "

"We make our Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from the rich first runnings of an all-malt mash, and Anchor Small Beer is our attempt to duplicate the "small beers" of old by sparging that same mash: sprinkling warm water over the Old Foghorn mash after the first wort has run off, thereby creating a second, lighter brew from the resulting thinner wort. "

(Beer added by: UnionMade on 11-11-2000)
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Ratings: 420 | Reviews: 319 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of UCLABrewN84


2.42/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

1 pt. 6 fl. oz. bottle into a nonic pint glass.

A - Pours a light orange opaque color with less than an inch head that fades to a small cap. Decent lacing is present as beer is drunk.

S - All I could smell out of this beer was a metallic grainy odor.

T - Tastes like it smells. Weird bitterness that is almost medicinal and metallic at the same time.

M - To me this was a very watery and somewhat flat beer.

D - Not too good. I have been wanting to try this one for some time and I finally picked up a bottle, but I don't think that I will ever buy this again. It is just too weak and medicinal tasting to me.

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2010 02:25:59 | More by UCLABrewN84
Photo of BuckeyeNation


2.68/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Clear dark amber with an appreciable, though slight, orangish hue. The cap has a quality look about it. At present, it's a solid three fingers of bone white foam that is nicely rocky. It has the same consistency as bubble bath and small chunks are beginning to stick to the glass. Large, pocked sheets eventually form.

Big step down when it comes to the nose. I smell untoasted, slightly sour grain with a mere hint of hoppiness. Let's hope the beer is saving itself for the palate, because if it tastes like it smells... thumbs down.

Another step down, believe it or not. Other than the fact that it's American, pale and an ale, it has no resemblance to an APA as I've come to understand the style. Low on malt, moderate on hops, high on hop bitterness. This is one of the most bitter (in a bad way) and driest beers that I've had in a while. Old Foghorn must have gotten the lion's share of the sugar because Small Beer is mucus membrane-suckingly dry and borders on unpleasant.

It's exceptionally clean with an incredibly light body, but the bitter dryness (to risk beating a dead horse) keeps it from being a mindless, poundable summer beer. I could easily overlook the spritzy carbonation if the beer tasted better.

Anchor deserves some credit for brewing an obscure, traditional beer like this one. Reading a description of the process on their website leads me to wonder how in the world decent beer could result. Well, in my opinion, it doesn't. Just because they *can* brew beer from the Old Foghorn mash (i.e. waste) doesn't mean they *should*. No thanks.

Serving type: bottle

05-15-2005 14:06:30 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

3.25/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

amber with a smallish maybe one finger high head of white foamy and sticky lace. There was alot of carbonation visible streaming up from the bottom of the glass to replenish what little head there was. Decent side glass lace as well. I really had to search for this one to be able to find any hint of anything really. It just came off way to light. When I was able to find an aroma it was most very light grain and wheat with a slight hint of earthy grass.

The flavor was rather bland and non descript with really no defining characteristic to it. Some light cereal grain, and a touch of earthy grass again, but nothing really sticking out in any way. Almost forgotten as soon as it was sipped. It was a nice light bodied ale with a decent finish Not very dry, but a clean finish none the less. It had a very nice amount of carbonation which was the only thing really keeping my intrest at that point.

Serving type: bottle

05-01-2011 01:59:41 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of brentk56

North Carolina

3.9/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear amber color with an impressive head that leaves a fair amount of lacing

Smell: Biscuity, with grain and earthy hop elements

Taste: Starts out with a biscuity flavor; the earthy hops arrive by mid-palate and the grainy element arrives in the finish

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied with plenty of carbonation

Drinkability: You have to drink this beer when it is fresh otherwise it oxidizes quickly due to the low ABV; if everybody around here had a fresh example, I bet the scores would be a lot higher (A fresh bottle moved my score up half a point.)

Serving type: bottle

03-02-2007 04:23:31 | More by brentk56
Photo of BEERchitect


3.45/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

There's a place in the world for beer's that don't overwhelm the palate, that remain flavorful without weight, that are satisfying at low alcohol. Anchor shows a breadth of taste that can be achieved in lighter, session ales.

With its bright copper body and lively carbonation, the beer's first glance won't deviate from the common appearances of pale ales. But its understated head character starts to fall apart rather soon and results in a still appearance midway through the session. But with light carbonation and head character, the beer seems to lace with rings and specks nicely.

Fruity-sweet aromas cross the nose with moderate intensity and delivers grain sweetness of sorghum and thin molasses with dates, prunes, and fig fruit support. Herbal hops contribute tea-like and tobacco aromas particularly as the beer warms.

Grainy sweetness starts the flavor profile with the same sorghum and toffeeish notes found in the aroma. Weaving into the fruit esters of dried and pitted fruits, the combined effect gives a richer taste to start. Earthy hop flavors rise with a quick middle palate and take form of muddled tea leaves and freshly cut tobacco. Hops develop from the fruit and herb taste and toward a broad and earthen bitterness, similar to damp soil and tree bark.

Medium-light bodied early, but as the carbonation recedes, it takes with it the slim malty sweetness and leaves a mild grain-derived astringency to accompany hop bitterness. The beer seems to skip right to the finish to avoid a thin and watery mid palate.

The remnants from Old Foghorn leaves a shadow taste of its big brother but sheds its almost oily viscosity and alcohol complexities for refreshment and drinkability. The beer that emerges retains glimpses into the fruity esters and malt firmness that we've come to love about that barleywine.

Serving type: bottle

08-29-2012 18:04:19 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of metter98

New York

3.18/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is crystal clear golden yellow in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high light beige head that died down rather quickly, leaving a thick ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass and some lacing on the surface.
S: There are light aromas of bready and grainy malts in the nose.
T: Similar to the smell, the flavors in the taste aren’t that strong but are rather malty and are accompanied by a light amount of bitterness.
M: It feels light-bodied and slightly crisp on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation. There are some notes of dryness in the finish.
O: The beer is extremely easy to drink—especially given its low alcohol content—but there’s nothing interesting in the taste that would want me to have more than one of these in a sitting.

Serving type: bottle

06-20-2011 23:57:11 | More by metter98
Photo of ChainGangGuy


3.35/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Apperance: Pours a clear, light coppery body with a foamy, white head.

Smell: Doughy barley aroma with a bit of citrus and spice. Starts smelling of broth after awhile, so much so that I order some Chinese delivery!

Taste: Mild malt character, with only some light malted barley and a taste of yeasty dough sweetened with one lonely drop of honey. Spicy, citrusy hop flavor with a medium bitterness. Dry finish is a touch soapy with a lingering bitterness. There's an astringency that builds up on the palate along the way.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied. Medium, somewhat lively carbonation.

Drinkability: You won't get anything that packs a punch at 3.30%, but it sure has alot of heart, that's for damn sure.

Serving type: bottle

05-02-2008 23:53:11 | More by ChainGangGuy
Photo of oberon

North Carolina

3.33/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The first beer I had today during the travesty that happened in Columbus,poured a dull slight hazed golden with a well formed one finger white head that stuck around for quite awhile.Very unpleasant aromas like that of rotting fruit almost just overtook the toasted grain notes cant put my finger on it I just know I didnt like it.The flavors were a bit better bbut still pretty basic toasty lighty sweet biscuity malt a touch of earthy hop but nothing really stands out.Hmm pretty basic the aroma was bad but the flavors were pretty good,a decent quaffer but I wouldnt look to buy it again.

Serving type: bottle

11-19-2006 00:35:00 | More by oberon
Photo of TMoney2591


3.03/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

Served in a Chicago Bears shaker pint glass.

I had to get rid of the last bottle on the shelf, so I might as well buy it myself. This stuff pours a clear tawny-amber topped by a finger of lightly off-white foam. The nose comprises faint old sourdough and what may or may not be a hint grass, depending on whether or not I'm actually just smelling the air outside somehow. The taste pretty much echoes the smell, though now it's just generic barley and generic white bread yeast combining to form the most milquetoast of all possible flavors. I'd knock it, but it's not offensive, just insanely boring and undistinguished. The body is pretty light, with a light moderate carbonation and a sorta/kinda crisp finish. Overall, this may be one of the blandest beers outside of the BMC arena. It's not bad, per se, just something I'd likely easily forget that I'd imbibed on any given day, especially if anything else happened that day, beer- or otherwise.

Serving type: bottle

07-09-2013 19:06:50 | More by TMoney2591
Photo of NeroFiddled


3.3/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A clear, deep-gold body is capped by a short and lightly creamy white head that drops readily to a thin surface covering. It leaves minor spotty lace aroud the glass at the start of the pint, but very little else after that. The nose offers little more than a lightly husky malt. The body is light; but a very fine-bubbled and gently effervescent carbonation leaves it nicely crisp in the mouth. The flavor offers the same husky malt that the nose promotes; although it's not astringent, and a firm bitterness balances it nicely. Some low-level citrusy hop flavor is present, but not distinct in character. An average beer - there are many better beers in this range available in England. I would like to try this from a cask-conditioned Firkin, however. Additionally, with its low-level alcohol it could make a nice alternative to non-alcohol beers or soft drinks when you have to drive. One, or even two, over a period of an hour or so should be fine. And although it doesn't seem to have enough character to keep it interesting throughout an entire session, it might be a good beer to switch to as the evening winds down and you need to head home.

Serving type: bottle

04-20-2003 21:17:40 | More by NeroFiddled
Photo of biboergosum

Alberta (Canada)

2.75/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22oz bottle, (bottled on date, May 26, 2011, after decoding) from a nice store in Idaho Falls last month. So, I'm to understand that this is the second pressing of the Old Foghorn process? Kind of like the non-EVOL version of beer?

This beer pours a somewhat hazy, medium golden amber colour, with two fingers of dense rocky beige head, which leaves a stellar array of spiderweb lace around the glass as it evenly subsides - hmmm...biases equally abating. It smells of herbal, funky hops, and a weak graininess. Again, hmmm. The taste is mineral-esque, and mealy - from hop or malt, I do not know. A rising acerbic leafiness quickly assumes dominance, holding out over all. The carbonation is on the low side, the body light, but not thin, and somewhat smooth. It finishes with a resurgence of that funky, musty character, cutting severely into my recently renewed hope for this brew.

It's got the unassuming simplicity and low ABV of an English Bitter, but none of the well, inherent characteristics therein. No crisp biscuit malt, no jocular, yet reserved hops. Just a musty, kind of off-putting affair. Any relation to its parent beer is unfathomable.

Serving type: bottle

09-01-2011 01:31:14 | More by biboergosum
Photo of feloniousmonk


3.3/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

I've got to applaud the very existence of Anchor Small for several reasons, that they dare to still produce something in so uncommercial a fashion, that they are still experimenting with ancient traditions. This, according to the neck label, is the lighter, weaker second running from the mash of Old Foghorn. Hmm! Would they have similarities? Should they? What are we talking about? Hey, I've got an idea! Just drink it!
Appearance: clear, bright amber color, large fluffy white head, that takes it's time in settling down. Aroma: mostly dry and clean, but many interesting minor notes make their presence known, hints of citrus, bread, sour dough. It's more complex and intersting a melange the more I comsider it.
Taste: nice and hoppy, right upfront, and swift to mellow thereafter, though the complex citrusy flavor remains on the palate and begs one to consider it further. A coppery, citric tang rings throughout the finish, though it is short. Light body, little malt, or hops, texture hasn't too much to say. Taste is too unique to neglect, though. Do I like it, though? I think not...exactly.
If it wasn't only in these poorly distributed 220z bottles, and perhaps had a catchier name, and maybe a touch of sweetness, or a little extra flavor, they'd have a decent, popular ESB or something.
But perhaps that is not the Anchor way...so be it.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2003 01:58:03 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of TheManiacalOne

Rhode Island

2.33/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a mug glass.

A: The beer is a deep amber color, with a short off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is a little pungent and contains caramelized malt and some pale hops.

T: The taste is malty with flavors of caramel and some citrus. There's a mild and pale hops presence that really doesn't seem to compliment everything very well. The after-taste is slightly bready.

M: Crisp but not very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, very is clean.

D: Not very tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, very mild kick, not the best representation of style, this is simply not a beer that I would want to drink again.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2008 00:47:50 | More by TheManiacalOne
Photo of russpowell


3.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Review based on notes

Pours an effervescent honey color with 1 finger of pearl white head. Minimal lacing & head retention

S: Grassy & lemony hops

T: Lemony, grassy & grainy up front. Astringency kicks in as this warms. Finishes grainy with a bit of grapefruit

MF: Light bodied, astringent & with minimal carbonation

Nice homage to old brewing traditions, but I'll never buy this again unless there is almost zero choice in beer, was drinkable enough, but devoid of flavors I seek

Serving type: bottle

07-09-2008 21:13:45 | More by russpowell
Photo of WesWes

New York

3.13/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The beer pours a golden color with a thick frothy white head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a light, grainy, pale malt scent with some sweetness and a slightly fruity yeast aroma. The taste is average. It has a very light and watery pale/and light crystal malt flavor. It is loaded with citrus hops and a thin dry finish. The mouthfeel is decent. It is a low bodied beer with good carbonation. This is an interesting concept, although the result is less than stellar. It is too loaded with hops. It has a really bitter aftertaste. This is an average drinker. It's one and done for me.

Serving type: bottle

03-07-2005 21:33:37 | More by WesWes
Photo of drabmuh


3.33/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I am not reviewing this beer to style, I am reviewing it for the novelty of it being made from the second runnings of the Old Foghorn grains. I don't know if this is suppose to be an APA, I'll review it as a "small beer."

Beer served in a goblet. Beer is clear and almost amber in color. Forms a white to off white head of medium and small bubbles. Carbonation is low and there is some but not a lot of lacing on the glass. Beer looks really good.

There is a cereal aroma that is reminiscent of a bad lager, but this is understandable if you know the process of how this beer comes to being.

Beer is light in body and has an aftertaste of cereal grain. There is a bitterness about it that is not pleasant unfortunately. It tastes a lot like grainy water. The aftertaste fades quickly. Its almost like an ale made with a lager yeast. I wonder if the off flavors from the grain are associated with the second running style of preparation of the wort. Second taste, second taste was better but that aftertaste is still there. Its interesting but not great.

Serving type: bottle

02-18-2010 00:07:35 | More by drabmuh
Photo of Mora2000


3.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a very clear yellow with a white head. The aroma is corn and wheat. Very macro like. The aroma is corn with some very light hops, wheat and possibly some light skunking. Thin mouthfeel and medium carbonation. Anchor makes some great beers but this is not one of them.

Serving type: bottle

03-19-2010 22:47:18 | More by Mora2000
Photo of zeff80


3.33/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Poured out a copper/amber color with a fizzy, white, one-finger head. It was highly carbonated and left no lace.

S - It smelled of grass, corn/grains. Also, some malty notes.

T - It tasted very bitter. It was grassy/hoppy with a smooth maltiness.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A light to medium-bodied beer.

D - This is an okay beer. It is a very unique flavor that I've never tasted before. It's almost like a cross between an APA and an English Bitter.

Serving type: bottle

06-14-2007 17:47:23 | More by zeff80
Photo of Gueuzedude


3.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a brilliantly clear copper color, topped by a thick wonderfully long lasting off white head that creates the classic Belgian lacing as the beer is consumed. The aroma is of grain & some spicy hoppiness reminiscent of an open field. The taste is light & finishes with a spritzy bitterness. There is some dry grain character in the taste as well. The hop flavor is somewhat subdued (which is appropriate for an English bitter, which this beer characterizes itself as), but there is a nice hop spicing which adds some piney notes and a certain zing in the middle of this beer. There is a bit of nuttiness here too. Perhaps a tad too bitter to be spot on to style but I do like it anyway. Quite a clean strain of ale yeast was used as there is not much in the way of fruitiness or esters that might have added a bit more complexity.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2004 22:37:00 | More by Gueuzedude
Photo of jwc215


3.38/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to mfielden for this one!

Pours a deep gold - plenty of clarity - with an ample white head that descends slowly to a thin, slowly vanishing cover. Some lacing sticks.

The smell is grainy - a bit raw - with some floral notes.

The taste is of grain, biscuit, with tea-leaf, floral, herbal bitterness. It has a dry, slightly astringent, finish.

It has a thin body, as expected for low abv.

An "interesting" brew - it's cool that they re-created a "historic" brew, and it has a nice hoppy touch, too. I don't know that I would go back to this with any regularity, but not a bad choice for a lower-alcohol, something different, beer. Close to an English bitter with an American hop touch.

Serving type: bottle

11-08-2008 13:49:48 | More by jwc215
Photo of smcolw


2.4/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Golden amber in color, clear. Very nice head, with excellent fluffy lace.

There is an off aroma to this beer, similar to refridgerator mold. Too strong to get much more than this, I detect some neutral malt. Definitely a turn off.

The flavor is marginally better because of the presence of the hops, which are floral and strong. There is a metalic taste to this beer. Drinkable, but distracting. The body is nice (like whole milk).

All in all, perhaps the worse offering from Anchor. Too bad, as they make some of the best beers in America.

Serving type: bottle

06-04-2005 17:54:22 | More by smcolw
Photo of Halcyondays


3.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

24 oz. bowling pin,

A: Pours a pale orange, with a full, long-lasting white head, solid lacing.

S: Strong hop aroma, grassy, light malt.

T: A bitter and somewhat astringent taste of grassy hops dominates the brew, the very low alcohol content allows some carbonic acid flavour as well. Really tasty light treacly sweetness in the aftertaste. My feelings on the flavour have their up and down moments.

M: Very light, which I would expect for a small beer, though I think the biting carbonation detracts from the enjoyment of the beer and makes it less drinkable.

D: A beer that's hard to drink at times, but still an interesting experiment from Anchor. Nice to see a brewer making this rare style which was a common as water during the medieval period.

Serving type: bottle

05-08-2008 04:00:40 | More by Halcyondays
Photo of mactrail


2.45/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Coors Light with an overdose of hops.

Very light in every way except slight amber hint to the color. No apparent malt in the first taste, and if there is any odor it is lost on me. Hops are surprisingly intense. It's like an IPA seriously watered down. Very bitter with unpleasant aftertaste like cheap toothpaste.

If this were a non-alcoholic beer, I'd give it some applause. But it's not anything like a creditable English Mild either. Served in what appears to be a soda-fountain fluted glass at the Small Bar in San Diego. Served icy cold, which didn't seem to make it any more palatable.

Serving type: on-tap

04-06-2011 05:47:34 | More by mactrail
Photo of barleywinefiend


2.15/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

At first I was interested in this beer after I saw it at BEVMO.
Poured a light gold color. Head is small. Aroma is malty and slightly skunky. A light bodied beer. Very light and watery tasting. There is something not quite right with this beer, not sure quite what it is, but it ain't right. Malts are way to mild. Hops are way to astringent. And it only 3.3 ABV as well. Not a very good effort from Anchor. Mouthfeel is thin. Finish is blsnd. Aftertaste is bitter. tasted like a macrobrew all the way. Schlitz even!

Serving type: bottle

04-18-2008 06:11:18 | More by barleywinefiend
Photo of kojevergas


2.73/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

1 pint 6 fl oz brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into a mason jar in low altitude Palo Alto, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are average given its rating on the site. Served refrigerator cold and unpaired with food.

A: Pours a half finger head of fair thickness and cream, and abysmal retention. Colour is a clear light copper. Generally appealing.

Sm: Clean malt and barley is all me broken nose detects. All apologies, lads. A mild to moderate strength aroma.

T: Clean malts with some light nuts on the climax. Simple and boring. Imbalanced.

Mf: Lumpy, sharp (overcarbonation?), smooth, and wet.

Dr: A boring sloppy seconds beer that is neither interesting nor worthwhile, this is best left on the shelf.

Serving type: bottle

02-06-2012 03:51:15 | More by kojevergas
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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
72 out of 100 based on 420 ratings.