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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 Durge


3.53/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This chubby bottle, that’s been in my fridge for at least a couple of years, poured into a tall glass, shows a bright, clear amber color and a substantial white head and lot’s of lacing. The aroma brings to mind yeasty pumpernickel bread with caramel malt undercurrents, crisp and a bit skunky like some pilsners. The taste brings on an interestingly peppery wheat with more yeasty bread and grassy edges. There is a subtle light fruit sweetness but generally this is more of a grain brew that’s a tad watery but has an effervescent feel with a light body. It’s interesting, kind of basic and not a bad refreshment.

Serving type: bottle

02-05-2012 02:58:40 | More by Durge
Photo of mglaser37


3.48/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Head: Had little hold but was white and a bit fluffy at first.

Aroma: This beer has a hoppy/grassy smell to it.

Color: This is a light pale ale…has a light golden color.

Flavor: Was bitter/hoppy & nutty…bitter finish.

Mouth-feel: This was very watery…easy to drink. Body had a decent amount of carbonation but not to the tongue.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2012 22:04:16 | More by mglaser37
Photo of ciaomonaco


3.53/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Head: Low

Aroma: Hops first, very bright.

Color: Golden orange

Carbonation: Low

Mouthfeel: Light

Alcohol: Low

Flavor: Bitter finish

Personal notes: I got some pineapple and/or tropical fruit which is a flavor analogy that one could attribute to the hops.

Since this is a classic bitter beer it is hoppier and brighter rather than sweet, although balanced and easy to drink in succession.

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2012 23:13:15 | More by ciaomonaco
Photo of Drewski363672


3.78/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

S:Small glass poured out of a bottle

A: golden medium color, small head very little foam

S:the slight smell of hops is fruity and sweet smelling

T: The taste is interesting at first it is bitter but the finishing taste is sweet and shows how balanced the beer is between the amount of hops

M:As i swished the mouth full it became light and creamy leaving a pleasant feel in the mouth.

O:I would rate this beer highly for it's ease of drink-ability it is so smooth and refreshing

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2012 18:44:17 | More by Drewski363672
Photo of Monicagm


3.78/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Amber gold color. Starts with a small head then receds back into the beer. A nice lacing sticks to the sides of the glass.

Has a fruity, spicy smell, mostly hops.

A little bit of carbonation but it doesn't overwhelm the beer.

Light mouthfeel, easy to drink.

Bitter taste with a bitter finish. Hops, malt, and a roasted nuttiness is emphasized in the taste.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It's the kind of beer you could drink while laying back with a group of friends.

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2012 17:44:52 | More by Monicagm
Photo of vkv822


3.3/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle into tulip pint.

Pours a clear dark golden with lots of rising carbonation and foamy white head that leaves great lacing.

Quite biscuity, with some faint hop notes.

More biscuit and cracker, and some light grassy hops.

A medium to light body with a fair amount of prickly carbonation.

A simple, yet enjoyable session beer. Would love to see this in 6-packs, though I doubt there is much of a market for it.

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2012 08:39:16 | More by vkv822
Photo of Kromes


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

A: A pale gold color with a fluffy white head.

S: Sweet honey and grainy malt with a touch of grassy hop.

T: Sweet grainy malt up front with a touch of grassy hop and a good amount of bitterness in the finish.

M: Thin body with high carbonation. Drinkable, but bordering on soda-like.

O: Interesting beer. Don't know that I've ever had a sloppy seconds beer. The flavors are decent, but the thin quality is apparent.

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2012 17:13:56 | More by Kromes
Photo of scruffwhor


2.73/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Hay with a light copper tint. Looks like an almost amber Pilsner. Good head and foam retntion as well as good bubbling.

Faint note of grassy hops amongst just toasted malts. Very thin aroma overall.

Watery thin palate with some toasted cracker water snapp thanks to some slightly lemon and grass clipping hops. The mnalts is just a faint, very dry, maybe even bland tasting cracker. Sessionable, just not flavorful.

Serving type: bottle

01-20-2012 03:23:56 | More by scruffwhor
Photo of tsauce2


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

P: 22 fl oz bottle into a snifter.

A: SRM is light caramel. Translucent and clear filtered. Head is off white/cream, 1 in, dissipates to 1 cm. Medium carbonation. Light lacing.

S: Sweet malt notes, honey, floral hop additions.

T: Light malt, honey, light piney hops. Aftertaste is light malt, light sweetness, medium hops with light bitterness.

M: Light body. Feel is very light yet robust. Semi dry finish.

O: I really like this beer. I know that it is made off the seconds of Old Foghorn, but this beer is very refreshing and quite drinkable. A bit light for an ESB, but still very flavorful. I will always buy this beer when it comes out.

Serving type: bottle

01-17-2012 14:55:55 | More by tsauce2
Photo of gueuzeonhigh


3.45/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours looking hearty but somewhat somber red-amber as streams of effervescence rise from the bottom of the glass .

Produces a nice frothy white head that hangs around a while but gradually recedes back to the beer's surface. Ample lacing records the head's procession on its return to the origin.

The nose is very light-- almost nonexistent.

Flavor is rather light with hints of hops and pepper spice. Much of the flavor and mouthfeel is that of a noticeable flavor of hops and spice and then that initial flavor vanishes with a rather water-like consistency.

One worthy thing that comes to mind- is that this beer has the ABV of many American adjunct beers but it also has much more flavor and complexity. Thus for a low ABV beer this beer can be a much more satisfying drink.

Mouthfeel is cordial- as this beer is rather light flavored. All of this beer's attributes bring to mind "lite".

Overall I think this beer can be a satisfying thirst quencher on a hot day. It can also be a satisfying light alcohol beer while still supplying the essence of beer. If you're after a hearty ale, you will be disappointed.

Serving type: bottle

01-05-2012 03:52:45 | More by gueuzeonhigh
Photo of SmartyPints


2.63/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from 650ml bottle.

A- Poured a golden yellow color. Three finger white head shows great retention. Big layered lacing that stuck to the rim of the glass.

S- Tons of grainy aroma with little else. Not a very big fan of some of these small beers.

T- Tons of grainy flavor that seems to build a uphill battle for the light hopping (grassy and earthy) they put into this one. The middle does show a little hops but from there and throughout the rest of the beer it is all cereal grain taste.

M- Light mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Cereal grain and very light earthy hops are left on the palate. Aftertaste is mostly hints of alcohol and boatloads of cereal grains. Flavors are jerky at best. No off flavors were present in the beer. Light alcohol drying on the finish.

O- This beer was not at all what I was going for. The lack of overall flavor did kill it for me about half way through the beer. The ABV is perfect for multiple pints but it just needs a little more flavor and I would be happy.

Serving type: bottle

12-09-2011 04:46:20 | More by SmartyPints
Photo of CwrwAmByth

United Kingdom (Wales)

4.13/5  rDev +32.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 650ml bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a dark amber colour with a nice white head that lasts for ages.

Smells alright nothing spectacular just a sort of generic beer smell.

Tastes quite nice, but the winning factor is the drinkability of it. It's so well balanced it's a lovely drink.

Overall it is a truly lovely session beer. Though could do with being a bit weaker alcohol wise if i'm honest.

Serving type: bottle

12-02-2011 23:32:56 | More by CwrwAmByth
Photo of JustinMatthew


2.98/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a light golden color, not much of a head. This beer is the second brewed in a twice used mash from the old foghorn barleywine. It doesn't smell of much at all, tastes of very light malt and barley. Not much of an aftertaste, a definite session beer. 

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2011 19:54:01 | More by JustinMatthew
Photo of stakem


3.45/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to pmsawyer for sharing this one with me. Poured into a mini snifter, this brew appears a clear golden color with a white cap about a finger strong. Stringy lace sticks all over the glass and maintains a film across the top.

My initial reaction to the smell of this brew is candy-like with bubblegum sweetness. There are some faint yeasty notes but otherwise clean with a light fruit (almost cotton candy mixed with clover honey.) While the aroma is not bad, it is very atypical of the style.

The taste is fairly clean with a light pale malty sweetness which is enjoyable since it doesnt include the same candy sweehangars red displayed in the nose. Instead, it is fresh and grainy with a pleasant minor herbal biterness to contrast that is lightly grassy. Clover honey comes across in the aftertaste just like it faintly shown itself in the nose.

This is a very clean, light and easy drinking brew. The bit of honey dryness displayed in the finish and hinted on in the aroma makes me wonder if the original gravity of this bitter was undershot and it had to be augmented with honey so it wasn't too watery. Regardless, I understand the process and reasoning for small beer production and found this to be enjoyable for what it is.

Serving type: bottle

11-07-2011 22:07:31 | More by stakem
Photo of MoreThanWine


3.15/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured a 2" white head which maintained a merengue for a surprisingly long time. Body is clear and somewhere between straw yellow and gold color. Smell is straight BMC. Taste to me is BMC too but more on the bitter side.

Although I trust the label's story about the 2nd beer made from a mash being called a "small" beer to be true, it's not a separate beer style on the site, and I'm not sure tasting like an English Bitter actually makes it that kind of beer.

Regardless, I thought this was BMC with a little extra.

Serving type: bottle

10-27-2011 08:40:05 | More by MoreThanWine
Photo of ryan1788a5


2.2/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

A: Dull golden-orange color. Great clarity. Huge rocky head is comprised of large bubbles. Heavily carbonated, excellent retention. Patchy lacing.

S: Hop profile stands out first. Perfumey/floral and herbal. Faint grainy scents in the background, a bit of husk. not much else going on here.

T: Very watery. Cereal grain tastes start to build a little. Thin herbal and floral hop tastes are dry, leafy, and a bit citric. Very dry. Finishes with dry cereal grain tastes (think Cheerios) and the slightest hint of herbal hop tastes.

M: Extremely thin and watery. Extremely high level of carbonation really doesn't do much for it either. Pretty astringent too.

O: Thin, watery, and lacking any kind of significant taste. Much too dry.

I don't know what I was expecting. I'd never had a small beer before. If this is the norm for them, I'm beginning to understand why they aren't made anymore. Glad I tried it (mainly for its historical significance) but i will not be buying this one again.

Serving type: bottle

09-23-2011 20:58:30 | More by ryan1788a5
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 Derek

British Columbia (Canada)

3.55/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Clear bronze with a huge, fluffy white head, good retention & lace. How do they do it... is it the hop oils?

S: Floral, steelie grass and a bit of San Francisco sour dough bread.

T: Quite hop forward, very steelie and floral; hints of grainy astringency dance with the hop acidity and modest bitterness.

M: Light to moderate body has a light hop acidity and a crisp finish with a hint of tartness.

D: A refreshing summer brew.

Very few brewers use the second runnings. From a historical and environmental point of view I like it. Today this is a very unique brew, which is tough to judge by style... but I'd happily session it in the summer heat.

Serving type: bottle

08-31-2011 04:47:10 | More by Derek
Photo of nickd717


2.65/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Review dated 6/26/2009. Tap at the brewery. Not a favorite.

Golden color with a white head.

Aroma is malty and grainy with slight hops.

Flavor more of the same, light and malty with grains and some slightly metallic hop bitterness on the finish.

Palate light and somewhat watery.

Pretty run-of-the-mill overall. I’ll take an Old Foghorn instead.

Serving type: on-tap

08-26-2011 20:34:25 | More by nickd717
Photo of wnh


3.3/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. (?) bottle poured into a pint glass.

Pours a crisp, clear light copper topped by a large, fluffy and rocky white head that sticks around.

Nose is balanced, nutty malt and leafy/earthy hops primarily. Simple and clean, with perhaps a touch of citrus.

Earthier on the palate, a fair bit muddled. Mildly sweet. Tastes like it's been watered down, which in a sense I suppose it has. Still crisp. Perhaps faintly floral.

Light modied, mostly firm. Just a hint of lingering bitterness, but without hop flavor. Not bad, but less than I was expecting.

Serving type: bottle

08-24-2011 20:20:23 | More by wnh
Photo of dgilks


3.88/5  rDev +24.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed at Incanto in San Francisco

Clear golden colour with a small off-white head. Good head retention.

Earthy, slightly herbal hop aromas with mild caramel malts. Good.

Crisp, dry nutty malt with moderate bitterness. Quite earthy.

Medium body with moderate carbonation. Good.

A lovely, simple balanced bitter. Good use of the second runnings and a very nice summer beer.

Serving type: bottle

08-19-2011 11:06:37 | More by dgilks
Photo of July2Nov


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

Appearance: clear bronze in color with not much in way of head retention.

Smell: Lighter wheat scent with some sweetness.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Light and water-like. Has a dry cider like feel to it with grains and wheat as the centerpiece. Pretty much one-note.

Overall: Average, but refreshing. It is what it is. Got this one ticked off the list.

Serving type: bottle

08-14-2011 04:15:11 | More by July2Nov
Photo of jondeelee


3.23/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Anchor's Small Beer is made from the same mash as their Old Foghorn barleywine-style ale: after the first runnings have been drained off for Old Foghorn, the mash is soaked again, and the second run is used for Small Beer. The result is a beer that is intentionally lighter and weaker (only 3.3% ABV). Small Beer still has some of the barleywine aromas--apricot, brown sugar, vanilla, orange, lemon--but they are less pronounced.

On the tongue, the beer is light, but refreshing, tasting somewhat like a cross between a non-skunky Corona and a light IPA. Citrus flavors dominate--oranges, lemons, apricots--but the beer also bears a strong bitterness, akin to grapefruit rind, and a peppery spiciness. Mouthfeel is light, and carbonation is medium-high.

Overall, Small Beer is a good beer, and for a second-run brew, is still far better than anything Anheuser-Busch puts out. I do find the bitterness somewhat out of balance with the sugars, but still think the result is quite palatable, and refreshing--this is a brew I'd like to take to the beach on a hot day.

Serving type: bottle

08-03-2011 03:35:41 | More by jondeelee
Photo of notchucknorris


3.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: A great looking beer. Honey colored and clear with a long lasting off white head.

S: Smells kind of like beer that's been left out open overnight. Almost like a stale coors light. Alright, maybe not that bad. Notes of spent grain, slight malt and a strange sourness.

T: This just isn't impressive. Has a strange watery sour taste that I just can't force myself to like. Strange and grainy and not something I'd get again.

Serving type: bottle

08-03-2011 02:01:10 | More by notchucknorris
Photo of mempath


4.43/5  rDev +42.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

figured i'd try this since it's a tip of the hat to brewing history and activity...and i like anchors offerings. surprised to see the 'score' but here goes...

nice bright deep brass color with an active head that laces briefly but disappears quickly. definitely appears to have a good body. so far so good. the nose is subtle but instant hint of herbs, floral. i don't know why but each sniff makes me think of the alps. weird. something medicinal in a good way...ree-colahhh. the translation to taste is similar, but the shift from subtle/mysterious is more revelatory. definitely not watery, rather astringent (in a good way) thanks to an active mouthfeel. crisp, uncomplicated but not simply 'simple'...for something so malty, there is a hoppy menthol sense that makes this a little more mysterious once again. i guess it's good it's low ABV....but i do wish it didn't cost so much ($6+ for the bomber)

would be interesting to pour a few ounces of Old Foghorn in...and vice versa when i have an OF on hand.

Serving type: bottle

07-26-2011 21:55:10 | More by mempath
Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
72 out of 100 based on 420 ratings.