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Anchor Small Beer - Anchor Brewing Company

Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

419 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 419
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: 419 | Reviews: 319 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of bluemoonswoon


3.75/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into a half pint glass.

After a few sips I would say this easily has to surpass the C+ rating it garners at the moment. Yes, the head is foamy, almost to the point of being "macro-foamy" but it sticks around longer and hides a much nicer color than piss yellow, specifically a clear, bright golden amber.

Aroma is really the weakest aspect of the beer but I guess that's what you get when using run-offs to brew. Aroma is slightly grainy, maybe even a bit smokey (but that could just be my imagination).

Taste is a winner, a bit nutty, a touch of earthy, slightly herbal hop flavors that all ties nicely together. You can certainly tell this is a bitter as there is a nice tightness lingering on the back of my tongue after each sip, otherwise the feel is quite solid, generous on the bubbles, not necessarily refreshing but certainly a beer that I wouldn't mind a couple glasses of for lunch, or dinner for that matter.

Serving type: bottle

07-26-2011 01:30:12 | More by bluemoonswoon
Photo of JerzDevl2000

New Jersey

2.93/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

First off, I have to say that I love Anchor Steam - I really do. It was one of the first craft beers that opened my eyes up to what else was out there and to this day, I still think it's the ideal beer to have a pizza with. I've enjoyed and reviewed many of the other offerings from Anchor and most of them were good enough to buy a second time.

Unfortunately, that's not the case here.

I wanted to enjoy this - I really did. Never before had I seen one of their beers offered in a bottle this big. It was still the familiar bottle that I've come to love but that's about where the similarities ended. Poured some of it out to watch the head froth up and then fade away into nothing...

Then came the smell.

Garbage? Eggs? Sulfur? Oh heck, I have no idea. The taste was the same way. A watered-down version of "stink" that eventually settled into a more generic "beer" flavor. Nothing in the way of carbonation, alcohol, or hops to be felt. As long as I didn't have smell it, it went right down and it was only in the back that I could feel the rye, barley, and faint Anchor hops left over from the Old Foghorn. It was sour nearly the whole way and just not that memorable. As I told my friend, I would have had no idea that this was an Anchor beer if I never saw what bottle it was poured out of.

This certainly qualifies as a session beer but good luck getting more than one of these to go down in a given night. While this doesn't lessen my opinion of Anchor, I was really disappointed in this. Probably one to skip unless you want to experience this firsthand, and as much as I hate to say this, the name of the beer is truly reflective of its stature.

Serving type: bottle

07-01-2011 05:20:16 | More by JerzDevl2000
Photo of nebula1999


4.25/5  rDev +36.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours reddish-copper colored from bomber into 1/2 liter mug. Very carbonated, nearly overflowing. Cream colored head remains with some lacing. Not entirely transparent. Head is just about the same color as the background color on the label.

Smell is of light grain, some grass. Nothing too powerful comes through, but not empty either. I'm thinking this is going to be a light tasteless beer, but not so.

Flavor is clean and light with a mild, then pronounced bitterness on the back of the tongue. Lightly roasted grain is present. Lasting dryness. Bright. Lip smacking. A pleasantly refreshing beer that I could easily work my way though most of the afternoon into the evening. Low alcohol is welcome, but only because the beer actually has some decent flavor accents. I think that "good" beer does not always have to be high in alcohol, or exceedingly complex. This beer fills a niche that I seek out, but rarely find in the micro market.

Mouthfeel is light and quenching with some softness. Pilsener-like. Yet nothing like a macro light. This beer is worth trying. Especially on those hot days when you want to be refreshed, but without the high alcohol that some other ales can deliver. Recommended.

Serving type: bottle

06-27-2011 21:32:12 | More by nebula1999
Photo of shand


3.93/5  rDev +26.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a Sam Adams perfect pint.

This may be a small beer, but it has a huge head! Pours a solid amber color with a huge, fluffy head that retains very well. Aroma is solid. Toasted malts, sharp hops, and not much else. The taste is, again, quite solid. It's quite a simple and refreshing beer, with a nice amount of nutty and toasty maltiness with some sharp hops to keep the tongue tickled.

The mouthfeel is light and crisp, and the drinkability is outstanding. This was an interesting brew to have, it's a great historical brew exhibiting a style that's almost completely lost to time. It's nothing too complex, with just the right amount of flavor (small beer was often drunk in place of water in the medieval times, because it was boiled and had preservatives) just as the style should be. If this were in sixers for about 7 dollars, I'd drink a ton of this.

Serving type: bottle

06-23-2011 19:22:03 | More by shand
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 burnheartsMKE


2.58/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I think Anchor makes great beers, I really do, unfortunately this is not one of them.

Smells funky like hot garbage. Big sea-foam head that just sits there quietly like it’s waiting for some big wave to come crashing down and help it move on…

Taste is out-of-wack bitterness. If you watered down a proper wort, added some bug-spray and then carbonated it - it would probably have the same flavor profile as this small beer.

Yuck, I’m sorry, but 22 oz was way too much and I ended up just giving it away (and I’m not quite sure the recipient finished it either…)

Serving type: bottle

06-16-2011 04:01:58 | More by burnheartsMKE
Photo of Seanibus


3.7/5  rDev +19%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasty but not deep.

Pours deep copper with a slight but sticky head. The aroma is malty and sharp. The flavor is very bitter, masking the thinness of the low ABV and general thinness of the beer. This is not a great beer in a general sense, but given the low abv, it is a great session beer.

Serving type: bottle

06-06-2011 21:35:22 | More by Seanibus
Photo of CraftAleRookie


3.85/5  rDev +23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an oversized DFH snifter.

Deep Golden color- leaning toward copper on the color spectrum. Crystal clear, ample bubbles effervescing from the bottom. What started as a two finger fluffy head become a one finger foamy head; then phased to very light traces of lace during consumption.

The smell was malty, with a hint of yeast. Has the aroma of a lager, with a sharp tinge. Taste is definitely reminiscent of the traditional lager that we used to sneak from Dad's inventory as a teenager- but with a bitter finish that sits in the center of your tongue after swallowing.

For a bitter, this has a lighter body and also lighter fizz. Overall, this is a craft-lover's sample throw-back to the days of lager yore. But with the addition of the bitter sharpness, this is a good change of pace. Serve this ice cold, it's perfect for the warmer weather.

Serving type: bottle

05-30-2011 10:26:33 | More by CraftAleRookie
Photo of ElCommodoro


3.33/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

The pour was a light amber colour with a head that receded to abut half a centimeter. The smell was malty. It smelled like good malt. No other scents were detectable. The flavour is strongly bitter. The delicious sweet maltiness is very easy to taste underneath the bitterness, so it's not overbearing. Considering that I'm not a fan of bitter beers, this one is not bad. It's not balanced, but beers that are supposed to be bitter aren't supposed to be, I suppose. I feel like I can taste the fact that it's more watery and less alcoholic than most beer, but maybe that's just in my head. It definitely has a weakness to it, though. I really do think it's a little too bitter for the weakness, though. It's like a bitter, herbal water. That may have been the intent, but I'm not a fan.

Serving type: bottle

05-29-2011 04:02:59 | More by ElCommodoro
Photo of Kbogac


3.58/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass. Darker amber with a nice two finger head. Lots of visible carbonation. Foam clings to glass all the way down. Smell is very mild hops and malt. Taste is also light. Again hops and malt with a mild bitter finish. This is good beer. Don't try to make it something it's not. It's a second running beer from a barley wine mash. I think it's a great effort and a nice lighter beer.

Serving type: bottle

05-22-2011 00:49:05 | More by Kbogac
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 tone77


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

Poured from a brown 22 oz. bottle. Has a rich golden color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of malts, a bit sweet. Taste is nothing like the smell, there is some malts but with considerable bitterness, a bit of grains, not bad but not overly pleasent. Feels light in the mouth and overall is a mediocre beer.

Serving type: bottle

04-30-2011 15:03:08 | More by tone77
Photo of generallee

New York

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

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 1pt. 6oz bottle into an imperial pint glass. The neck label has a short description of the beer but there is no freshness date or abv%.

Appearance: The body has a light amber to orange amber color with good clarity and some visible carbonation. From the pour I got an average size head (about two fingers) with a just off white color. This head fades slowly and makes some nice lacing on the glass as I drink.

Smell: It light overall and has a light pale biscuit like maltiness with some mild grassy/herbal hops. (This was not what I was expecting at all.)

Taste/Palate: The flavor closely matches the smell. It starts with a thin pale malt with light bready and biscuity notes. This is then quickly over run by a slightly citrusy, almost astringent, grassy hop character. It finishes with this acidic bitterness hanging on to the tongue. The body has a light and fairly thin feel with plenty of scrubbing carbonation.

Notes: For a beer based off the second running of there Barleywine this was not what I was expecting and not a beer that I would seek out again.

Serving type: bottle

04-27-2011 18:34:20 | More by generallee
Photo of david18

New York

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

I had a sixteen ounce draft of this at Todd English P.U.B in Las Vegas. I don't think I disliked this as much as many others but I wasn't overly impressed either. I would like to find a beer that low in alcohol that I enjoyed a lot.

Color was very light, almost American Adjunct light with a small yet active head.

Aroma was somewhat hoppy, but it certainly wasn't like an English bitter.

Flavor was ok, not great but not terrible. Some hops, a little malt, etc.

Overall it was ok but if I want to go low in alcohol I'm much more likely to ask for one of my favorite Pilsners.

Serving type: on-tap

04-18-2011 19:48:29 | More by david18
Photo of Slatetank


3.28/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I picked this 22oz up at Al's of Hampden -shared with tenderbranson69 poured into a large pils glass chilled.

A golden color with slight accent of brass in color with good clarity-visibly carbonated and has a cap of off white cream that retains well. A web of lace is left sticking to the glass. The smell is both hoppy and slightly fruity -pear is the first fruit that comes to mind, but gentle herbal hops dominate with a subtle mineral note from the yeast. The feel is light bodied and moderately highly carbonatied with medium bitterness which is balanced by a gentle toasted malt texture and semi-dry finish.

The bitter is flavored with a hop that seems slightly woody, but not really piney -more herbal tinged and some gentle apple tinges with a light mineral accent from the yeast with the malt providing only a small(pardon the pun) amount of flavor. I feel this beer does what it promises, nothing more -nothing less. It is satisfying, but not really a beer I fell in love with. I guess it just comes off as most small beers to me -kind of forgettable.

Serving type: bottle

04-13-2011 16:23:22 | More by Slatetank
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 ArrogantB


3.58/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle from a recent trade, thanks to whomever sent me this! I poured most of this into a 17oz mug and it looks good, amber color, good head. The smell was kind of average, smells like beer, not much else to say. The flavor was a little bitter and actually pretty good for such a low ABV. I killed this pretty fast. I wouldn't buy this again but its a perfect beer for the afternoon.

Serving type: bottle

04-03-2011 03:35:48 | More by ArrogantB
Photo of beagle75


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

Draft pour into a shaker pint glass at Beachwood BBQ.

A: Clear, light amber color with over one finger of diminishing white foam head. Moderate lacing remains on the glass and clusters of submerged bubbles cling to the wall of the glass, rising occasionally as individuals.

S: Husky pilsner malt is featured in this beer's generally mild scent that is clean, but leaves little impact on the senses.

T: Begins dry, with crisp grassy hops and bright acidity that becomes more intense as the beer warms. A fair amount of bitterness develops in the middle alongside substantial toasted malt that carries through into the finish, leaving an impression of wheat heavy on the palate.

M: Thin viscosity, acidic on the palate but coating in the finish, with moderate carbonation.

D: While this beer is certainly attractively low in alcohol, it is able to deliver surprisingly intense malt-focused flavor whose bright acidity is most appealing in the presence of some of our favorite everyday foods. Its flavor profile is more like a helles lager--or its steam beer older sibling--than a bitter. The acidity can come across as harsh, and the smell is a let-down, but otherwise this is a beer that ought to be more common than it is.

Serving type: on-tap

04-02-2011 13:24:10 | More by beagle75
Photo of BerkeleyBeerMan


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

Poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Honey orange. Light thin color. Nice decent foaming head.

Smell: Apple peels. Wheat. Very malty. Slight off smell

Taste: Woody. Astringent bitter. Dry finish. Taste like cardboard. Grainy. Heavy carbonation. Slight sweetness. Bland. Finish is fine.

Mouthfeel: Medium. Doesn't develop a lot of character.

Drinkability: There is an Interesting premise behind the brewing of this beer (just read the label) but I probably won't be drinking this again. They claim it resembles a bitter but I've had much more drinkable bitters. One extra point for conservation of water and ingredients.

Serving type: bottle

04-01-2011 22:19:27 | More by BerkeleyBeerMan
Photo of plfahey


2.75/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz. bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance-Medium gold and brilliantly clear. Moderately low off-white head with decent retention.

Aroma-Grainy, biscuity, and nutty malt character. Moderately low green, herbal, spicy hop aromas complement the malt. Slight cardboard oxidation.

Flavor-Grainy malt, Very light woody hop flavors and moderate hop bitterness. A bit of cardboard-like oxidation. Tastes somewhat thin.

Mouthfeel-Medium body, moderately low carbonation.

I understand that this is a small beer, which means lower alcohol and lighter flavors, but this seems sub-standard to me. The flavor is thin, and just not that good.

Serving type: bottle

03-20-2011 03:24:47 | More by plfahey
Photo of ktrillionaire


2.17/5  rDev -30.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This beer is terrible. Not actively terrible, mind you; it has no great traits of offense or obscenity. It just sucks. Here's why:

It looks better than it smells, tastes, or feels.

The smell is very much like the little green rabbit food pellets I used to feed my (surprise!) rabbit. I believe those were comprised of barley, just as this small beer is.

The taste is almost horrendous, though I cannot pinpoint a responsible culprit in this regard. Again, I am thinking this must be what hamster food tastes like.

The feel is as good as I could ask for, but it still is accomodating "Small Beer" so it is still not any great shakes.

Overall, this is the bammer (check out RBL if bammer ain't in your lexicon...)

Serving type: bottle

03-18-2011 00:15:14 | More by ktrillionaire
Photo of zhanson88


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

I picked this beer up not knowing a thing about it, other than the fact that Anchor brews it. Figured it would be worth a shot. 22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Small Beer pours a crystal clear light straw color with a couple fingers of egg-shell white head. The head really does have some nice retention qualities, and the lacing is good. Seems promising.

Smell: Pretty blah. Light biscuity notes and a tinge of herbal hops. And when I say a tinge, I really do mean barely detectable, at least to my sense of smell.

Taste: Biscuity malts are certainly the main component, and I do get slightly more herbal hops on the back end on the palate than on the nose. Overall, I still call it below average.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: This beer is very light, and at 3.3% ABV I suppose it's expected. Overall, I just wish it had a bit more flavor. By no means is it an offensive beer, but it doesn't bring enough to the table for me.

Serving type: bottle

03-10-2011 03:56:47 | More by zhanson88
Photo of bahana


4.13/5  rDev +32.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I was very pleasantly surprised by this beer. Very light and drinkable. It would be a good alternative to having a light lager outside on a hot day. I love the mouthfeel how it tingles the tongue. Seems like it would go well with a light fish. Smell isn't much, but the crisp taste makes up for it.

Serving type: bottle

02-27-2011 02:14:28 | More by bahana
Photo of msubulldog25


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

A 10 oz. pour, served at Bailey's Taproom.

A: Mostly clear complexion, golden-honey color. Bubbles rise sporadically, wriggle lazily upward. Fine lace, draping sheets that fall with a creamy near-white creamy head, 1/2 finger at its peak, fading to a gauzy film.

S: Malt scent, but underwhelming in its lightness and simplicity. I know this is second runnings from a bigger beer, but only the vaguest waves of toasted grain (nutty) and the cereal sweetness of boiling wort.

T: Likable doughy malt, although rather bland even for the style. Along with grains, there apple flesh and a twist of citrus peel, before drier bitterness - fine at first then becoming more mineral/sharp. A little surprising that this isn't sweeter.

M: Good crispness and cleanness, a light-medium mouthfeel with a modest effervescence.

D: Very much the 'sessionable' ale, light and easy enough on the palate and the sobriety. A basic mild/ESB, but certainly drinkable enough. Something makes me wish that pints of small beers like this were a bit cheaper, but I can't complain because there's still plenty of craft going into them (heck, with that logic, non-alcoholic beers would cost pennies). Pretty good stuff.

Serving type: on-tap

02-27-2011 01:19:17 | More by msubulldog25
Photo of madvermin


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

Pours a pale, hazy golden color with adequate head that laces averagely, and doesn't retain well at all.

Smells like crisp malt, some sort of bread and a bit of hops, not very complex at all.

Taste is strange, with the initial meld of hops and citrus creating a nice bitterness, but then after that...it's like the whole thing disappeared. I get NOTHING for the entire middle of the sip, and only in the very end/after taste do I get a weird cheap malt taste to go with some mineral character. It's not entirely unpleasant, but could be quite a bit better.

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth and crisp, but suffers at the end as it becomes sort of coarse. Drinkability is good due to the 3.3% abv and dryness, but is hurt by the weird middle absence of anything. Also after a little while the bitterness builds up without anything to balance it, yielding an unpleasant beer you kind of don't want to finish. Good way to preserve tradition, just happens to not be my cup of tea I guess.

Serving type: bottle

02-03-2011 09:43:34 | More by madvermin
Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
72 out of 100 based on 419 ratings.