Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

326 Reviews
Read the review
Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: English Bitter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 3.30%

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. "

Added by UnionMade on 11-11-2000

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 326 | Ratings: 450
Photo of mempath
4.42/5  rDev +41.7%
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.

 1,011 characters

Photo of WetCoaster
4.35/5  rDev +39.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Deep honey amber with a pure white head. Good retention. Incredibly fine, almost invisible carbonation. Some slippery lace.

Smell: Surprising. Really rich, nice malt backbone with a distinct floral hoppiness. Mild, but quite good.

Taste: Wha? Even more surprising. The body is very light and crisp, as you might expect. The flavor, though, is something else. The flavor is a bit of an hourglass; there's not much body, but the hops and malt really pop. There's a smooth, creamy malt richness with a bracing hoppy bitterness. It's mild, and you can sort of tell it's a dumbed-down version of something, but the balance is almost perfect.

Drinkability: Taken in context, outstanding. Is this a great, or even above average, pale ale? Not really. But if you think about what this beer actually is for a minute -- a 2-2.5% "near beer" (rumor has it the listed 3.3% is QUITE optimistic) -- it's a bloody miracle; a picnic/gathering beverage you can drink all day and remain (relatively) sober that doesn't taste like tin can full of boiled cat urine. Wouldn't drink this every day, but in that situation, I would definitely go back to this one. Try it -- you might be surprised.

 1,195 characters

Photo of seedyone
4.34/5  rDev +39.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

06/27/13 On tap At Rattle N Hum, NYC. As 'small beers' are, by definition, made from the by-products of other batches, this has quite a substantial taste. Don't see it in the long haul, but there is nothing to shy away from in his glass.

 237 characters

Photo of nebula1999
4.2/5  rDev +34.6%
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.

 1,206 characters

Photo of thejewthatbrews
4.17/5  rDev +33.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
A: Deep golden, honey colored, with a white bubbly head and nice, although thin, lacing. Head retention was minimal.
S: Very balanced. A little more toward the malt side, after the pour, once the head died down a bit.
T: Again, balanced. Slight malt upfront, then a little hops. Hops in the finish, with a mildly malty aftertaste.
M: Pretty light, but not like water or anything. Light enough that you don't feel the need to drink sparingly.
D: Highly drinkable, due to a very balanced, mild flavor, and light mouthfeel.

Overall, in my opinion, a great beer. Balanced all around, and extremely drinkablel. Nothing special, but what would you expect from the second runnings of a mash? Will I buy it again? Definately. It's a beer I don't have to convince myself I like.

 810 characters

Photo of goochpunch
4.17/5  rDev +33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours out a peach iced tea with moderately spaced out bubbles in the body. The thin head fizzes out to a thin ring. I smell some toasty malts, a good bit of diacetyl, along with tea and herbal hops. Malt is up front with some underlying graininess on the tongue. Diacetyl stands constant throughout the flavor. Herbal hops accompany the dry and slightly astringent finish. Body is rather light and almost spritzy. This would be an amazing session beer if I could only get it in Texas.

 484 characters

Photo of Reagan1984
4.15/5  rDev +33%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Always wanted to try this beer from understanding the historical significance of the method (style)

Poured with a fluffy whipped egg white head. While the head was about a finger plus thick initially, it settled to a very thin cap over time. The beer was a light amber color with no visible carbonation. The glass was splattered with a decent amount of lacing.

Aroma was fresh with a combination of lightly toasted malt, bread dough and an ever so slightly floral hop aroma.

I have to say that I really enjoy this beer. My first thought on how to describe the taste was to put. "It tastes like Beer!" It does, just a classic beer flavor. Very bread like with a nice fruit background. The grain seems to shine through with a nice balance brought about by the bread tones and the light presence of hops. I think the level of bitterness is spot on for the flavor profile and mouth feel.

Beer has light carbonation and a fairly light body.

Immensely drinkable and obviously the definition of a session beer. I knew the scores were a bit low for this beer, but I still wanted to try it. I am so happy I did. I enjoyed this and it certainly has it's time and place.

I wonder how much of the scoring here is due to folks preconceived notions of a lower abv beer. We'll never know, but I think this is quite a nice beer.

 1,320 characters

Photo of bahana
4.1/5  rDev +31.4%
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.

 298 characters

Photo of mschofield
4.1/5  rDev +31.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a coppery gold, topped with a three finger foamy off-white head. Well carbonated and leaves thick patches of lace.
Light malt, pine and apricot in the aroma.
Good bitter taste, pine, toast, wood, leather, citrus rind, light caramel. Light bodied, a little thin.
One of the tastiest low alcohol beers on the market.

 323 characters

Photo of leantom
4.1/5  rDev +31.4%

Why not? Here goes:

A - Clear orange-amber with a massive head that leaves a ton of lacing. In fact, the beer was bursting forth upon opening the bottle (had to get the glass quickly). Great. 4.5/5

S: Grainy amber and lightly kilned malts. Grainy smells predominate. There is also somewhat of a spiciness imparted from the yeast. I think it's good for the style. Maybe could've been a little sweeter. 4.25/5

T: Taste follows the nose. Grainy taste from the malt; spice/white pepper from the yeast. The yeast imparts a very earthy flavor that is complimented by a light but watered-down malt backbone. Somewhat disappointing, but given the alcohol content I'm not surprised the malt was somewhat lacking. 3.75/5

M: Light and smooth. Glides down the tongue. However, the beer is very well-carbonated. 4/5

O: A solid beer. Malt more robust in the Anchor Steam Beer, but this one is good. 4.1/5.0

 919 characters

Photo of CwrwAmByth
4.06/5  rDev +30.1%
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.

 414 characters

Photo of mynie
4.04/5  rDev +29.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Dark rust colored with a perfect and retentive head. Filtered clear, very fizzy.

Smells of light caramel malt and very light, dry hops. Nicely balanced, but very faint.

Tastes surprisingly strong. Malt is sweet and bready with a strong presence of ale yeast and then that flavor falls out from under itself for a nice dose of dry, west coast hops. Slightly bitter, all around very flavorful.

This is the session to end all sessions. Very tasty, remarkably drinkable, and only 3.3% alcohol.

 498 characters

Photo of RoyalT
4/5  rDev +28.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - The orange body is almost florescent. The head looked pretty good and laced the glass on the way down.

Smell - The malt aromas are secondary to the citrusy hops. Everything is kind of light at the nose.

Taste - An interesting mix of straight malt and citrus hops. There's no sweetness to this one. The finish is hoppy and dry.

Mouthfeel - Small carbonation and a refreshing mouthfeel help this one down.

Drinkability - This beer is sharp and undulating. It went down well with my very spicy Mexican dish.

Update - It has been almost five years since I first reviewed this beer so thought I'd give it another whirl in 2008. I thought the aroma was more pronounced as was the carbonation. It really does have a nice bitter kick at the end. I raised my overall rating from 3.8 to 4.0.

 799 characters

Photo of Jeffreysan
4/5  rDev +28.2%

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, clear, deep, amber color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that quickly dissolved into a thin lacing of foam that partially covered the top of the beer.

Aroma: Not much in the aroma department, in fact, I don’t get any aromas at all, which is disappointing.

Taste: Lots of flavor, though! Lots of bready, toasted malt flavor up front, imparting flavors of biscuits, whole wheat crackers and English muffins, flowed by some brown sugar-like sweetness, black pepper, and more great toasted malt! Delicious!

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and pretty smooth as there isn’t much in the way of carbonation. With an ABV of 3.3%, there is no alcohol on the palate.

Overall: This is a very, very tasty beer! I love all of the bready malt and smooth mouthfeel. Definitely worth a drink!

 834 characters

Photo of MrHurmateeowish
4/5  rDev +28.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

1 pint 6oz bottle from a liquor store in Nashua, NH. Pours a crystal-clear golden body with nearly an inch of off-white head that slowly dissipates leaving some impressive lacing. Smells malty, fruity, with caramel and brown sugar notes, and a strong citrussy hop presence. Tastes grainy with caramel and citrus hops. Tastes a little watery, which matches the aqueous refreshing mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Very drinkable and refreshing. Flavor (other than the hop presence) reminds me more of an American blonde or pale wheat maybe, rather than an APA or bitter. Still, reasonably priced (3.50$ per bottle) and is great for a hot summer day like today.

 662 characters

Photo of Mark
3.98/5  rDev +27.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I have always been curious about this beer and I actually tried it at the breweries tasting room. Color is amber with a decent white head. Faint rings of lace are left. Fresh aroma is really at the same time kind on non descript. Crisp fresh taste that is almost lager like, good finish, decent hopping. I had heard it was supposed to be English bittier like, but this is a mysterious brew. I ranked the taste as good, because it tasted good. Refreshing and drinkable.

 468 characters

Photo of tgbljb
3.98/5  rDev +27.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a medium amber color with moderate white head.
Smell is very light with a slight sweetness detected.
Taste is also of swet malt with a fine light bitternss in the background.
Very light and refreshing.
A very nice beer without being anything extreme. A perfect ber for those occasions when you need something low in alcohol, but still want something with some taste.

 377 characters

Photo of Maction
3.96/5  rDev +26.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Into an imperial pint glass, this is orangey gold, not completely transparent. The head is like a huge fluffy snow bank, dense in the middle and fading around the sides. Very pretty pour.

S: I smell sour bready yeast, minerals, pretzels, and wet pennies.

T: The flavor follows the aromas, with hard pretzels, minerals, and some orange rind.

M: Not watery because of the rolling waves of carbonation. The mineral finish stays wet, reminding me of caves by the sea.

D: While this is not complex, this is yummy and very chug-able. I wish it was available in six packs, as the low alcohol and nice presentation would make it a summer favorite.

Notes: Tasting this in the same night as Coniston Bluebird Bitter, I have no idea why that beer is rated so much higher than this one. They are very, very, similar, although the Buebird is slightly more complex in mineral and citrus flavors. I think that calling this an APA is leading BA's to expect something that this beer isn't going to deliver.

 997 characters

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.96/5  rDev +26.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: A very grown up looking Anchor bottle, the classic profile but this one is bigger and holds 22 ounces of beer. Ironically, the bigger bottle seems to be reserved for the brew called ‘Small Beer’. Simple presentation, it has only a small oval decal like label that has the words ‘Anchor Small Beer’ above and below a picture of a rope laden Anchor. A reverse label has the code 4JG. Thankfully the neck label contains a little more information and describes the heritage of the beers manufacture and name; principally that it is the brewed from the second runnings of the Old Foghorn. Color coded blue and gold crown cap, no discernable freshness date anywhere.

Appearance: Beautiful appearance in my large handled Mug. Massive frothy off-white head look fantastic, it leaves and stiff thick creamy lacing as you work your way down this one. Above average carbonation really supports the head throughout. The body has a classic English Bitter color, a thoroughly clear light copper-amber presence with some orange hints. This looks impressive!

Nose: Shandy like nose, in so much of the fact that the crisp aromas, bitter, hops and malts have a light sweet caramel dimension - but in a delicate English Bitter / Pale Ale sort of way.

Taste: Regardless of the low ABV, this has a very distinctive flavor profile. Some oak bitterness at the start, crisp malts and a session-like character lend immediate appeal in the mouth. You can swirl this one and get that extra depth, or juts swallow this one in gulps and go straight for the finish with its nice sharp bitterness that I am exceptionally partial to – the ending also allows the wooden-like aspect to linger in the finish with some dry caramel.

Mouthfeel: Above average, thanks mainly to the solid conditioning, but still, it is nothing earth-shattering, it is however, exactly where it needs to be, and that is the hard part that many may have problems coming to terms with.

Drinkability: Nicely balanced but very Bitter, just as I like it. Akin to many a lighter English Bitter or Pale Ale, not quite a Table Beer as such, but it most certainly makes for a lovely Session Ale.

Overall: I had heard of this, but I never thought I would see it on the West Coast - but thankfully I did and for just $3.99 at BevMo. Not a massive beer in any sense, but well worth trying. I enjoyed it, but then, even after 3+ years in So.Cal. with all the big ass hoppy beers that are available, I still yearn for the lighter balanced Session Pale Ales. Well worth picking up a bottle of this. Thoroughly Enjoyable!

 2,586 characters

Photo of drewbage
3.95/5  rDev +26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled from Anchor's 22oz brown bottle with no descipherable freshness date. Sampled from a traditional Raven dimple mug.

Beer is a light copper with an impressive white head with fine bubbles and a almost thunderous bubbling for quite a while.

Aroma is a just there caramel and a toasty malt with a crisp woody hop character.

Flavor is clean with a very toasty malt character. As the beer fades a metallic note becomes apparent.

Finish echos the hop woody herbal note with just a slightly tannic note.

I'll give Anchor a lot of credit. This beer used to be heavily tannic until about a year ago. The beer as it appears now, it's a great session beer.

 669 characters

Photo of RootedFool
3.95/5  rDev +26.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from an 18 ounce bottle purchased at the North Coast Co-op in Eureka, California. The body is translucent copper, very bright with a few bubbles rising through the middle, with a foamy off-white head that rises fast and tall and leaves a few scattered dots of lace on the glass.

The smell is a refreshing waft of freshly pulled lemon grass with a crisp background of unbuttered bisquits.

Taste: opens with a slightly sour bitterness on the tip of my palate, giving way to a more complex backwash of flavors -- citrus rinds (a clean, crisp bitterness), fresh sourdough bread. The aftertaste is a hint of green apple resting on the bed of grassy bitterness. Lovely.

Mouthfeel coincides with the taste prefectly: clean and crisply carbonated.

The fact that this has barely any alcohol content, and with so much flavor, there are no adverse side-effects (as I'm drinking this in the early afternoon) and it's incredibly enjoyable.

 946 characters

Photo of shand
3.91/5  rDev +25.3%
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.

 885 characters

Photo of donnebaby
3.89/5  rDev +24.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Active gold body and a poofy uneven fluff head...but thick. Nose is weak, no doubt there.

The total taste is an awesomely flavorful bitterness that hits as soon as the excellent level of carbonation recedes. Aftertaste of faint toasted grains comes in nice.

Clean, perfect beer--but not even too refined either. Interesting yet normal, normal but interesting. Something about it is just never shallow..

 408 characters

Photo of Murchmac
3.88/5  rDev +24.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I love anchor.

This beer smells like the outside of my house on a windy morning as I can smell the anchor brewery from my house.

Looks crystal clear like a golden champagne. Love the clarity of this beer.

Tastes great! Less filling.

If you can get this beer do it. They brew this style and not a lot of other breweries do. These beers have been brewed for centuruies. Used to brew them for kids in colonial times.

 418 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.88/5  rDev +24.4%
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.)

 581 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
3.12 out of 5 based on 450 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.