Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

326 Reviews
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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

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Reviews: 326 | Ratings: 450
Photo of jimmah120
2.5/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

22 oz. bottle w/ no date

A: Translucent dark gold color with a great pillowy head, and spotty lacing. Lots of carbonation bubbles.

S: Not a lot to report here: a slight 'barnyard' smell and a tiny bit of hop presence. Smells like flavored water.

T/M: Tastes like water up front, definitely not a plus. It's like a watered down steam beer. A little malt, lemon zest, and grass. Delivers in the bitter category. Not full flavored, but not undrinkable. Mouthfeel is very watery, carbonation OK.

O: Not something I would seek out again.

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Photo of GRG1313
2.55/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Pours a dark honey/amber with a nice pillowy and thick white head. Nose of cooked pineapple and malt and nice fruit.

Mouthfeel is thin and watery. No body; no character and no real flavor, other than thin, weak and short hops, with a bit of an offensive "green grass" flavor. Actually has a medium finish of old grapefruit skin, not very pleasant. No need to try this one again.

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Photo of deereless
2.57/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A: A touch on the side of opaque, some dull peach colors, serious foam over upon opening the bottle - 2.50, S: Lots of grain and meek bready sweetness, some mild citrus - 3.25, T: A little on the side of flaccid, I suppose the history of what a 'small beer' is explains it, though I like the concept of a small beer I can't say I care for the weak flavor profile, noticeable grain husks and hop bite, a little astringency, a touch tart - 2.50, M: Very light and watery - 2.00, D: Too much of the good from the grains is pulled out in the first running to leave much for this beer, not one I'd return to - 2.50

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Photo of Boto
2.58/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

22oz bottle: This one pours a slightly darker golden color. It is crystal clear with a small, slightly fizzy head that drops off quickly. The aroma kind of smells like a mass produced lager. It has some weak hints of maltiness and some floral hops. The taste is slightly tart and bitter, with a light malt body. No better than a macro at a higher price. No more for me!

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Photo of bboven
2.58/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Medium honey color, a bit cloudy with no head to speak of.

Smell is all malt. Mostly two-row, but a tiny bit of roast. Smells stale, really.

Thin and watery, a little malt and an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.

Well carbonated, doesn't stick to the tongue at all.

Eh. Valiant effort, but there are better small/session beers to be had. It's price is also right up there with much tastier bombers, so...

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Photo of burnheartsMKE
2.58/5  rDev -17.3%
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…)

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Photo of wknight167
2.59/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Apearance - Pours a light golden amber with a 2 finger cloud like head with good retention and lacing.

Nose- Grainy malt with the faintest hint of hops.

Palate- Grainy, dry and slightly tannic, for lack of a better word. Citrus hops are barely present, but there is a decent bitterness level.

Mouthfeel- Active, medium carbonation and medium-thin body.

Drinkability- I have no desire for another.

Overall- An interesting idea, but not so interesting a beer.

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Photo of BigHead
2.59/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I was not sure what to expect from this, I had bad thoughts, and unfortunately, the thoughts rang true (at least for me). It is an incredibly clear beer with a stark white head, very pretty. But then I went in for the smell and it smelled like a watered down beer. A light hint of hops but smelled similar to a Bud. The flavor was bitter and lacked in intensity and complexity. I just found it not that pleasurable of beer, too watered down and bitter to be a drink-a-lotty brew.

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Photo of bditty187
2.61/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Largely clear, tawny-gold in hue, there are a few tiny bubbles dancing towards the small white head. At the apex the head was a modest ¼ inch in height. It slipped to a very thin collar. Subsequent lacing was spotty and it didn’t cling well. The nose doesn’t say much, at first. There is a trace of malt, kind of toasty, somewhat sweet and caramely. I get a weak suggestion of piney hops, way in the back. I’ve never had a Small Beer before so I can’t really make assumptions on the bouquet. I believe Anchor “dry-hops” this one, right? Once this beer warmed up the nose fell apart and a foul aroma of old gym socks emerged. Even before this aspect developed the nose was not inviting, mainly because it was boring. Add in the funk and, well, I’m not digging it. Well, the palate isn’t any more exciting. I wasn’t expecting it to be. There is a louder hoppy influence, pine mainly. The malt doesn’t offer much taste. There is some sweetness but it is too quite to be important. I don’t like the veggie taste or the “wet” cheese taste. This only grew with warmth. Thankfully the aftertaste is dully cedary and pine-like. The palate is dry. On the whole, my first Small Beer might be my last. It is less flavorful than I was expecting plus some of the qualities on the tongue were not very pleasant. Light in body, as anticipated, the carbonation is light but fitting for the construction of the beer. I was hopping I’d like this, I really wanted to try it and I was pleased to buy it in Milwaukee, WI. But I just don’t like it… unimpressive, even in the realm of expectations. Still it is cool somebody is making this old school beer. Thanks Anchor but I’ll stick with Old Foghorn.

It might be decent, super fresh.

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Photo of JEdmund
2.61/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Apricot, clear, minimal white head

A little sour, reminding me of a macro-brew like Budweiser; nothing too appetizing and definitely nothing bold or distinct

Taste & Mouthfeel
Well, it's definitely small; upfront malt/bitterness, but it quickly disappears, leaving little aftertaste and a clean, crisp finish; the flavor that I do taste is so light, like 'light' good beer; it's weird, as I've never had a beer like this

Was worth the $3 to try it, but not something I'd ever buy again; a neat, old idea, but doesn't exactly work well with my standards of what I want in a beer

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Photo of Sycodrummer
2.61/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured from the brown "bowling pin" bomber into a nonic pint the beer was a light brown/copper color with one finger of white foamy head. Lots of carbonation bubbles streamed up the glass and stuck to the sides. Slight lacing, nothing appreciable.

The nose has a faint malty aroma with some bread crumb like scents and a slight caramel aroma. Every so slightly flowery, and some green apple too.

The taste has a muted malt base. It is actually rather bland with a fizzy finish that lack a lot of flavor complexity. The taste, like its name, is rather small, with little coming through and a bland bready finish.

Light on the palate and very highly carbonated.

This was not an enjoyable offering. The beer really lacked many decernable flavors and was on the whole rather bland. It almost seemed like a flavorfull beer that someone sucked the life out of.

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Photo of Osiris9588
2.63/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

22oz bomber. Pours a pale rusty gold color. The frothy white head shows good retention.

The aroma is quite weak--a faint scent of orange and yeast. The flavor is rather weak as well. It progresses from a yeasty, watery flavor straight to very metallic, astringent hoppiness.

The mouth is light and shows almost no complexity, finishing on an unpleasant tinny note. It would be drinkable, yet the lack of flavor discourages repeat rounds. I'll pass on this.

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Photo of bluejacket74
2.64/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

22 ounce bottle. Served in a nonic pint glass, the beer pours a dark gold color with an inch frothy white head. Both head retention and lacing are good. Aroma is grassy hops and some bready malt. The aroma is very light overall. Taste is just like the aroma, but also has a lingering bitter finish. Unfortunately it's not a good type of bitter taste, there seems to be something a bit off about it. Mouthfeel/body is light, and it's also crisp and a bit dry. Drinkability isn't great, I can finish this bottle but I wouldn't want any more than that. Not impressed with this one, and I won't buy this again anytime soon. But it was still nice to try it anyway.

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Photo of grover37
2.65/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance (4): Very clear, light gold. A finger of head settles to a thick layer. Very good looking beer. Not much lacing though.

Smell (4): Very bready and biscuit malts. A light floral spicinesss accompanies this. Smells a bit like a hoppy Czech Pils.

Taste (1.5): Slight spicy hops up front. Somewhat unpleasant taste in the middle in finish like stale piney hops. Not a whole lot of character and very watery. Not surprising for just over 3%. It's beginning to grow on me a little bit but I can't get over that mineraly, unpleasant flavor.

Mouthfeel (2.5): Watery but smooth. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability (3): Easy to drink but I'm not sure I'd want another one.

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Photo of nickd717
2.66/5  rDev -14.7%
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.

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Photo of blakelive784
2.66/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

1 pt 6 fl oz brown glass bottle served in a pilsner glass, reviewed live:

A - Pours a nearly transparent orange/copper color with three fingers of surprisingly thick off-white head. Retention is solid, and the head leaves a fair amount of lacing.

S - Light cereal grains, sweet malts, and mild citric hops notes. Simple and mild, though somewhat appealing.

T - Simple malts and unrefined cereal grains lightly countered by bland hops. The hops are noticeably indistinct. Bland and boring. I understand this one's note supposed to be complex or a flavor powerhouse, but there really is nothing going on.

M - Thick, smooth,and wet. Not very supportive of the flavors. It's ok.

D - A definite disappointment from Anchor. I applaud the attempt at a "small" beer, though the final result is a failure.

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Photo of SmartyPints
2.66/5  rDev -14.7%
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.

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Photo of veech
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer seems to be aptly named. Everything about it seemed small. Just not enough of anything. I know it's more of a byproduct of barleywine, but it is still a little disappointing considering the high quality of all the other anchor products. A complete lack of aroma, a very watery wet cereal and corn taste were the low lights. It did pour a decent color but carbonation was lacking. Overall not impressed at all. I expect more from Anchor brewing.

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Photo of TenHornsProud
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a clear copper with a fine white head the lingers.

Smells of slightly toasted malt with a hint of roasted character and some earthy/herbal hop.

Up front astringent and thin character gives way into just the slightest malt/bread backbone before ending on a more astringent note. Surprisingly unpleasant flavor given the appearance and aroma.

Thin body and low carbonation works OK.

What an astringent beer! Not particularly pleasant.

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Photo of JBogan
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

This one is a clear burnt orange color with a very small head and almost no lacing.

Smells of hay and bitter hops.

Taste was rather unimpressive. Kind of a "musty" nut and tea flavor, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel was actually pretty good. Medium bodied and very smooth and with a fair amount of carbonation tingle.

This is going to be one of those "one and done" beers for me. The main problem was the most significant aspect of any beer, the taste. It just wasn't very enjoyable. Others may like it however.

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Photo of kennyo
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Anchor, the producer of the 'nectar of the gods" Liberty Ale produces a small beer in a big bottle, 22oz. Nice soapy head that fades fairly quickly. Nice dark gold color, crispy clear. Carbonation is very good, not too biting. body very thin, light. One dimension, bitter, bitter, bitter and not much else. I tried this beer about a year ago and I tought it was a foghorn lite but not this time. not my first choice for Anchor products.

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Photo of veinless
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
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'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.

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Photo of mdwalsh
2.7/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Not sure on the freshness of this beer, but it's in a large 22 oz classic anchor shaped bottle.

A: Pours a big billowy head, as high as 5 fingers, and settling around three. It's white with bubbles of all shapes and sizes in there. The head has TONS of texture as I keep it filled to the tip top of the glass, sticking at times almost an inch over the top. The beer is an amber/golden with pretty good carbonation. I'd say this is a pretty attractive beer.

S: Unfortunately, that does not extend to the aroma. I get a beer that has maybe been slightly skunked, though a thorough examination reveals there's definitely some hops left to this guy. But mostly nothing that I want to keep shoving my nose into. It's sort of grassy and a little dank, but also a bad solventy aroma. If this were subtle, it might be ok, but this is strong.

T: And sadly, that sticks with it in the taste. Very similar, and very thin. This might be refreshing on a very hot day, but overall, it's pretty yucky. Still grassy, in a bad way. And solventy/skunky. But it is less intense than the aroma.

M: Thin and watery, the carbonation faded pretty fast surprisingly. However, for this sort of beer, and what I would want from it, that's sort of alright.

D: BLAHDICK no. I won't be getting this one again. It goes down easy enough, like a BMC.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.7/5  rDev -13.5%
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.

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Photo of albern
2.7/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

This is my first small beer, which typically is low alcohol and was at one time served to children when the drinking water just about everywhere was not potable. The use of the run off keeps this beer light and pretty uninteresting. If you are looking for any connection between this secondary beer and its barleywine primary beer, Old Foghorn, forget it because there isn't any similarity. The beer is overflowing out of the bottle but the head retention is surprisingly poor. The beer is thin, thin, thin, and not all that flavorful. There are some very light citric hop flavors, but most just a thin, watery, hop bitterness with no malts underneath to balance this out. There is a very bland taste to the beer as well. I can't think of any reason to go back to this beer. The slight citrus, the cutting and harsh leafy hop, the watery feel, the lack of body and malt underneath render this pretty unsatisfactory.

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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
3.12 out of 5 based on 450 ratings.
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