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 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 UCLABrewN84
2.46/5  rDev -21.2%
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.

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Photo of t0rin0
2.35/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Bought this from bevmo and tried it from a pint glass. I bought it because I read the label and it said that its made from a second sparging of the grains used for the old foghorn barleywine. I assumed that would mean that it would have a similar flavor but milder.

The appearance was more orange and of a watered down darker beer. There was a bit of head but it didn't last. No lacing. The color was nice though.

There wasn't much of a smell to speak of. There was a tiny bit of basic malt and a little bit of hops. The flavor was not very good at all in my opinion. I think the hop bitterness was on the high side for a beer this light. But the flavor of the malt was very thin. Everything about this beer was watered down except maybe the bittering hops.

The mouthfeel was good for the beer. It was a real light feel. It should be priced cheaper as its a lighter beer and its made relatively cheaply. Probably would not buy this again.

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Photo of metter98
3.18/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.45/5  rDev +10.6%
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.

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Photo of biboergosum
2.77/5  rDev -11.2%
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.

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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.)

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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 largadeer
3.56/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazy copper in the glass, topped by a thick frothy white head that looks almost nitro-esque in density. Head retention is unusually good, making for a beautiful and inviting beer. It smells of toffee, stonefruit, plum and faint indistinguishable hops. Light but flavorful on the tongue, the toffee flavor carries through along with a bit of dried fruit, grain, earthy hop flavor and a metallic twang. The body is light and crisp and bitterness is ample. Pretty tasty for a second runnings beer, though it probably won't thrill you.

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Photo of zeff80
3.3/5  rDev +5.8%
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.

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Photo of oberon
3.29/5  rDev +5.4%
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.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.26/5  rDev +4.5%
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.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
2.31/5  rDev -26%
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.

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Photo of mactrail
2.44/5  rDev -21.8%
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.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.38/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.71/5  rDev -13.1%
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.

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Photo of russpowell
3.06/5  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

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.26/5  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.

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Photo of smcolw
2.38/5  rDev -23.7%
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.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.26/5  rDev +4.5%
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.

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Photo of Jason
2.94/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bright orange amber colour. The head retention if this ale is unreal; big and dense, frothy and rocky … seems to leave a nice trail of lace also. An ale pulled from the second running typically does not have this kind of head, but as I see the malt runs thin and they seemed to over hop. Bitterness is to the point of being the only flavour upfront which really kills the chances of the flavour being any good. Bit of a citric hop twang from middle to end. Graininess with some mild astringency is typical of a small beer of second runnings but this is pushing it to the point of being a chore to put down. Not a beer I would go back to unless it was on cask or at least only a few week old on tap.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.03/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

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Photo of stakem
3.39/5  rDev +8.7%
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.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.8/5  rDev +21.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured on tap into a snifter glass.

A very lager like appearance, crystal clear and clean with a very pale amber gold, simple white collar presented with some pretty good lacing also.

Nose is toasty but also quite a bit grainy, nearly sour. However, it's arid and dry quality seems to make up for it.

Taste is quite toasty, with a huge toasty finish particularly on the palate. A real nice lingering hop bitterness too on the drink and dry matching a light and very crisp body.

Excellent session brew. Small beer with big taste indeed, can see myself enjoying many of these at a time if needed.

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Photo of Billolick
3.16/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This one pours a very light shade of amber, crystal clear, alot of carbonation early, leads to a puffy white head, with long lasting retentive powers, leaves a mess of thick lacing, nice. Faint malty nose. taste is the problem here, its a tad metallic, sharp, watery and thin. The mouthfeel is also prickly, even as it warms up a bit. There is far better beer out there, this a noble and well intentioned try from the good folks @ A.S., but it misses the mark. Needs to be softened out, could use some more malt to ease it across the tongue

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