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Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

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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 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 scruffwhor
2.74/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

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

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

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

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Photo of DrJay
3.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Crystal clear light amber with a half inch cap of light beige foam. Sticky lace, good head retention. Sulfury, floral hops, bit of biscuit, mostly hops though. Light bitterness with very light malt, not much sweetness, and a bit of floral hops, light lemon. Light bodied, dry, a little rough with the moderate carbonation, but not too bad. Not bad for a lighter beer, fairly drinkable.

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Photo of DefenCorps
2.99/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22oz bottle poured into my Russian River pint glass. The bottle says it's a bitter so i'm going to review it accordingly

A: Amber with a frothy white head. Crystal clear.

S: Bready with a very thin malt presence. Mild earthy hop note. Not much going on.

T: Bitter, almost in a tannin way. Mild malt note comes through. Not much going on apart from the breadiness and the mild bitterness

M: Overcarbonated for the style with a nice dry finish

D: I can easily drink a lot of this but i doubt i will

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Photo of Brad007
3.13/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a mild amber color with a one-finger head into my pint glass.

Aroma is sweet with a hint of hop bitterness in the nose. Seems pretty average otherwise.

Taste is full of hop bitterness and biscuit malt with a strong bitter taste to it.

Mouthfeel is full of biscuit and lingering hop bitterness. Not much to note here.

Average example of the style here. Just not much to note. Not bad but not much.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.22/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

I was impressed by the appearance on a second runnings beer like this, came in amber colored, like a 2nd running barleywine, so it had that going for it. Aroma was totally unlike a barleywine though, very muted and absent.

Taste is an easy drinking affair with slight malt evidence beyond the color and mild hopping. Easily sessionable. Has its place and is totally within the enviro green marketing being that they are using second runnings.

Ultimately though, I'd rather have a more assertive session ipa with hop mouthfeel, but I give this props for being one of the few commercial examples of such a thing.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.2/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Good looking pour for a beer that is reused wort, amber, very sticky head. Aroma is pretty nil.

Taste, very easy drinking, slightly bitter and very slight hopping. Super sessiony. Gotta appreciate the relative uniqueness of this beer. Waste not want not. Extremely light mouthfeel, but that's pretty much by design.

Pretty unique, I'd keep one around for when you want to drink an Old Foghorn, and your old lady/sissy friend wants to drink to, but you don't wanna hear about how your barleywine is "nasty".

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Photo of Bung
3.03/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pint 6 oz. pretty clear gold pour. Finger of white head. Not much lacing to speak of but retained ok.

Aroma, some musty tea and herbal hops, miniscule malt note. A tad light here.

Taste, a tad light here as well, mostly herbal hop tea. Reminds. E very much of a German macro.

Light bodied, nice tingly carbonation. The ultimate session beer I suppose, good flavor for being such a "small" beer.

Calling this an English bitter probably isn't a fair categorization. Doubt I would bother with again, but I applaud the unique effort.

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Photo of dgilks
3.86/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed at Incanto in San Francisco

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

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

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

Medium body with moderate carbonation. Good.

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

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Photo of champ103
3.4/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear dark amber color. A one finger white head forms and recedes to a ring in an instant. Some sticky lace is left behind.
S: A fruity citrusy and banana aroma at first. A soft malty presents. A light hop bitterness as well. Subtle and well balanced.
T: A soft malty flavor, very light. Grain and cereal. Just as you think the flavor vanishes, a hop bitterness come out of no where.
M/D: A light body, but not over carbonated at all. Crisp and refreshing. It does not get much easier to drink. A session all day long.

I did not have high hopes for this, but not bad. Not something I am going to get again, but I found it drinkable.

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Photo of Gusler
3.3/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Been almost 3 years since I had one of the "Bad Boys", guess its about time. Clear deep gold in color, generous white head, and oodles of lace. Nose is mostly malt, clean and citrus crisp. Front is malt and lightly sweet, top skimpy in feel. Finish is perkily hopped, meaningful carbonation, dry as a bone aftertaste.
With the crack down and rightfully so on drunk driving and drivers, would it not be a great time to offer “Small Beers”. Not the light swill macro stuff, but bodacious ones like Anchors at 2.3% ABV, a great session beer that satisfies the thirst and the need for a great beer.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.41/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A bomber poured into a pint glass. The beer was a golden color with a medium white head that was a bit on the sticky side. Not much aroma, just a little malt and flowers. It had a piney hops taste that was perhaps more bitter than I wanted it to be. I think the degree of bitterness would keep it from being a good session beer.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
2.45/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada imperial pint. (something that looks like a backwards ?)JP stamped on the back label.

A - Tons of carbonation streams up from the nucleation point to a puffy off-white head of almost three-fingers. Good retention and clumpy lace above a totally clear golden yellow beer.

S - Unfortunately I don't think a Euro-style lager skunk smells is supposed to be present in this beer so it could be light-struck but otherwise I get a low American hop nose with a very small bit of maltiness. Rather shy nose.

T - Wow. This is very unusual. Lots of grassy, grainy, husky flavor with an incredibly dry finish. Lots of rice too. The hops are floral and herbal but light in presence.

M - Light-bodied and very crisp from abounding carbonation, Small Beer has an incredibly dry finish and a very low hop bitterness.

D - I'm heading to the brewery in a month-and-a-half so I'd love to get a fresh bottle of this. Right now though it's not going over so well.

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Photo of Suds
3.18/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I couldn’t help but think of this as a beer of lost potential…these sugars could have been an Old Foghorn. Pours a clear, light-copper color with a pretty white head. It’s got a pleasant, but mild, grassy and piney hop aroma. There’s considerable carbonation in this one…constant bubbles and an effervescent mouthfeel. Light and hoppy, with a grassy, grainy, slightly bitter taste. Not a bad beer, but not anything outstanding either. I’m glad that Anchor made this brew…it’s interesting because of the brewing method and the lost potential.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.56/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

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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.

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Photo of Durge
3.53/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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

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Photo of Dogbrick
3.03/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This is certainly an interesting concoction. Pours a clear dark orange color with a medium thin eggshell-white head. Thin lacing. The aroma is light toasted malt. Light-bodied and bitter, without much flavor. A bit of earthy malt is there but the general bitterness is all the beer really has. The finish is lightly bitter and lingering. All in all, a nice throwback beer but not one I would go out of my way to have again.

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Photo of scottfrie
3.2/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into SN hop pint glass.

A: Pours a citrus golden color with an incredible, thick, chunky, rocky, billowing white head that took its sweet time to die down into a thick film that left chunks and sheets of sticky lacing down the side of the glass.
S: Very light notes of spicy hops, dry grain, light carmamely malt, and earthy tones.
T: Very light flavors. Earthy grains dominate with a slight sweetness from the underlying malt. Hops are mild and lend a touch of bitter/sour citrus feel. Aftertaste is a tad off-putting.
M: Light body with a dry grainy mouthfeel. A little on the watery side.
D: A very drinkable, sessionable beer. Nothing spectacular in the flavor department, and a very light pale ale, but I respect how they made it and I wouldn't mind drinking this again.

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Photo of morimech
3.63/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a light golden color with a large white head that had excellant retention. Not a whole lot of lacing after the initial ring on top. Has a mild citrus and grassy hop aroma and with sourdough thrown into the mix. The flavor is dry and cracker-like. The hops give a little spice and grass notes. Some mineral qualities as well as some vegetable notes in the finish. Bitterness is moderate. Light body with abundant carbonation. Not quite up to macro levels however. An interesting beer. Light body with a friendly low ABV. In the wrong style catagory.

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Photo of Fatehunter
2.78/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Poured from a bottle into a tall flute. Golden to orange color and transparent. A thick, 2 inch white head formed and held. The head reminds me of a good pilsner pour.

S - Light fruit, ripe pear. It really smells like a pils.

T - Well, as advertised; it tastes bitter. Bitter from beginning to end. Unfortunately that is all there is to it.

M - Lots of bubbles. Light bodied. It would be easier to drink without all the carbonation.

D - I applaud Anchor for trying this old technique of the "Small Beer" but maybe there is a reason that most breweries do not make the Small Beer anymore? So, I am torn. Does this beer taste like a Small Beer should or not? I do not know since this is the first one I have had. What is curious is that everything but the color says "pilsner", even though it is an ale. For that reason it is worth trying.

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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.

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Photo of illidurit
3.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the brewery. Gold with a hint of orange and a white fluffy head. Nice lacing and retention. Aromas of fresh bread and cereal grains. Flavor is fresh and pale malty, with a touch of grassy hop bitterness in the finish. Smooth and crisp. A simple but effective beer.

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Photo of KTCamm
2.94/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from the 500 ml (or so) bottle into a wine glass - not ideal glassware but best option in the hotel room.

Pours a brownish amber with thick head of white foam. Lots of lacing observed. Malty smell, but something a bit off. Its not skunked, but the breadiness borders on moldy. Taste is very light malt, backed by a stiff hop. The hop pushes its way around a bit too much for my palate and the residual taste is bitterness - which lingers long after.

An ok beer. Love the concept and the idea, just does not result in something memorable.

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Photo of francisweizen
3.76/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

OK, let me begin to try and catch up on my serious lack of beer reviews recently! bomber bottle, picked up at half time just a few days ago. Dark orange/honey gold with a nice big white head of foam that leaves white, sticky lace. Nice. Aromas are subtles and somewhat subdued but they consist of herbal hops, and light honey-like biscuit malts. Taste is malty and sweet with a citric burst of hops near the finish. After-taste is slightly hoppy, but almost non-existant. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and good, for a low abv brew. Drinkability is good, and this is a good beer, although it is very reminiscent of my first home-brew, and not quite as good!

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