Anchor Small Beer
Anchor Brewing Company

Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer
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English Bitter
3.16 | pDev: 17.09%
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer
Notes: "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. "
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Reviews: 327 | Ratings: 452
Photo of Nerudamann
3.55/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a stein glass.

Look – light amber color, a little hazy, with about half a finger’s worth of slightly frothy off-white colored foam that dissipates slowly.

Smell – not too strong of a smell. It has a general ale type of smell, but with a twisted type of grain..or at least what smells like one. It smells like there might be an alternative being used. Not sorghum, but something close to that.

Taste – very interesting taste. It still tastes like the smell, in that it tastes like there’s an alternative being used for the grain. It almost has an effervescent type of quality. Pretty bitter in the finish.

Mouthfeel – pretty well-balanced, but leans a little more toward the creamy side.

Overall – probably not going to be a favorite of mine, but interesting enough in the taste.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
3.68/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Anchor Small Beer has a very thick, fluffy, off-white head and a cloudy, bubbly amber appearance, with minimal lacing. The aroma is faint, but one can, with deep inhalation, pick up barley malt, caramel, tea, and sweetness. Taste is of bitterness across the sip, and one detects tea, light malt, and even some light lemony aspects. Mouthfeel is pretty watery, and Anchor Small Beer finishes mellow and dry. Overall, this is an interesting one to try. It’s unlike anything I’ve had before.


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Photo of Bung
3.03/5  rDev -4.1%
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 TenHornsProud
2.68/5  rDev -15.2%
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 czfreeman
3.03/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Anchor small.
From reading previous reviews I can understand the low reviews due to subdued flavor, however after having several conversations with the brewer at Social kitchen, where I am an assistant, he really has helped me to understand the versatility of English bitter.
Pours a light honey-amber tone, light lacing. Head dissipated quickly, medium carbonation.
Distinct grassy hops on the nose, nice maltiness in the back. Lemon, pepper, musty character as well.
Flavor light, biting and subdued.
Mouthfeel is light, spritz y and refreshing. A nice beer to begin the evening with or simply enjoy on a warm day.I have to say the local Magnolia brewery executes a much finer bitter, but this is a decent offering, and also a much better way to use the mash from Old Foghorn.

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Photo of blakelive784
2.66/5  rDev -15.8%
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 jimmah120
3.01/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

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 taylocd
2.13/5  rDev -32.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Poured from 22 ounce bottle into tulip.

A - pale clear gold with continuous bubbling and great head retention from carbonation; very little lacing, though

S - aroma similar to that of soft rubber baby bottle nipples

T - odd plastic/resin flavor

M - nice zip from carbonation, medium 'feel' or body

O - the aroma and flavor are too much to overcome to make this worth a repeat try.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.7/5  rDev -14.6%
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 Durge
3.53/5  rDev +11.7%
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 mglaser37
3.48/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Head: Had little hold but was white and a bit fluffy at first.

Aroma: This beer has a hoppy/grassy smell to it.

Color: This is a light pale ale…has a light golden color.

Flavor: Was bitter/hoppy & nutty…bitter finish.

Mouth-feel: This was very watery…easy to drink. Body had a decent amount of carbonation but not to the tongue.

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Photo of ciaomonaco
3.53/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Head: Low

Aroma: Hops first, very bright.

Color: Golden orange

Carbonation: Low

Mouthfeel: Light

Alcohol: Low

Flavor: Bitter finish

Personal notes: I got some pineapple and/or tropical fruit which is a flavor analogy that one could attribute to the hops.

Since this is a classic bitter beer it is hoppier and brighter rather than sweet, although balanced and easy to drink in succession.

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Photo of Drewski363672
3.73/5  rDev +18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

S:Small glass poured out of a bottle

A: golden medium color, small head very little foam

S:the slight smell of hops is fruity and sweet smelling

T: The taste is interesting at first it is bitter but the finishing taste is sweet and shows how balanced the beer is between the amount of hops

M:As i swished the mouth full it became light and creamy leaving a pleasant feel in the mouth.

O:I would rate this beer highly for it's ease of drink-ability it is so smooth and refreshing

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Photo of Monicagm
3.75/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Amber gold color. Starts with a small head then receds back into the beer. A nice lacing sticks to the sides of the glass.

Has a fruity, spicy smell, mostly hops.

A little bit of carbonation but it doesn't overwhelm the beer.

Light mouthfeel, easy to drink.

Bitter taste with a bitter finish. Hops, malt, and a roasted nuttiness is emphasized in the taste.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It's the kind of beer you could drink while laying back with a group of friends.

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Photo of vkv822
3.33/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle into tulip pint.

Pours a clear dark golden with lots of rising carbonation and foamy white head that leaves great lacing.

Quite biscuity, with some faint hop notes.

More biscuit and cracker, and some light grassy hops.

A medium to light body with a fair amount of prickly carbonation.

A simple, yet enjoyable session beer. Would love to see this in 6-packs, though I doubt there is much of a market for it.

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Photo of Kromes
3.15/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: A pale gold color with a fluffy white head.

S: Sweet honey and grainy malt with a touch of grassy hop.

T: Sweet grainy malt up front with a touch of grassy hop and a good amount of bitterness in the finish.

M: Thin body with high carbonation. Drinkable, but bordering on soda-like.

O: Interesting beer. Don't know that I've ever had a sloppy seconds beer. The flavors are decent, but the thin quality is apparent.

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Photo of scruffwhor
2.74/5  rDev -13.3%
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 tsauce2
3.32/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

P: 22 fl oz bottle into a snifter.

A: SRM is light caramel. Translucent and clear filtered. Head is off white/cream, 1 in, dissipates to 1 cm. Medium carbonation. Light lacing.

S: Sweet malt notes, honey, floral hop additions.

T: Light malt, honey, light piney hops. Aftertaste is light malt, light sweetness, medium hops with light bitterness.

M: Light body. Feel is very light yet robust. Semi dry finish.

O: I really like this beer. I know that it is made off the seconds of Old Foghorn, but this beer is very refreshing and quite drinkable. A bit light for an ESB, but still very flavorful. I will always buy this beer when it comes out.

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Photo of gueuzeonhigh
3.43/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours looking hearty but somewhat somber red-amber as streams of effervescence rise from the bottom of the glass .

Produces a nice frothy white head that hangs around a while but gradually recedes back to the beer's surface. Ample lacing records the head's procession on its return to the origin.

The nose is very light-- almost nonexistent.

Flavor is rather light with hints of hops and pepper spice. Much of the flavor and mouthfeel is that of a noticeable flavor of hops and spice and then that initial flavor vanishes with a rather water-like consistency.

One worthy thing that comes to mind- is that this beer has the ABV of many American adjunct beers but it also has much more flavor and complexity. Thus for a low ABV beer this beer can be a much more satisfying drink.

Mouthfeel is cordial- as this beer is rather light flavored. All of this beer's attributes bring to mind "lite".

Overall I think this beer can be a satisfying thirst quencher on a hot day. It can also be a satisfying light alcohol beer while still supplying the essence of beer. If you're after a hearty ale, you will be disappointed.

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Photo of SmartyPints
2.66/5  rDev -15.8%
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 CwrwAmByth
4.06/5  rDev +28.5%
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.

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Photo of JustinMatthew
2.96/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a light golden color, not much of a head. This beer is the second brewed in a twice used mash from the old foghorn barleywine. It doesn't smell of much at all, tastes of very light malt and barley. Not much of an aftertaste, a definite session beer. 

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Photo of stakem
3.39/5  rDev +7.3%
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 MoreThanWine
3.16/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured a 2" white head which maintained a merengue for a surprisingly long time. Body is clear and somewhere between straw yellow and gold color. Smell is straight BMC. Taste to me is BMC too but more on the bitter side.

Although I trust the label's story about the 2nd beer made from a mash being called a "small" beer to be true, it's not a separate beer style on the site, and I'm not sure tasting like an English Bitter actually makes it that kind of beer.

Regardless, I thought this was BMC with a little extra.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
2.24/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

A: Dull golden-orange color. Great clarity. Huge rocky head is comprised of large bubbles. Heavily carbonated, excellent retention. Patchy lacing.

S: Hop profile stands out first. Perfumey/floral and herbal. Faint grainy scents in the background, a bit of husk. not much else going on here.

T: Very watery. Cereal grain tastes start to build a little. Thin herbal and floral hop tastes are dry, leafy, and a bit citric. Very dry. Finishes with dry cereal grain tastes (think Cheerios) and the slightest hint of herbal hop tastes.

M: Extremely thin and watery. Extremely high level of carbonation really doesn't do much for it either. Pretty astringent too.

O: Thin, watery, and lacking any kind of significant taste. Much too dry.

I don't know what I was expecting. I'd never had a small beer before. If this is the norm for them, I'm beginning to understand why they aren't made anymore. Glad I tried it (mainly for its historical significance) but i will not be buying this one again.

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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 73 out of 100 with 452 ratings