Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

451 Ratings
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 Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 451 |  Reviews: 327
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 ppoitras
3.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22oz bottle purchased at The Spirit Haus, Amherst, MA.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 3/4" white head above the dirty gold brew. Head is dense and lasts reasonably well, and lacing is average. Aroma is upfront with sweet maltiness, and then coupled with some nondescript hops character. Taste tries to follow the nose, but the malt doesn't have a chance to be enjoyed before the bitterness with a slight citric quality moves in and takes over. Mouthfeel is kind of rough with that bitterness being so dominant, and drinkability is just as limited. Will not be revisiting this one.

As I noted with Heavyweight's Gruit awhile back, I can appreciate what a brewer may be trying to do with a particular style or a novel process, but I don't have to like it. This one just doesn't make the grade, esp for an Anchor product.

 838 characters

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!

 653 characters

Photo of cokes
3.65/5  rDev +17%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Clear darkened gold with a fat, rocky off-white head and rushing jets of carbonation..
Nose of burnt pizza crust and grassy hops.
Begins with that same sense of burnt pizza....and with that cuisine, it is near perfect. Beyond that, it seems rather average. A subtle caramel maltiness develops, or nearly develops. Turns citric and bitter without any definative flavor. Grapefruit and, oddly, near white grapey tannic bitterness. Ends with an upturn of herbs and leaves.
Light bodied, and quaffable, though not so much as the lowered ABV would indicated.
It is, however, decent. I'd run through it again.

 608 characters

Photo of Dukeofearl
2.95/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I am mixed about this beer, much as other reviewers discuss below. It is a Small Beer, which the label notes is the second running through the mash after they make Old Foghorm Barleywine, and that this is a long-standing brewing tradition that they are trying to keep alive. That is great, and they get serious props for doing so. But the real thing is the beer, and to be honest, I'm not excited by it.

Appearance is a slightly darker than average clear golden, with a fair amount of carbonation. A large head of mixed-sized bubbles begins, that sinks rather quickly, leaving a small amount of lace on the side.

Aroma is a mix of malt and hops, ok. The flavor is where it goes for me. This starts quickly with a nice malty presence that is quickly overrun by astringent, bitter hops. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, and the hops just don't do it for me in terms of session beers. I can't recommend this one, as much as I would like to.

 939 characters

Photo of clvand0
3.58/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Cool 22oz bottle. Pours a yellow color with a moderate head that doesn't stick around too long and doesn't leave too much lacing on the glass. The aroma reminds me of pilsner malts and lager yeast. The flavor is very pilsner-like. Grainy and subdued flavors with a citrus hop that isn't very strong. The drinkability on this one is pretty nice, but the body is way too thin.

 374 characters

Photo of kmpitz2
3.51/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a very clear golden yellow color wtih a 3 finger head that sticks around a while. The nose is actually what I would expect from a pilsner. Lots of sweetness and a hint of graineyness. The flavor is very grainey with a big hop in the middle. This is no APA as the style on the site says, but I don't think this is far for this beer to be put in that style. Small beers are different beasts. The feel is thin, but expected to be that way. Drinkability is not bad at all either. Its nice to see someone do a small beer. I might go for a lighter, sweeter hop in this one, but its not bad at all.

 606 characters

Photo of Beastdog75
2.38/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Anchor's Small Beer is supposedly made from the same mash as their Old Foghorn Barleywine. The bottle tries to liken this brew to an English bitter. I thought I was going to be in for a real treat with this beer but ended up very disappointed.

Anchor Small Beer pours a rather nice caramel/gold color with 2 fingers of foam that last for about a minute. The smell had a decent piney/citric hoppy aroma to it, and it also contianed some butterscotch-like malts in the nose. The beer had a moderate carbonation to it, but it seemed a little watery in terms of body. The flavor was what made this brew a letdown. Definitely not assertive enough and bordering on watery. The piney/citric hop presence is there and is pretty much the only positive thing in the flavor. A wet cardboard flavor is also present. As the brew warms up, some of the butterscotch notes from the malt come out, but are still near undetectable. The hop bitterness does add some dryness to the finish, but the aftertaste is more of a cardboard dryness. With this being a low-alcohol beer, there is obviously no alcoholic warmth.

I expected more from Anchor (whom I have a deep respect for). Way too watery and bland for my tastes. I'll give it another go if I see it on tap.

 1,248 characters

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.

 549 characters

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.

 1,734 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 StuFox
3.23/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The Anchor Small Beer is not a beer of depth and complexity. Not that it is bad, it just isn't involved. You taste the bitter hops, you taste some citrus, but that's more or less it. This beer always leaves me asking myself why I didn't just get the Liberty Ale. It's a good beer, just the worst of the Anchor Steam beers, and not worth the price.

 347 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 lackenhauser
3.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Nice golden amber color-good carbonation level-has a decent head the whole way down.Somewhat hoppy aroma.Bitterness is right upfront.Some malt flavor-almost grassy like.Average mouthfeel-good for having a low abv.A decent enough beer-perhaps a tad too bitter.Would be nice if it was a bit maltier.

 297 characters

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

An amber colored beer with a very good sized head, looked pretty good.

The aroma was pretty hoppy, mostly aromatic hops, hints of bittering hops.

The taste was a sharp and bitter tang that passed quickly, much like a light beer does.

It was an interesting beer, about like a good light beer.

 300 characters

Photo of HappyHourHero
3.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Light grainy aroma, a bit of skunky hops. Decent, bright white head faded slowly to a film. Scattered streams of carbonation rise rapidly through the clear golden beer. Light bodied beer, bordering on watery. Malty, grain flavor is quickly over run by an unpleasant bitterness. Not tasty, watery, dissapointing.

 311 characters

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.

 436 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 Stimack
2.79/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This brew poured to a nice to an amber color with a very impressive head! The head is huge and very dense and does not seem to want to break down. It leaves fantastic lacing throughout the entire experience. It is a very nice looking brew. Now for the rest of the review! The aroma is of hop with highlights of malts flavors, unfortunately not a fantastic smelling beer as it seems to be watered (?) down somewhat. The taste is so-so, the hops dominate with citrus flavors along with bread/biscuit highlights. This is a brew that I did not care for that much. I love most of the products from Anchor so this was a bit of a disappointment for me. Not one that I will get again.

 676 characters

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

The name says it all...a small beer that is probably a good alternative to some of the other light beers on the market. Presented in a dark yellow appearance with a decent head. Smell was extremely light with some faint hoppy notes. Taste was very light throughout with a pleasant light bitter finish. Mouthfeel was "just there"...very unspectacular. Good on the drinkability scale due to its light nature, especially in the abv category, Probably not a bad brew for a warm summer day after mowing the lawn.

 507 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 Zorro
3.08/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a nice clear amber gold brew.

Smell is lots of grain and grain husks, mild citrus hop scent and mild perfume.

Taste is weak grain flavor and an astringent grain husks flavor. A surprisingly bitter beer.

Mouthfeel is thin.

A drinkable brew, very good for a lunch beer due to the low alcohol content.

 316 characters

Photo of Hobbz
3.75/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I like the idea of this brew. A "small" beer like an English ordinary bitter, made in essence from secondary "sparging-out/runoff" of the spent materials from their Old Foghorn barleywine mashing process. I can sense that this is an "old way" of brewing -- waste not...

The results (after bottling) I sampled were good and plenty drinkable. A light-bodied and colored ale, making for a fine session brew and one I think benefits from sampling first among other styles (ie: if mixing it up is in your imbibing future). Pretty good foamage as well, as the alcohol level is reduced in this style.

 596 characters

Photo of Tballz420
3.4/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This brew is a clear golden color, and has a good sized foam white head. Light grainy scent, slight floral hops as well. This is a very light beer, and has a crisp feel to it, some slight hop bitterness. This beer is the second run of another offering from anchor, and i dont really see any reason to come back to it. If youre looking for a nice light beer, this could be it, but it seems fairly overpriced for that objective.

 426 characters

Photo of watermelonman
3.24/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This poured to a very nice pale and copper color, with a great looking small head.

The smell isn't very appealing to me, but the taste is pretty decent. All things considered, the hops are potent. They're a little floral in the taste, but not at all in the smell.

This may not be spectacular, but it goes down well, and it's definitely unique.

 349 characters

Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
3.12 out of 5 based on 451 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

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