Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

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Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer
451 Ratings
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

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 451 |  Reviews: 327
Photo of Mark
3.98/5  rDev +27.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I have always been curious about this beer and I actually tried it at the breweries tasting room. Color is amber with a decent white head. Faint rings of lace are left. Fresh aroma is really at the same time kind on non descript. Crisp fresh taste that is almost lager like, good finish, decent hopping. I had heard it was supposed to be English bittier like, but this is a mysterious brew. I ranked the taste as good, because it tasted good. Refreshing and drinkable.

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Photo of zerk
3.35/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

When I first heard of this brew, I was really anxious to find a bottle... it's an interesting, and very old idea... sparge the grains from a batch of Old Foghorn, and make a lighter (smaller) beer. The beer is supposed to be similar to an English Bitter, so that's how I'm rating it.

Pours a light copper with a thin but very persistent white head that leaves behind some patches of lace. Aroma is a pleasant mix of nutty and bread-like malts with some spicy hoppiness. Flavor is a bit one-dimensional... a lot of spicy hops, which dominate any malt or esters that might be present. The beer starts and finishes bitter. Mouthfeel is light and begins slightly overcarbonated. All in all, this beer was a letdown. I expected a good bitter, but got pretty ordinary beer.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.24/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a brilliantly clear copper color, topped by a thick wonderfully long lasting off white head that creates the classic Belgian lacing as the beer is consumed. The aroma is of grain & some spicy hoppiness reminiscent of an open field. The taste is light & finishes with a spritzy bitterness. There is some dry grain character in the taste as well. The hop flavor is somewhat subdued (which is appropriate for an English bitter, which this beer characterizes itself as), but there is a nice hop spicing which adds some piney notes and a certain zing in the middle of this beer. There is a bit of nuttiness here too. Perhaps a tad too bitter to be spot on to style but I do like it anyway. Quite a clean strain of ale yeast was used as there is not much in the way of fruitiness or esters that might have added a bit more complexity.

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Photo of BitteBier
3.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Perfect clear copper orange pour topped with a generous cake of foam that disappears quite quickly. Light, sweet grain smell brings pancakes(?!) to mind. Bitter hops are detectable as well. Predictably, the nose is relatively weak. Straight bitterness hits the tongue initially with a more complex hoppiness taking over afterward. Malt base is there but secondary to the bitterness. Mouthfeel is clean; this one goes down just fine but is uninteresting compared to other Anchor offerings.

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Photo of mickeymac
3.18/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from an unusual looking 22 oz bottle, it's orangish-gold with a craggy head that remains active to the bottom of the glass. The smell is noticeably hoppy, with a fairly strong metallic smell that carries over to the taste. It's on the bitter side but pretty much lacking in anything else. This may be made with the second runnings of an Old Foghorn batch, but it tastes like third runnings. I'd pass up the Small Beer for Miller High Life if looking for a session beer and to save a little money. It's not terrible; it's just disappointing for an Anchor beer.

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Photo of Jon
3.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Clear golden with a fizzy white head.

Nose of fairly assertive, flowery hops, substantial malt and not much else. The hops stand out among everything, but there's nothing truly extraordinary about the aroma.

Taste is well-balanced, though it borders more heavily on its hop presence that anything else. A mild graininess and herbal character appear as well.

Mouthfeel is fairly carbonated, though relatively smooth. Quite lively overall.

Drinks very well and is especially flavorful for such a low alcohol brew. It's a session beer all the way and a unique creation from Anchor. A nice, simple beer.

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.37/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

Excellent table beer. In the essence of its style, not a lot to it. From a brewing perspective, it's the second sparge of the grain from the Old Foghorn and moderately hopped into a second batch of beer. Pale to medium golden color with a thin white head. Malt is rather lacking in the aroma department, hops prevail. Definitely Northern Brewer and maybe some Cascades in the bittering. I guess BA lists it as a pale ale, I find it more to be a bitter. After consulting the label, Anchor categorizes it as that, too. Very hoppy and enjoyable. Spritzy carbonation; lack of body may heighten this sensation. Mouthfeel is obviously thin. Slight lingering bitterness paired with a tinge of carbonic acid. Highly recommended as a low ABV summer session ale.

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Photo of Longstaff
2.33/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Had to check out this beer just for the concept alone and it was very dissapointing. Light copper color with a thin trace of head. Bubbly carbonation and a tinge of Liberty Ale like aroma. Very thin body with very little sweetness. I don't think its the hops that make this bitter, I have a feeling its the astringent malt that sticks in the back of your throat. Flowery hop flavor is welcome in its attempt to subdue the husky malt flavor, but doesn't quite make it. This one did not sit well with me. Oh well, they all can't be winners.

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Photo of UncleJimbo
3.54/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

25 oz brown bottle, capped. No date (but a code on the back label). I really wanted to try this "small beer", and had to search for it in several liquor stores before I located it.

This small beer poured a clear, amber color with creamy, tall, off-white foam that persisted and left good lace on the glass. There was also a nice carbonation from the bottom of the glass. The smell was lightly malty (slightly sweet) with some floral hops and bread/grain aromas. The taste was lightly malty with bitter and floral hops that lingered pleasantly. The mouthfeel was crisp and smooth with a very dry finish (almost astringent). The body was medium-light with moderate carbonation feel. The floral hops really came through in the finish and aftertaste, and this hoppy punch made up for the otherwise light body. This was a very nice ale, and at 3.3% it is quite the session beer. I wish it were more widely available in my area.

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Photo of RoyalT
4/5  rDev +27.8%
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 Winter
3.2/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Small beer. Big bottle. Pours a light amber in color with a tall creamy white head. Aroma consists primarily of citric hops and malt. Pretty light to medium in body. Malt flavor is pretty light. Sharp bitterness from the hops comes to the forefront midway across the palate. Aftertaste has a lingering "fruitiness" to it. Interesting concept, but pretty average tasting overall. Not one of Anchor's best IMO.

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Photo of PatandDavid
3.29/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice dark pumpkin color, but the head has died down. No lace. Aroma is faint...I'm actually not getting too much, sorry, maybe some sweet grain/malt. Taste starts as citrusy hops, finishes with some dry malt flavor. I like the mouthfeel, the carbonation is small, but very pleasant.

I didn't think taste-wise, this was the most awesome beer ever, but it was pretty refreshing, and I enjoyed it. I would get this again. pat

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Photo of UnionMade
3.21/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer is presented in a big 22oz anchor bottle, with a very small, old looking label. It looks very traditional.
The beer itself pours a crystal clear orangey copper color, with a moderate white head. The head dies out to almost nothing as the beer is consumed.
Aroma is mostly floral hops, with a light pale malt presence. Mild estery pear and apple. Very light. The hops are very pronounced, and lend the beer a rough sort of quality.
Flavor is initially light malt, with a trace of esters right at first, then tapers out to a floral rough hopping that dominates the beer. The finish is all hops, with a spicy aftertaste. Some rough, grainy flavor in the finish. Body is light, with moderate carbonation. Strange and interesting. It tastes pretty much exactly like what I'd expect a second running beer to be like. At least worth a try once. I'll probably buy this again.

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Photo of GreatPondBrewer
3.25/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22oz. Anchor style bomber

This was an interesting brew to say the least. Very cool for history sake though. Poured a golden hue with a frothy white head dissipating into a sheen across the top. Definitely bitter like in appearence. Smell was very foreign to me. It had a kind of leathery smell with a malty kick underneath. Taste was refreshing and zesty with plenty of carbonation, a decent hop twang and bitter finish in the back of the throat, with more of the light wheat, three day old grain flavor. I cannot fault that because unless I am mistaken that is what they were shooting for. Really cool and glad that Anchor is not afraid to try interesting things such as this

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Photo of beerguy101
1.18/5  rDev -62.3%
look: 1.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Medium orange gold color. Head is smallish. Aroma is malty and slightly skunky. A light bodied beer. Very light and watery tasting. There is something not quite right with this beer, not sure quite what it is, but it ain't right. Malts are way to mild. Hops are way to astringent. And it only 2.3 % alcohol as well. Not a very good effort from Anchor. Mouthfeel is thin. Finish is harsh. Aftertaste is bitter. DRAIN POUR TIME!!

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Photo of BigHead
2.59/5  rDev -17.3%
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 feloniousmonk
3.28/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

I've got to applaud the very existence of Anchor Small for several reasons, that they dare to still produce something in so uncommercial a fashion, that they are still experimenting with ancient traditions. This, according to the neck label, is the lighter, weaker second running from the mash of Old Foghorn. Hmm! Would they have similarities? Should they? What are we talking about? Hey, I've got an idea! Just drink it!
Appearance: clear, bright amber color, large fluffy white head, that takes it's time in settling down. Aroma: mostly dry and clean, but many interesting minor notes make their presence known, hints of citrus, bread, sour dough. It's more complex and intersting a melange the more I comsider it.
Taste: nice and hoppy, right upfront, and swift to mellow thereafter, though the complex citrusy flavor remains on the palate and begs one to consider it further. A coppery, citric tang rings throughout the finish, though it is short. Light body, little malt, or hops, texture hasn't too much to say. Taste is too unique to neglect, though. Do I like it, though? I think not...exactly.
If it wasn't only in these poorly distributed 220z bottles, and perhaps had a catchier name, and maybe a touch of sweetness, or a little extra flavor, they'd have a decent, popular ESB or something.
But perhaps that is not the Anchor be it.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.26/5  rDev +4.2%
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 mzwolinski
3.03/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Nice looking classy, curvy bottle. The beer itself is also attractive -- crystal clear copper in color with a medium-sized foamy white head, soon dissipates into a lacy top. Aroma is grainy, hoppy, a bit raw and wort-like. Body of the beer is lightly malty and finishes with a fairly strong earthy, grassy hop flavor. Aftertaste is lightly sweet with a hint of citrus. Very dry in aftertaste. A bit watery in body. Not bad, but not terrific either. Overall taste is a bit rough on the mouth for such a purportedly "mild" beer. Can't think of many occassions where this would be appropriate, though perhaps it would do well next to a pizza or some other flavorful food.

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Photo of AudioGilz
3.06/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Pours clear light amber with a fairly large head that sticks around for a good time, then becomes a coating. The aroma is all hops and so is the taste. I don't think it's a biting type of bitterness; it's kind of reserved with a crisp finish. The entire flavor is pretty mellow and not complex. That, along with the low alcohol content makes this a great session ale. There are many other ales out there that would be easier on the palate as far as a good session ale. The bitterness of this one becomes kind of bothersome after a while.

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Photo of Gusler
3.3/5  rDev +5.4%
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 ADR
3.63/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I love that they do this beer, reminds me of beers that workers carried in pails for lunch in the old days...

Darker than I expected, nice sub-amber with a very thin head at the top. Smell of mostly hop with just a little sweetness. Bitter but pretty pleasant initial taste and a little bitter at the back, there wasn't a lot of maltiness in the brew. "Sparged from a Barleywine wort", the Barleywine was obviously very hopped. Pretty mouth challenging for a low alcohol brew. Pretty OK flavor and another unique brew from a company that saved micros in the US...

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Photo of Andy
3.65/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slightly orange hue. Easy upfront, butter in the finish. slight citrus flavor. heavy diacetyl levels. very buttery. pale malt base.

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Photo of Jason
2.94/5  rDev -6.1%
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 mattmaples
3.24/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Frankly I think that my expectations got in the way of this beer. Being a small beer made from Old Foghorn I expected a little more going on in the malt department. It is a bit thin, not a lot happening on the malt side but it dones have a nice hop bitterness to it. If I remember right the brewer said he was shooting for an authentic english bitter. Like I said maybe I was expecting too much out of it. Maybe someone will chime in with a un-cluttered review.

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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.13 out of 5 with 451 ratings