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 biboergosum
2.77/5  rDev -12.3%
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 Derek
3.56/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Clear bronze with a huge, fluffy white head, good retention & lace. How do they do it... is it the hop oils?

S: Floral, steelie grass and a bit of San Francisco sour dough bread.

T: Quite hop forward, very steelie and floral; hints of grainy astringency dance with the hop acidity and modest bitterness.

M: Light to moderate body has a light hop acidity and a crisp finish with a hint of tartness.

D: A refreshing summer brew.

Very few brewers use the second runnings. From a historical and environmental point of view I like it. Today this is a very unique brew, which is tough to judge by style... but I'd happily session it in the summer heat.

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Photo of nickd717
2.66/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Review dated 6/26/2009. Tap at the brewery. Not a favorite.

Golden color with a white head.

Aroma is malty and grainy with slight hops.

Flavor more of the same, light and malty with grains and some slightly metallic hop bitterness on the finish.

Palate light and somewhat watery.

Pretty run-of-the-mill overall. I’ll take an Old Foghorn instead.

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

22 oz. (?) bottle poured into a pint glass.

Pours a crisp, clear light copper topped by a large, fluffy and rocky white head that sticks around.

Nose is balanced, nutty malt and leafy/earthy hops primarily. Simple and clean, with perhaps a touch of citrus.

Earthier on the palate, a fair bit muddled. Mildly sweet. Tastes like it's been watered down, which in a sense I suppose it has. Still crisp. Perhaps faintly floral.

Light modied, mostly firm. Just a hint of lingering bitterness, but without hop flavor. Not bad, but less than I was expecting.

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Photo of dgilks
3.86/5  rDev +22.2%
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 July2Nov
3/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: clear bronze in color with not much in way of head retention.

Smell: Lighter wheat scent with some sweetness.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Light and water-like. Has a dry cider like feel to it with grains and wheat as the centerpiece. Pretty much one-note.

Overall: Average, but refreshing. It is what it is. Got this one ticked off the list.

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Photo of jondeelee
3.21/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Anchor's Small Beer is made from the same mash as their Old Foghorn barleywine-style ale: after the first runnings have been drained off for Old Foghorn, the mash is soaked again, and the second run is used for Small Beer. The result is a beer that is intentionally lighter and weaker (only 3.3% ABV). Small Beer still has some of the barleywine aromas--apricot, brown sugar, vanilla, orange, lemon--but they are less pronounced.

On the tongue, the beer is light, but refreshing, tasting somewhat like a cross between a non-skunky Corona and a light IPA. Citrus flavors dominate--oranges, lemons, apricots--but the beer also bears a strong bitterness, akin to grapefruit rind, and a peppery spiciness. Mouthfeel is light, and carbonation is medium-high.

Overall, Small Beer is a good beer, and for a second-run brew, is still far better than anything Anheuser-Busch puts out. I do find the bitterness somewhat out of balance with the sugars, but still think the result is quite palatable, and refreshing--this is a brew I'd like to take to the beach on a hot day.

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Photo of notchucknorris
3.21/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: A great looking beer. Honey colored and clear with a long lasting off white head.

S: Smells kind of like beer that's been left out open overnight. Almost like a stale coors light. Alright, maybe not that bad. Notes of spent grain, slight malt and a strange sourness.

T: This just isn't impressive. Has a strange watery sour taste that I just can't force myself to like. Strange and grainy and not something I'd get again.

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Photo of mempath
4.42/5  rDev +39.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

figured i'd try this since it's a tip of the hat to brewing history and activity...and i like anchors offerings. surprised to see the 'score' but here goes...

nice bright deep brass color with an active head that laces briefly but disappears quickly. definitely appears to have a good body. so far so good. the nose is subtle but instant hint of herbs, floral. i don't know why but each sniff makes me think of the alps. weird. something medicinal in a good way...ree-colahhh. the translation to taste is similar, but the shift from subtle/mysterious is more revelatory. definitely not watery, rather astringent (in a good way) thanks to an active mouthfeel. crisp, uncomplicated but not simply 'simple'...for something so malty, there is a hoppy menthol sense that makes this a little more mysterious once again. i guess it's good it's low ABV....but i do wish it didn't cost so much ($6+ for the bomber)

would be interesting to pour a few ounces of Old Foghorn in...and vice versa when i have an OF on hand.

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
3.71/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into a half pint glass.

After a few sips I would say this easily has to surpass the C+ rating it garners at the moment. Yes, the head is foamy, almost to the point of being "macro-foamy" but it sticks around longer and hides a much nicer color than piss yellow, specifically a clear, bright golden amber.

Aroma is really the weakest aspect of the beer but I guess that's what you get when using run-offs to brew. Aroma is slightly grainy, maybe even a bit smokey (but that could just be my imagination).

Taste is a winner, a bit nutty, a touch of earthy, slightly herbal hop flavors that all ties nicely together. You can certainly tell this is a bitter as there is a nice tightness lingering on the back of my tongue after each sip, otherwise the feel is quite solid, generous on the bubbles, not necessarily refreshing but certainly a beer that I wouldn't mind a couple glasses of for lunch, or dinner for that matter.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
2.91/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

First off, I have to say that I love Anchor Steam - I really do. It was one of the first craft beers that opened my eyes up to what else was out there and to this day, I still think it's the ideal beer to have a pizza with. I've enjoyed and reviewed many of the other offerings from Anchor and most of them were good enough to buy a second time.

Unfortunately, that's not the case here.

I wanted to enjoy this - I really did. Never before had I seen one of their beers offered in a bottle this big. It was still the familiar bottle that I've come to love but that's about where the similarities ended. Poured some of it out to watch the head froth up and then fade away into nothing...

Then came the smell.

Garbage? Eggs? Sulfur? Oh heck, I have no idea. The taste was the same way. A watered-down version of "stink" that eventually settled into a more generic "beer" flavor. Nothing in the way of carbonation, alcohol, or hops to be felt. As long as I didn't have smell it, it went right down and it was only in the back that I could feel the rye, barley, and faint Anchor hops left over from the Old Foghorn. It was sour nearly the whole way and just not that memorable. As I told my friend, I would have had no idea that this was an Anchor beer if I never saw what bottle it was poured out of.

This certainly qualifies as a session beer but good luck getting more than one of these to go down in a given night. While this doesn't lessen my opinion of Anchor, I was really disappointed in this. Probably one to skip unless you want to experience this firsthand, and as much as I hate to say this, the name of the beer is truly reflective of its stature.

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Photo of nebula1999
4.2/5  rDev +32.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours reddish-copper colored from bomber into 1/2 liter mug. Very carbonated, nearly overflowing. Cream colored head remains with some lacing. Not entirely transparent. Head is just about the same color as the background color on the label.

Smell is of light grain, some grass. Nothing too powerful comes through, but not empty either. I'm thinking this is going to be a light tasteless beer, but not so.

Flavor is clean and light with a mild, then pronounced bitterness on the back of the tongue. Lightly roasted grain is present. Lasting dryness. Bright. Lip smacking. A pleasantly refreshing beer that I could easily work my way though most of the afternoon into the evening. Low alcohol is welcome, but only because the beer actually has some decent flavor accents. I think that "good" beer does not always have to be high in alcohol, or exceedingly complex. This beer fills a niche that I seek out, but rarely find in the micro market.

Mouthfeel is light and quenching with some softness. Pilsener-like. Yet nothing like a macro light. This beer is worth trying. Especially on those hot days when you want to be refreshed, but without the high alcohol that some other ales can deliver. Recommended.

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Photo of shand
3.91/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a Sam Adams perfect pint.

This may be a small beer, but it has a huge head! Pours a solid amber color with a huge, fluffy head that retains very well. Aroma is solid. Toasted malts, sharp hops, and not much else. The taste is, again, quite solid. It's quite a simple and refreshing beer, with a nice amount of nutty and toasty maltiness with some sharp hops to keep the tongue tickled.

The mouthfeel is light and crisp, and the drinkability is outstanding. This was an interesting brew to have, it's a great historical brew exhibiting a style that's almost completely lost to time. It's nothing too complex, with just the right amount of flavor (small beer was often drunk in place of water in the medieval times, because it was boiled and had preservatives) just as the style should be. If this were in sixers for about 7 dollars, I'd drink a ton of this.

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Photo of metter98
3.18/5  rDev +0.6%
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 burnheartsMKE
2.58/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I think Anchor makes great beers, I really do, unfortunately this is not one of them.

Smells funky like hot garbage. Big sea-foam head that just sits there quietly like it’s waiting for some big wave to come crashing down and help it move on…

Taste is out-of-wack bitterness. If you watered down a proper wort, added some bug-spray and then carbonated it - it would probably have the same flavor profile as this small beer.

Yuck, I’m sorry, but 22 oz was way too much and I ended up just giving it away (and I’m not quite sure the recipient finished it either…)

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Photo of Seanibus
3.65/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasty but not deep.

Pours deep copper with a slight but sticky head. The aroma is malty and sharp. The flavor is very bitter, masking the thinness of the low ABV and general thinness of the beer. This is not a great beer in a general sense, but given the low abv, it is a great session beer.

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Photo of CraftAleRookie
3.83/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an oversized DFH snifter.

Deep Golden color- leaning toward copper on the color spectrum. Crystal clear, ample bubbles effervescing from the bottom. What started as a two finger fluffy head become a one finger foamy head; then phased to very light traces of lace during consumption.

The smell was malty, with a hint of yeast. Has the aroma of a lager, with a sharp tinge. Taste is definitely reminiscent of the traditional lager that we used to sneak from Dad's inventory as a teenager- but with a bitter finish that sits in the center of your tongue after swallowing.

For a bitter, this has a lighter body and also lighter fizz. Overall, this is a craft-lover's sample throw-back to the days of lager yore. But with the addition of the bitter sharpness, this is a good change of pace. Serve this ice cold, it's perfect for the warmer weather.

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Photo of ElCommodoro
3.4/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

The pour was a light amber colour with a head that receded to abut half a centimeter. The smell was malty. It smelled like good malt. No other scents were detectable. The flavour is strongly bitter. The delicious sweet maltiness is very easy to taste underneath the bitterness, so it's not overbearing. Considering that I'm not a fan of bitter beers, this one is not bad. It's not balanced, but beers that are supposed to be bitter aren't supposed to be, I suppose. I feel like I can taste the fact that it's more watery and less alcoholic than most beer, but maybe that's just in my head. It definitely has a weakness to it, though. I really do think it's a little too bitter for the weakness, though. It's like a bitter, herbal water. That may have been the intent, but I'm not a fan.

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Photo of Kbogac
3.58/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass. Darker amber with a nice two finger head. Lots of visible carbonation. Foam clings to glass all the way down. Smell is very mild hops and malt. Taste is also light. Again hops and malt with a mild bitter finish. This is good beer. Don't try to make it something it's not. It's a second running beer from a barley wine mash. I think it's a great effort and a nice lighter beer.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.26/5  rDev +3.2%
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 tone77
3.27/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a brown 22 oz. bottle. Has a rich golden color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of malts, a bit sweet. Taste is nothing like the smell, there is some malts but with considerable bitterness, a bit of grains, not bad but not overly pleasent. Feels light in the mouth and overall is a mediocre beer.

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Photo of generallee
3.18/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 1pt. 6oz bottle into an imperial pint glass. The neck label has a short description of the beer but there is no freshness date or abv%.

Appearance: The body has a light amber to orange amber color with good clarity and some visible carbonation. From the pour I got an average size head (about two fingers) with a just off white color. This head fades slowly and makes some nice lacing on the glass as I drink.

Smell: It light overall and has a light pale biscuit like maltiness with some mild grassy/herbal hops. (This was not what I was expecting at all.)

Taste/Palate: The flavor closely matches the smell. It starts with a thin pale malt with light bready and biscuity notes. This is then quickly over run by a slightly citrusy, almost astringent, grassy hop character. It finishes with this acidic bitterness hanging on to the tongue. The body has a light and fairly thin feel with plenty of scrubbing carbonation.

Notes: For a beer based off the second running of there Barleywine this was not what I was expecting and not a beer that I would seek out again.

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Photo of david18
3.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I had a sixteen ounce draft of this at Todd English P.U.B in Las Vegas. I don't think I disliked this as much as many others but I wasn't overly impressed either. I would like to find a beer that low in alcohol that I enjoyed a lot.

Color was very light, almost American Adjunct light with a small yet active head.

Aroma was somewhat hoppy, but it certainly wasn't like an English bitter.

Flavor was ok, not great but not terrible. Some hops, a little malt, etc.

Overall it was ok but if I want to go low in alcohol I'm much more likely to ask for one of my favorite Pilsners.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.26/5  rDev +3.2%
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 mactrail
2.44/5  rDev -22.8%
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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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
Beer rating: 73 out of 100 with 452 ratings