Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

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 beagle75
3.46/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Draft pour into a shaker pint glass at Beachwood BBQ.

A: Clear, light amber color with over one finger of diminishing white foam head. Moderate lacing remains on the glass and clusters of submerged bubbles cling to the wall of the glass, rising occasionally as individuals.

S: Husky pilsner malt is featured in this beer's generally mild scent that is clean, but leaves little impact on the senses.

T: Begins dry, with crisp grassy hops and bright acidity that becomes more intense as the beer warms. A fair amount of bitterness develops in the middle alongside substantial toasted malt that carries through into the finish, leaving an impression of wheat heavy on the palate.

M: Thin viscosity, acidic on the palate but coating in the finish, with moderate carbonation.

D: While this beer is certainly attractively low in alcohol, it is able to deliver surprisingly intense malt-focused flavor whose bright acidity is most appealing in the presence of some of our favorite everyday foods. Its flavor profile is more like a helles lager--or its steam beer older sibling--than a bitter. The acidity can come across as harsh, and the smell is a let-down, but otherwise this is a beer that ought to be more common than it is.

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Photo of BerkeleyBeerMan
2.75/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Honey orange. Light thin color. Nice decent foaming head.

Smell: Apple peels. Wheat. Very malty. Slight off smell

Taste: Woody. Astringent bitter. Dry finish. Taste like cardboard. Grainy. Heavy carbonation. Slight sweetness. Bland. Finish is fine.

Mouthfeel: Medium. Doesn't develop a lot of character.

Drinkability: There is an Interesting premise behind the brewing of this beer (just read the label) but I probably won't be drinking this again. They claim it resembles a bitter but I've had much more drinkable bitters. One extra point for conservation of water and ingredients.

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Photo of plfahey
2.83/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz. bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance-Medium gold and brilliantly clear. Moderately low off-white head with decent retention.

Aroma-Grainy, biscuity, and nutty malt character. Moderately low green, herbal, spicy hop aromas complement the malt. Slight cardboard oxidation.

Flavor-Grainy malt, Very light woody hop flavors and moderate hop bitterness. A bit of cardboard-like oxidation. Tastes somewhat thin.

Mouthfeel-Medium body, moderately low carbonation.

I understand that this is a small beer, which means lower alcohol and lighter flavors, but this seems sub-standard to me. The flavor is thin, and just not that good.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
2.19/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This beer is terrible. Not actively terrible, mind you; it has no great traits of offense or obscenity. It just sucks. Here's why:

It looks better than it smells, tastes, or feels.

The smell is very much like the little green rabbit food pellets I used to feed my (surprise!) rabbit. I believe those were comprised of barley, just as this small beer is.

The taste is almost horrendous, though I cannot pinpoint a responsible culprit in this regard. Again, I am thinking this must be what hamster food tastes like.

The feel is as good as I could ask for, but it still is accomodating "Small Beer" so it is still not any great shakes.

Overall, this is the bammer (check out RBL if bammer ain't in your lexicon...)

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Photo of zhanson88
2.74/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I picked this beer up not knowing a thing about it, other than the fact that Anchor brews it. Figured it would be worth a shot. 22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Small Beer pours a crystal clear light straw color with a couple fingers of egg-shell white head. The head really does have some nice retention qualities, and the lacing is good. Seems promising.

Smell: Pretty blah. Light biscuity notes and a tinge of herbal hops. And when I say a tinge, I really do mean barely detectable, at least to my sense of smell.

Taste: Biscuity malts are certainly the main component, and I do get slightly more herbal hops on the back end on the palate than on the nose. Overall, I still call it below average.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: This beer is very light, and at 3.3% ABV I suppose it's expected. Overall, I just wish it had a bit more flavor. By no means is it an offensive beer, but it doesn't bring enough to the table for me.

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Photo of bahana
4.1/5  rDev +31.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I was very pleasantly surprised by this beer. Very light and drinkable. It would be a good alternative to having a light lager outside on a hot day. I love the mouthfeel how it tingles the tongue. Seems like it would go well with a light fish. Smell isn't much, but the crisp taste makes up for it.

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 10 oz. pour, served at Bailey's Taproom.

A: Mostly clear complexion, golden-honey color. Bubbles rise sporadically, wriggle lazily upward. Fine lace, draping sheets that fall with a creamy near-white creamy head, 1/2 finger at its peak, fading to a gauzy film.

S: Malt scent, but underwhelming in its lightness and simplicity. I know this is second runnings from a bigger beer, but only the vaguest waves of toasted grain (nutty) and the cereal sweetness of boiling wort.

T: Likable doughy malt, although rather bland even for the style. Along with grains, there apple flesh and a twist of citrus peel, before drier bitterness - fine at first then becoming more mineral/sharp. A little surprising that this isn't sweeter.

M: Good crispness and cleanness, a light-medium mouthfeel with a modest effervescence.

D: Very much the 'sessionable' ale, light and easy enough on the palate and the sobriety. A basic mild/ESB, but certainly drinkable enough. Something makes me wish that pints of small beers like this were a bit cheaper, but I can't complain because there's still plenty of craft going into them (heck, with that logic, non-alcoholic beers would cost pennies). Pretty good stuff.

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Photo of veinless
2.68/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a pale, hazy golden color with adequate head that laces averagely, and doesn't retain well at all.

Smells like crisp malt, some sort of bread and a bit of hops, not very complex at all.

Taste is strange, with the initial meld of hops and citrus creating a nice bitterness, but then after's like the whole thing disappeared. I get NOTHING for the entire middle of the sip, and only in the very end/after taste do I get a weird cheap malt taste to go with some mineral character. It's not entirely unpleasant, but could be quite a bit better.

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth and crisp, but suffers at the end as it becomes sort of coarse. Drinkability is good due to the 3.3% abv and dryness, but is hurt by the weird middle absence of anything. Also after a little while the bitterness builds up without anything to balance it, yielding an unpleasant beer you kind of don't want to finish. Good way to preserve tradition, just happens to not be my cup of tea I guess.

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Photo of grover37
2.65/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance (4): Very clear, light gold. A finger of head settles to a thick layer. Very good looking beer. Not much lacing though.

Smell (4): Very bready and biscuit malts. A light floral spicinesss accompanies this. Smells a bit like a hoppy Czech Pils.

Taste (1.5): Slight spicy hops up front. Somewhat unpleasant taste in the middle in finish like stale piney hops. Not a whole lot of character and very watery. Not surprising for just over 3%. It's beginning to grow on me a little bit but I can't get over that mineraly, unpleasant flavor.

Mouthfeel (2.5): Watery but smooth. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability (3): Easy to drink but I'm not sure I'd want another one.

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Photo of bunnyhustle
2.86/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Interesting beer. It looked good, nice two finger head with a clear golden color with decent lacing and retention. I actually didn't mind the smell. Had a very dry, bread-like grain smell with a little malt. Not too bad, reminded me of the smell of brewing beer. Taste was so-so. I didnt notice the bitterness too much. It was there but I didnt find it overwhelming. Some dry malt, lots of grain and very earthy. Mouthfeel was light and smooth, very dry aftertaste. Overall not bad, glad I tried it but dont know if I'd revisit it again.

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Photo of OttoBomb
3.51/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle into a Dogfish Head signature glass (April 17, 2010). No freshness date, though "9NW" is printed on the rear of the bottle, not sure what that means.

This is a "small beer" which by definition will be a weakened versions of another beer. I'm reviewing this as such rather than the listed "English Bitter" style.

Eyes: Pours an almost clear gold with an orange tint, an impressive snow-white rocky head forms and retains well.

Nose: Modest grains with a mild hop statement. The weakest area overall.

Tongue: Surprisingly bitter, very dry with a cracker-like character. The malt is understated and the hops overstated, but the balance is still there. I'm not sure this beer would have much of anything to offer without the extra hops since this is a second running of a mash.

Mouth: Spritzy carbonation with a clean, light body.

Libation: I can't say I really like small beers as there are other low alcohol options with plenty of flavor. This isn't a great beer, but for the style it has enough flavor to make this very, very drinkable.

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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 Bouleboubier
2.39/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Not a whole lot left over from Old Foghorn, eh? I was hoping somehow this would turn out to at least have some desirable quirky nuances. The size of the bottle is, dare I say, ironic, and hilarious - my favorite thing about this otherwise (but I suppose not surprisingly) ho-hum beer.

Its appearance is far and away its most attractive quality. Take some points off for what I figured would be a tad bit darker of an ale. But piss yellow (and fizzy)? Looked like a Coors Light aside from the pillowy, rocky, magnificently effervescent head. High and mighty - laced beautifully sticky. The aroma is quite weak, hops faint, yet it has a distinctly Anchor element to it - smells vaguely like a diluted Liberty or Humming Ale. Other notes I picked up in the nose were bolder in the flavor, but not by much. Yeah, it's bitter - in an herby fashion. Lemon tart, thin corn sweetness, and limp on the hops and malt. Not much going on here at all - a light-malt-flavored seltzer. Near swill, I'm afraid. At first, the foamy head lends a soft, cottony mouthfeel - not too shabby. But before you know it, it finishes ultra-thin, ultra-light, and cardboard dry - like you're sucking on cardboard. I tried letting this warm up for a good 15 min, but to no avail and no blossoming of any tasty nibs.

This must be similar to what happens to the macro lagers as far as flavor becoming all but leeched out by process. Regardless, it was an interesting try. Not something I would have again on its own, but maybe with some greasy fish and chips or other like junk food. Nothing desirable here, sorry.

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Photo of tchenery
2.99/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Very bright and crisp looking with a nice one-finger bright white head and noticable carbonation.

Very subtle malt notes and a little bit of hops.

Taste is interesting. It tastes more like seltzer water than beer. That being said, I've never had a 'small beer' from second runnings before. I'm glad I tried it but I wouldn't go for another.

Very dry and crisp mouthfeel. Extremely spritzy.

Not all that drinkable which is surprising for the ABV level.

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Photo of mdcrouser
3.23/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Popped the cap on the bomber bottle, and it ran completely over with carbonation, spilling onto the table.

Once poured, it heads up quickly, and then dies down just as quick, leaving vertical lines of lace as high as the head was tall. A golden carmel color is somewhat distinctive.

Smells much like an average American lager, but with a little deeper malts.

Uniquely big in the mouth, at least for what I thought it would be. Their Foghorn is subtley apparent, sitting mildly malty on the tongue, but with a slightly sharp hoppiness. No distinctive flavors though, preferring to be a muted version of its bretheren.

Highly carbonated, and dry on the tongue.

Drinkable, and a unique beer for a change.

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Photo of bobhits
2.42/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 4.5

A. Light and pale in color. A huge amount of carbonation almost explosive in how it bubbles up. This reminds me almost of Duvel.

S The nose of hops without much to balance them. A huge sour funky like hop nature that I am struggling to place.

T so so thin. The malt isn't strong and sweet, it's nearly gone. A lot of citrus hops but no real flavors because there isn't anything mixing with this. This is a wonderful summer thirst quencher. The flavor is pretty damn lacking and the hops aren't going to win too many over. I still think it's better than fog horn and even in this bomber it's way cheaper.

D easy to drink, extremely light, and thirst quenching.

M Carbonated and really thin.

I'm not sure why this is sold in this bomber. It's interesting and certainly something new to me.

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Photo of juhl31
2.26/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

-very cleat light gold. white head with big bubbles that kind of deteriorate crackylike (yup, i made that sentence)

-whoa malt liquor. kinda harsh. barely sweet with an apricot hint to it

-double malt liquor! a bit of a gnarly malt taste to it that has some bitter apricot taste to it...but not in a good way

-on the harsh end. not much body, which makes sense to how it was brewed

-they should have just said this was a malt liquor and sold it for 1.50 and it would be the best malt liquor ever. instead it's just disappointing that i spent 3.50 on it

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Photo of thekoz
2.85/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Large head off white head on top of a orange/dark yellow beer. Really big bubbles in the head.

A bit of grainy aroma but no too strong. Apparently made from the second runnings of their barley wine.

Had the typical anchor skunk that is common in the bottles. Not sure if that is a yeast thing or what. Decent amount of bitterness, highly carbonated for a English bitter.

Decent beer, nothing special. The low alcohol would make it a decent session beer, though I would probably prefer something with a stronger malt backbone.

Would like to try this on tap in the city. Every experience I have had with Anchor is better when it is on tap in SF.

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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 obrendano
2.24/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

got a bomber of this stuff, to a pint glass

A - bright but darkish amber, great head that sticks

S - toasty malt accented by a wet watery smell that I can't quite place. initial smell is good, second and third smells make me feel like something isn't quite right

T - lightly toasted malt, then a very quick hop bitterness gives way to a nasty bitter watery taste, almost like warm Perrier mineral water. kind of gross and very very unbalanced

M - watery and carbonated

D - great appearance and decent smell betray this beer, I honestly don't know if I can get through an entire bomber of this. I think a glass of water and some Guinness Extra are in order right now. blech

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Photo of klikger
3.13/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle served in a standard pint glass

A - Medium-dark amber, good white head, and visible carbonation. Fine amount of lacing.

S - Sweet malt, some pleasant floral aromas.

T - Cabbage water with a brief hop cameo composes the first taste. The middle is a slightly watery malt mixture, with notes of corn and wheat. The end is decently bitter, but also metallic. Underwhelming as a whole.

M - Light bodied, good carbonation.

D - Easy to drink due to ABV, but why would you?

I love Anchor, but now I know why I've only seen this in one liquor store.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
2.49/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Pours a pretty, clear bright orange with a good off-white head. Nice clarity and bubbles rising.

I know this brew doesn't move on the shelves/cooler. I cracked it and got some skunk. I thought it was bad handling, but found that as the beer settled in the glass, there is a boiled grain, overcooked vegetable and sour edge to the smell that could lead to this aroma. So I was kinda wrong. Funny enough, it also smells bitter. As this warms, the scent changes. A dried grass aroma? Sour mash? Dried seaweed? I can't put my finger on it.

Why don't they market this as "a big bottle of bitter watery beer," because that is what it is. Bitter first, then some light, watered down boiled grain, slight tartness pushed aside by the bitter again, some light toasted malt, long bitter finish.

Lighter bodied, but something there just the same. I am shocked by how the texture of this beer kinda works.
Overall, WTF were these guys thinking? Recycle your bottles, not your mash. The true dog of all of the beers these guys produce. Not good with food. Not good on its own. But, because they put it in a big bottle (presumably to get rid of this shit), you get alot of it! What a value. It actually smells worse than it tastes. This is not viciously bad flavored garbage beer, but this is not something you would share with friends. I am highly disappointed that this brewer would put something out like this.

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Photo of JRed
3.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours clear pale orange in body with white head. Pleasant aroma of citrus notes, hops, sweet malt. Grains, some wheat, slight earth, hops, some citrus notes toward the finish. Light in body and a session ale but there are some strange notes in the brew that don't sit well with me.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.07/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Shouldn't a small beer be in a bottle less than 22 ounces ;-) On to the beer:

Shiny copper orange in color with carbonation bubbles running through it. The head on top is extremely airy and large, making the first impression great. The great thickish lacing it leaves adds to it. The aroma is very subtle; dry carmel, honey, phenols, and a stronger dose of graininess.

The taste has its ups and downs. Ups: subtle flavors of honey, dry bread/biscuit, hop leaf. Downs: major brewing salt flavor that gets in the way of the otehr flavors. I don't know if those were actually used, but it sure tastes like it. Middle: minerals. While the mouthfeel is as light as water, it doesn't "feel" as such. I'd call it airy and smooth. It's easy going down if you discount that one boo-boo of a flavor note.

I really wanted to like this beer. In the end, I kind of did, but kind of didn't. I've had one other small beer in my life (Baby Hercules from BeerWorks on cask), and that one was more enjoyable.

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Photo of rootbeerman
2.81/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

poured into pint glass

A: pours clear gold with a finger of white head that fell quick but laces well.
S: dry grain malt, dry earthy and grassy hops. odd memory came about from the smell, it reminds me of the hot malt/hop aroma coming from Williamsburg's AB brewery. a childhood memory
T: nothing like old foghorn, dry, no sweetness, lots of grainy barley malt, sort of peppery and grassy hops.
M: seem a little watery, carbonation is light to medium.
D: at least worth one try, but would recommend trying old foghorn first.

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