Anchor California Lager | Anchor Brewing Company

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213 Reviews
Anchor California LagerAnchor California Lager

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States | website

Style: American Pale Lager

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.90%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
In 1876, thanks to an ice pond in the mountains and a belief that anything is possible in the Golden State, a little brewery named Boca created California's first genuine lager. Anchor California Lager® is our re-creation of this historic beer. Made in San Francisco with two-row California barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop in 19th-century California), and our own lager yeast, this all-malt brew is kräusened and lagered in our cellars. Its golden color, distinctive aroma, creamy head, balanced depth of flavor, and smooth finish make Anchor California Lager® a delicious celebration of California’s unique brewing heritage.

Added by esdeebrew on 02-15-2013

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Reviews: 213 | Ratings: 1,102
Photo of wedge
3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

@ Milltown

Sparklingly clear golden color with a small, sticky head above. Clean, simple aroma of surprisingly fruity lager yeast and a little floral character. Clean yeast, slight biscuit and cereal grain, and light fruit such as pear and grape. Light and soft with a satisfactorily crisp end. A pretty nice, neat little beer that I might pick up in the future if I'm looking for something on the less-hoppy end of the pale lager spectrum.

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Photo of bump8628
4.15/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Excellent label. Pours a clear vibrant gold with a nice build of white foam. Cluster hop forward with its dirty, spicy, rustic flavor. Malt lends a clean cereal flavor with a pleasant faint corn note that gives it a nice old school American lager feel. Firm bitterness on the finish. Yeast throws off just a hint of apple and sulfur adding complexity. Surprisingly full bodied. Anchor knocked this one out of the park - a great example of an historic American lager that still holds its own today. Love the aggressive Cluster hopping and sub 5% ABV.

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Photo of smcolw
3.56/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Impressive head that settles in a lumpy fashion. Impressive lumpy, ring lace. The liquid is bright gold color with the most mild of chill hazes.

The smell is slightly earthy with a touch of skunk.

There's a sweetness I never expected--almost like strawberries. Good hop counter-balance in the swallow. Full-bodied particularly for a light colored lager. High carbonation. Not necessarily as light and refreshing as you'd expect from a pale lager. It truly lands like an ale.

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Photo of Libationguy
3.99/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Light gold color with a brilliant appearance. Rich, full white head with medium retention. Well carbonated. Lacing in the glass is prominent.

Bready and biscuit dough. Toasted bread and a faint lemon and orange zest quality. The yeasty notes on the nose give it a good deal of richness for the style.

Bread and biscuit and backed up with some tastiness. A little bit of Marzipan and grapefruit peel.

Medium bodied and slightly watery around the edges. The beer is well attenuated and cleans up on the palate. There is a nice aftertaste that carries the beer through the palate to a solid finish.

Really nicely done for the style. If you're a Budweiser or Coors drinker, you could do worse than to give this beer a try.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.47/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a light gold color, with a large white head that fades quickly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains lager yeast, light caramelized malts and some hops.

T: The taste starts out bready with flavors of lager yeast and grain. Then some citrus and malt sweetness comes in along with a mild hops presence. The malt character is hearty and there’s a good balance. The after-taste is slightly bready.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean.

O: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, mild kick, good representation of style, this is a solid poundable beer to drink for a long time.

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Photo of russpowell
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an effervescent bronze with 2 fingers of pearl colored head. Good lacing & head retention

S: Musty grain, crackery notes, plus a bit of perfumy hops

T: Some pear notes, leafy hops & some crackery notes up front. More pear & even a bit of green apple, plus leafy hops & mineral dryness. Leafy hops, dryness & muted pear in the finish

MF: Medium bodied, assertive carbonation, decent balance

I could do one or two of these, then it would be time to move on to something with a more agreeable flavor profile, was hoping for more from these guys

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
3.39/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours a light, clear, pure golden color. Clarity is high, like that of a lighter style lager. Small, 1 finger head that doesn't stick around long at all and leaves a light trail of lace down the sides of the glass.

S- Starts with a very light, almost fruity, malt presence. Slight grainy scent intermingles and reminds me of corn adjunct in some other beers. Stays light throughout the entire smell before displaying the slightest bit of hops flourish at the end.

T- Starts light and floral in taste before moving toward a more traditional, light malt flavor. Middle and end of the drink is all light malts and some light, grainy flavors. Ends with a crisp, light malt bite that doesn't linger.

M- Light and high in carbonation. Very easy to drink, being light in body and having low levels of hops. This feels like a classic lager.

Overall, this is a craft version of a macro style lager even more than the steam beer is. Good flavors, but nothing special as far as a breakout from the style.

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Photo of rlee1390
3.99/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Clear orange not much carbonation, one finger head with some lacing.

S-Very malty, straw, wheat, citrus and lemon.

T-Well balanced, mainly lemon, citrus with straw and wheat. Tad bit of grass. Slight hop notes.

M-Medium bodied and well carbonated.

O-Easily one of the better American Lagers I've had the malt worked well with the light citrus flavors.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.16/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A-Pours a clear golden color. Nice, frothy head. Head leaves sheets of lacing. Beer looks clean and refreshing.

S-Honey and cracker maltiness. Lager yeast and barley with some old-school hops. Simple, plain and inoffensive.

T-Animal Cracker maltiness with some light graham cracker and a decent dose of grassy, noble-esque hops. Yeast and grain with a sweeter finish.

M-Very easy drinking. Has just barely enough pop to keep my taste buds interested. A bit more body than expected.

O/D-Not really my cup of tea but it goes down quick and easy during a near 100 degree day.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.82/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Snatched this one up yesterday at Red Carpet Wine in Glendale. I'll try anything Anchor puts out out of respect for the brewery. Love the old school no-nonsense label, and Anchor's bottles are iconic at this point - distinctive and cute with the snub neck. Let's get into it, shall we?

12 fl oz brown glass bottle with standard pry-off ("Use Opener") cap served into a Mitchells of Lancaster flared stem-tulip in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are fairly high given the brewery's reputation and influence.

Served cold, straight from the fridge. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

I can't corroborate the ABV; I don't see one listed on the label.

A: Pours a two finger wide light white-khaki colour head. Soft smooth complexion. Nicely frothy. Fair creaminess. No real lacing as the head recedes. Head retention is pretty decent - probably 6 minutes - but that's not too impressive for the mild ABV.

Body colour is a clear translucent copper; vibrance is above average. Pretty standard fare for the style. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Not unique or special, but I don't notice any obvious flaws. Looking forward to trying it.

Sm: Two row malts; quite clean. Neutral efficient yeast; no spiciness or biscuity character here. Cream. Vague adjunct - corn maybe? Clean barley. Quite grainy; graininess is definitely dominant. Any hopping is largely unevocative; it's purely preservative. I suppose it's to style, but it does leave something to be desired. No alcohol is detectable. I'm optimistic given the brewery, but I can already tell it's not going to blow me away.

T: Clean. Grainy and malty. Hop character is unevocative, adding little. Clean barley and cereals. No yeast character comes through. No alcohol comes through. Some residual sugars on the back end leave it feeling sweet - almost like it was brewed with candi sugar. Weak, but I wouldn't call it bland. It's certainly boring, though. I do get some mineral notes - perhaps from the water. Light dough - especially on the climax. There's not much to say about it given its simplicity. No subtlety here, but decent balance. Flavour duration and intensity are average. It does feel a bit artificial, almost like adjunct was used.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Lightly crisp. Overcarbonated. Good presence on the palate. It's somewhat refreshing. Suits the flavour profile generally well, but it doesn't feel custom-tailored to it. A bit too thick. Not syrupy, viscous, harsh, gushing, or oily.

Dr: Drinkable but boring. I definitely wouldn't bother with this again. I do think it's necessary to point out that Anchor likely met their goals; I don't doubt this is an authentic recreation of the beer they based this on. I applaud the revere for brewing history, but frankly the resultant beer is just plain dull. Very pedestrian indeed. That said, this might be a great beer for easing macro-swill drinkers into craft/micros. It's easy sippin', but I wouldn't recommend it to friends. A dud from Anchor.

Low C

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Photo of woodychandler
3.75/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I originally had this from a bottle, the review of which follows, but when they released it in a CAN, you CAN bet that I wanted to make it a part of The CANQuest (TM)!

From the CAN: "California's First Genuine Lager Reborn."

The Crack! unleashed a bunch of foam, as though I had shaken the CAN! I had not, but it sent a clear message that a slow, gentle pour was in order so as not to anger the bear patrolling the side of the CAN. I still got a good bit of foaming, resulting in two-plus fingers of dense, rocky, bone-white head with good retention. Color was Yellow-Gold (SRM = 4 - 5) with NE-quality clarity so my buddies, Mammon, Croesus and Midas stopped by for a taste. Nose had a Noble hop grassiness and a mild biscuity maltiness. Mouthfeel was medium. The taste was grassy, but sweet enough that I would have guessed it to be a German Pilsner. No matter. I could drink this all day. Finish was semi-sweet, very tasty and undeniably thirst-quenching. I would put some of this in my cooler during the summer and just sit back and watch the days pass by.

I was surprised when I saw this in the cooler at Monde Market in PHL on Thursday. "When did Anchor begin making lagers?" I wondered to myself. This has been a recent West Coast trend in response to many East Coast (read PA) brewers taking medals for Lager-style beers at GABF and jealousy will get you nowhere. My analogy is that of a stick shift driver to an automatic driver: if you can drive stick, you can drive anything. If you only know automatic and somebody puts you behind the wheel of a stick, you are going to grind a lot of coffee before you are done. If you can brew with lager yeast, you can brew anything, although some stalwarts don't even want to bother. If you only know ale yeast and suddenly decide to brew lagers, you are going to produce some evil stuff before you are through. Capice?

From the bottle: "Anchor Steam's roots go back to the Gold Rush, long before icehouses and modern refrigeration made traditional lagers a viable California option. in 1876, thanks to an ice pond found in the mountains and a belief that anything is possible in the Golden State, a little brewery named Boca created California's first genuine lager. Anchor Claifornia Lager is our re-creation of this historic beer. Made in San Francisco with two-row California barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop in 19th-century California)), and our own lager yeast, this all-malt brew is krausened and lagered in our cellars. Its golden color, distinctive aroma, creamy head, balanced depth of flavor, and smooth finish make Anchor California Lager a delicious celebration of California's unique brewing heritage."

California Lager?!? It seems like a contradiction on terms to me, but I promise to give it a fair shake, as I do for every beer. This is a very carbonated beer, so even a gentle pour seems to create a lot of dense, pillowy, French-vanilla colored head which also gives the beer a pseudo-cascading effect as it settles. Color was a deep-gold with NE-quality clarity and once more, Croesus and King Midas were fighting over it, now joined in the fray by Mammon. I have no time for their antics, so I leaned in for a sniff. The nose was clean, very much a lager, with a grainy maltiness and a grassy hoppiness that put me in mind of a German Pils. Mmmm. Mouthfeel was soft, I mean like as in soft water and the taste was very grassy, very much Noble hops, although I was not getting the malt the way that I did on the nose. Finish was dry and refreshing, but I kept thinking that I wished that they had allowed the malt to play better with the grassy hops. Not bad, but I know several PA breweries that make lagers that I will stick with/to, at least for the time being.

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Photo of wattoclone
2.58/5  rDev -31%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

As a fan of Anchor Porter and lagers in general, when I saw this recently I had to pick up a six pack. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with this one. It smells and tastes like an IPA, not a lager. The grassy hops pervade the nose and leave a lingering potent bitterness that only IPA lovers would enjoy. Yes, there is substantial maltiness up front, but it is quickly overcome by the strong hops. If the hops were cut to about a quarter of the current level this would be an outstanding lager.

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Photo of TheSSG
2.88/5  rDev -23%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a loud, soft, soapy, white head that collapses quickly. Soft, sweet malt backing floral hops. Crystal clear, golden hue. Starts bitter with a grainy hop flavor, builds into a low-medium hoppiness, a flash of grassy hops, and then the malt finally shows through. Lingering hop bitterness.

This is billed on the label as an "all-malt brew." It's billed also as having a "balanced depth of flavor" and "smooth finish."
No. None of these things is true.
It's not bad, but it's not the smooth lager it's building itself up to be. I was hoping for something a la "Totally Naked" by New Glarus, but I got a light pale ale. Considering Anchor's bock, they over-hop their lagers. Again, not a BAD brew, but not a very good lager (especially considering the billing).

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Photo of barnzy78
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, brilliantly golden with a creamy, white head that holds decent retention and leaves a little lace. Aromas are typical for the style - lager yeast, grassy hops, biscuity grain. Tastes are fresh & crisp, grassy hops, yeast, easy drinking. Creamy, lighter body, moderate carbonation. Overall, nothing wrong with this one - good example of the style.

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Photo of jkrich
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a code dated 12 oz. bottle: bright, shiny and clear golden hue with a sustained, foamy white-head that very slowly recedes leaving nice lacing on the glass.
The weakest point for this lager: very light and subtle hop aroma with little of the spiciness one would expect from an all-malt lager.
This is definitely a step above an "American style lager" in flavor profile. There is a soft, mellow flavor similar to a German helles. Only the steely hop bitterness reminds you that this is American. The Anchor website states this is a single hop lager. I think the very good flavor of this lager could be improved with an additional hop variety.
The mouth feel has a very nice, creamy and smooth profile with a slight and pleasant lingering vanilla on the palate.
It is good to see a world class brewery presenting a standard and flavorful lager. I will probably have this one again this summer.

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Photo of Hibernator
3.97/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Anchor California Lager
12 oz brown bottle
Served in a Pilsner glass

Pours a golden color with an orange tint. Champagne bubbles race to the top of the beer. The head is fluffy and bone white. I'm most impressed with the trails of sticky lace on this offering.

A rather clean nose with whiffs of grains or cereals.

Toasted grain malt backbone with a really clean profile. Hints of grass, cereal gain and a touch of citrus (lemon). I detect that classic Anchor yeast in here too. Super drinkable, almost off the charts in terms of sheer drinkability.

A refreshing and simple (in a good way) way lager that is true to the style. Could be an excellent crossover beer for someone.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
3.79/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours clear medium orange with a nice foamy white head that lasts and sticks to the glass.

Pale malt nose, some hop leaf, some mineral.

Nice malt profile up front. Dries out nicely with some malt and then some decent clean bitterness. Long bitter finish.

Medium Body, good carbonation.

Nice structure with this beer. Nothing fancy, but a nice clean lager. A little on the bitter side, and that can work well with food. These guys found a nice summer beer here.

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Photo of flexabull
3.61/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a bright and light gold color, very clear, with a nice white head.

Aromas are doughy, with some bread, yeast, and light grassy hops.

Taste is semi sweet, lightly creamy, and fairly dry. Finish has hints of mineral hops, with a light grassiness.

Mouthfeel is full, smooth, and dry. Almost feels a bit too thick though.

Overall, a pretty nice lager. It's a bit too thick and sweet to me, and I wish it was more crisp, clean and dry tasting. Still a pretty good beer though.

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Photo of Philousa
3.86/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a crystal clear bright yellow with a half finger of dense head sitting atop an active glass of bubbling brew. Typical lager aroma with a good nutty kick to it. No one nut stands out, but it's more prevalent than the slight tang from the yeast, solid honey presence, and somewhat metallic twinge. I also get some cracker, which is of note since I normally don't detect any malt in the nose. This starts out a little sweet from un-fermented malt and honey, but turns quickly to mild tang and nut, toasted cracker, and fades to a bright, nectar hop with bitterness mild and fleeting. A mix of the young hop bitterness and cracker linger together. Feel is slightly watery with more body than I would have imagined with a sweet finish.

This is a very solid offering from Anchor. While I still prefer Trumer, this would be great on a hot day. If they were to get more attenuation or just bring down the sweetness in another way then this would be a great brew.

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Photo of scratch69
3.66/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured a bottle into a pilsner glass.

Appearance- Clear golden color with a fingers worth of head. Fair amount of lacing.

Smell- Grain and hay aromas with a hint of floral hops.

Taste- Bready malt and hay-like flavors with a slight herbal hop finish.

Mouthfeel- Light bodied and smooth with an average amount of carbonation.

Overall- A tasty and easy drinking lager.

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Photo of steveh
3.86/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Just learned this new beer was available in my area and -- hey! One of my locals actually had it!

Trademark short Anchor bottle with its mysterious dot matrix coding.

A -- Pours a clear, deep golden color with a craggy white head that holds up well.

S -- Grainy malts and mild, spicy hops. Not a terribly big nose, but nothing offensive.

T -- Grainy malts with some underlying sweetness and good spicy bitterness in balance. The proprietary Anchor lager yeast is present in the same bready and tart way it tastes in the Steam, though maybe a little milder. The finish has a cross between the graininess and mild sweetness along with the clean, dry spiciness of the hops.

M -- Mouthfeel is soft, on the verge of syrupy, to crisp in the finish with a light to medium light body.

O -- I'd like to think this is what a true pre-prohibition beer tasted like, though I have the feeling the hop-rate is a little bigger in this one. Nonetheless, this is a great tasting beer that's perfect for quaffing every day. Has a good, though mild malt character and a good amount of hop bitterness to be paid attention. A damn fine take that ought to make some macro drinkers (old or nuveau) take note.

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Photo of magictacosinus
3.95/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a pokal glass from a 12oz bottle.

Pours a golden, yellow clear color with a ton of champagne-like carbonation that (at least, thanks to the glass), keeps pumping bubbles upwards for what seems to last forever. Some sit on the bottom, around the edges of the glass. A foamy, white head crowns the top, dwindling to about a half finger size but never giving up. Thicker than expected. When rated to the style, this is pretty much top notch.

The flavor is a lightly laden combination of crisp cereal grains, grassy, wet hops, and an undeniable skunky flavor that comes quite often in these types of beers. The finish is a dried apple/pear combo, with a little bit of mustiness from the yeasty byproduct, as well as a refreshing, dried grass and floral hoppiness. A touch of sweetness from the alcohol, although at that point everything gets more subtle. Light indeed, but pleasant.

The flavor consists of a bittered, cracked barley flavor combined with a juicy, slightly sweetened malty character with a little bit of grass from the hops, and dried skunkiness from the yeast. Everything is well represented here! The grains immediately bring in some bitterness, but it quickly turns into a fruity, dried finish combined with the hop flavor and slight alcohol sweetness. The apple cider-ish flavor still is at full strength here, but the emphasis clearly in on the cereal golden grains. Carbonation is excellent, and this is far more thickened as a result. Very bite-y, even as far as the style goes, and not as gentle on the palate as a result, but I think that makes it more interesting.

I really enjoy that this is available year round as of this year - but I especially love using this as a replacement for all of the rather generic summer beers that come around this time of the year. I could have a ton of these in one session. Anchor really made an everyday, crowd-pleasing beer here... But it's quite tasty and one of the best German style lagers I've had in America in a long time.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.17/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

One of the things I really enjoyed about this beer was its well-thought out nods to California history, from the label design (always classy) to their choice of hops. The beer itself was enjoyable in a sessionable-lager sort of way, but this is not necessarily one I’d go out of my way to try again.
It pours a manila tan-gold color with generous foaming. There’s a light honeyed aroma with just a hint of that signature Anchor Steam yeast character. It’s delicately hopped. The flavor is crisp with just a touch of the hop character. Finishes effervescent & light. Overall I found this a tasty take on the much maligned lager. Paired well with tacos.

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Photo of DeanMoriarty
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a 6'r of these at Bev Mo in Point Loma for $8 - poured into a Plan Nine Alehouse branded tulip.

Pours what some may refer to as "fizzy yellow beer" though I hate to associate such a great brewery with such a morbid description, but I have to call a spade a spade here. Smell is sweet and malty with some grassy notes in there as well. Taste is also sweet and malty, slightly herbal and mildly bitter. Finish is very clean, lively carbonated and a lingering bitterness from the hops. Has moments of coming across like and English pale in flavor but has a light body. Extreme easy drinker - great session beer for the long warm California days of summer.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
3.78/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: clean, light amber... frothy white head

S: not much there to dazzle the senses.... clean, bright, mild grain kernel dominates, very tiny touch of leafiness.... no-to-little fruitiness

T: very clean and mellow overall.... light on the (cereal, bready) malt, light on the hops.... lightly fruity with some mellow residual bitterness

M: lighter body than I would have guessed for (or have experienced in) an all-malt lager.... something in the process.... still fairly smooth and dry for what it is, no bite or astringency.... very easy to drink

O: not bad at all.... the "missing link" between the macro swill and the quite-malty domestic all-malts I've enjoyed

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Anchor California Lager from Anchor Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 213 ratings.
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