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Anchor California Lager | Anchor Brewing Company

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220 Reviews
Anchor California LagerAnchor California Lager

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

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: 220 | Ratings: 1,131
Photo of Flounder57
3.74/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle was poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a golden straw yellow with great clarity and bubbles are seen coming up through the glass.

Smell: Grassy hops, 2 row sweetness, and bready malts.

Taste: Same as above with mild tingly hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, crisp, chewy, refreshing, medium to full bodied, and medium carbonation.

Overall: Smells like commercial domestic, but tastes like a cradt brewery. Good stuff.

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Photo of micromaniac129
3.74/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours with a fizzy white head that fades fast. The color is a crystal clear straw. Light carbs.
Aroma is grainy and malty with a hint of hops.
The taste is malty and grainy. Plenty of bread and/or crackers yeast and sutle hops to give a semi bitter finish.
On the palate there is a crisp dryness. It finishes clean with a semi bitter finish.
A good well made brew.

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Photo of DrinkinBoy
3.66/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A - Appears a bright clear gold color with a cream white head. Retention and lacing are decent.

S - Surprisingly lacking in hop aroma, which is disappointing. However the pale malt aroma is nice, basically a stronger but similar smell to domestic lagers.

T - Flavor begins very light and works into a balanced bitter/sweet flavor in the middle. The finish has a great lager crisp finish. The lingering aftertaste is not very enticing.

M - Medium body. Perfect amount of carbonation for style.

O - Definitely worth a try. Seeing this style come out from Anchor is very exciting, and as usual they did not disappoint. It is great to see them not have to fallow in the "let's just make a [insert style] and load it with American hops" like both craft brewers big and small do today.

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Photo of emerge077
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pale bright gold, racing streams of carbonation, long lasting head of foam and some random spotty lace around the edges. Surface coverage

Mild aroma, lager yeast, dry and bready.

Soft and supple feel, biscuity malt, light apple and a vague herbal bitterness in the aftertaste. Smooth and very drinkable, simple but still flavorful. Prototypical example of the APL style.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picking up what they could, westward travelers made beer from all kinds of things as they attempted to make beers traveling toward the promise of gold. Where the California Common ale is well documented, it makes sense that the more tried-and-true Lagers would have also been part of the early settler's beer drinking diet.

Like any well made lager would, Anchor's pours with a medium gold color and bright clarity. Building a creamy ivory-white foam, its head character is long lasting and proud with lacing collars as the beer fades. It's a rather fantastic looking Lager!

Grainy-sweet aromas of raw barley, supple bready sweetness and a richer bread crust rise to the nose for a crisp and pleasantly light scent. Floral hops give a slight perfume character that's similar to honey suckle. Light apple and sulfur lurk in the background and help to round the scent but careful not to make too meaningful of an impact.

To taste, the ale fares similarly- part-malt and part-grain to start, its sweetness is light and is of fresh baking bread, light dough and yeast. But its cracker-like taste reels in the slight fruitiness of honey, apples, and slim citrus. What's floral in aroma provides a soft flowery herb taste before developing a spicy and earthy bitterness that overrides the malts and ensures a crisp and clean finish.

Light bodied, the ale's elegant sweetness might imply more weight, but its bolsterous carbonation lightens the body and floats the lager over the middle to arrive in a finish of lemongrass bite, herbal warmth and pepper.

The lager is surprisingly crisp, clean and refreshing as it shows no apparent off flavors and keeps its balance well in tact. Its a fabulous beer that is sure to fare exquisitely with sushi and Cobb salad.

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Photo of secondtooth
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A recreation of one of America's first "craft beers", this historic lager pours a clean golden-amber, with a luxurious head of white bubbles. Sparse, but tall spokes of lace.

Nose is crisp lager grains and malts. I get toasted barley. Perfect lager aroma.

Flavor is subtle -- heavy on the grains and malts up front, with niche touches of citrus hops and a tingle of bitter under the tongue near the finish.

Overall, a superlative and flavorful lager.

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Photo of mactrail
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Attractive golden color shading to the amber side. Foam lasts well. This really tastes like a Kolsch to me. It has that perfumey hop note that seeps into the flavor as well as the aroma. Very thin body with a sharp edge and crackle of carbonation. Crackery and grainy malt flavor. Rather bitter aftertaste. A little winey and acidic, but very light bodied.

Interesting and quite drinkable, but on the sharp and thin side. I like what they say is a historic use of Cluster hops. Maybe this is a good niche for Anchor-- interpreting classic brews from the past-- that don't involve Babylonian recipes. From the 12 oz bottle purchased at Bottlecraft in San Diego.

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Photo of wedge
3.62/5  rDev -3.5%
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 +10.7%
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 -5.1%
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 +6.4%
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 -7.5%
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 -6.9%
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 -9.6%
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 +6.4%
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 -15.7%
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 -24.8%
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%
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 -31.2%
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 -23.2%
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 -4.5%
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 -4.3%
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 +5.9%
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 +1.1%
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 -3.7%
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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Anchor California Lager from Anchor Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 1,131 ratings.
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