Anchor California Lager – a tasty historic American Lager

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackHorzempa, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,109) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I had a chance to drink my first Anchor California Lager; thanks to Anchor for distributing this beer beyond California!

    There is a great story on the neck label of 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 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.”

    I have some experience with Cluster hops since I use them as bittering hops for my homebrewed Classic American Pilsners. Anchor California Lager is my first beer that I have tasted which is solely hopped with Cluster hops and I really like this beer!

    I recognize that lagers are not typically a favorite of BAs but for those of you who do like lagers, Anchor California Lager is worth a try. It is a tasty lager and it is always great to be able to drink some history.

    This beer is another solid offering from Anchor. I sometimes think that Anchor doesn’t always get the respect/love that they deserve for their great portfolio of beer. Maybe this is because they have been around so long and therefore they are no longer viewed as being sexy? In my opinion, Anchor Brewing was the beginning of the US craft beer movement with Fritz Maytag buying (and saving) Anchor Brewing Company in 1965.

    Cheers to Anchor Brewing for making this beer!
  2. dan027

    dan027 Initiate (0) Mar 28, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I haven't been able to find this yet but very much look forward to trying it. I love lagers and I love beers that have a cool story like this. Glad to see it's in PA
  3. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,138) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    Agreed on the lack of respect for Anchor since they don't release IPA's every 6 weeks or do some limited released barrel aged blahblahblah, but the beers they make are solid and reasonably priced. I hope to be able to try this California Lager soon.
  4. Dupage25

    Dupage25 Aspirant (283) Jul 4, 2013 Antarctica

    Never seen or had this, but on your last point I have also wondered why it is Anchor doesn't seem to get the love around here. I myself don't really care for their two flagships (Steam and Liberty) but enjoy Humming and Old Foghorn.

    Will check this out if I see it.
  5. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,407) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    I have heard plenty of good things about anchor and am looking forward to trying as many of their offerings as I can get my hands on. In fact it's Bitterbill and Tongo road that have spoken highly of them in particular and now Jack Horzempa! I'm heading to the store as we speak.
    AugustusRex likes this.
  6. Pegli

    Pegli Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2006 Rhode Island

    Glad to hear that it's making its way East...the hunt is on !
  7. joeebbs

    joeebbs Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2009 Pennsylvania

    They don't get the love because, like others have said above, they don't make a double IPA or Barrel Aged or Sour beers, etc. I also remember one of the bros a while ago saying there was "no noise" from the brewery. And they were right, until things changed. (Perhaps that's what got them making new things!)

    Not long before the sale of Anchor Brewing Co they came out with Humming and Breckle's Brown. Since the sale they've started the Zymaster Series which produces new beers in keg and magnums and California Lager was one of them.

    They're also going to be quadrupling their production in the near future so someone must be drinking their beer.
    beveritt and jdub76 like this.
  8. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,971) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I don't understand, how good can this beer be? It's below 5% ABV and people still think it has good flavor enough to rave about on its own thread? :grimacing:

    Okay -- so I'm one of those people too, and it just goes to show that a beer doesn't have to be high octane to be enjoyable.
  9. joeebbs

    joeebbs Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I think that is the "evolution", if you will of the craft beer world. First it's drinking beers that aren't light adjunct lagers then drinking beers that are high ABV and include a bunch of "non-traditional" ingredients. Which really isn't what Anchor does. (aside from Our Special Ale which still isn't "extreme") And it's something I hope they never do.
    steveh likes this.
  10. Dupage25

    Dupage25 Aspirant (283) Jul 4, 2013 Antarctica

    I get the logic in general but not how it applies to this brewery. They have a Citra-hopped ale, a Nelson Sauvin-hopped ale, and in my opinion Liberty Ale is just about the most bitter, unbalanced hoppy pale for its ABV that's readily available. And they've been making it for 30 years. They should have hop-heads down pat.

    Also, for the "nothing but sours ever age well ever crowd," their Old Foghorn barleywine is one of the few truly drinkable and tasty barleywines when fresh. Perhaps they should start advertising it as being brewed with maple syrup?
    TongoRad likes this.
  11. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (380) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    I've been an Anchor fan forever (well, since the early '80s, at least), so I hope to be able to try this.

    But I still haven't come across the Humming Ale so I'm not particularly optimistic that I'll be able to find the lager. Alas.
  12. Beerista

    Beerista Initiate (0) Sep 11, 2012 Massachusetts

    Thirty years ago I used to look forward to business trips to SF for this reason. This is still a great beer.
    Duff27 likes this.
  13. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    This beer sounds like something I would really enjoy. I hope I get a chance to try it. Thanks for turning my radar on Jack!

    What did you think? Did they do right in their attempt at recreating history (as much as one could guess, I suppose, as I doubt many of us had a chance to try a beer brewed in the 1800's.....)?
  14. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (661) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Jack, how does this compare to some German counterparts? Such as a German pils or a Munich Helles?

    Both in terms of style (I realize it's an American Pale Lager) and taste?
  15. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,971) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I can't compare it to anything that may have been brewed in the 1800s, but I thought it was a pretty tasty beer.
    Providence likes this.
  16. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,243) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    So, is this going nationwide or is it just for select markets? I've always liked Anchor beers and am definitely interested.
  17. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,971) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Appears to be "select markets" right now, but I see CO on the map.
    Domingo and Pegli like this.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,109) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The short answer is that it tastes like an American Pale Lager and not like a German lager.

    The longer answer:

    The California Lager has a nice balance of American malt flavors and American hop flavors. There is nothing distinctive that I can describe as regards the American two-row malt flavors. There are some BA homebrewers who view American two-row in a less than positive light; for some homebrewers American two-row is considered inferior to imported malts. I personally find American two-row to be a nice malt and I think it has its place in beers like American Pale Ales, American style IPAs and now for American Pale Lagers. The flavor of Cluster hops is pretty different from Noble Hops. How would I describe the flavor of Cluster hops? I should state upfront that my ability to articulate beer flavors is not my strong suit; I suppose I would describe the Cluster hop flavor as being a subdued floral/spicy flavor. I have seen BAs as stating that Cluster provides a “coarse” or “harsh” aspect to a beer. I detect absolutely no coarseness and harshness to this beer. I would describe it as being balanced and overall a tasty beer.

    To my mind a German Pilsner should have a flavor profile that is a mixture of Pilsner malt flavors (some people use the word “sweet” to describe this flavor but I would use the word “grainy” for this) and Noble Hop (Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Spalt, Tettnang, Saaz) flavors. I would never state that California Lager tastes like a German Pilsner. You can read my reviews of Troegs Sunshine Pils and Rothaus Tannenzäpfle here:

    When I drink a Munich Helles I am looking for a beer that has prominent bready malt flavors with just a bit of Noble hops to back up the malt flavors. Some of my favorite Munich Helles beers are Victory Lager, Sly Fox Golden Helles, Weihenstephan Original, Ayinger Jahrhundert-Bier, etc. Anchor California Lager does not taste like a Munich Helles since it lacks the bready malt tastes and it is hopped at a level higher than a Munich Helles.

    AugustusRex likes this.
  19. Pegli

    Pegli Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2006 Rhode Island

    My hunt heads North then...thanks !
  20. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,243) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    September 16th. That works. Even though people associate summer with lagers, I think that late summer early fall time is perfect.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,109) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “I think that late summer early fall time is perfect.” Perfect time for Oktoberfest Lagers too!:slight_smile:

  22. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    I find this a little amusing. Not sure I've heard anybody bash Anchor on this site ever. I guess you don't hear a lot of outright gushing over them either, but that's not really surprising considering they aren't the kind of tiny limited-release-producing brewery that typically garners such gushing.
  23. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    I don't think the OP said anyone bashes Anchor on BA; he just said (correctly) that they don't get a lot of love/respect here (and I'd insert attention at all, really). You've hit on the main reason, but it's unfortunate that one of the vanguards of the craft beer movement in America has been overshadowed by all the up-and-comers merely because they've decided to keep cranking out tasty, well-crafted beer year after year without subscribing to some of the gimmicks other breweries use (quite successfully, I'd add) to attract attention.
    IrishKevin and JackHorzempa like this.
  24. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    I enjoyed the beer the few times I've had it. However, I find it to be fairly similar to Anchor Steam. Both are pre-pro style lagers (I suppose that's a point of contention with Anchor Steam, but it's close enough to the truth for the sake of my point) with a balanced hop-malt character. Both are easy to drink in the way you'd like a summer beer to be, but have enough caramel notes to make them desirable in the cooler seasons (or as it is known in SF, "summer").

    It's a good beer, but the only time I will choose it over Anchor Steam is if the place I'm at doesn't have Anchor Steam (ya know, in a hypothetical situation where a bar only serves Anchor products). In other words, what's the point? Why brew a beer so similar to the flagship?

    To me, and this is pure speculation, it feels as though this beer is a blatant attempt to grab new customers because of the big Golden Bear on the label. We love that damn extinct bear. With the word "lager" in big letters on the label and that bear, this feels like a stab at the non craft crowd (or at least the non beer-obsessive/geek/advocate crowd).

    Now that I've written it all, I suppose that's not a bad thing, it's just not an exciting thing. This feels like the kind of business-minded move our friendly millionaire brewer Jim Koch might make, and not what our friendly millionaire brewer Fritz Maytag would have done. Oh well. The times they are a changin.

  25. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    You're right. He didn't mention bashing at all.

    But to say they don't get love/respect is not accurate. It's essentially all they get, they just don't get "gushing." Nobody (until now) goes out of their way to write something extraordinary about them (except very rarely), but it's probably because the brewery hasn't gone out of its way to do anything extraordinary.

    A big part of this site is breaking down new releases and discussing breaking news. Anchor doesn't do much of those. That's not to say Anchor isn't respected or loved on this site, just that they aren't a constant topic of discussion. I guess in the modern era and 24-hour news cycles if you aren't praised effusively ever so often then you aren't loved or respected.
    surfcaster likes this.
  26. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    Eh, I guess I'll split the difference somewhere between respect and love. They certainly get respect, but I have yet to see someone say they "love" Anchor.
  27. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    I did a forums search to provide plenty of evidence that people love anchor on here when they get the chance, but just that the chance doesn't come up that often. But each thread that I found (at least on the first page of results... i'm lazy) was either very short or very ho-hum in its praise of Anchor (e.g. "It's available at xx" - which I suppose is only better than "It's available at xx, but why bother?")...
    So yeah, I guess you're right - Anchor doesn't get much love here... but I LOVE Anchor!
    draheim likes this.
  28. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    Maybe they should try developing the world's most refreshing can.
    Spikester and palmdalethriller like this.
  29. IrishKevin

    IrishKevin Initiate (0) Apr 11, 2013 Massachusetts

    I Love Anchor!!
  30. JamesQuaff

    JamesQuaff Initiate (0) Jun 30, 2010 California

    CA Lager is definitely one of my absolute favorite hot weather beers. Been triple-flip-flopping amongst it, Prima Pils and Bitter American this summer. A little pricey to be my everyday jam (homebrew and lots of Hamm's keepin' our whistles whetted), but it goes into my level-up beer purchase lineup pretty often these days.
  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,109) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Here is a great video on the making of California Lager:

    utopiajane likes this.
  32. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,229) Mar 18, 2010 California

    Definitely a solid beer from Anchor.
  33. joeebbs

    joeebbs Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Got a six pack of this yesterday and had a couple. Great tasting beer. Nothing like Steam at all and it tastes kind of like a Bitburger. Which is a great beer to be compared to!
  34. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (277) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    This sounds like my kind of beer! I have a friend in Ohio to call to hook me up with a case!
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  35. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (661) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    If it's anything like the various American Pale Lagers I've had, I would imagine it wouldn't be similar to Anchor Steam.

    To your other point, do you mean it's a "safe" beer for them to brew, or gimmicky? Either way, I don't see a regular pale lager as either. Typically lagers are not something you brew for the mainstream crowd, and it's certainly not something that will peak interest from the craft crowd (unless it's an IPL). I applaud them for brewing a simple lager.
    Crusader and steveh like this.
  36. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,109) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I personally would not characterize California Lager as being similar to Anchor Steam. For my palate, Anchor Steam is more malt (caramel) forward with the hop flavors playing ‘second fiddle’. The California Lager is more balanced and the Cluster hops add an interesting ‘twist’.

    As regards the topic of “exciting”, it is true that California Lager is not a DIPA, a RIS, or a coconut something beer. It is a solid American Pale Lager. If a beer drinker is looking for ‘sexy’ than perhaps California Lager is not the beer for them. If a beer drinker is looking for a well-made and balanced lager than I would suggest that they give California Lager a try.

  37. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    really? You don't brew lagers for the mainstream crowd?!

    I think it's both safe and gimmicky. I also think it's a pretty good beer, I just prefer Anchor Steam.
  38. palmdalethriller

    palmdalethriller Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2007 California

    That's all fair. I just feel that Anchor Steam does the well-made balanced beer thing better than California Lager. I agree it's a good beer, I agree it's balanced (and I agree that Steam is maltier and more caramel-y) - I just find them to be relatively similar (obviously not identical) in concept and execution, and I prefer Steam. Cheers!
  39. FutureJack

    FutureJack Initiate (0) Oct 30, 2007 California

    This made me laugh.
    palmdalethriller likes this.
  40. AnchorBaby

    AnchorBaby Initiate (0) Oct 12, 2010 California

    I love Anchor Brewing. I'm not biased.
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