Book Review – The Anchor Steam Story

With many brewery histories, you know the story in broad strokes already because most breweries have only been around since the 1980’s. (please do not call that ancient history)

But after you read the glorious coffee table book, The Anchor Brewing Story by David Burkhart, you will have been taken on a tour of beer in San Francisco that will be brand new to you.

That is because Anchor Brewing has been around since 1896 but its DNA goes even further back. Burkhart takes you to 1848 and the gold rush and to 1856 and Gottlieb Brekle and his Golden City Brewery which then became part of the Co-Operative Brewery before raising Anchor in 1896. This brewery went through earthquakes and owners and moved around San Francisco so much that you need a map app to orient yourself.

The book picks up steam when Fritz Maytag enters the picture. His drive for quality and “Wholicity” rescued Anchor from obscurity. His arrival finally brought stability to the brewery and innovation and curiosity as well.

Maytag was there at practically every important milestone in California craft brewing history. He was also there for distilling which was really not a thing when he dipped his toe in. Wine, he did that too.

A good history book takes you back in time and then whisks you through major events. The balance and tone of the writing is balanced and fun. Burkhart does that in the coffee book format which doesn’t provide as much word space. For that he is to be commended and the book purchased.

A New Steam

I am a harsh judge of brand design. I know what I like and only a few breweries win kudos from me on this front. When I heard that the venerable Anchor Steam was getting a make-over, I blanched. The old (current) design is great. Is it in-modern, yeah but it still stands out on shelves.

Now we get this yellow/gold look and the art is fine but the color scheme is both too much and too little. Garish brightness and lots of unused space. Maybe this will just be a summer look.

Dry Hopped and Steamed

Anchor Brewing has decided to monkey around with their iconic Steam Beer.

The new Steam variant will be dry-hopped which will impart a stronger hop aroma on top of the malty base beer thanks to what the San Francisco brewery is calling a “blend of new and traditional hops.”

Hops have grown in prominence with Anchor with their cans of Go West IPA and Double Liberty and now they get a whole new platform.

Kris Kringle – Day 20

35 Years of Our Special Ale.  I wonder what the largest vertical tasting of this great winter beer would be like.


If you have a favorite year, comment me with which year and why? I would be interested to hear the reasons.

Anchor Steam – Our Barrel Aged

Wow! I had the pleasure of sampling this on Sunday and I was blown away. I am not a big fan of the whisky/bourbon aged beers. To my palate the vanilla and oak tastes tend to obliterate the actual beer. But this was something else. It is a mix of Old Foghorn, Liberty Ale and Anchor Bock. And it is almost like dessert. Roasty and whiskey notes dominate but not overpower and at around a skosh over 8% abv it is not going to drop you under the table.