Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beer Review: Anchor Brewing Small Beer

Anchor Brewing Company was the leader of the resurgence of American craft brewing in the 70s. Today I am going to review their small beer. Anchor Small beer is brewed in the old English style of parti gyle brewing. This is where a stronger beer is made from the first runnings from the grain and a lighter beer is made from the second runnings.

The tradition of brewing two distinct beers from one mash has existed for thousands of years, and for centuries the term "small beer" was used in English to describe the lighter and weaker second beer. By association, the term came to mean something of little importance.

Let's get small 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. Technically, both beers are "ales" because they are made with top-fermenting yeast.

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.

When we initially attempted Humulus lupulus, AKA fresh whole hops Small Beer, we quickly realized we had a lot to learn: How much to sparge? What gravity to look for? What sort of hopping to employ? But, from the beginning, we were astonished to find that the "small beer" we were making certainly was not small beer in the linguistic sense—it was good, it was rich, it was wonderful ale! We hope our loyal customers will agree this is a tradition worth reviving.

Appearance: Pours golden and crystal clear with a fluffy white head. Reduces to a rocky off white head with great lacing. 

Aroma: Very faint smell of malt and earthy hops

Flavor: Bitterness up front going towards earthy hops at the end. Bitterness lingers slightly. I pick up a small amount of metallic flavor. There is a small amount of a malty and biscuit background. Very light.  

Mouthfeel: Very thin, almost watery. Medium carbonation with no bite. 

Overall: This is a good version of an English bitter from an American brewery. Very refreshing on a hot dry day while I was brewing the Watermelon Wheat beer. BItterness is at the right level where it doesn't linger too long on the tongue. Very drinkable and almost as thin as a BMC beer. Would like a tinge of caramel and more fruity esthers. 

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