Friday, August 21, 2009

Beer Of The Week (Vol XX)

This week's Beer of the Week is brought to you as always by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits, your friendly neighborhood beer store.

It seems that it's almost part of our nature as Americans to take the good things in life for granted. Rather than taking the time to ponder and appreciate the bounty that we have available at our fingertips, we're always looking for the next great thing. Our restless spirits drive us to seek out and discover new horizons, new opportunities, new pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. This American instinct for perpetually chasing the future has had its benefits. It's helped drive the imagination, innovation, and initiative that has made the United States the most prosperous and powerful country in history.

But it also comes at a price. By always looking forward we sometimes fail to enjoy what's right there in front of us. So it's good once in a while to pause in the pursuit of what might be and savor what is.

Such is the case with beer. I love finding and trying new beers. Liquor stores are my candy stores and I always get excited when I spot a new offering amongst the goodies. However, sometimes this quest for the latest and greatest in beers leads my to pass by others that I've enjoyed in the past. Yeah that's a good beer, but maybe this new one is even better. The old adage about the value of "a beer in hand..." is one that I've too often ignored.

Probably never more so than with Anchor Steam Beer. The other day I was surprised when I realized just how long it's been since I've had a Steam. When I first started enjoying craft beers oh those many years ago, Anchor Steam was one of the more widely available and reliable products out there (especially here in the Upper Midwest). If you were ever at a bar or restaurant and despairing as you heard or read their list of beer selections, the words "Anchor Steam" would always lift your flagging spirits. Say no more. I now know what I want.

But over the years as more and more craft beers became available and I explored more and more styles of beer, I kind of forget all about Anchor Steam. Like a loyal long-time friend, it was always there. I just found myself thinking of it less and less and over time ended up losing contact with it almost entirely.

Until last week, when I noticed it sitting patiently in the Glen Lake Wine and Spirits cooler waiting for a chance to renew our acquaintance.

The smooth brown bottle may just be the most aesthetically pleasing of any beer, both to the eye and the hand. The classic paper label has a vintage look and features a large anchor with hops and barley.

Beer Style: California Common / Steam

Alcohol by Volume: 4.9%

COLOR (0-2): Deep amber. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malt with hints of caramel. 2

HEAD (0-2): Very white and full. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): A very unique taste with flavors of malt, hops, and a little citrus. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The finish was a bit sharp for my tastes. 1

OVERALL (0-6): When you haven't had an Anchor Steam for a while you forget just how solid this beer is. It's really unlike anything else out there and is a nice break from the beer routine. It's also a great compliment with a variety of food. Like most beer, while it's good in the bottle it's even better on tap. I can guarantee that it won't be nearly as long before my next Steam. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

UPDATE-- Paul e-mails to concur:

Anchor Steam is absolutely one of my favorite beers. Your comment about the solid taste in a bottle and on tap is spot on. However, if you're ever in San Francisco and can get it pulled from an old fashion beer engine while eating pasta with bay shrimp, that's something special. I imagine it's like having a Guinness in Ireland.

Fritz Maytag III saved Anchor Steam many years ago when the company was about to go out of business. His family also invented Maytag Blue Cheese, which is extremely high quality. Of course they are best known for founding the appliance corporation Maytag.

UPDATE II-- Chris chimes in:

I too am a big fan of Anchor Steam. Though unlike you, I never forgot her; and those ergonomic brown bottles are frequent, albeit brief, visitors to my fridge. I once had a Steam on tap at an Anchor-owned pub in the San Francisco airport and was stunned to find how different (better) it tasted via that delivery method. Proximity to the source, maybe?

That said, Anchor Liberty Ale (out of the bottle) makes Steam (out of the bottle) look like Grain Belt. Awesome.

Their Porter doesn't suck either.

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