Location: San Francisco, CA
Anchor Brewing Company – America’s first craft brewery with its roots dating back to the 19th century and the California gold rush -- steeped in San Francisco’s history and West Coast brewing traditions. Steam, inspired by and originating from the 19th century nickname for West Coast beer brewed without ice. Meaning that whilst the beer was fermenting overnight without the help of ice, it was carried to rooftops to remain cool in the foggy nighttime hours. Nowadays, steam is a trademark of Anchor brewing and its place in brewing history is felt throughout all of Anchor’s beers.
So where did Anchor get its start?
In the hands of German brewer, Gottlieb Brekle, who in 1871 bought an old beer and billiards saloon that in the next quarter century would be the birthplace of Anchor Brewing helmed by two other German brewers, Ernst Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel. Over the course of the early and mid 20th century, Anchor Brewing changed ownership and moved a handful of times, shutting down shop of course for the Prohibition years; and finally in 1971, a century after Brekle founded the company, began bottling its first and namesake beer – Anchor Steam Beer. By 1975, Anchor was brewing its original beer, Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn, Barleywine Ale, and its first annual Christmas Ale. 1977 saw the brewery move to its current home on Mariposa Street. Throughout the late 1970s, 80s, and into the early 90s, Anchor Steam grew and developed and it was in 1993, that Anchor was the first brewery to have its own distillery in house. Nowadays in 2012, or well almost 2013, Anchor crafts over ten distinct brews.
Curious as to what they are and what cheeses might go with them? Fromagical has a first hand report of the beers and their flavor profiles to share with you all my dear readers.
Lets start with Anchor Summer, the first American style wheat beer brewed in modern times, more specifically, 1984. Crisp, hoppy, light, cool, and slightly citrusy. This is an American style Wheat Beer. Perfect with a morsel of Edgwick Farm’s Moodina – firm goat’s milk feta that is bright, citrusy, lactic, chalky and milky. The brightness of the cheese will find its complement in the bright hoppiness of the beer.
Next up, Marks Mild, an amber ale that is full of caramel and chocolatey notes, light in color but heavier in weight and only available on tap, not in the bottles so don’t go looking for this beer in your local corner store. But if you find it, definitely have a pint. Looking for a match in terms of caramelly, nutty flavors for Marks Mild? How about a nice morsel of aged Parmesan? This classic Italian cheese’s caramelly, nutty, butterscotch notes will be the perfect match in terms of weight and flavor nuances for the beer.
Onto our third beer and the classic original Anchor Steam! Hoppy and light, full of orange and citrusy notes, flavorful and dynamic, this is one easy drinking beer. Perfect with a morsel of Vermont Creamery’s Coupole. This natural rinded aged goat’s milk cheese is dense and chalky yet light and grassy, full of bright citrusy notes and a milky lactic tang. The light fancifulness of the beer will cut through the cheese’s density and give way to the perfect late Spring, early Summer pairing.
Next up – Liberty Ale first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s ride. Liberty Ale started a craft beer revolution. Why you might wonder? Because it was the first modern American IPA brewed since the Prohibition, single and dry-hopped. Spicy and bitter yet hoppy and balanced – Liberty Ale begs for a fantastically creamy, somewhat stinky and briny washed rind cheese. How about Dorset hailing from Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont? This is a semi-soft, aged raw Jersey cow’s milk cheese that has been washed in brine during its aging process. Dense and cakey, yet earthy and rustic with that classic washed rind stink but a nice brightness. The crisp spicy bitterness of the beer will complement the full flavor profile of the cheese in a perfect pairing.
Moving along to Brekle’s Brown, named after the founder of Anchor Brewing and their newest beer. Inspired by the all malt brown ales of Anchor’s past, this single hop brown ale is coppery rust brown in color with a dynamic coffee chocolatey depth but yet with a crisp yet slight bitter citrusy finish. How about a morsel of Tarentaise crafted by both Thistle Hill and Spring Brook Farms in Vermont. Modeled on the French alpine style cheese, Abondance, this aged cow’s milk cheese is one of my favorites. Warming and round, yet buttery and caramelly, this smooth roasty toasty cheese will match the dynamic depth of the brew in the most excellent of ways.
Next up, Anchor’s Porter! Thick, deep, dark, chocolatey, round, rustic, full of toffee and coffee notes and warming sweetness with a fantastically creamy head. My favorite porter pairing is with Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed. This Utah creation is a superstar award winning cow's milk cheese that has been rubbed with crushed lavender and coffee grounds during its aging process. It is creamy, nutty, lightly smoky and buttery yet aromatic and truly flavorful! An excellent big boys pairing!
Moving along to the Old Foghorn – an English style barleywine ale brewed in San Francisco named after the city’s classic fog. This is one powerful brew that is bursting with flavor -- earthy and rustic, yet bitter and full of warming spices, this is a perfect after dinner brew. In honor of this being an after dinner brew, well then you must have a blue cheese with it, right? How about Rogue River Blue? Raw Cow's milk blue cheese hailing from Oregon that is aged for approximately one year wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear eau de vie. Dense and creamy, yet packing a fantastic punch with a smooth and spicy side and an earthy, spicy, vegetal, rustic sweetness. The perfect end of evening pairing!
Humming Ale is big and bold, bright and effervescent, with light hints of citrus, crafted in a similar manner as the Liberty Ale. And what of its name? It is in fact named after the strong effervescent ales found mentioned throughout English literature. And what of its cheese partner? How about Twin Maple Farm's Hudson Red hailing from Ghent, NY. A raw cow's milk washed rind cheese aged for between two and four months with a semi-soft consistency. Buttery and milky with a fabulous roundness on the interior and an earthy, rustic, funky, meaty richness from the washed rind on the exterior.
There are a few other beers brewed by Anchor that unfortunately were not included in the tasting but this post and selection gives you all a good idea of the breadth and depth of the superstar San Francisco brewery. Anchor is where it all started – the first craft brewery, the first IPA, the first Summer Beer and more. It is a treat to experience these brews that truly changed how we drink beer in America.