Steam-powered booze

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First Posted: 9/9/2013

Anchor Brewing Company has long been on the radar for craft beer drinkers, mainly because they were one of the first true craft breweries of this new revival. In 1965, Fritz Maytag, scion of the washing-machine company, purchased the fledgling Anchor Brewery for what he later described as “less than the price of a used car.” He came to know the company through the fantastic steam beer they were brewing at the time; the only problem was that not many other people were enjoying this beer and the company was going out of business – until Maytag stepped in and saved it.

The first step Fritz took was reevaluating the recipe for Anchor Steam Beer and changing it to all-barley malt instead of the cheaper corn syrup it was using at the time. Reviving this old style that was popular during the gold rush in California was not an easy task, but Maytag was up for it, and the venture proved to be very successful. He soon moved on to reviving other styles of beer with an equal amount of gusto and success.

In 1974, Anchor bottled its first porter. The porter style comes from England, but in 1974 no English breweries were even making such a style of beer. Soon Anchor’s porter caught on, as did the style, and, with good reason, Anchor’s porter is a standard for the style. However, Fritz Maytag did not simply rest on his laurels.

Soon the brewery was beginning to revive and invent other styles of beer, such as the American IPA. In 1975, Maytag set out to create a uniquely American beer to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride to warn against the impending British attack. The resulting beer was the groundbreaking Anchor Liberty Ale. The beer used the newly developed cascade hop in abundance and became so popular that in 1983 it entered into permanent rotation for the brewery.

Also, in 1975, Anchor debuted its first Anchor Christmas Ale, a delicious brown ale whose magnum bottles have become a yearly collecting tradition for many fans ever since. As if that was not enough, in 1975 the brewery began selling Old Foghorn, the first barley wine-style ale to be brewed in America in modern times. Not too bad for a brewery that was on the verge of complete collapse just a decade earlier.

The brewery has continued to grow in popularity over the years and many modern breweries credit Anchor Brewing Company with the inspiration to enter the craft beer market. Many brewers’ first introduction to craft beer were beers being brewed by Anchor.

With the pedigree of beers that Anchor has created over time, it could simply create the same delicious beers and not produce any new ones. However, thankfully for us, Anchor has not done this, and over the past few years, the brewery has actually released several new, and delicious, beers.

In 2010, they released Humming Ale, an American pale ale that featured the recently discovered Nelson Sauvin hop that gives the beer a dry citrus, almost white wine-like quality. In 2011, they released Brekle’s Brown, an absolutely stunning American brown ale. This year alone, they created another two fantastic beers: Anchor California Lager, a crisp smooth easy drinking lager, and BigLeaf Maple Autumn Amber, a delectable red ale.

While America may be relatively new to the beer world when compared to world history, we have certainly brought some amazing styles and flavors to the market, with a lot of thanks going to Anchor Brewing Company and Fritz Maytag. Certainly, within the craft beer world, and hopefully within the general world of beer, Anchor will always be remembered as a brewery that pushed boundaries and made better beer for all of us to enjoy.