The Beer: Anchor Porter
The Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco
The Stats: 5.6% ABV, made with blend of two-row pale, caramel, black and chocolate malts
The History: A San Francisco original since 1896, Anchor Brewing Company gained notoriety when appliance company heir apparent Fritz Maytag purchased the foundering brewery in 1965, but its roots go back to 1849. The fact that it's even made it this far is a bit of a miracle when you look at its history. In 1906, one of the co-owners, Ernst Baruth, was killed, and months later the great earthquake and subsequent fire of 1906 destroyed the brewery. Then, just as the business was getting back up and running in early 1907, the other co-owner suffered the same fate as Baruth. Still, Anchor lumbered on and satisfied thirsty Californians for years.
In 1934, the brewery burned down and rebuilt again, and continued operation until 1959, when the brewery was temporarily shuttered due declining interest in the brewery's more flavorful, robust beers. These beer styles had lost popularity in favor of the lighter, watered-down, mass-produced beers still popular today.
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In 1977, Anchor moved into its new home, where it continues to brew beer today. In 2010, Fritz Maytag retired after 45 years and sold the brewery. Anchor continues to make a variety of year-round and seasonal products to this day, including America's first known porter, Anchor Porter, which debuted in 1972.
Beer Characteristics: You'll notice strong roast, molasses, and light tobacco, mostly in the flavor instead of the aroma. The beer is deep brown and opaque with a tan head, which is frothy and long-lasting due to natural carbonation. Natural carbonation occurs when a brewery adds a slight amount of sugar in a finished beer, then adds a touch of high "krausen" yeast — or yeast which is currently active — which creates the carbonation naturally through a second fermentation. By carbonating in this manner, the bubbles tend to be thicker, more dense, smaller, and longer-lasting.
Some residual harsh astringency lingers in finish from the heavy handed use of dark malts. Hop flavor is low, while bitterness is low-medium, despite Anchor's website claiming the beer is highly hopped. The beer projects a medium-full body with medium-high carbonation, and finishes with a defined carbonic bite from both the roast malts and high carbonation, not necessarily from the hop bitterness. Aggressive molasses flavors are stronger than the roast flavors and somewhat distracting. Some sweetness lingers in the finish.
So, while the beer tells a story with every sip, its flavor profile is a bit aggressive. On the upside, drinking Anchor porter gives you a taste of American brewing history.