Tag Archives: USA

40. Anchor Old Foghorn

This is the third and final one of the 300 Beers to be produced by the Anchor Brewery, following on from the Steam Beer and the Liberty Ale. While the latter didn’t blow me away, the Steam Beer was a revelation, and I must admit to taking a bit of a shine to this plucky San Francisco brewery with their stout little brown bottles and handsome label artwork.

Even more excitingly, this is the first chance I’ve had to try a beer labelled as a Barleywine. Barleywine is essentially just very, very strong beer, fermented for significant periods of time. It’s apparently a centuries-old English style of beer, originally brewed for the aristocracy, but it’s one we really don’t see a lot of in this country these days, to the extent that I’d always assumed it was an American style.

In fact it was Anchor themselves and their Old Foghorn which introduced the style to the States, where it quickly caught the imagination of brewers and drinkers alike. I think we’d better get more intimately acquainted. I’m looking forward to this.


Like the previous Anchor beers, this one is impeccably presented, though its label diverges from the usual sailor tattoo artwork for something a little more pastoral, featuring barley and hops. The beer itself is a dark, glossy Greek honey sort of colour with little to no head, just a light off-white lacing.

There isn’t a great deal of aroma to Old Foghorn, which lulls you into a false sense of security, as it completely belies the massive amounts of flavour within.

Old Foghorn is thick and rich, and almost the same texture as Greek honey too. It’s full of plump dried fruit and treacle. There’s a faintly medicinal note to it, which is less unpleasant than it sounds, along with a real sweetness, albeit a pleasing, tart, bitter sweetness which lingers in the mouth.

That bitterness comes from Old Foghorn being matured on a bed of Cascade hops for no less than 10 months, before being dry hopped, meaning that yet more hops are added to the finished beer. I suspect a lot of the depth also comes from the fact that only the first pressing of the mash is used, a technique we previously saw applied to a quite different beer, Japan’s Kirin Ichiban.

All in all, I’m reminded strongly of one of my favourite guilty pleasures, Fuller’s Golden Pride, though this is a little richer and darker. I’m starting to like it a lot.

This is a strong old beverage at 9.4% ABV, and there are naturally huge boozy notes, enough to remind you to take it slowly and savour Old Foghorn respectfully. The alcohol isn’t overbearing though: it just provides a lovely warming hit that gets to work pretty promptly.


This is a terrific beer, and one that reminds me why I started this blog. It’s thanks to breweries like Anchor and Brooklyn (particularly their Vienna-style Lager and Black Chocolate Stout) that my preconceptions about American beers have been shot to pieces, with Anchor Old Foghorn being the final, delicious bullet.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co, San Francisco, CA
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
Strength: 9.4% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Dispense: 355ml Bottle

24. Anchor Liberty Ale

Having been so pleasantly surprised by Anchor Steam Beer, I was impatient to crack on with the second in the triumvirate of Anchor beers in The Book (on which note, if anyone knows where I can find the Old Foghorn in London, do let me know).

Anchor Liberty Ale comes in a similar bottle to the Steam Beer, but with its very own sailor tattoo. Let’s see how it compares.


Liberty Ale pours a nice enough, slightly hazy golden colour, and is relatively pale even for a Pale Ale.

In our big yellow bible of beer, Roger Protz describes Liberty Ale as “massively” hoppy, and “an assault of pine and grapefruit”, followed by a “long and lingering finish”. He must have more sensitive tastebuds than me, because to me it just tastes a little bit hoppy, and a little bit plain, with something a bit funky going on in the aftertaste. That’s the bad kind of funk rather than the Nile Rodgers kind.

In some ways I’m not surprised to learn the Liberty Ale was inspired by fairly dull English bitters like Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and the Marston’s Pedigree I bought some time ago and haven’t troubled myself to drink yet.

It’s not a patch on the Anchor Steam Beer, and once again I feel I’m being slightly unfair in comparing one beer to a quite different beer that I just happened to like, but there you go, it’s my blog. It’s not a bad beer, but to my tastes, nothing to write home about.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co, San Francisco, CA
Style: Pale Ales
ABV: 5.9%
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Dispense: 355ml Bottle

22. Anchor Steam Beer

This is the first of the two Anchor beers that I’ve got hold of so far, and I’ve been intrigued by these handsome little bottles, both wearing their San Francisco provenance with pride, with their sailor tattoo label artwork.

As a “Steam Beer”, this particular brew is in a category of exactly one beer in The Book. I’ve actually no idea what a Steam Beer is, and there seem to be several theories as to how the term came about. None of them seem particularly convincing or well corroborated, so I’ll leave the origins of the name as an exercise for the reader.

I’m vaguely expecting this to be a pretty ordinary lager, but I’ve had that preconception about American beer before and been pleasantly surprised, so this could be interesting.


Just like with the Brooklyn Lager, Anchor Steam Beer pours a lot darker than expected. In fact it’s kind of a butterscotch, caramel colour.

And goodness me, but this also tastes nothing like a lager. It’s a really flavoursome, big kind of beer. There’s a robust malty body, a hint of butterscotch sweetness, and a huge long bitter finish, aided by a light effervescence that helps drive the flavours home.

There’s something very old-fashioned about the beer, to the extent that when you learn that the style dates from the 1890s, when it was brewed for thirsty Gold Rush prospectors, you can believe it.

For all of that flavour, this is a very refreshing, gluggable beer which as The Book says, successfully combines “the richness and fruitiness of an ale with the quenching character of a lager”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Anchor Steam Beer is very good indeed, and has been another revelation.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co, San Francisco, CA
Style: Steam Beer
ABV: 4.8%
Found at: City Beverage Company, Old Street, London EC1
Dispense: 355ml Bottle

21. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

The Draft House, SE22 is a heady, intoxicating place to while away an afternoon. Dangerously so, in fact, and I bloomin’ love it.

Following the delicious, staff-recommended 7.0% ABV Texels Bock with the 8.2% Schneider Aventinus might be considered brave at best, but only a fool would go on to round out the session with this 10.0% ABV hooligan of an Imperial Stout.

Foolish or not, we have no choice: it’s in The Book. There is science to be done.


Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate stout is black. It’s blacker than ink. I mean, just look. It’s so black it’s actually sucking light out of the room around it.

Brooklyn’s Chocolate Stout—from the same chaps that brought us that rather nice Vienna Red lager—is brewed just once per year and the bottles are dated, a little like a vintage wine. According to my scribbled notes, this example is from the Winter 2011-12 bottling, so I assume it has been sat in a cellar somewhere, quietly maturing for a little while.

And oh my, it’s good.

Unlike Wells & Young’s comparatively puny Double Chocolate Stout, this one needs no artificial help to throw out hedonistic, decadent bitter chocolate notes. It’s all a function of the six combined varieties of black, chocolate and roasted malts that they use.

Beyond the chocolate, there’s a lovely, toasty sort of tar and soot thing going on, and a long bitter finish. And by long I mean that I drank this last week, and can still taste it. Every mouthful is an absolute treat.

It’s all topped off with that head-swimmingly intoxicating, warming double-figures alcohol hit, and suddenly all is well in the world.

Some might suggest that 10.0% ABV is a bit racy, but I believe that once a beer gets this strong and attains this level of quality, you have to stop thinking of it as a strong beer, and that comparisons with a fine wine or a liqueur are more appropriate. This is absolutely to be drunk slowly, and just savoured and enjoyed.

I didn’t expect the Chimay Bleue to be beaten for luxurious self-indulgence quite so soon, but those guys over at Brooklyn have done it.

There’s one more Brooklyn beer to track down, and considering the beers they’ve given us so far, I’m not sure I can wait.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 10.0% ABV
Found at: The Draft House, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 355ml bottle

10. Brooklyn Lager

It had to happen sooner or later that I’d find myself drinking a lager for the first time in many months as a result of this foolhardy adventure. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Brooklyn Lager certainly looks good with its rather handsome label, reportedly designed by Milton Glaser. You may know him from such other designs as the famous I♥NY logo.


Once poured, Brooklyn Lager looks like no other lager I can remember. It’s roughly the colour of a pint of bitter, and it turns out that this is an example of something called a Vienna Red lager, which is apparently quite popular in the US, whilst being something of a rarity in, well, Vienna.

It tastes a little like the good, imported Beck’s that you sometimes find in the UK, though with a lot more body and a most pleasing malty flavour. Brooklyn starts off quite light and refreshing, but there’s a lasting bitter finish that reassures you that you are, in fact, drinking a decent beer.

I liked this much more than I had expected, and would buy this again, probably to be served chilled in the summer. I’d go so far as to say that this is actually the first real revelation that 300 Beers has afforded me. I’ve learned something here.

A very nice beer indeed.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Style: Vienna Red, Märzen and Oktoberfest Beers
ABV: 5.2%
Found at: Waitrose, Whitecross Street, London EC1
Dispense: 355ml Bottle

4. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

It’s straight back to the States for beer number four, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is reputedly something of a legend around those parts. This is the beer that some say was almost single-handedly the catalyst for the resurgence of craft brewing and real ale in the US, amid a bland, lagery ocean of mass-produced Duff, Duff Lite and Lady Duff.

Interestingly it’s the first beer so far that explicitly asks to be served chilled, while many of the better beers tend to excel at room temperature. Whether that’s because Sierra Nevada Pale Ale expects to be enjoyed in the Mediterranean climate of Chico, California from whence it originates, we cannot be sure.

Chilled it is then. Let’s get this 350ml, bottle-conditioned Pale Ale and her charmingly folksy label artwork out of the ‘fridge, and crack her open.


There’s an immediate hoppy aroma, not unlike that of an IPA, though a little more subdued, as is appropriate for a PA with no I.

At this point I should confess that I’ve actually had this beer before, but at room temperature, and wasn’t blown away. There was a muddy confusion to the flavours, but I must admit that chilling it does bring everything together into a much tighter, smoother package. It also makes it pleasantly refreshing, even on a greyish March evening in South-East London.

The ale is much more subtly flavoured than the previous American ale, the Goose Island IPA, but in many ways is a lot more pleasant. Thankfully that sweetness that spoilt the Goose Island for me is completely absent. As the beer warms a little, some extra malty flavours come out, which turn this into a genuinely satisfying, drinkable beer.

This is probably even the kind of beer that could be enjoyed by folks who don’t actually think they like real ales, as it’s really quite accessible, and there’s very little about it that would offend anyone.

Good stuff, all gone in about five minutes, and I believe there’s another Sierra Nevada beer I have to track down before long. I look forward to doing so.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
Style: Pale Ales
ABV: 5.6%
Found at: Waitrose, Whitecross Street, London EC1
Dispense: 350ml Bottle-conditioned

2. Goose Island IPA

Beer number two on our journey, and we’re already globetrotting. It’s straight across the Atlantic to Chicago to see if our American cousins can knock up a decent India Pale Ale.

I do like a good IPA, and am instinctively sceptical about the idea of this most British of beers being brewed abroad, but I know IPA is all the rage on the thriving US craft brewing scene, so let’s give it a try.

Goose Island IPA

There’s a huge white head straight out of the bottle, and this is certainly an aromatic beer, with plenty of floral, citrus and of course hop aromas. There’s no doubt that this is an IPA. There’s also something a bit soapy about the nose, but it isn’t overpowering.

This beer is apparently made with water from Lake Michigan, and is bottle conditioned, so there’s a tiny amount of yeast collecting at the bottom of the bottle. This is a very good sign indeed.

Goose Island IPA is a little fuller-bodied and much sweeter than the modern British IPAs, as exemplified by something like Thornbridge’s excellent Jaipur (which we’ll encounter in the fullness of time), but I think that’s quite typical of the American approach to the style.

There’s a pleasing, lingering bitterness, but for me the sweetness does mar the overall flavour. I just don’t want beer to make my teeth hurt.

Overall, a perfectly decent example of the style, but perhaps not one I’ll return to in a hurry.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
Style: India Pale Ales
ABV: 5.9%
Found at: Sainsbury’s, Westow Street, London SE19
Dispense: 355ml Bottle-conditioned