I’m of course referring to Sam Adams, one of my favorite “small breweries.” Small is in quotation marks here because it’s so ubiquitous now. That ubiquity, however, is a good thing, as I love Sam Adams beer.
Sam Adams was founded in 1985 and is considered one of the main players in the craft brew movement. However, go back another 20 years and there’s an even more influential brewery: the Anchor Brewing Company based in San Francisco.
One of the traditions of my fraternity was to “adopt” new pledges into different respective beer families. There were a number of different families, including but not limited to the Coors Light family, the Sierra Nevada family, the Anchor Steam family, and my own, which was the unfortunate (for many different reasons) Red Nectar Ale family. Red Nectar Ale is disgusting, probably one of the worst beers I’ve ever had in my life. In fact, I tried to stage a coup d’état by splitting off from that family and starting the Sam Adams family. That’s another story for another time.
When the time came to reveal the families, the older brothers would bequeath a six-pack of the family beer to their new younger brothers. Usually, this meant that a fair amount of trading (and drinking) would take place. This was how I was introduced to Anchor Steam’s Anchor Steam beer, one of the last remaining examples of California Common beer.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it. I thought it was waaaay too bitter. My favorites at that time were beers like Rolling Rock: I couldn’t say I had a very sophisticated palate when I was a sophomore in college.
Fast forward five years: I’m in love with hops. In fact, I love IPAs and Imperial pilsners and other delightful and crazily-hopped beers. I’m moving away from beers with more malty characteristics and discovering how delicious and refreshing beer with high hop profiles can be. I tried Anchor Steam’s Anchor Steam again and was suitably impressed–it was kind of like reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath a second time.
Yesterday I was picking up some Chinese food for a family dinner and I decided to go to Bristol Farms to get some beer. Now, Bristol Farms is not exactly a bargain bin when it comes to prices, but it does have a very decent selection. I was planning on buying a bottle of Le Fin du Monde from Unibroue, based on the recommendations of the Beer Babe and my friend Katie, but I didn’t know how well that would go with Chinese food. I wanted something drier and hoppier… something that could cut through the grease of chow mein and beef and broccoli.
Then my eyes settled on Anchor Steam.
It is called Liberty Ale because it was first bottled on April 18, 1975: the 200th anniversary of Mr. Paul Revere’s ride. (I should imagine having a beer christened in honor of one’s exploits should be very gratifying, indeed–I would prefer this to having a statue made in my honor!)
At home, I popped open the bottle and poured it into a glass. Nice light-amber color–like a translucent persimmon color. Not a real significant head, though there was pretty decent carbonation.
From Anchor Brewing Co.’s site:
A special top-fermenting ale yeast is used during fermentation and is responsible for many of Liberty Ale’s subtle flavors and characteristics. Carbonation is produced by an entirely natural process called “bunging,” which produces champagne-like bubbles. Dry-hopping (adding fresh hops to the brew during aging), imparts a unique aroma to the ale. It is a process rarely used in this country today.
The “nose” was extremely floral, with notes of sweet fruits, dates, honey. This was a delicious beer, with higher-than-average gravity and really nice carbonation. The dry-hopping definitely made a big impact, as the beer had a very fresh hoppiness that was less than an IPA but more than your typical ale. Crisp, but luscious. The mouthfeel was almost that of a nice off-dry riesling.
My sister got tipsy off the beer: a first, since she doesn’t really drink too much beer. An awesome, very satisfying beer, one that gets my highest recommendation. One that makes me cry out: “Give me Liberty Ale, or give me death!”