Anchor Liberty Ale – Review #13

Anchor Liberty Ale Review, Anchor Brewing Company

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Total Score: 85.5               Reviewed 1DA

Tonight’s brew comes from the iconic Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, California. Brewing since 1896, Anchor takes great pride in their traditional methods, evidenced by their vintage-style handmade copper brewhouse equipment. As a good brewery should be, they are intensely dedicated ensuring the quality of their product, keeping the beer refrigerated both at the brewery and at their distributors’ warehouses.

Knowing the history of the brewery, it’s hard to believe that they’re still around today. In 1906 Ernst Baruth, one of the original owners, died unexpectedly. The brewery burned down 2 months later in the fire that resulted from a huge earthquake. As they were rebuilding in 1907, the other owner died when he was thrown from a streetcar and run over. When Prohibition took effect in 1920, they simply closed down and waited it out, unlike many breweries who took up producing other beverages. In 1934, less than a year after Prohibition ended, the brewery again burned to the ground. When mass-produced light lagers took over the beer industry, the brewery was forced to close in 1959. The brewery soon reopened under new ownership in 1960, but by 1965 they were ready to close again. That’s when Fritz Maytag, often called the father of modern microbreweries, stepped in and took control of the brewery, growing it into the legend it is today.

In addition to their famous Steam Beer Anchor developed a full line of different beers under Maytag. One of these is today’s beer, Liberty Ale, which was first brewed on 5AR to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. The brewery notes several unique factors that go into making Liberty Ale special, including “special top-fermenting ale yeast”, a natural carbonation process called bunging, and dry-hopping, “a process rarely used in this country today.” Bunging is basically sealing the fermenter before fermentation is complete with results in carbonation, and this indeed seems to be pretty unique in American brewing. Now, I don’t know what decade these descriptions were written, but dry-hopping is probably now used about as much as fermentation these days. Anyway, this beer gets a lot of praise, and I’m ready to drink, so let’s see what this “dry-hopping” business is all about.

Liberty Ale comes in a uniquely shaped rounded stubby bottle which features some sort of secret code on the back; mine says “1U8”. Referring to the brewery’s FAQ page we see that for some reason Anchor has taken it upon themselves to invent a totally new (and spectacularly stupid) system of expressing dates, abbreviating years as single digits, months as single letters (why not the numbers 1-12 like the rest of the world?), and days…well, it’s really too complicated to explain here. It’s a bit of a mystery why they’ve chosen a method of dating that is harder to decipher than the Internal Revenue Code. It’s almost as if it’s on there so they can say that they date their bottles, but intentionally made too hard to figure out if you’re a customer looking at it in the store. Incidentally, they don’t use this method to express dates in other parts of the website. Anyway, it turns out that 1U8 translates to June 28, 2011.

The beer itself is an orange/gold with huge sticky head that’s in no hurry to go anywhere. Cloudy due to their natural carbonation process. Great lacing. Smell is a nice melding of refreshing fruity hops and sweet malts, with a touch of graininess in there as well. Hops are featured and well done. Taste tilts a bit towards the malts, with a more bitter and harsh graininess towards the end of the taste profile. Hops do command attention towards the beginning, but aren’t as bright and fruity as the smell suggests. Other than the slight harshness the mouthfeel is outstanding: medium body and creamy with good carbonation and very smooth going down. Pretty dry bitter finish. As I get closer to the bottom of the glass the beer definitely improves, with the harsh graininess fading slightly and a nice balance being struck between the hops and malt. I’m giving a 1/2 point bonus for the bad-ass label and cool bottle shape, but deducting 1/2 point for the moronic dating scheme.

I wish that unpleasant bitterness wasn’t sneaking in there, because it’s taking away from this one for me. It’s still a good beer for sure, but to me it could be smoothed out a bit. This is definitely something that could be drank all year round, in just about any situation, and paired with a wide variety of foods. While I wouldn’t seek it out, I certainly wouldn’t complain about drinking it again. More than worth a try if you haven’t had it.

Look: 9/10     Smell: 8.5/10     Taste: 8.5/10     All-Around: 8.5/10

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This entry was posted in American Pale Ale, Anchor Brewing Company, Beer Review, California and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anchor Liberty Ale – Review #13

  1. Tommy says:

    Your explanation for the dating scheme makes some sense. There are a few other possibilities:

    1. Stamping bottles is much more expensive and resource intensive than you realize, and the 5 characters Anchor saves compared to a “mm/dd/yy” scheme allow them to sell each 6-pack for a few dollars less than they otherwise could.
    2. Stamping bottles is somehow a fire hazard, and given the brewery’s history they are determined to limit this risk as much as possible.
    3. This “dry-hopping” thing is still a mystery. Perhaps it doesn’t work right if the bottle is stamped with too many characters, which would again explain the three character system.

  2. Dave Stokley says:

    These are all a lot more insightful than my theory. I sent them an email last night asking them what the real reason was, but haven’t heard back. Hopefully it didn’t burn down again.

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