Classic Adventures at Anchor

Bev Blackwood - It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

This past week I was delighted to discover Anchor’s Double Liberty I.P.A.Billed as twice the malt and twice the hops of the original Liberty Ale, it’s a very refined and resinous beer that has that grapefruit pith and slight cattiness that you’d expect from Cascade hops.It’s dangerously drinkable at 8.2% ABV and it also got me thinking about Anchor’s newfound sense of adventure. 

For years it seemed that Anchor was willing to keep churning out the same beers that made them famous (and fine beers they are) while their sense of adventure wandered off to the distillery to produce some first rate whiskeys and gins (which are also quite tasty!)However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was doing them a disservice.It wasn’t that they stopped innovating, I was simply distracted.

I don’t need to tell any of you that these days the beer world is all about the “flavor of the week” as breweries compete for attention among the fickle craft beer crowd.Today’s hit is tomorrow’s has-been and you need only look at Stone’s re-tooling of Ruination IIPA and the elimination of Stone Pale Ale (while continuing to pump out bombers of limited release beers) to see the impact our fickle tastes have had.Even Sierra Nevada has been bitten by this bug, with the new “one time only” Oktoberfest they have released. (Prediction: Next year Sierra Nevada will produce another Oktoberfest with a different German brewery or simply make one that’s all their own which will become their annual fall seasonal.) If it’s not new and different, we are less likely to buy it.

Anchor’s Argonaut series is simply a response to today’s short attention span beer drinkers, although in typical fashion, even these releases continue to reflect Anchor’s long history of innovation.Old Foghorn was one of the first American barleywines, Anchor Porter redefined the old-world style for American tastes, Anchor Liberty ale introduced us to American IPA’s and also introduced us to the wonders of dry-hopping.Fritz Maytag was never one to shy from the new, even when some beers, like Anchor Small, never made it big.The beers Anchor produces tend to define whole categories.The first, Anchor Steam, created the California Common category and California Lager, one of the newer labels, is already being referenced by the BJCP as a good example of Pre-Prohibition lager. Anchor simply produces world-class beers that stand the test of time

The simplicity of the beers is also important.Anchor hasn’t introduced a chocolate mocha porter or a jalapeño barleywine in their quest for new fans. (Although I can’t say I’m a fan of the annual Christmas beer with the “mystery ingredient!”)Instead the beers are refined and focused versions of classic styles that re-introduce the brewery and remind us of how good their beers can be.It’s not about the flash, it’s about showing us they’ve still got their mojo working and can shine out among the flashy new kids on the block.I for one, am happy to raise a glass to that!

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas. An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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