glass of pilsner
pint of Stella Artois
pint of pale ale
pint of IPA
pint of murphy's Irish amber ale
glass of dark porter
pint of stout
empty glass

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Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco by Jon Sullivan as seen in American Public House Review


Anchor's aweigh!!

So what were you thinking, that this was going to be an article about Rice a Roni?

Not that I have anything against the the famous rice-and-vermicelli side dish born and bred in that beautifully progressive and bucolic City By the Bay.  Actually, I frequently get a hankering for the stuff. In fact, I vividly recall as a young child eagerly looking forward to having it as my only dinner when my family was struggling and my mother was desperately trying to stretch my dad's modest paycheck.  However, I never felt deprived in the slightest.  Recently, though, I was actually disappointed to discover that Rice a Roni is now actually produced in the Midwest, which does little to conjure up classic images of cable cars climbing over steep hills. 

But I digress.  San Francisco is quite simply a glorious place, and I count myself lucky to have had at least one opportunity to visit it. It is without question one of the most vibrant cities in America (if not the world), rich in history, culture, and diversity.  It's distinctive, unique (and at times avant-garde) shops, bars and cafes collectively create a tough act to follow anywhere.  And if one can brave himself to walk out onto the iconic Golden Gate Bridge (complete with a short four-foot guardrail suitable for jumping), he or she will find a vista unfold of such beauty and magnitude that it surely ranks among the most scenic spots on Earth: a veritable fairy-tale view of bays, boats and rolling hills that can make one feel like he or she is in another world.

However, before I let myself get carried away with extolling the virtues of San Francisco, let me get to the heart of the matter.  No matter how charming any city may be, its luster would be quickly tarnished had it nothing suitable to drink.  Fortunately, the City by the Bay need not worry about any  such inadequacies.  All you need to do is stop in for a pint at nearly any tavern worth its salt and you will invariably find the beer that is the universal Love and Pride (just remember I'm talking about beer, not parades) of San Fran - the famously singular and historic Anchor Steam.  

Although today Anchor Steam Beer is hailed as one of the great classics of the modern-day craft brewing movement, one may be surprised to learn that it actually traces its origins deep in the history of the settlement of California.  Only a few years after John Marshall's famous discovery at Sutter's  Mill that ignited the California Gold Rush, German immigrant and brewer Gottlieb Brekle founded a brewery in San Francisco.  In those early days on the frontier, German-style lager beers were difficult to produce due to the lack of available refrigeration (such as cold caves to condition the beer).  Brewers such as Brekle were forced to ferment their brew at warmer-than ideal temperatures and the resulting  increased pressure in the fermenters would often cause an extra-heavy rush of carbon dioxide to burst out when the fermenters were cracked.  It is thought that this heavy release of pressure is perhaps how the term “steam beer” was coined (now a registered Anchor trademark).  In 1896 the brewery was purchased by a partnership and the Anchor Brewing Company was born. 

Over the years the brewery suffered numerous setbacks, none worse than its closure during Prohibition and its complete destruction at the hands of the great earthquake of 1906.  However, like a cat with nine lives, the brewery proved resilient and was able to keep bouncing back.

Unfortunately,  even an old cat can run out of lives, and by 1965 the Anchor brewery was on its last legs and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.  Its plight had become so dire that the brewers were reduced to using baker's yeast to save money.  It was in this desperate environment that washing machine mogul Fritz Maytag (yes THAT Maytag) learned of the brewery's imminent demise while  enjoying a glass of Anchor at a local bar.  Unwilling to see his beloved draught disappear, the ultimately brand-loyal Maytag stepped in as a white knight and bought Anchor at the eleventh hour,  saving it from extinction.  And the rest is history.  In 1979 Maytag moved his Anchor Brewing Company to its current location on Mariposa Street in San Francisco.  To visit this brewery today is to feel like one is stepping into a small, yet gorgeous cathedral of beer, with spotless copper kettles reminiscent of something you might encounter in Bavaria or Bohemia.

      In the ensuing decades, Fritz Maytag relentlessly fine-tuned his product with an almost religious fervor.  Today Anchor Steam Beer is revered as a truly unique craft product.  It is a true style of beer unto itself: not only the only style of beer in the world native to the United States, but it is the sole example of its style.  Its style is usually referred to as “California Common Beer” and is somewhat of a hybrid between a lager and an ale.  Although it is fermented using a lager yeast, it is fermented at much warmer ale-like temperatures in wide, shallow fermenting vessels that keep the yeast close to the surface, much like a top-fermenting ale yeast.  The resulting product has the most unusual attributes of marrying the round cleanness of a lager to the fruitiness of an ale.  It is an alternative relationship that works well, as many in San Francisco would attest!  To compliment this eclectic union is the crisp bite of Northern Brewer hops.  Joining this most maverick of brews  in subsequent years  has been a delightfully hoppy and aromatic Liberty Ale, as well as a lusciously robust Anchor Porter and a dizzyingly delicious Old Foghorn Barley Wine.  Anchor has even expanded into the spirits business by distilling a distinctive rye whiskey.

      I was most surprised to learn that just in April of this year the great craft brew trailblazer Fritz Maytag decided to finally pass the torch and sold the Anchor Brewing company to a new partnership.  The new entrepreneurs, liquor industry veterans Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, have pledged to not only maintain the exceedingly high standards of quality established by Maytag, but to actually expand the scope of the operation.  But while the future certainly looks bright for Anchor, it is certainly hoped that the new owners never lose sight of the spirit of the product they have pledged to uphold.  As past experiences with other brewers have proven, bigger is not necessarily better!


cable cars as seen in American Public House Review

                                               Photograph by Kathleen Connally

Glenn P. Beck as seen in American Public House Review

Glenn Beck was born in 1962 and raised in Livingston, New Jersey.  He graduated from Seton Hall University in 1986 with a B.A. in Communication.  Glenn was previously the owner  and operator of the Hunterdon Homebrew Shoppe in Frenchtown, New Jersey. While there, he taught an adult education course in the fundamentals of homebrewing beer.  He  won a blindly judged national  homebrewing competition (Memphis 1995) in the German Ale category with a delectable altbeir that he created.  Our resident beer meister was also hired as an accounts representative with the River Horse Brewing Company in Lambertville, New Jersey from 1997 to 1999. Glenn is a passionate scholar of the brewer's art. He has extensive knowledge as to the history, lore, brewing techniques, ingredients, and last but not least, the enjoyment of beer. He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife Nancy and their faithful malamute, Sam.

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