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Style Guide

   
 

California Common

California Common, or Steam Beer, is the style equivalent of jazz—distinctly and authentically American. It originates in California—San Francisco or Los Angeles—possibly dating back to the days of the Gold Rush. The name "steam beer" may derive from the extreme measures that were necessary to cool the wort without benefit of refrigeration. Brewers were said to pump the hot wort onto cooling trays mounted on roof tops, allowing winds off the Pacific Ocean to bring the temperature down, and in the process causing clouds of steam to form overhead.

The last California brewery to lager Steam Beer (Anchor Brewing) was purchased by Maytag Appliance heir Fritz Maytag in the late 1960s just as the brewery was on the brink of bankruptcy. Anchor owns the trademark to the term "steam beer," thus giving rise to the term "California Common." It is unknown how closely Anchor's modern version resembles the original, though the BJCP Style Guidelines use Anchor Steam as the prototypical example of the style (7B).

California Common is classically brewed with lager yeast, but at higher temperatures than most lagers at 60-65. The malt bill is heavy on two-row, and highly hopped with Northern Brewer. The resulting lager is medium-bodied, with the yeasts natural fruity character unmasked by the woodiness of the hops, and shares characteristics of both ales and lagers.

Learn more about the history of Anchor Brewing and Anchor Steam at http://www.anchorbrewing.com

Beer Styles

We're just getting started. California Common, or Steam Beer, is the first style we've included in our all-new beer style guide. More styles are coming, stay tuned.

California Common (Steam Beer)

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