Anchor Steam® Beer’s roots date back to the sundry and mysterious adaptations and improvisations of brewers to the primitive conditions they faced during the California gold rush, long before icehouses and modern refrigeration made traditional lager beer a viable California option.
Early efforts notwithstanding, it wasn’t until the winter of 1875/76 that a California brewer was able to create—thanks in part to the ready availability of ice in the mountains near Truckee—the first true California lager.
The inaugural brew of the Anchor Brewing Zymaster™ Series is our attempt to re-create such a beer. So, you ask, what does Zymaster mean?
Zymaster n [Gk zymē leaven + master — more at ZYMURGY]
1: a new word coined by Anchor Brewing to describe a brewmaster with hands-on experience throughout the a-to-z process of creating a new beer, from the research and selection of the raw materials and development of a recipe to brewing, fermentation, cellaring, and finishing
2: a unique series of beers from Anchor Brewing, rooted in its exceptional respect for the ancient art and noble traditions of brewing, featuring extraordinary ingredients, innovative techniques, and unusual flavors
Leading off the Zymaster™ Series is our own California Lager, which is brewed from the finest California two-row barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop variety in 19th-century America), our own lager yeast, and mountain water. This fresh take on a classic California brew is, quite simply, re-discovered gold.
Like the California lagers of the 1870s and ’80s, Anchor’s California Lager (4.9% ABV) is an all-malt beer made from two-row California-grown barley. As only pale malt is used, the color of this delicious brew may best be described as “California gold.”
Our California Lager is also a single-hop beer, using only fresh, whole Cluster hops, all descended from an old line originally grown in California. Cluster has a long history as a “dual-purpose hop” for both bittering and aroma, which creates a flavor profile like no other.
Brewed with San Francisco tap water, fresh from Yosemite, and fermented with our own special strain of lager yeast, our California Lager is kräusened in the traditional manner and lagered in our cellars. The result is a uniquely sessionable lager beer, which is maltier, hoppier, and somewhat stronger than modern American lagers.
Its brilliant golden color, lingering effervescence, balanced depth of flavor, distinctive aroma, and smooth finish make this inaugural brew of the Anchor Brewing Zymaster™ Series a delightful tribute to the rich heritage and traditions of California brewing.
In part two of our introduction to California Lager, we’ll look back at the history and origin of the beer style, including the California breweries that gave California Lager its name.