San Francisco Stars #13 Anchor Unfiltered Liberty Ale, San Francisco
Date: July 11, 2019 —
The Story— When Anchor first brewed Liberty Ale it did not label it as an IPA. The American IPA style kind of developed around and along side of it and eventually Anchor decided it would be better to join the tide than try to stand apart from it. The brewery (now owned by Sapporo) now claims this beer, first brewed in 1975, as the “first modern American IPA since prohibition.”
We first found this beer at The Brickskeller, Washington’s iconic pioneer beer bar, and we were swept away by it. By any name it’s use of whole cone hopping, dry hopping and slow carbonation were as revolutionary as the brewery claims.
When created Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale, which some now claim was the first modern American IPA brewed in the east, by sitting down with the brewers and pouring samples of nearly dozen different beers to show them what we had in mind for the beer’s characteristics. About a half a dozen beers we had found (on both sides of the Atlantic) had the greatest influence, but two especially stood out; Anchor’s Liberty was one of them.
Liberty is filtered to clarity, but our Hop Pocket was a bit hazy (actually hazy, not murky like some of today’s “hazy” beers) and we were thrilled to have a chance at the Anchor Taps, across the street from the brewery, to taste an unfiltered version that we thought might be even closer to our memories of Hop Pocket. It was a really interesting experience, but we were surprised by the degree that the yeast dominated the experience. It certainly wasn’t the same as the filtered commercial version and we loved the experience. Ellie liked it better than filtered Liberty, but if I were going to settle down for the evening with one or the other, I might go for the slightly more sedate filtered version.
A side note: we found this beer to be a bit more tart than we expected. Some of that is understandably the yeast, but it’s a 100% Cascade hopped beer. Cascades seem to have developed even more grapefruit and sharpness over the past 20 years, which probably doesn’t bother the growers at all and may help explain why Cascade continues to be such a common ingredients in a wide range of flavorful beers.
The Beer– Yeast is a bit player in this more vibrant version of a classic beer. Lots of fruit shows — some of it tart– and we suspect the yeast is behind that fruit although the impact of the Cascades seems to be important as well. Very chalky. It’s a low key IPA by today’s standards, but that makes it somewhat more moreish.
Value — Good to very good. Seven bucks in SF is a bit below average for a pint of good beer, and you can’t get this one anywhere else.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
We just got back from a week in San Francisco. We hadn’t been there in eleven years and the remarkably vibrant beer scene we experienced then has become, well, even vibranter. Ellie, poor girl, had to work long hours during the day while I got to roam the streets checking out the best places to find great beers. At least when Ellie got off work I had places to take her before she crashed for the night. We’ll post a week or two of Beers of the Day by the Bay before returning to research for our book on Inns and Breweries of the Mid-Atlantic.
Interestingly, the downtown area of San Francisco, while awash with beers from the surrounding areas, has few brewing spots of its own. In that regard it reminds us of New York, where you have to leave Manhattan and go to Brooklyn to really find a nest of breweries. Away from downtown, several brewery taps thrive and public transportation gets you almost anywhere. Beyond the city limits, of breweries ring the city, and many of them produce exceptionally good beers and the myriad of tap houses all over town tend to focus on local beers. Name the style you like and you can find an excellent version of it, though at a price.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”