Tag: Anchor

Big Beers

I’d already written about celebratory homebrew (that wasn’t so celebratory), so for the holidays I decided to go with something more reliable, albeit less historic: giant beer bottles. My picks were arranged, in the paper at least, from smallest to most monumental. Fin du Monde, a house favorite and plenty punchy, seems featherweight compared to Stone’s Double Bastard, which comes in a three-liter totem, complete with a padlocked swing-top cap. You know, so you can’t sneak in a midnight tipple. I thought about sabering off the cap, like they did in the Times, but I didn’t want to waste a drop. This is beer, after all, not Champagne.

Bock Story

Prohibition killed the bock. Bocks are rich, grainy, and worst of all, German. When breweries got running again 78 years ago today, they were making beer for drinkers used to Bevo, Vivo, and watery gin. The target market would not have appreciated a beer named after a goat.

A very few breweries resurrected it successfully. Shiner’s bock — brought to Texas by way of Cairo by a German brewer named Kosmos — is so popular today that Anheuser-Busch and Michelob are chasing its fame with their own versions. (Big fans of Rahr’s Bucking Bock, we were tricked into getting A-B’s ZiegenBock by a bartender bragging that it was “only available in Texas.” He didn’t tell us tourists that it’s brewed by Pabst.)

But for the most part, if a brewery made a bock — and most didn’t — they just poured a little caramel coloring in their regular amber ale. When craft breweries started bringing back forgotten styles like brown ales and wheat beers, they passed by the bock. Anchor’s Fritz Maytag vowed never to make one. “He said bocks were what breweries made when they cleaned off their floors once a year,” our friend and Anchor brewer Mark Carpenter said.

A hop grower friend of Fritz’s threw a bock party every spring in honor of his vines’ first sprouts. The beer he served was all imported — there were no American bocks worth drinking. When he died, Fritz brewed his first bock in his honor, and today it’s one of the best around.

Side note: That grower was John Segal. We met his son, John Segal, Jr., who took over the ranch, at Lagunitas a few weeks ago. He was wearing the family belt buckle: custom-made sterling silver emblazoned with two hop cones.

Hops, Stoopid

Hops come to brewers either as thumb-sized bundles of leaves called cones or flowers (the botanical term is strobilus, and they’re closer to pine cones than actual flowers), or ground up and packed into tiny, rabbit-food-like pellets. The cone-vs.-pellet debate is long and popular.

Lagunitas uses pellets. They have to, because whole cones won’t fit into the air cannon head brewer Jeremy Marshall uses to fire hops at 70 psi into the fermenters. That’s called dry hopping, and Lagunitas dry-hops a lot of their beers. We saw these boxes of hops last time we were up at the brewery. “Sum” is for Summit, a really bitter, grapefruity hop. Fill in the blank for the other one.

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Bottling Line

Does the Cicerone program certify brewery tour connoisseurship? We’ve been on our share of walks through fermenters and bottling lines and can report with authority that the Anchor Brewery tour is by far the most entertaining. Ask for Bob, and try not to roll your eyes right out of your head.

Back in Brown

They say Texan homebrewers invented brown ale. (At least, the modern version.) Knowing their reputation, we don’t doubt it. It’s the hardest style to make, in our opinion — not too sweet, not too dry, not too roasted… It needs an experienced hand.

Makes sense too that the folks at Anchor perfected it.

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