San Francisco has been one of the major beneficiaries of the modern American brewing revival, with a new reputation for being a beer-drinker’s destination. The resurgence of the Anchor Brewery has played a key role in this. Having been established to slake the collective thirsts of miners during the Gold Rush, Anchor dwindled in popularity until the mid-1960’s, when closure became a very real possibility.
That was until the wonderfully named Frederick Louis Maytag III (Fritz to his friends) bought the brewery. Fritz knew very little about brewing when he took over, so really threw himself (and his cash) in at the deep end. After purchasing the necessary equipment to upgrade he worked on a California Common recipe – which became the now iconic Anchor Steam – and the rest was history. Last year, Fritz sold up to two former vodka executives, who pledged to continue the traditions on which Anchor had been based.
One of these traditions has been the consistency of their regular beers. Preferring to build the base for their flagships – Steam, Liberty Ale, Porter and Old Foghorn, their seasonal releases had taken a backseat (aside from the annual festive Our Special Ale). Anchor Bock was released as a Spring special in 2005, but there was nothing after that until 2009 when Anchor Humming Ale was created (since the sale another release has been put out – Brekle’s Brown, named after the first brewer).
Humming Ale was first brewed exactly thirty years after Anchor moved to their present location at 1705 Mariposa Street, as a celebration of the success they have achieved in their brewhouse. Released in late summer (August to November), it pours a very hazy off-gold amber colour. The aromas are citrus hops with a touch of sharpness, on the palate the prime taste is grapefruit, with that distinctive white wine quality from the Nelson Sauvin hops used. Like all Anchor beers Humming Ale is extremely drinkable – I looked twice at the bottle when I realised it was 5.9%…