Wednesday, May 16, 2007


As a certified “hometowner”, I’ve always given up the props to ANCHOR STEAM, one of the earliest craft brews I ever came to love, and a certified institution here in San Francisco. It’s almost always the beer of choice at bars that serve only macro lagers on tap, as just about all of ‘em are kind enough to reserve a tap handle for Anchor Steam. Strangely, I’ve barely dipped into the rest of their lineup since the days when LIBERTY ALE and OLD FOGHORN and the rest were among the only games in town. The fellas on the beer podcast BEER SCHOOL were proclaiming their love for LIBERTY ALE the other day, calling it an IPA that dare not call itself an IPA (or something along those lines), and I reckoned I needed to give it a try again. It’s probably been over a decade since I’ve had one.

Now that I feel the need to assign a rating/categorization/ classification to every beer I try, let me be the first to say that ANCHOR LIBERTY ALE is not an IPA, and to my taste, it’s not that great either. It’s most assuredly a pale ale, and a rather dampened one at that. Hops are mild if a bit spicy, and it’s got a moderately-carbonated, “glassy” sorta taste to it. Some might call it “bready” – I’m not prepared to go there yet, brother. What Liberty Ale is is a decidedly average – no, check that – below average American pale ale. Even a hometowner says so. 5/10. I’ll stick with the ‘Steam.


Steve said...

*below* average? yikes. Hey was that a random bottle you had or from tap? I wonder if tap was stale or if bottle was old.

Rick Sellers said...

Wow man, that's harsh! I won't say Liberty is a favorite beer, but certainly isn't 'below average' in my book. An IPA? Were they serious? Wow! If you approach the beer with an IPA in mind, this could sourly disapoint. Still, if it were this or a macro - I'd be happy with the Liberty.

Jay said...

Yeah, I certainly entertained the notion that it was an old bottle but that's not what it tasted like. I just found it incredibly mediocre. Great minds can differ. I still think Anchor rules.

Steve said...

I went back and checked my notes on Anchor Liberty that I had for the first time in summer 2006. It centered around it being pretty pretty mild for a pale ale. I didn't even think of it as an IPA. I gave it an OK score (3.85 on BA) but it wasn't mind blowing (though if you compare it to something like Bass, it would be pretty damn spectacular). I then saw it in the lineup for Lucky Baldwin's IPA fest a few weeks later and was pretty amazed anyone would call that an IPA.

Kyle said...

I gotta say, I've tried this in bottles several times and, while I liked it ok, I didn't come close to loving it.

mumbly said...

You have to recall that when Liberty Ale was first released, the beer landscape was very different. It came out in the 70's and was the first dry hopped beer in the US.

Even going back to the 80's, it was a bigger and hoppier (especially in flavor and nose) than the standard IPA out there. And compared when looked at in comparison to English style IPAs (which is all that was out there to compare it with), it very much qualified as an IPA.

In the world of today, where a 7%, 90IBU beer is a standard IPA and we've added Double (and sometimes Triple) as a common addition to the style, it is hard to keep it in that company.

But it really is the category that moved away from Liberty, not Liberty that missed the category.

That said, I think Liberty is a fantastic beer. One of the best standard drinking beers available. I'd recommend a pint (preferably your first) at the Toronado next time you make it by. Better still, a tour of Anchor Brewery is a must for any local beer geek. It is an absolutely beautiful brewery and the ability to taste all the beers fresh at the end of the tour gives one a new appreciation.


Hugh said...

"not an IPA"? Huh? What is an IPA to you then? And would you even like one if you tried it? Doubtful.

Sadly, there's nothing convincing or informative in your brief summation of Liberty Ale.