Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I’m starting to think it isn’t just proximity that has me all abuzz about San Francisco’s 21ST AMENDMENT BREWERY. The beer just flat-out continues to improve, and even though I go there about every third week, there’s a new one or two on the menu that I haven’t tried every time. Yesterday before heading over to the SF Giants game (the ballpark is two blocks away) we stopped in a pint of two, and there were two new kegs going featuring very recent concoctions. First up was DOUBLE STAR IMPERIAL RED, a highly-hopped, “imperial” version of the outstanding NORTH STAR RED we raved about a few weeks ago (and have since enjoyed again & confirmed its greatness). This hopped-up amber clocks in at 7.8% ABV, which is high but handle-able. You don’t see many imperial/double versions of this style of beer – in fact I reckon this is my first. Of course it was excellent, coming as it does from the same root as the North Star Red – and you know what was “funny”? The differences were actually quite few. This was might have had a stronger carbonation, and certainly more hops (I think it said 60 IBUs or something), but when you get right down to it, it had almost the exact same malty taste with a little “fringe” to dress it up. Loved it. 8.5/10.

The other new one is in the “California Common” style, which you’ll find San Franciscans making a big deal about and clutching to their bosoms with pride, as it was invented here by ANCHOR BREWING for the ANCHOR STEAM beer, perhaps the US’s first micro and a legendary beer for its taste alone. Here’s how Beer Advocate describes this somewhat rare style:

The California Common, or Steam Beer, is a unique 100% American style lager. It's usually brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that works better at warmer temperatures. This method dates back to the late 1800's in California when refrigeration was a great luxury. The brewers back then had to improvise to cool the beer down, so shallow fermenters were used. So in a way the lager yeast was trained to ferment quicker at warmer temperatures. Today's examples are light amber to tawny in color, medium bodied with a malty character. Mildly fruity with an assertive hop bitterness. Anchor Brewing Co. trademarked the term "Steam Beer" and as such all other beers must be legally referred to as "California Common."

This particular version was called 21A TEAM ALE, and if I read the table card correctly it has something to do with a biking team, and honors them thusly in some regard. OK. It was a very simple, refreshing orange/amber as well, not at all unlike Anchor Steam and quite “still”, as in lacking tons of carbonation and fizziness. This is – can be – a very good thing – and was indeed here. It worked really well with pizza, for what it’s worth. As I’ve said before, the best course of action when at this brewery is to go deep on the beer menu & ask the bartendress what’s new & fresh. The best bets here always seem to be the ones that peek their heads out for a month or two only – that and the perennial North Star Red. OK, I’ve said my piece. 7/10 for the 21A TEAM ALE.


Anonymous said...

Lagunitas also makes an imperial red. I had one once a while back. Pretty tasty but definitely a hop monster by red standards. The internet says its 84 IBUs.

Ethan Prater said...

I also really liked their steam beer. When I was there last week, it was listed as "21A's Team Beer" - which I didn't think had anything to do with any actual teams, but just a clever way of calling it "Steam". Maybe that's what you meant by the bike team comment and I missed the irony...

Eli said...

My favorite Imperial Red is Troegs Nugget Nectar, but you'll have to have someone send it to you.

Limited distribution outside of PA, a February release, and best as fresh as can be.