American California Common
The modern California Common, or “Steam Beer,” was invented by Anchor Brewing Company in their classic example Anchor Steam. Anchor Steam was trademarked in 1981, but their website alludes to the fact that Anchor Steam was actually in production before prohibition, and it could have even been brewed as early at the late 1800s. Most modern steam beers are all modeled after this one example, as it defined the style in the early days of the craft beer renaissance. Around the turn of the 19th century there was another beer called “steam beer,” and it was a common working class beverage brewed by many brewers in the west. Descriptions of this old style of beer cite massive carbonation in a creamy and full-bodied malt forward beer. Modern steam beer, however, is simply an ale brewed with a lager yeast. Similar to a pale ale in ingredients, steam beer typically favors a more earthy and herbal hop character and is usually brewed with Northern Brewer hops, which do not have the grapefruit-forward characteristics of other American hop varieties. A toasty and bready malt character accompanies the assertive hop notes.