American beers beer reviews

Less is more – Anchor Liberty Ale vs Old Foghorn

Anchor Brewery Liberty Ale
Anchor Brewery Liberty Ale

En español

I love Anchor’s Liberty Ale. It’s got that wow-factor from the moment that you pour it into the glass, with its hazy golden shine. The fruity-floral aroma gets me seriously excited, and the flavour doesn’t disappoint, with hints of peaches blended beautifully with the American hops. It has that kind of robust, unctuous body you get with American pale ales which makes the whole drinking experience seriously satisfying.

At 5.9%, I can’t drink too much of it, but then again, it does come in diddy little bottles, and that level and depth of flavour makes it ideal for sipping over a long period of time.

We also really enjoyed their “Special Ale” last Christmas. So I was quite excited to try Anchor’s Old Foghorn Barley Wine. This beastie is 8.8% and pours much darker than the Liberty Ale. It has a similar tantalising smell, although with more sherry notes. It’s incredibly sweet — quite a contrast to the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine we drank last week, where it was all hops and no malt. I have to say I found the Old Foghorn a bit one-sided.

On a slightly related topic, with a view to reducing our airmiles, we’re going to attempt to clone Liberty Ale. Any suggestions? I’ve found a few recipes on the internet as a starting point, but if anyone’s got any personal experience to share, that’d be great, particularly on priming / conditioning it to get that wonderful mouthfeel.


7 replies on “Less is more – Anchor Liberty Ale vs Old Foghorn”

I haven’t cloned Liberty, but I’ve brewed something fairly similar in style that worked out well. Be warned, though, that my homebrewing is characterised more by enthusiasm than actual skill, so use the following info with a degree of caution.

For 5 gallons I used 5.5 kg pale malt (try something like 4.4 kilos if you’re using extract), 175 g of crystal and 125 g of wheat (~100 g if using extract). Not sure whether the dash of wheat malt is right for Liberty, but it’s enough to improve the head. I hopped with 60 g of Challenger and 20 g of Cascades for bitterness, with another 20 g of Cascades towards the end of the boil and 10 g dry in the cask. Liberty probably just uses Cascades though, and it’s somewhat hoppier than my recipe, so you’ll need to tweak those figures. I captured the yeast from a bottle of Brakspear Triple – wrong provenance maybe, but the yeast worked very well and I’ve always found it pretty difficult to culture live yeast from bottle-conditioned American ales, presumably because of the beer miles. I’m sure you could buy a more suitable strain of liquid yeast, but I like capturing it from a bottle as it adds to the fun and the sense of achievement (not to mention the unpredictability). End result was around 5.7% and tasted great.

As for carbonation, I boiled and cooled about 180 g of brewing sugar in a pint of water to prime for bottling, which is quite a bit more than I’d normally use, but I think the extra carbonation works for this style.

Whether or not you follow my suggestions, I’d be interested to hear how it turns out. Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it before, I really enjoy your blog!

Out of the four I’ve tried Liberty is by far their best beer as far as my tastebuds are concerned. A really good beer. Interestingly last weekend I was watching the episode of the Beer Hunter when MJ went to the Anchor Brewery as I transferred it from tape to DVD.

I’m an unabashed fan of Liberty Ale; it’s a beer I can turn to any time and never lets me down. Glad to hear you also enjoyed it, and great shot of the label and glass, by the way.

Tom – thanks for the recipe. USing the Brakspear yeast is an interesting idea – its fruite-roundness would go quite well here. We haven’t tried to harvest yeast for a while, after the previous two attempts fail, but maybe we need a bigger collection pool…

Boak, actually my third attemp at an APA was loosely based on Liberty Ale. Aimed for something simple, refreshing, with that golden glow and the citric touch. It came out tasty and quite with that golden-hoppy simplicity style that I love in beers like ALA and SNPA.

Here is the recipe:

The beer is, however, designed to be lighter than Liberty Ale, since I tend to start feeling a little tipsy after a pint of a 5,9% beer. If you look for a beer with Liberty Ale-strenght, I would aim for 1054-1056 OG and 45 IBUs.

Keep the dry hopping.


I’m a fan of Anchor’s Liberty as well – love their Steam too. These were one of my first greatest discoveries when living in NY. Finding it on tap there, which was not easy, would make it a lucky day.

I was intending to homebrew it since – here at home it’s not even option of airmiles to me (wouldn’t find it anywhere closer than UK), so it will be really interesting to see how you succeed. I would be greatful if you shared the links to the recipes you’ve found, for comparison (I’ve only got and another one from american published beer recipe book “The Homebrewers’ Recipe Guide: More than 175 original beer recipes”).

Looking forward to reading about your progress!

I love Anchor so much, I moved to San Francisco. Granted, I started out only 400 miles south in Los Angeles, but it’s worth it to have Anchor as my local brewery, but glad to see you blokes are fond of it, too.

Wait, it gets better. I got to sit down and talk to the owner, Fritz Maytag, for a book I wrote (that comes out TODAY) called Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get to do a UK Beer Odyssey soon. Until then, to read a behind-the-scenes narrative about your brewing pals across the pond, you can order it on Amazon. (Look for the special sidebar about brewing at Traquair House in Scotland).
Brian Yaeger

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