American beers beer reviews

Too thin, too bitter


Anchor Small Beer is a great idea — a very weak brew (3.2% abv) made, in historical fashion, from the ‘second runnings’ of the mash used to make Old Foghorn Barley Wine. In other words, it’s a beer made from leftovers, which appeals to our green streak as well as to our instinct to avoid hangovers.

Good as the idea is, however, the beer itself is a bit disappointing, being very thin in body and with the bittering hops overdone so that it’s as astringent as over-stewed tea.

Here’s Tom’s review — he liked it more than we did. And the Beer Nut has just reviewed it, too, finding it a bit fizzy.

12 replies on “Too thin, too bitter”

A beer from last runnings ay? Astringancy could be an issue here from the extraction of excess tannins and polyphenols from the mash I am suspecting, not that Fritz Maytag overdone the hopping. But then again I could be wrong, it could be the hopping.

Using just the second runnings is pretty well bound to give you a thin beer. In the 18th century they usually “capped” the mash with some fresh malt when brewing this way. The Victorians were cleverer. When they party-gyled they always used some of the first runnings in the weakest beers.

Of course, the 18th-century way of mashing was very different to the modern approach. They would mash 3 or 4 times and not sparge.

Apologies for getting all technical.

Oh yes, and small beer was essentially a safe substitute for water, not a drink to savour.

Being that is made with “leftovers”, it should be rather cheap…

Really? Why? Even though it’s made from second (or third, or whatever) runnings, it still takes time to lauter & boil, hops, fermenter space to ferment, time to filter and package, etc.

Really, all you’re saving is the cost of the grist, which is significant but probably outweighed by the cost of hops, labor and packaging. And shipping to England. I doubt that’s particularly cheap.

Sorry, not trying to be a jerk. I think you just hit a nerve.

As for the beer? I’ve only had it from a keg, and then it’s only traveled 800 miles instead of 8000, but yes it’s on the thin side, but I don’t think I’d describe it as astringent, more dry and slightly chalky, with a definite hop bitterness.

Will have to agree, when I tried it from the bottle found little balance with an assertive, almost stinging bitterness. I love a bitter beer, but considering it lacked a little on the hop aroma as well, just wasn’t my favourite! Give me a Liberty any day!

Pivni Filosof — it’s not cheap, but not that expensive for an import, either. The barley wine goes for c.£3.50 for 330ml.

Hello, Matt and Kelly. Thanks to both of you for chipping in. We’d much rather have had a bottle of Liberty, with hindsight. What it reminded us of most was Badger’s low alcohol bottled ale.


I was speaking in relative terms, of course. The price will be considerably increased by transportation costs, custom duties, etc, etc.

Now that I can compare it with the price of the Barley Wine, I think £4.50 for a 660ml bottle is rather reasonable.

I seem to be in the minority, but I rather enjoyed it. Strange because usually over carbonation ruins a beer for me. I really liked the bitterness and found it quite refreshing.

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