To me at least. I don’t know. I can’t decide whether steam beer (sorry, “california common”) is a charming relic of the West Coast’s past, or just a dirty-tasting lager that we can conveniently shelve in the history section of American brewing. I don’t dislike Anchor Steam, but I just think it could be better if it was actually fermented like a real lager.
I recently drank Cismontane’s version called simply, “California Common.” While it was a solid beer and pretty much hit the Anchor flavor profile, the only thing I could think about was the awkward ester profile that would have been better if undetectable. Pretty much ditto with the several times I’ve drank Anchor Steam in the past month. I want to like this style, but the more I have it, the more I think there is a good reason that it isn’t ubiquitous on the West Coast. It just isn’t that great. Hoppy beers fermented with Cal/Chico yeast or similar have become the dominant style out here and fighting that seems more and more futile as time goes on. I still want to do lagers but probably in a cleaner, more traditional style than the steam model.
My, how quickly things can change. Just a few weeks ago I was ready to throw my lot in with an entire line of beers based on the steam model of fermentation. Romanticism is key to the curent brewing renaissance, but we have to remember that flavor has to be king if we are to last.