Steam Beer

Steam beer is a highly effervescent beer made by brewing lager yeasts at warm fermentation temperatures. It has two distinct but related meanings:

  • Historic steam beer produced in California from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century;
  • Modern California common beer, the official name for the beer family which includes Anchor Steam beer.

Historic steam beer, associated with San Francisco and the U.S. West Coast, was brewed with lager yeast without the use of refrigeration. It was an improvised process, originating out of necessity, perhaps as early as the Gold Rush. It was considered a cheap and low-quality beer, as shown by references to it in literature of the 1890s and 1900s.

Modern steam beer, also known as California common beer, was originated by Anchor Brewing Company, which trademarked the name Anchor Steam Beer in 1981. Although the modern company has corporate continuity with a small brewery which was still making traditional steam beer in the 1950s, Anchor Steam beer is a craft-brewed lager. The company does not claim any close similarity between its present day product and turn-of-the-20th-century steam beer.

Explanations of the word "steam" are all speculative. The carbon dioxide pressure produced by the process was very high, and one possibility is that it was necessary to let off "steam" before attempting to dispense the beer. According to Anchor Brewing, the name "steam" came from the fact that the brewery had no way to effectively chill the boiling wort using traditional means. So they pumped the hot wort up to large, shallow, open-top bins on the roof of the brewery so that it would be rapidly chilled by the cool air blowing in off the Pacific Ocean. Thus while brewing, the brewery had a distinct cloud of steam around the roof let off by the wort as it cooled, hence the name. It is also possible that the name derives from "Dampfbier" (literally "steam beer"), a traditional German beer that was also fermented at unusually high temperatures and that may have been known to 19th-century American brewers, many of whom were of German descent.

Read more about Steam Beer:  Brewing Process, In Literature, California Common Beer, Other Kinds of "steam Beer"

Other articles related to "beer, steam beer, steam":

Beer In The United States - History - Beginnings
... Native American tribes brewed beer in the lands of the United States prior to European arrival ... (as brought to New York) ensured that colonial drinking would be dominated by beer rather than wine ... Steam beer, the first style of beer to originate in the United States, evolved in the San Francisco area during the 19th century ...
Steam Beer - Other Kinds of "steam Beer"
... A British brewery, the Lincolnshire Steam Beer Co ... derives its name from the steam-powered brewing machinery ... When Canadian brewer Sleeman introduced a product called Steam Beer in Canada in 1999, Anchor sued for trademark infringement, since it had trademarked the term "steam beer ...
Anchor Brewing Company - History
... record of what Anchor did during Prohibition, but it resumed serving steam beer after Repeal, possibly as the only steam brewing company still in operation ... cleanliness that are required to produce consistent batches of beer for commercial consumption ... The brewery gained a deserved reputation for producing sour, bad beer ...

Famous quotes containing the words beer and/or steam:

    Life isn’t all beer and skittles, but beer and skittles, or something better of the same sort, must form a good part of every Englishman’s education.
    Thomas Hughes (1822–1896)

    Clean the spittoons.
    The steam in hotel kitchens,
    And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
    And the slime in hotel spittoons:
    Part of my life.
    Langston Hughes (1902–1967)