Anchor Brewing – Big Leaf Maple Autumn Red
6.0% ABV, IBU (n/a)
As a relative neophyte to the craft beer world, red beers are one area where I feel I have extremely limited knowledge of flavor spectrums and ingredients. In fact, George Killian’s Irish Red probably makes up over ninety percent of my total red beer consumption, dating back to my years of classifying beers in one of four categories: swill (Old Milwaukee’s Best and Busch), surprisingly drinkable beer that is cheap (Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon), good beer (Miller Lite and Coors Lite), and fancy beer (anything not in the former categories that costs more than $5 per six-pack). Killian’s would have fallen into the last category. These were the days when quantity always took precedent over quality; we will call those years 15-25 (er…wait years 21-25, I will not condone nor will I admit to underage drinking). Long story short, red beers never piqued my interest because the only reds I tasted were overwhelmingly underwhelming for the extra bucks I was spending.
Fast forward seven years. Having our first non-summer weather this past weekend, I sought out some seasonals. Tonight would be a trial run for the newly constructed fire pit, as well as some newly released beers celebrating the season – pumpkin (Dogfish Head and Post) for my wife and marzens and reds (Great Lakes and Anchor Steam, respectively) for me. As any survivalist will tell you, the first step to starting a fire is always to take a sip of beer. Who am I to argue with the likes of Bear Grylls? Anchor Brewing’s Big Leaf Maple Autumn Red, in hand, I made my way down to the wood pile with matches and anticipation. Beer poured, sip had, beer good, commence fire building.
When the fire actually gets going (usually a long and arduous process for this suburbanite), I always feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway – “Look at what I have created. I…I have made fire.” Knowing that my survival does not hang in the balance makes the feat no less of a triumph for me, and thus full celebration is called for. The foam had now settled leaving some intricate lacing down the inside of the glass, and the next sip, having let the beer breathe and warm a bit surprised me. This was not George Killian’s fancy beer; this was full, complex, crisp and brisk, Autumn Red reflects the season. The burnt sienna color (again, I had the 64 pack of Crayons) gives way to a malty body, pale in flavor with a touch of maple. It finishes crisp with mild hop bitter and an almost unnoticeable floral aftertaste.
If there really is a “San Francisco treat” then Anchor Brewing’s beers are it, pushing Rice-a-Roni and other impostors by the wayside. Their beers never disappoint, proving that the west coast is much more than hopped-out IPAs. Now, as the leaves in my part of the country char to the shades of flames, this highly drinkable (dare I say sessionable seasonal) red ale provides the perfect accompaniment for fires, tailgates, and Halloween parties. If you like to drink seasonally (duh, who am I writing for?) then don’t just think of the pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests when it comes to the fall season because the reds (the style of beer or the Cincinnati baseball team) are best in October (and only available thru the end of the month). Go Reds!