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The birth of steam


How many times have you ordered an Anchor Steam Beer and actually paused to consider the name? That word, “steam,” is a funny one: Trademarked by the San Francisco brewery, it’s so attached to the brewery’s name that I’ve heard people order the likes of Anchor Steam Porter at bars. Sure, any uttered phrase sounds cool when you toss in the word “steam,” but, as most know, that particular word is the name and style of the brewery’s flagship beer, not part of the brewery’s actual name. Now that I’ve stated the obvious, let’s move on to the mystery.

Particularly, what’s a steam beer anyway? Today, we call them California commons; an amber hybrid beer (lager yeast fermented like an ale) that showcases Northern Brewer hops. Back in the late 1800s, they were called steam beer. Why? Now we’ve arrived at one of life’s greatest unanswered questions. For a little insight, check out the nicely done video above, released by the steam beer authority, Anchor.

Which theory do you think is the most plausible?

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Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at

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