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What is California Common?

February's monthly competition beer is "California Common." BJCP 2015 19(B). What is that? To answer that, here is a word from our VP Ian Purvis:

When we present our competition brews for judging in February, and taste them afterwards, we should raise a glass to Fritz Maytag who in 1965 purchased the one craft brewery remaining at that time in the United States, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, the myriad small breweries of earlier years having been swept up or pushed under by the big brewers in the decades since Prohibition. Maytag used his inheritance from his grandad's washing machine company to rescue a beer, Anchor Steam, described by Tom Acitelli in 'The Audacity of Hops' as "the color of dried honey that spawned a head like lightly packed snow".

Fritz Maytag not only rescued the brewery and the beer, he set the ground rules for what was to become 'craft brewing' as we now know it, defined by the Beer Association 40 years later - clearly with a glass raised in his direction - as "small, independent and traditional".

Acitelli suggests that the signature beer that Maytag made his own was perhaps unique in the world, with no clear history and much myth and conjecture around the name, but "Anchor Steam was amber colored and produced a thick creamy head when poured properly. It's alcohol content ran to nearly 5 percent per volume. The beer had a slightly bitter taste and a smooth, almost citrusy finish. And despite its heavier ale-like mouthfeel, it was a lager".

California Common, per the BJCP style guide is "narrowly defined around the prototypical Anchor Steam". Speaking for myself I'd be proud to brew a beer that meets that description. Good luck fellas, and here's to Fritz Maytag!

Ian Purvis

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