Rough Draught: 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon and Anchor Brewing’s Anchor Steam

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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This week we’ve got some bad news, some good news, some more garbage news and then some awesome news, so we’re going to go in chronological order.

First, the first bad news: This year July 4 is on a Wednesday. That means Independence Day is on a Wednesday. And this is garbage.

But we’ve all known this for weeks now, so we planned weekend parties accordingly. None of that three-day “weekend,” we-have-to-take-off-work-to-make-the-awesome party crap: America has committed itself to celebrating our vanquishing of the Brits on Saturday, June 30.

The second set of bad news is it’s going to be really, really hot on the weekend of June 30. And that is bullshit.

However — and here’s our Battle of Saratoga — the patriotic breweries of San Francisco, Calif., have prepared for this contingency, and come rain or shine — or, more likely, brutal temperatures and sweltering heat — we’re getting drunk. And grilling. Drunk grilling.

Probably some seafood, too, so let’s get started.

21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, San Francisco, Calif.

Hold your horses — the folks at The Daily Caller have not gone soft. While we are known for our adoration of hops, we’ve been tough enough to crack a fruit beer — and a foreign fruit beer at that — in the past, and we’re tough enough to do it again. And here’s the reason: This brew is delicious.

That’s right. The gang that brought us Bitter American likes fruit beers too. Yeah, they may be from San Francisco, but so was Bruce Lee.

Also, for anyone who missed 21st Amendment’s M.O., they’re patriots: 1) Their whole concept is to recreate the local brewery culture wiped out by that most-vile progressive experiment we call Prohibition; 2) their cans all have awesome American themes; and 3) they sell all of their off-site beers in cans — a proud invention of the American heroes at Coors.

Hell or High Watermelon

Hell or High Watermelon

Case in point: “Like Lady Liberty,” the box reads, “we stand for independence and perseverance. In the pursuit of innovative beer, there is no obstacle too great. No journey too long. No fruit too gigantic.”

And so, with the spirit of the pioneers, the gang from San Fran tackled the watermelon.

Hell or High Watermelon is hay-colored and so hazy you can barely see through it. The beer’s head is white — and very brief.

On the nose — quietly — freshly cut watermelon. This, when combined with the name, gave us no cause for alarm when we tasted the brew and found a burst of watermelon flavor. But give us a second! This is not a sickly sweet flavor, and this beer ain’t got no connection to that artificial — though delicious — watermelon Blow Pop taste. Though it is instantly recognizable, it is barely stronger than the subtle nose, and the melon fades as it rides out a gentle wheat-beer wave. A slight spice also haunts the palate, and it’s a pleasant ride.

Now, this beer is not for sipping by the fire, or even pouring into a glass (though the first time we had it we’d been drinking heavy beers for hours, and it was deliciously served in a cup with chunks of watermelon). Hell or High Watermelon is meant for drinking out of a can on a 90 degree day with a bunch of awesome friends while you grill up some food and celebrate the weekend before July 4. And that’s what we’d pair it with.

Girls will love it, but so will guys. And both will love it more when they crush it in a pool.

Oh, and one more thing: This beer isn’t heavy. Shot-gun that sucker. It’s Independence Day, buddy — break out the fireworks.

At $9.99 a 6-pack and 4.9 percent ABV, Hell or High Watermelon is a solid beer for a patriotic weekend.

Anchor Brewing’s Anchor Steam Beer, San Francisco, Calif.

In 1965, Anchor Brewing owner Fritz Maytag was having a bottle of Anchor Steam — which was first brewed during the Gold Rush in 1896 — at the Old Spaghetti Factory in San Francisco when the bartender told him the brewery was bankrupt and would be closing that Friday, and that he ought to visit the brewery before it shut down. Well, Fritz decided to buy it and turn it into what may be the first modern craft brewery in America.

“The best beer made in the world is in America, there’s no question about it,” Fritz told ReasonTV in 2010.” There’s more creativity and more integrity and more variety in America than the rest of the world combined.”

Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam

Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam

Now that’s damn near the most patriotic thing we’ve seen or heard since Washington parted the Delaware. And if we can’t all be sold on watermelon beer — even though we all should be — there’s one thing we can definitely agree on: Anyone who doesn’t think a cold bottle of entrepreneurial pioneering doused with American exceptionalism and flavored with malts and hops is not the best thing in the world can go to London and mourn Independence Day with the ghost of Benedict Arnold.

But back to the beer, and why it’s called “steam”: Well, the name comes from the nickname for West Coast beer made “under primitive conditions and without ice” in the 1800s. “While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery,” Anchor tells us, “it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans.”

That may not sound so delicious. But the product itself? Damn fine.

Kicking off with a dark, copper body and a medium head, Anchor Steam has a strong cereal nose with hints of fruit. A veteran of TheDC taste tests suggested apricot, but after much heated discussion, it was decided that no one present really knew what apricot smells like, so we’re sticking with “fruit.”

And honestly, this beer tastes like America. It’s classic, with a good mouth-feel. Sharp on the end of the tongue, but malty in the back, with a bitter fade.

After cooking up some seafood and dogs, it’s time for the big kahunas: steak and cigars, baby. So as the sun starts to set and, God willing, the temperature begins to drop, break out a case of Anchor Steam, relight that grill, break out the stogies and think about the men and women, soldiers and pioneers, workers and farmers who freed our beautiful land from Europe, settled it for America, and made it the greatest country in the world.

Also at 4.9 percent ABV, we picked up a six-pack for $10.99.

Delicious beer news from TheDC

Last week, Heavy Seas Beer (formerly Clipper City Brewing Company) launched a new Heavy Seas Beer Finder on their revamped website.

On June 25, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Victory Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Company are rereleasing a beer they first brewed together in 2010, with the Dogfish Head/Victory/Stone Saison du BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor). At 7.7 percent ABV, it will be sold in 12 oz. bottles and on draught. Though Stone released its version first, Dogfish Head and Victory will soon follow suit.

Ampleforth Abbey

Ampleforth Abbey

In the first week of July, The Benedictine monks of Britain’s Ampleforth Abbey are releasing Ampleforth Abbey Beer — “Britain’s first monastic beer since the Reformation, more than 450 years ago.” At 7 percent ABV, the beer will be sold in 330ml bottles for £36 a 12-pack. Though they eventually intend to build a brewery next to their cider press, for now the beer is brewed at Little Valley Brewery in West Yorkshire.

On July 24Port Brewing Company brand The Lost Abbey will release their 2012 Bourbon Barrel-aged Santa’s Little Helper, with 22oz bottles selling at $15 a pop. The release party will be Christmas-themed and is designed to “collect toys and cash to benefit the Marine Corps Toys for Tots foundation.”

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