The year was 2010, and we were all shocked by the news. Fritz Maytag, modern brewing icon and savior of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, had sold his company. Certainly, Fritz had earned the right to retire. At 72, he had spent over four decades with Anchor, having bought the brewery in 1965 when it was about to close. To give some perspective, I was a year old then, and not really interested in beer.
It didn’t take long for that to change, and I started drinking beer in 1982 when I turned 18. I can’t remember if it was in 1982 or 1983 that I started drinking Anchor Steam, my first Anchor brew. I do remember that it was very exotic in those days, and a bit pricey at $8.99 a six-pack. However you slice it, Anchor and I go way back.
I got to know Fritz Maytag better in the eighties in the beer books that I voraciously devoured in those days like Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer and Bill Yenne’s Beers of North America. All About Beer magazine often had articles on Anchor and Fritz as well, though he perhaps did not really come to life so well as he did in the California Pilgrimage episode of Jackson’s Beer Hunter series.
Thus, for me anyway, it seemed a little strange to posit an Anchor without Fritz. In retrospect, I have to say that the new owners, The Griffin Group, have done quite well with Anchor. In fact, they’ve expanded the horizons at Anchor brewing with new beers and limited run draft-only brews. Case in point: Anchor Flying Cloud Stout, part of the Zymaster series of specialty beers.
In fact, Flying Cloud Stout is release 3 in this series, and the first Zymaster beer I’ve tasted. These beers are draft-only and very rare, so best to try them if and when you see them. The name Zymaster comes from the term zymurgy, basically the name for the science of fermentation. Anchor describes the Zymaster series as follows:
1: a new word coined by Anchor Brewing to describe a brewmaster with hands-on experience throughout the a-to-z process of creating a new beer, from the research and selection of the raw materials and development of a recipe to brewing, fermentation, cellaring, and finishing
2: a unique series of beers from Anchor Brewing, rooted in its exceptional respect for the ancient art and noble traditions of brewing and featuring extraordinary ingredients, innovative techniques, and unusual flavors
Anchor seems to try to tie each release in the Zymaster series to California via some historical connection. Apparently, Irish Foreign Extra Stout was sent to California in the 19th century aboard clipper ships like The Flying Cloud; ergo the name of the beer and the style. They give this as a foreign extra stout of 7.4% alcohol by volume, though Taco mac had it listed as 7.5%. At any rate, FES is a very rarely produced style here in the United States, so let’s give it a go, shall we?
My mug of Anchor Flying Cloud Stout Foreign Extra Stout arrived jet black in color with a thick creamy tan head formation and a very roasty nose with hints of licorice. Mind you, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is one of my very favorite beers in the world, and I must say this is close! They have the harsh roastiness and licorice down pat. I get chocolate pudding, too, and grassy herbal hops in the finish. I think the fruity raisin is missing, and the gentle sourness in the finish. For that matter, it doesn’t have the sweetness of a Dragon Stout. Otherwise, though, this is a very nice approximation indeed and a wonderful beer on its own merits.
Certainly a beer that I would love to enjoy on a regular basis. It’s not your average stout, and it’s not an imperial stout; it’s somewhere in between, and a lovely beer worth going out of your way for. Fairly, priced, too, at $6.50 for a full pour.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.