Well, well, what a surprise. Last Spring I was happy to see a new beer from Anchor Brewing company, Anchor Bock Beer, on my local beer stores shelves. A few weeks ago I saw a second, Anchor Humming Ale, much to my surprise. Keep in mind the last new brew I chanced upon from San Francisco's pioneering Anchor Brewing Company was their Summer Beer several years ago, and that was really just a renamed version of their long-standing wheat beer.
So, a new beer from Anchor is a big to-do, although it may become more common in the coming years. Back in April, Anchor's savior and craft beer legend Fritz Maytag sold the Anchor Brewing company to a pair of local entrepreneurs, who hope to build and expand the brand. Hopefully Anchor's classic recipes will survive the transition.
Humming Ale completes the cycle of seasonal brews now offered by Anchor. In winter, it will be the classic Our Special Ale, in spring the aforementioned Bock, in summer the Summer Beer and now Humming Ale in the fall.
I was curious about the "Humming" moniker, but Anchor describes it thusly:
HUMMING is an ancient term, used centuries ago to describe both ales and beers. Although its origins are shrouded in mystery, it suits this bold hoppy ale, which we have created to celebrate the anniversary of our first brew at 1705 Mariposa Street. From that very day we were humming!
Anchor Humming Ale was first brewed on August 13, 2009 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Anchor's Mariposa brewhouse. It was draft-only last year, but for 2010 is available in bottles for the first time. The beer is brewed with two-row barley malt and the rare Nelson Sauvin hop variety from New Zealand. It has a moderate 5.9% alcohol by volume.
Anchor Humming Ale pours to a cloudy yellow-golden color with a thick creamy head formation and an enticingly spicy, bright citrusy hops nose. The first time I took a sip of this delightful brew I knew I was in love. There's a bit of crisp, biscuity malt upfront, not altogether unlike a pilsner. Then the hops take over, and steal the show.
They're delightfully aromatic, and the beer is absolutely infused with their slightly piney, very citrusy appeal. Bright refreshing lemon notes mixed with grapefruit suggestions will put a smile on your face right on into the long, dry, lingering herbal bitter hop finish. A hint of sweet honey comes through as well.
I like the balance here. The light malt body is a perfect stage for the spicy hops to play on. It's there and you know it, but it only serves to accent the hops, never to detract from them. Beer geeks today tend to reserve their highest marks for huge, over the top beers with tons of malt, hops, and alcohol. But for my part, I'm equally enamored of well-crafted, balanced, drinkable brews like Anchor Humming Ale. It's one of the best beers I've tasted this year.
Update: September 29, 2011: This year I had a chance to sample Anchor Humming Ale on draft at my local Taco Mac. The beer is still a refreshing, tasty delight packed with fresh biscuity malt flavor. Surprisingly, however, the hops seemed much more subdued. Sure, there are some gentle citrusy notes, but the grapefruit and lemon are not as pronounced as before. As a result, I've brought this one down a star to 4 from 5.
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.