Anchor Porter

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I have a bottle of Anchor Porter kicking around in my beer fridge, and eventually here Iím going to tell you a little about it. First, though, you should know that Iím lifting this glass of Anchor Porter in honor of a giant in the beer world, a giant who unfortunately passed away yesterday at his home in England. That giant was Michael Jackson, famed English beer writer who, as he was always fond of saying, didnít sing and didnít drink Pepsi.

It wasnít hard to find a beer to dedicate to Michaelís memory. He loved Belgian beers most of all many say, though I know he loved English beers with a home-grown pride beyond comparison, German beers with a fierce admiration, and Czech beers with a hearty gusto to rival the best of them. That said, I think Michael may have loved American microbrews most of all. After all, itís in only in America that you can so easily find so many wonderful home-grown examples of all of the above.

So Anchor it is, not least of all because of the fact that Michael and Anchorís founder, Fritz Maytag, were such good friends. If you ever have the chance to see Jacksonís Beer Hunter series that first aired on the Discovery channel (and is now kicking around on VHS) you really should. Itís truly a one of a kind production, and in one of the segments youíll see Jackson visiting the Anchor brewery and traveling around with Fritz and company.

I'll never forget the first time I met Michael Jackson. In a way, of course, I already knew him, through reading his books and watching his aforementioned Beer Hunter series more times than you can possibly imagine. So when I heard that he would be at a beer dinner in Orange, Connecticut, well, I just had to be there.

The event was a hit with most there, of course. Many seemed to be attending at the behest of their employers in the liquor industry, who must have hoped that they would gain some magical knowledge that would boost sales. When all the tasting and speeches and questions were over, they made a bee line for the exit.

But not me. Along with a friend who was and is equally enamored of beer as I, we stuck around and managed to sit at a table with Michael, chatting about beer for some time like he had known us all our lives.

And that was what struck me about Jackson. Sure, his name is not a household word, at least not in the sense that most know who he is. Obviously, it's the other MJ that comes to mind for the masses.

But maybe it's because of that that he never lost touch with his roots. I like to think, though, that it's because he was just a great guy. Thing was, you see, that as we all sat around chatting that night, Michael was clearly as interested in what we had to say as we were in hearing him. He was just a guy you were having a beer with, albeit a guy that knew more about beer than probably anybody else on the planet. I've met a lot of people in the beer business, and I can tell you not everyone is like that.

And that's what made Michael Jackson, well, Michael Jackson. And why he was revered among people who love beer. And why so many will miss him.

As I said, Michael was a big fan of the Anchor Brewing Company, just like me. Anchor was around at the very beginning of the American beer revolution, and some credit Fritz Maytag as being the true father of craft beer in America today. Beers like Anchor Porter are a good reason why. First brewed in 1972 and first bottled in 1974, Anchor Porter was a rarity at a time when there were few breweries in America, and few of them were brewing porters. Among those that did, none were as bold and flavorful as Anchor Porter.

Porters are ales (most of the time), usually a bit less robust than a stout, but only a bit less. Brewed with roasted malt they are dark and mysterious beers. But donít let all that flavor and dark color fool you, they are not exceptionally strong as a rule, and Anchorís is only slightly stronger than your average Bud.

Anchor Porter pours to a jet black color with a thick creamy head of tan foam and a roasty, slightly fruity nose. A thick layer of Brussels lace also clings to the side of my glass as the liquid descends. Right away, your tongue is bathed in strong roasted flavors of bittersweet chocolate and espresso, even perhaps a little vanilla. The beer is roasty like coffee but even a bit creamy at the same time, with good mouthfeel and solid body.

In the finish, expect that roasted bitterness to intensify. Some grassy hops poke through too, adding aroma and a bit of bitterness of their own. A good deal of that bitterness lingers on the tongue after sipping. Anchor Porter is almost more a stout than a porter in its intensity (the two are closely related after all), definitely falling into the robust subset of porters.

Anchor Porter is definitely a classic American beer from a classic American brewery. Itís easy to overlook Anchorís beers in the crowded craft beer market of today, but if you miss them, you miss much. Michael Jackson knew that. And thanks to him, beers like Anchor Porter are selling better than ever before.



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