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Let's talk California Common

I’ve made a steam twice. Once was my 3rd extract batch ever, once it was Jamil’s Steam. Both were huge hits (with me and others). Its one of those styles that I never really liked until I brewed it. Then I loved/love it.

Based on Jamil’s recipe, there seem to be two schools of thought.

Jamil’s: A complex and malty amber beer featuring NB hops. I made this for a party, and people were sucking them down like coca cola. There is quite a bit going on with it (I believe it has pale ale malt, crystal 60, and a small %age munich and pale chocolate malt). This beer actually got dinged in comps for NOT having enough NB character (minty/woodsy), but I think is pretty approachable for the average big-beer-going-toward-craft consumer. Some brewers/drinkers criticize Jamil’s for having too much going on, which would explain my comp results, as the malt would definitely confuse the hop character that should come through.

Jamil actually says in BCS that his is indeed a little different, and you can simply drop some of the specialty malts to get some closer to

Anchor Steam: This is a pretty pale beer. I’m sure there are clone recipes out there (including the simplified version of Jamil’s), but I would guess pale ale malt (maybe 2-row?), maybe some light crystal, vienna, munich or victory. On draft, it is truly a different beer than in bottles. The hop aroma and flavor is simply amazing, and really underrated IMO. They really should start canning this, because the hop character comes through so much more when served from a keg. In bottles, it seems to be bitter, spritzy and a bit boring.

I have 8oz of NB hops, and was thinking of brewing something closer to the latter version, but with a neutral bittering hop, hopstand and maybe even dry hops. I’d like to get it bittered on the lower end of the style guidelines if going the pale route, but get a lot of hop flavor and aroma into it.

Oh finally, on yeast. I have used both San Fransisco lager, and WY 2206. I have to believe 2206 is darn close to what the settlers in early CA had, and both made great beers.


I tried anchor steam once because I was thinking about brewing a ca common. It was in bottle who knows how long when i tried it. My memory of it was bitter. Very bitter like if miller lite had 40 ibus. I like the idea of a ca common though I may have to revisit the idea and brew one

I had been put off by old bottles and hadn’t had Anchor Steam for a long time. Then had it on tap in Berkeley a few years ago and it was a revelation. The draft version is soooo much better than the bottles.

I brewed one last fall that was 91.5% 2 row and 8.5% crystal 40. I used 2112 and it wasn’t a clone, but I really liked it.

Edit: corrected the yeast I used

For a 5 gallon batch, I would aim for an OG of 1.052

go with 10 lbs. of American two-row
A half a pound of American Crystal 40 or 60.
Bitter with Northern Brewer to about 25 IBUs.
Then add a 50 50 mix of NB and Cascades at about 1 ounce combined for flavor (10-20 minutes) and aroma (Knockout or later)

Pitch lager yeast or fake lager yeast.

And that should be pretty authentic. No need to muddy up the basic recipe.

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