26 days of beer

C is for California Common

There are a few names for beer styles that confuse me.

For instance, what the hell is the go with ‘‘Cascadian Dark Ale’’? Everyone was getting along fine when we were calling it a black IPA. It worked – it was black, it tasted a bit like an IPA – black IPA.


But someone somewhere decided that a simple, logical name wasn’t a good idea. And so we get the official style description of ‘‘Cascadian Dark Ale’’ which, if you ask me, is far, far less evocative than ‘‘black IPA’’.

‘‘California Common’’ is another one that caused me to scratch my head. We’re talking steam beer here, yeah? So why not just call it steam beer?

Well, because Fritz Maytag at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco doesn’t like other people using that phrase apparently. His brewery pretty much resuscitated the old west coast style of steam beer – releasing it as Anchor Steam Beer.

And, as these things go, the brewery trademarked the name (though how they were able to trade mark a style is beyond me. Much like that New Zealand issue where DB Brewery trademarked the style ‘‘Radler’’) and has sent those ‘‘cease and desist’’ letters to some breweries that decide to – even cheekily – use the word ‘‘steam’’ in the name of their beer.

Mountain Goat probably hasn’t received such a letter over their Steam Ale as the OCB says Anchor hasn’t had much luck enforcing their trade mark outside the US.

So the Beer Judge Certification Program, not wanting to get into a fight with Anchor, called the style California Common rather than the much more sensible – and, again, evocative – steam beer.

What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.

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