bottle shop

Anchor Steam in Wollongong


My home town of Wollongong is starting to see a few bottle shops moving into the world of craft beer. One of the newer ones is Crown West Cellars, way up the top (or “non-mall”) end of Crown St.

I went in there a week ago and found they’d made a considerable leap, stocking Steam Beer and Liberty Ale from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing. That would have to make them the only bottlo on the South Coast stocking these beers. At least I think it would – I sure can’t recall seeing them in anyone else’s beer fridges.

While it’s a great thing to see international craft beer here, it’s always a little surprising too. I can’t help but think this beer was made in the United States but has ended up all the way on the other side of the globe, in a city called Wollongong. A city Anchor savior Fritz Maytag has probably never even heard of.

Stuff like that might not surprise the kids of today who live in a globalised world but I’m an old man. I come from an age where getting things halfway around the world was a huge hassle. When you sent a letter overseas, you had to put a blue “Air Mail” stamp on it, which seemed somewhat exotic and special. But, for the most part, international deliveries came by sea mail, which meant a wait of three months (never knew why it took that long. What were they using that took three months to cross the ocean? Paddle boats?).

So the likelihood of seeing something imported from the US in a store in your town wasn’t a regular occurrence. And if you did see something – like an issue of a magazine, say – it’d likely be three months old. And when it comes to good beer, I think we can agree that no-one wants to drink some that’s spent three months on a boat.

I’d already had the Liberty Ale, so I bought a sixer of the Steam Beer (splitting up the six-pack wasn’t an option. I asked). I’d also had the Steam before but that was in a time when I had little idea of beer. I don’t have any recollection of the actual beer, however, not even of the distinctive squat bottle it comes in. Clearly I was paying no attention at all.

I presumed that it would taste like Mountain Goat’s Steam Ale but Dan (aka Frozen Summers) pointed out to me on my Untappd check-in last night that they’re not the same style at all. Anchor’s is to style with lager yeast fermented warm while MG’s is ale yeast fermented cool. I really should learn more about this stuff.

Based on my first bottle last night, I reckon I still prefer Mountain Goat’s, though that could just be because my palate is not at all used to the distinctive flavour of Steam Beer – which is a caramel malty flavour that seems to have a different edge to it, perhaps due to the warm fermentation with lager yeast.

Anyway, I’ve got five more bottles of the Anchor beer to drink. Surely my palate will have adjusted to it by then.

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