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Weekend Sip

Is canned beer better than bottled? After 100-plus years, Anchor Steam is available in 12-ounce cans for the first time

Canned version of Anchor Brewing Co.’s flagship ‘steam’ beer is ‘an enjoyable brew that’s mildly hoppy and has a pleasing caramel-like sweetness’

Anchor Steam beer in cans is still, well, Anchor Steam, an enjoyable brew that’s mildly hoppy and has a pleasing caramel-like sweetness.

Erin Conger

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The can: Anchor Steam Beer, $11.99 per six-pack

The back story: For most fans of craft beer, Anchor Steam is a familiar name. The San Francisco brewery behind it, Anchor Brewing Co., now owned by Japan-based Sapporo Breweries 2501, -0.69%, actually predates the craft revolution, with a history going back to the Gold Rush era. It remains a signature sip in the craft community partly because of the unique brewing method behind it, which involves fermenting yeast typically used for lager-style beers at warmer temperatures more typically associated with ales.

But enough of the technicalities. The real question is what makes Anchor Steam relevant right now? In short, cans.

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After 100-plus years, Anchor is available in standard 12-ounce cans for the first time. (Don’t worry, bottle lovers — it’s still available that way, too.) A generation ago, cans were considered a no-no for beer geeks, largely because of the metallic taste some felt they imparted to the brew. But that has changed in recent years with better can-lining technology. In fact, cans have become the go-to vessel for many a craft aficionado, with market researcher Nielsen NLSN, +5.53% saying the format is likely to become even more popular over time.

If anything, Anchor is a little late to the trend: Venerable craft brew Samuel Adams SAM, +4.14% introduced its “Sam can” seven years ago, and Colorado-based Oskar Blues and others were canning their brews as much as a decade before that.

Either way, Scott Ungermann, brewmaster at Anchor Brewing Co., says he’s a can fan. He notes that cans have several advantages — for example, they are light-proof (light is an enemy of beer) and leak-proof. And he says the can-lining technology of today does “preserve the flavor of beer quite well.”

What we think about it: We admit we’re still of that older-school bottles-are-better way of thinking. But, truth be told, Anchor Steam in cans is still, well, Anchor Steam, an enjoyable brew that’s mildly hoppy and has a pleasing caramel-like sweetness. Ungermann says you should also pick up a “final hint of banana.”

How to enjoy it: Just crack open a can and enjoy. The Anchor team says the beer does pair especially well with grilled foods — perhaps a steak with caramelized onions.

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