California Common / Steam Beer
75th highest rated style (of 102)
Highest RatedAnchor Steam Beer (81 / 100) Average score59 / 100 (Decent)
Lowest RatedAotearoa Smash! (19 / 100) Number Tried26
Cross Breed: Back to the Brewer Double Steam Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 17.12.17 in bottle
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Day 16 of my #fletchmas Advent Calendar for 2017. Reviewed blind.

Pours a very hazy pale yellow colour, touch of orange to it. Head is white; decent when poured but just a little film of small bubbles by now. Lacing is not very sticky. Looks hazy, with nothing else of note.

Smells pleasant. Big floral and fruity aroma with lots of tropical character - peach, mango and passionfruit with a slight citric edge behind it. Touch of rosewater and some very mild sweet spice - vanilla I guess - behind it as well from the malt I think. Sweet with a tangy, bitey edge. Pleasant.

Taste is mostly fruity as well but a bit odd. Starts fairly sweet with a biscuity and vanilla malt base, turns quickly tangy towards the mid with that big tropical character, peach and mango. Turns sharp late-mid with an almost sour twist to it that really feels quite harsh in the mouth, quite astringent and pithy. There's an odd texture on the tongue as well, like carbonation fizz but more protracted and drawn out, it's like popping candy. It just has this lasting sizzle, and it's an odd sensation with that tart, sharp bitterness. But then it finishes oddly sweet again, like the caramelised grain has one last hurrah, like that bit in the new Star Wars movie where Han rises from the dead and kills all the porgs. Overall it's quite pleasant, but it's more interesting than pleasant, and it's at least partially interesting because it's not obviously coherent and it's a bit unusual and enigmatic.

Drinks in a lively, strangely balanced, yet somehow disquieting way, it just doesn't hold its parts together in a way that makes it a relaxing beer to drink. Instead it kind of keeps me on edge. But I find it intriguing for sure.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 4.0
Stalins Organ
Reviewed by Jez on 17.03.15 in bottle
68 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. Listed as a "smoked pils/steam beer" on the importer's label.

Pours a pleasing, mildly hazed golden colour, with a firm white head of slightly frothy foam that sits around as a ring quite persistently. Some streaky lace forms, but the beer overall is quite light-bodied. Looks pretty decent.

Nose is rather pleasant. There is indeed a slight smoke that comes through, but it's balanced by a mild European hop character, and even a suggestion of green-bottle skunk, which is actually a nice match. The rest of the character is rather thin, but there's reverberations of other sweeter notes: perhaps a little carob or Milo. It's certainly interesting.

Taste is a little thin, but quite balanced and drinkable. Clean bitterness through the centre makes me feel a little like this is more towards the pils side of the labelled style, but there is still some very mild smoke to it as well—I'll be honest though, it's only a smidgin, and tastes perhaps more like what you can get with a slight savoury note—I may only attribute it to smoke because the label tells me so.

Feel is fairly clean, and with a slight metallic twang on the palate it feels slightly sharp as well.

Very drinkable though, with some interesting characters to it. It has a particularly pleasant aftertaste which allows it to feel a little uplifting and rather moreish. I only have one bottle of this, but I'd certainly be happy with five more to work through.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
St. Florian's California Common
Reviewed by Jez on 27.11.13 in bottle
61 / 100
650ml bottle purchased from Whole Foods, Los Altos, CA. Shared with Sam and Rich in Sydney.

Pours a clear but very deep amber colour, reddish in the deeper parts, with a fine and fairly solid head of off-white that stays persistently as a film and ring right to the bottom of the glass. Lacing is also good. Overall, it's actually very solid: a really decent looking brew.

Nose is clean, but malty, with a fairly solid richness underneath a slightly brittle metallic hop note. Mineral or slightly earthy characters come through as well. But the malt forms the basis, giving a caramel underpinning to everything else that's going on. Not bad.

Taste is solid, again malty and fairly full-bodied, but with a crispness on the back which has the attack of sour cherries, although without the acidity. Grainy notes creep in along the back which give a slight husky harshness which accentuates the slightly thin finish. It's not all that bad, but it's not really doing anything for me.

Feel is fairly full throughout, but it drops suddenly on the back.

Overall, it's fine. Solid enough—not really offensive in any way. It doesn't really give me much in the way of excitement, but I'd probably consider drinking it again.

appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
The Citizen
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 27.11.13 in bottle
63 / 100
Pours a deep burnt orange colour, a bit flat. Head is just a film of cloudy off-white. Looks like a beer. Congrats.

Smells fruity, with tropical notes. Passion, paw-paw, banana and some exotic spice. Pepper, Szechuan even maybe, some vanilla and peach. Intriguing.

Taste is more pedestrian. Bit of peach fruit, some notes of banana, apricot and some hop on the back. Pretty dry, though, and not bursting with flavour. I like the subtlety, it adds to drinkability but it seems like a lot of other beers without much special or unique to recommend it.

Bit of body, but no texture. Bit bland to be honest.

Nice enough flavours, could definitely drink all night. But just doesn't interest me that much.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.75
The Citizen
Reviewed by Jez on 05.10.13 in bottle
53 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods Los Altos, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam and Rich.

Pours a slightly hazed amber hue with a frothy crest of brittle white that settles to a pack of pocked pancake bubbles.

Nose is pretty bland. Slightly weedy vegetative character above a neutral malt sweetness that gives some rounded characters to the aroma. Mostly though, it's par for the course, even if it's not actively dull.

Caramel on the palate, with a slightly salty edge, giving it some pleasant savoury overtones. A hint of copper comes through, with a slight peppery back palate that it mostly lost in a wash of apathetic malt. I don't have a lot to say about the beer just because it doesn't have a lot to say about itself.

Feel is smooth enough, but slightly gassy. It's decent without being anything beyond that.

I found this beer to be exceptionally lacking in style or imagination. It's not even particularly well crafted for what it is. I'd say that it feels by-the-numbers, but I think it even falls short of that. I was pretty unimpressed.

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.0
Aotearoa Smash!
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 22.12.12 on tap
28 / 100
Pours a pale golden colour, steady bead feeding a foamy white head. Looks decent.

Bland and grainy on the nose. Slightly sweet and needs hops. NZ hops. Here I have an excuse for saying what I always say regardless of the style: "needs more NZ hops".

Malty again on the palate, but blandly and just grainy. Where are the hops? Slightly earthy but nothing on the back and nothing to give flavour. Very, very bland.

Fizzy carbonation, too, but a decent enough body. Carbonation really dries this up though. Meh.

Cloying, unpleasantly grainy. Simple and doesn't deliver what it promised. Very unimpressed.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 2.0 | taste: 2.0 | feel: 2.0 | drinkability: 2.0
Cali Common
Reviewed by Jez on 26.06.12 in bottle
68 / 100
Bomber picked up from Whole Foods in Soma, San Francisco.

Pours a pleasantly hazed but relatively light golden colour with a solid foamy, lagery white head. Lacing is full, sheeting and precocious. Lovely fine carbonation. It looks a treat.

Nose is crisp and dry, with a clean, leafy, slightly herbal hop fragrance, giving a slightly European aroma to the style. Some mild grainy sweetness comes through as well, but it's subtle: it doesn't overwhelm the clean crispness, which is certainly the dominant character. Not bad.

Taste is a bit flat, and a little un-nuanced, but still pleasant enough in its way. That grain character comes through as a husky, slightly dusty note, very much like a German pilsener, with a light phenolic bite on the back, with a hint of those leafy hops. It has a brightness to it, however, and there's a pleasant, very mild effervescence added by the judicious carbonation—the feel is one of its strongest points.

Pretty decent drop, this one. It's actually difficult to fault it, and in the end it delivers a pretty clean, drinkable package. I mean, it's not even that dull, which would be the only thing I can think about criticising about it. It doesn't really excite me, but it's very solid.

I'm just going to enjoy it.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Aotearoa Smash!
Reviewed by Jez on 26.05.12 in bottle
19 / 100
Single malt, single hop (Wai-iti) California Common from Boatrocker in Victoria. Tried on-tap at GABS in Melbourne.

Pours a pale golden colour, extremely clear and light in the body. Head is white, and forms as a firm ring, with some film across the top. Decent lace, and lots of streaming carbonation. Looks pretty good.

Unfortunately, it takes a dip from that point on. I tried in vain to get any aroma from this beer at all, but there's very little to it. "Maybe water?" say my notes. Really, it was exceptionally disappointing.

Light honey on the palate, with a weak grain note mid-palate, finishing with an insipid faint bitterness that seems like apologia. Feel is light and sparkling, but really doesn't do much at all.

Yep, it's drinkable, but who cares? This was one of the dullest, if not the most offensive beers at GABS. I guess the only offensive part was that they describe it as having "plenty of citrus (mainly mandarin)". Not even close.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 1.0 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.0 | drinkability: 2.5
Old Scratch Amber Lager
Reviewed by Jez on 13.10.11 in bottle
56 / 100
Pours as promised: a solidly amber brew, with good clarity and a filmy off-white head that forms when induced. Pleasantly fluid body and some fine but rather listless carbonation. Lacing is decent enough, especially given the less-than average head. Overall, not a bad look. Above average, if not by much.

Nose is slightly grainy, with some slight organic fruitiness, giving some esters of banana and peach skin. Touch of hoppiness to it as well, giving a fresh bite that cuts through the rest. It's subtle, but it has some pleasant complexities to it. Not bad at all.

Unfortunately, the complexities, subtle or otherwise, are lost on the palate. Here we have a rather thin and insipid tale of mild grain-infused water, giving a husky amber edge and very little else. By the end of the palate, almost everything has abandoned this wasteland in search of greener climes.

It's clean enough, and drinkable in a bland and fatalistic way. It doesn't inspire you to drink better beer, unfortunately—it makes you just resigned to the fact that this is what beer is going to be. It's kind of depressing.

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.0
Beer Camp: California Common
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 29.09.11 in bottle
66 / 100
Pours a metallic gold colour, very light bead in the clear body. Head is slightly off-white, fluffy and dense, retaining a finger of clingy lace. Looks good.

Smell is fairly pleasant. Plenty of hop character - some citric notes but largely resinous and slightly metallic edge as well. Hint of golden syrup underneath and a whisper of toasted muesli at the back. Good California Common aroma.

Taste is sweet to begin with, with lots of cereal grain, oats and barley that develops slightly earthy hop notes midway, even as it becomes sweeter, with a real caramelised grain note late-mid that goes along with the mildly resinous hop character. Finishes a little sweet, with a cloying, sticky yeast note not quite cleaned up by the hops, which add a tartness without cleansing.

Bit of fizz is noticeable through the insufficient body. Not offensive, though, just a bit too much tingle.

As the result of a Beer Camp, this beer leaves me very slightly disappointed. But as a brew, it's very good.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Beer Camp: California Common
Reviewed by Jez on 10.07.11 in bottle
61 / 100
Pours a very bright and clear deep golden colour, with a foamy, and large-bubbled head of white. Head collapses rather quickly, and is not fed unduly by a large amount of carbonation. Overall, it looks pretty good.

Nose is clean and light, with some classic crushed grain and light grassy hop aroma; all very subdued and clean. It's not meant to be a big style, and this fits the bill, even though it means it's also not that exciting.

Again, clean and light on the palate, with some slight peppery tones and a crisp, dry bitterness on the finish. More grainy notes as well, and the extra 1.5 percentage points of booze makes itself felt, given it's very mild flavour-wise. Feel is light and clear, although the extra strength adds some unwelcome heat.

Not a bad brew, and not a bad stylistic example, but the 6.5% is really unneeded and I feel hinders what should be a light and drinkable beer.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.0
Steam Exchange Steam Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 13.05.10 in bottle
63 / 100
Pours a bronzey red colour with a nice quick trail of bubbles up the glass. Head is quite beautiful, beige and densely packed with good retention. Lacing is quite good, could be better. Overall, quite a charming looking beer.

Nose is pleasant and mostly fruit. Nice floral notes with a nectar tinge to them and a good whiff of sweet, fresh fruit including rockmelon and some citrus. Slight grassy hop notes but it's dominated by malt and fruit esters. Subdued, but appealing.

Taste is actually quite English, at least at first. Fair amount of malt with hints of English toffee and some roasted barley edge to it. Has a mustiness that comes through late-mid with an earthy hit of soil, slight woody notes and a resinous hop character. A slight phenolic aftertaste of furniture polish. Not strong, though - for the most part this is sweet, quite mild, drinking.

Feel is a bit lacking but goes down smoothly.

Bitterness at the back is slightly too earthy for my taste, but it has a nice balanced progression from sweet start to the more bitter-but cleaner - finish. A decent drop and a decent steam beer.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Steam Exchange Steam Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 11.05.10 in bottle
74 / 100
(Very Good)

Pours a light copper colour, brilliantly clear with a foamy and thick head of sheeny white bubbles. Lacing is excellent. An excellent looking beer all up, and a great looking steam beer.

Lightly sweet rosewater characters on the nose, with a bit of spice and pepper. Perhaps a thin vegetal organic note through the center. Lots of sharp, fragrant and very pleasant notes.

Slightly grain-malt forward on the front, with a rustic organic sharpness followed by a slightly astringent coppery bitterness on the back. Clean and crisp finish, and crisp in the feel without too much carbonation.

It's hard not to compare any California common to Anchor Steam, but this beer does a cracking impression of it. It has the clean crisp bitterness through the back, the light but refreshing body and the fragrant but slightly off-kilter aromas on the nose.

This style is not a huge or robust one - and it is based largely on one canonical example - but this beer is a very good representative of the genre, and Steam Exchange have done a very good job replicating it here in Australia.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Steam Beer
Reviewed by Jez on 19.04.10 on tap
61 / 100

Tried at the brewhouse on a recent trip to Singapore.

Pours an orangey gold colour, with a filmy white head and some consistent carbonation. Colour is very nice. The lack of head is a shame, but the lacing is good. Overall, a pretty good looking beer.

Light hop aroma with a slight fruit character. Pretty thin and perhaps of a bit smoky, bit not bad. Stylistically, I can see its genesis copying Anchor. Not bad.

Taste is clean and crisp, with a slight hook of odd steam beer bitterness. Clean but drinkable. Mouthfeel is crisp and round. Overall, it's not terribly extreme, but it has some nice characters which fit stylistically.

Probably the best beer I had on the day at Brewerkz. Overall, it's not a life-changing experience, but you're pressed for options in Singapore. At least this beer delivers something vaguely interesting.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Mountain Goat Steam Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 12.07.09 on tap
50 / 100

On tap at Sydney's Local Taphouse US Beer SpecTapular.

Extremely pale, slightly hazy yellow color with a filmy but fine head of white bubbles. Lacing is pretty good. Some beading carbonation not bad.

Some light hoppy notes, and a light rank character, not unlike Anchor steam. Some bread yeast pops up later, which is a shame, and rather rinses away my memories of the pleasant characters up front. Otherwise pretty true to style

The taste bombs heavily though. Very bready and thin on the palate. The bread note is dominant, and I can't say I approve. Some light fruit or American cherry notes, but not enough interest to detract from the fact that it's very weak and not very flavoursome. Mouthfeel is thin, but ok.

I'm not terribly impressed and worse, I'm disappointed. This is not much more than a thin bland lager. Drinkable in its way, but not very exciting. A real shame given some of the great American steam beers.

(Also, surely "Steam Ale" is a contradiction in terms??)

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.0
Mountain Goat Steam Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 08.07.09 on tap
40 / 100
(Not Great)
Pours a pale straw colour with slight haze but mostly translucent, pretty good snowy head that's settled down now into a thin ring around the rim. Pretty nice, but fairly standard.

Nose is a OK, but a slight Pride of Ringworm character, or bread yeasty anyway, comes through with a hint of corn, but otherwise a fair hit of malt and a slight bitter hop character, maybe some lime as well? Pretty average.

Taste has a very bread yeasty character and not much else. Pretty bland with some amber malt and some unpleasant hops. Nutty and yeasty with not much nuance. Good on Mountain Goat for brewing a California Common, but I'm really not sure if I should call this an American Pale Wheat Ale instead, what with the wheat malt and calling itself an 'ale'. This is a bit meh, not much to taste or recommend.

Mouthfeel is a bit tangy and fizzy but otherwise OK. Overall it's not too bad but if I don't ever drink this again I think I'll survive.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 2.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.0
Anchor Steam Beer
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 23.07.08 in bottle
81 / 100
Pours a slightly orange golden hue with a thin beige head that retains its shape well. Fast carbonation. Like, it's FAST. Decent, but not mind-blowing.

Interesting nose. I can't quite put my finger on it. There's a sweetness, kind of a sweet pastry smell to it. It's subtle and underplayed and yet full-bodied. There's quite a pleasant, almost buttery character on the nose. Almost some kind of deep plummy jam as well? Wow, it's certainly unique.

That sweetness continues on the palate and has a back palate similar to a mild English ale but it's sweet and almost like a waffle or something. Maybe it's because I'd always imagined a steam beer would taste like a waffle for some reason. The palate kind of folds over and well, I don't know. It's unique. Lots to like though, and yeah, I quite enjoy drinking this. Pleasant and unique. Smooth and velvety mouthfeel.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Anchor Steam Beer
Reviewed by Jez on 20.07.08 in bottle
74 / 100
(Very Good)

Thanks to my girlfriend for bringing this back from the States for me.

Nice dark orange, tending-to-amber body with a tightly packed head of off-white foam. Lots of streaming carbonation. Excellent lacing. Nice looking beer.

Odd toffee characters on the nose, hints of grain bread and molasses. Even an odd tang reminiscent of sea-water. Or am I imagining that from the Anchor imagery?

On the palate, it's quite unlike anything I've tried. The taste profile's just warped. Light, frothy kind of bitterness first up, then a subtle, smooth, vaguely sweet honey character, and finally, a grassy fresh fragrant flavour. Finish is quite dry and with a residual pleasant bitterness. Really even a vague seafood character lurking at the back, which I swear I'm not making up, like fresh mussels or pipis. It's quite unlike anything I've had before, but it's the sort of beer I can imagine starting to crave after a while, just because it's so unique.

Really pleasant, very drinkable beer. It's the sort of beer that makes its way by pure quality, not by being something extreme. Next time I myself am in San Francisco I'll be picking up a couple more of these for sure...

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5