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California Common / Steam Beer


The California Common beer history dates back to the late 1800s. At the time Lager brewing had become the popular new trend, so lager yeast began traveling from the east to the west with adventurous brewers that saw new opportunities. However, when they reached California it became apparent that the climate was less than hospitable for working with lager yeast. This change in climate and difficulty to get ice made the brewing of true lagers impossible, so they improvised, creating the California Common Beer.

This California Common beer style is unique to the United States and uses a method that dates back to the late 1800s when refrigeration was a luxury. It involves brewing lager yeast at temperatures closer to that of ale brewing. Keeping the beer in long wooden vessels called 'coolships' when peak fermentation was reached kept the beer cooler and reduced off flavors. The finished beer went into very stout barrels with a set amount of unfinished beer at its fermentation peak, where it could condition and carbonate over a set time period.

California Common was historically known as California Common Steam Beer, although today the name Steam Beer is trademarked by San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company, therefore all other examples of the style must legally be referred to as California Common. It is though the name 'Steam' came from the brewery's idea to place their coolships on the rooftops, taking advantage of the cold San Francisco nights. The temperature difference would cause the beer to steam. Anchor Brewing's Steam beer ABV is 4.9%.

Today's examples of California Common beers are light amber to tawny red in color with an off-white head, medium body, and have an ABV in the 4-6% range. The brew possesses a moderate malty sweetness, hidden fruity undertones, low hop bitterness, and a crisp clean finish. The best California Common beer glass is a nonic pint. Some great food pairings include: Mexican food, barbecue, Cajun spices, pork loin, sharp cheddar, and pepper jack cheese.

We are excited to share this incredible brew with our craft beer club members. Cheers!

Breweries Producing California Common / Steam Beer