A quick note about what's cooking in our home R&D 'brew labs'.
The Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco, CA trademarked the name Steam Beer for their enduring classic, and one of my favorite go-to bottles. The beer style that encompasses their Steam Beer is the California Common. Many people who are not writing blogs still interchange these names synonymously. (I hope I phrased this correctly to not pay royalties or get sued. If not... I love you).
The California Common was a popular beverage of the working class on the West Coast in the 19th century. Think Gold Rush era. At the time there weren't really beer 'styles' as we know of and love debating today. There was high-brow beer in bottles from breweries that could afford the good stuff. Conversely, there were Common ales: cheap, quick, easy beer made from the resources at hand to be consumed in quantity by the folk who labor with their hands. Refrigeration was a scarce luxury, so broad and shallow vessels were used by some breweries to cool their fermentation with the Pacific sea breeze. What sets the California Common apart is the yeast– a lager yeast which tolerates ale fermentation temperatures. The lager yeast gives this beer its distinctive brightness and fresh bubbly quality. It is a perfect beer for an after-work drink.
My take on the style is pretty traditional (save for the ocean air). Thanks to the 21st century, we have the good stuff and I blend barley malts for smooth medium body, a touch of caramel sweetness, and a faint bit of smoke to evoke the memory of old time San Francisco. True to form, I stick to Northern Brewer hops, carefully scheduled to keep this beer smooth and refreshing as the morning fog rolling out. I love Northern Brewer hops, they have a rustic green woodsy flavor that captures the Northern West Coast.