I try a lot of beers from a lot of breweries, but I don’t have editorial space to review most of them, so I’m going to start doing so here on GrandConversations. Instead of reviewing them with analysis of flavor, I’ll take a look at their background, either why a brewer made it, or where the name comes from.
Here is the first:
Beer names are becoming harder to come by, so when a brewery reaches starts naming beers based on objects with historical significance, I am more inclined to enjoy its name.
Anchor’s Flying Cloud actually was the beer that inspired me to start with this series of beer “reviews” since the name is so great. It’s also coming from a brewery that holds perhaps the most historical significance in the craft beer world.
Before airplanes and the rise of railroad transportation or trucking, supplies had to take a harrowed journey across oceans. None more daunting than the trip around Cape Horn to get from the United States’ East Coast to West Coast.
Anchor, situated in San Francisco, took a look at the historical significance of those journeys and the beer involved and picked an incredible name for its “Anchor Argonaut Collection:” Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.
The Dublin-style export stout is named after a clipper that made the journey from New York City to San Francisco six times in the 1800s. The label even includes a picture of the ship from before its first voyage in 1851.
The ship was the fastest of any, completing the trip in 89 days, a record that stood until 1989.
The beer in the bottles pays tribute to the beers that would travel with the ships to later be savored in the mouths of prospectors during the Gold Rush. The export stouts have higher alcohol content because the original brewers wanted to ensure the beers survival across long ocean trips. The higher grain bills allowed more hops in the boil for preservation — along with high ABV — so hops wouldn’t be needed added throughout the trip, as in IPAs.
The beer was a solid representation of an export stout, which there aren’t many of in the U.S., with big chocolate flavor and a dry finish; quite bitter as well. Flying Cloud paired perfectly with the beef stew for dinner that evening.
A full account of the Flying Cloud’s journeys can be found at Anchor’s website.
Other Export stouts of note: Left Hand’s Fade to Black this year was an export stout, and it was one of the finest stouts I’ve had in a long, long time.
Lion Stout from Sri Lanka can be purchased for something like $3.99 a four pack.