Essential Info

  • Color: Amber to copper
  • ABV: 4%-5.5%
  • Commercial Examples: Anchor Steam Beer, Southern Tier 2X Steam

Like Cream Ale, California Common (aka Steam Beer) is a legit “American” beer style, developed in the San Francisco area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a response to the increasing popularity of lager. Brewers wanted to brew a refreshing lager—ideally something cheap and quaffable for the Gold Rush generation—but without as much refrigeration in the late ninteenth century, they had to train their lager yeasts to ferment at the coldest level of the warmer ale spectrum. No need to memorize the history or temperatures, though, as the style has only changed slightly; California Commons are generally medium-bodied, with malt and some light fruitiness balanced out by a healthy emphasis on woody (as in non-citrusy) hops bitterness.

An early and successful producer of the style, Anchor Steam trademarked the term “Steam Beer,” hence the alternate use of California Common elsewhere.