Beer is known to have many different styles and types. Among the most popular ones are American IPAs. They are known traditionally for their bold hop aroma, high bitterness, and citrus flavors. They are usually brewed with higher amounts of hops in the boil kettle, leading to the high bitterness and mid-palate hop flavor in the style.
Today, you can find different brands of American IPAs. But have you ever thought about what is the first brand for this style of beer? The first modern American IPA was Anchor Liberty Ale. It was first released in 1975. It was chosen as one of the 25 essential IPAs of America. If you want to learn more, read on as we’re giving you more information about Anchor Liberty Ale.
The Beer That Started the Craft Revolution
As mentioned earlier, Anchor Liberty Ale was first brewed in 1975. It was to commemorate the beginning of a revolution, which was the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. When you visit a taproom, bottle shop, or local watering hole today, you will find an IPA-heavy variety of foamy offerings. While the history of the India Pale Ale can be traced overseas, the American version starts with Anchor Liberty Ale.
Back in 1965, Anchor Brewing Company was bought by Frederick Louis “Fritz” Maytag. He saved the 70-year-old brewery from closing permanently. When he started with the business, there were mostly major breweries producing lager. The smaller breweries during those times just tried to compete by producing cheaper lager compared to the big brands.
Maytag knew that model would never work. With that, he decided to put his attention on quality. He was hands-on, which led him to charge a bit more for his beer. It took about nine years before he saw a profit. After he did, he decided to expand the range of Anchor outside the standard Anchor Steam and the recently introduced Anchor Porter, which was the first beer produced by an American craft brewery after Prohibition.
He drew inspiration from a stronger ale that he had tried when he traveled in West Yorkshire in England. When he returned to the United States, he concocted the newest beer of Anchor, which is the Liberty Ale. It featured hops like no American beer ever had before. The Liberty Ale defied existing labels.
Anchor’s Liberty Ale was more sparkling compared to the pale ales of England. It was brewed with whole-cone hops and made using only natural ingredients. Two years earlier, Coors was the one that experimented with Cascade hops, which was a new variety of American hop. However, Coors used the innovative American hop in small quantities to convey some slight notes. But Anchor went all-in on it. In addition to using hops during the boil to create a more bitter beer than anything most Americans had ever tasted, Anchor also used it to dry-hop Liberty Ale and provide a fragrance that US-based nostrils had never experienced. For the first time, the citrusy and floral aroma of the Liberty Ale drove hopheads crazy and flowed from draft lines.
The Liberty Ale was the first American IPA. Since it was introduced during the time when “American Pale Ale” and “IPA” still didn’t exist in the United States, it was called their “special ale” back then. Michael Jackson, the famous beer writer, referred to the Anchor Liberty Ale as the first modern American ale. Its introduction set in the movement of the craft beer tidal wave that would build over the next few decades slowly.
Pale Ales are what started the microbrewery revolution. After the introduction of Liberty Ale, the New Albion Ale from New Albion Brewing Company entered the scene. However, it was a short-lived brewery that only made 7.5 barrels a week. After that, it was followed by the infamous Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which was usually advocated as one of the original and premium craft brews. This means that Anchor Liberty Ale was the style that launched a thousand little breweries. It also inspired a lot of homebrewers and transformed the landscape of beer in the United States.
At the present time, IPAs account for close to a quarter of all the sales of craft beer. The style is also the most famous category at the Great American Beer Festival. Back in 1971, there were around 100 breweries in America, including Anchor. But at the present time, there are around 3,800. The beer industry of America has made 1.75 million jobs, and that is not just because of the big brands, but as well as small breweries.
Therefore, the next time you visit a brewery, try to order their latest IPA that features the current hottest hop. Let us all raise a toast to Maytag and Anchor Brewing Company for introducing this style of beer in America.
Characteristics of Anchor Liberty Ale
From: Anchor Brewing Company, California, United States
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 5.9%
Anchor Liberty Ale has champagne-like bubbles, a distinctive hop bouquet, and a balanced character. It revives centuries-old ale brewing traditions. It is brewed strictly according to traditional craft brewing methods, and it is made of only natural ingredients. Some of the ingredients used include pale malted barley, fresh whole-cone Cascade hops, special top-fermenting yeast, and water.
The yeast used in making the Liberty Ale during fermentation creates many of its subtle flavors and characteristics. It also undergoes a natural process referred to as “bunging.” This process makes gentle carbonation. Also, the practice of dry-hopping or adding fresh hops to the brew during aging, which was revived by Anchor, provides its unique aroma.
Anchor Liberty Ale is indeed among the most important beers in American history. There was nothing much that changed with how Anchor Liberty Ale was made before compared to now. Perhaps the only way the beer has changed in the last 45+ years is that it is currently available in cans. It is truly an original craft-brewed ale and a historic beer that started a revolution. We hope this post helped you learn more about Anchor Liberty Ale.