Trunk show: Anchor launches its new IPA

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Read Sam Devine's story on Anchor's planned waterfront brewery in this week's paper.

Last week, Anchor Brewing and Distilling launched an IPA to much fanfare at their Mariposa Street brewery. Initially, one may be surprised that Anchor has joined the frenzy of hoppy West Coast beers. But this is not the first IPA it has released. Originally brewed in 1975, its Liberty Ale was the first IPA to be brewed on the West Coast after Prohibition.

So Anchor is not just hopping on the bandwagon. It's getting back on the wagon that they hopped in the first place — with Cascade hops, and while experimenting with dry-hopping methods.

The new Anchor IPA has a rich copper color and a sweet, hoppy aroma. Mildy bitter to taste, it has a good burst of hop flavor and a grainy, malty back end. It finishes crisp-to-dry and does not have the lingering grapefruit that many an IPA offers. All in all, it's a well-balanced, easy to drink beverage.

The release party was quite a shindig, cramming a happy throng amidst the copper kettles and in the tap room. “Passport Stations” were set up along the way as a sort of parlor game, educating the crowd on the beer's rich history and explaining the use of the elephant on the new beer label.

The first kiosk asked party-goers to devise which statement was false: a) IPA stands for India Pale Ale, b) IPAs became popular in the 18th century, c) Production of IPAs expanded with exportation to India.

The answer is b)! India Pale Ales became popular in the 19th century through shipments to that faraway place where elephants roamed.

The next station featured bowls of the of six varieties of hops used in the new beer: cascade, Apollo, Citra, Nelson Sauvin, Haas, and Experimental No. 431. “It smells like weed,” said one party-goer holding a handful of little green buds. And it really does.

Another way-point described the antiquated phrase “See the Elephant,” which was a 19th century term for heading toward adventure: "Tom, I'm off to 'see the elephant.' Wish me luck.” “You're a fool, Jones.” “Go fly a kite, Tom!” The phrase was supposedly bandied about quite a bit during the Gold Rush, tying the elephant label neatly in with Anchor's late 19th century roots.

Last but not least was a station for the Performing Animal Welfare Society. This non-profit advocates against the use of animals for entertainment and maintains wildlife sanctuaries for “rescued performers.” We learned that, sadly — no matter how well an elephant is treated in captivity — controlling and training an animal of that size requires some unpleasant techniques, leaving the animal with an unhappy childhood.

Doin' all that-there learnin' was made easier by confections and freely pouring taps. Boccalone, makers of fine cured meats, sliced up “delicious pig parts,” and Three Twins Ice Cream handed out two specially-made ice creams. One was the flavor of IPA and the other tasted of Bock beer. In addition to those treats, the evening's caterers, Melon's, had a surprise hit with their grilled-cheese-and-apple sandwiches.

Much of the staff, from CEO, to brewer, to tour guide were on hand. Alas, no show from Fritz Maytag, but he is officially retired now and immersed in his many hobbies — too occupied to bother donning silly hats in a photo booth while imbibing ales... perhaps wisely so.

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