California Common

BJCP 19b

Overall Impression
A lightly fruity beer with firm, grainy maltiness, interesting toasty and caramel flavors, and showcasing rustic, traditional American hop characteristics.
Comments

This style is narrowly defined around the prototypical Anchor Steam example, although allowing other typical ingredients of the era. Northern Brewer hops are not a strict requirement for the style; modern American and New World-type hops (especially citrusy ones) are inappropriate, however.

History
American West Coast original, brewed originally as Steam Beer in the Gold Rush era. Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were traditionally used to compensate for the absence of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area. Fermented with a lager yeast, but one that was selected to ferment relatively clean beer at warmer temperatures. Modern versions are based on Anchor Brewing re-launching the style in the 1970s.
Ingredients
Pale ale malt, non-citrusy hops (often Northern Brewer), small amounts of toasted malt and/or crystal malts. Lager yeast; however, some strains (often with the mention of “California” in the name) work better than others at the warmer fermentation temperatures (55 to 60 °F) typically used. Note that some German yeast strains produce inappropriate sulfury character.
Commercial Examples
Anchor Steam, Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager, Schlafly Pi Common, Steamworks Steam Engine Lager