I tried Anchor's Old Foghorn on a blustery evening in Dublin a few months ago and declared it my kind of barley wine. I stand over this judgement, so it was with great anticipation that I tried Anchor's Small beer, made from the weak sparge from Old Foghorn's meaty mash. Further to this was a long held desire to try this beer stemming from the glossy picture filled beer books of Jackson and Protz fame that I pored over many years ago. I can't explain why these beers stuck in my mind but I was dead keen to try them and in some sad way never thought I would because things were decidedly grim in the Irish beer scene back then.
At a mere 3.2% abv it must surely be one of the weakest beers on the American market today, save for any of the diluted excuses for beer that are presented to drinkers in some of the dry states. The most striking thing about this beer is its excellent clarity and liveliness - a persistent stream of bubble surge from the bottom of the glass, peppering the wonderful copper hue with activity. The foam is dense and long lived, offering plenty of hops and malt. This beer would make the perfect aperitif - it is bitter as hell, far more bitter than any English brewer would make the standard bitter that is alluded to on the label. The ghost of Old Foghorn is definitely in there, betrayed by the same, though understated sweet malt favour that makes the barely wine so enjoyable. It seems that Americans can do low alcohol beer every bit as well as the big hitters that are so popular at the moment.