Sunday, 27 March 2016

Marston's Revisionist California Steam Beer

We don’t often shop at Tesco’s; there’s nothing wrong with the chain so far as we’re concerned, it’s just that there isn’t a branch close to where we live. Last weekend though, we were shopping in Maidstone, and mindful of the weekly shop, decided to call in at Tesco’s large Leybourne store on the way home.

As is my wont during food shopping trips, I leave my wife to do the bulk of it, and nip off to collect a few items of my own. My wife prefers to do things this way, insisting that it “Only takes one person to shop”. I am also happy with this arrangement, and apart from re-appearing at the checkout, to help with the packing, the rest of the time is my own.

I normally have a look in the beer section to see what is on offer, and as Tesco is a supermarket we don’t often visit, I was bit like a kid in a sweet shop. One beer which caught my mind was the Revisionist California Steam Beer, “Craft brewed by Marston’s exclusively for Tesco”. Retailing at just £1.00 a bottle it seemed to good a bargain to miss.

California Steam Beer was a hybrid style of beer popularised during the Californian Gold-Rush. Basically Steam Beer is brewed by using bottom fermenting lager yeasts at ale temperatures. This results in a distinctive flavour profile which includes characteristics of both ale and lager. It was a beer born out of necessity, as there was no ice, or other means of cooling available in that part of West Coast America at the time.

The most famous brand of Steam Beer today, is brewed by the well known Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco. Although today’s Anchor Steam Beer is a modern beer, brewed using modern techniques, the beer is still fermented in shallow open vessels at typical ale temperatures, just as it would have been back in the 19th Century.  Today's Anchor Brewery can proudly, and quite justifiably, claim credit for having sparked off the American Craft Brewing Revolution, for it was back in 1965  when Fritz Maytag  rescued the brewery from bankruptcy, and re-constituted the company in its present form; eventually spawning a whole host of imitators all eager to produce their own "craft beer".

Marston’s have obviously decided to get in on the act, with their own version; although I imagine the use of the word “Revisionist” in the title is to get round the fact that Anchor have trademarked the term Steam Beer.” The use of the term “Craft-brewed”, is  pretty meaningless, unless it's a cynical attempt to cash in on the burgeoning "Craft Beer" market.

So what of the beer itself?  Well its strength is 4.7% ABV, and is a copper-coloured beer. There are definite fruity esters in the taste, which are indicative of fermentation at elevated temperatures. Marston’s describe the beer as “An amber-coloured, lager/ale hybrid beer with a warming fruity flavour”, which basically agrees with my summation.

For a beer retailing at such a give-away price it’s good value; although I’m not sure I would want to drink too many. It’s also an interesting experiment in trying to recreate an old style of beer, and given the comments above regarding Anchor’s own version, this beer from Marston’s is a pretty good attempt.

I’m sure this is just a “one-off” special promotion between Marston’s and Tesco’s, but if you see it on offer at your local store, it’s well worth picking up a few bottles.


Reading Tom said...

Revisionist is Tesco's own label craft beer range brewed for them by Marrying. There's about six in the range, including the steam beer and a Samson. Some are better than others

BryanB said...

Although the Revisionist project also includes one-offs, this is one of the core brews and has been around a couple of years, Marston's gave each of its brewmasters the chance to brew a style they wouldn't normally do for the Revisionist and this is one of them - it was one of Genevieve's choices:

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for the update about the Revisionist Project, Tom and Bryan. Not being a regular shopper at Tesco, the whole thing has passed me by, but next time I’m passing one of their stores I’ll make appoint of popping in to see what else is available from this range.

Gary Gillman said...

Good piece Paul. My understanding is coolers in the 19th century sense have not used at Anchor since the 1960s. They do still ferment in shallow pans at ambient temperature, AFAIK. Your description sounds similar to the flavour of Anchor's beer, to me it always has a Vienna lager-like taste even if that sounds wrong on various stylistic grounds... Like in some Vienna, I get a slight DMS note in Anchor, the lager yeast heritage, but there is a kind of ale note to it too. Can you get Anchor Steam Beer in the U.K.?


David said...

A friend told me that Tesco's is no longer going to sell this range, which would explain why they've been flogging them off cheap recently. Certainly they are all gone from my local branch now.

Paul Bailey said...

Glad you enjoyed the piece, Garry. You are right; of course there are no longer open coolers at Anchor, especially as the brewery moved into new premises in 1979. I have corrected and updated the post accordingly.

We can fortunately buy Anchor Steam Beer in the U.K. The well-known food and clothing store, Marks & Spencer are regular stockists, and some of the major supermarkets also carry the brand.

Thanks for the update on Tesco’s, David. I remember reading somewhere that they were looking to rationalise their beer range. It seems that dropping the Revisionist range might be part of this strategy.

BryanB said...

Interesting comment about Tesco - the beers were at Craft Beer Rising as "the Revisionist Beer Co" I think it was, so maybe Tesco only had a limited time of exclusivity and Marston's is now taking the full range independent.