Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anchor: Humming Ale - Nothing else like it, really

Established in San Francisco, Anchor has a long history of beer making, where its name was received as early as 1886 during the heart of California’s legendary Gold Rush. After years of financial hardships and shutdowns during the 1950s and 60s in the face of the large market for light lagers, today Anchor leads the way as one of America’s – and perhaps the world’s – benchmarks for first-class craft brew production (see for example my previous post on Anchor's 2011 Christmas Ale).
In the distant past, the term “humming” was used to describe strong, active ale, and was sometimes attributed to ales using freshly harvested hops. Since humming is a term that describes sounds made by bees or “humming” birds, the use of the word is most likely a reference to the hissing or fizzling sound that the froth may sometimes give off.

Humming ale is effectively based in Anchor’s Liberty Ale, but with some notable differences in the hops. According to Anchor, the Humming Ale’s distinctive flavor comes from New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hop, which is known for imparting an intense fruit flavor. And a fruity and distinctive ale this is. But it’s distinctiveness seems to come from the yeast rather than the hops, although it could be from the combination of the two.

Life in the glass begins with a pale golden color, producing a solid standing and an amazingly well-retained “humming” white head and a dense and sticky lacing matrix. The nose of Anchor’s Humming Ale is certainly fruity, but juxtaposed on a background aroma that took some time to place. I eventually concluded with the nose of well-aged cheese – something like Port Salut.  Indeed, no other beer I’ve had produces a nose quite like this one – kind of rough, slightly pungent, but just so wonderfully curious at the same time. Other aromas include grapefruit, lemon, spruce, as well as some florally notes as the Humming Ale warms a bit.

Like the nose, the taste again reveals both potency and complexity. On the palate, that aged-cheese background feels a bit more like a bready background perhaps, peppered with citrus fruits, herbs, and spruce. Humming has plenty of carbonation and a medium body. The surprise comes with the finish, which delivers a respectable dry and bitter “in your face” punch.

Overall, Anchor’s Humming Ale is well-balanced, complex, potent, and seriously dynamic from start to finish. As a bonus, I must say that I have yet to have a beer that smells and tastes quite like this one. To simply recommend the Hummer Ale sells it short; this one is a must try!


Anchor’s Humming Ale on Ratebeer

Anchor Brewing, Humming Ale

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