California Common

Let’s talk California Common beers – a style invented right here in the Golden State.

These easy-drinking lagers were first brewed in the late 1800s during the Gold Rush era. They use a unique fermentation method called “California Common” – a lager yeast fermented at warmer ale temps.

This gives a crisp, snappy palate with clean lager character paired with subtle fruity ale notes. California Commons have a signature orange-amber color from caramel malts. The malt profile lends bready, toasty flavors.

Moderate Northern Brewer hopping provides an earthy, herbal bitterness that balances the malty sweetness. ABV is around 4.5-5.5%.

The mellow flavors and easy drinkability make California Commons perfect for pub fare, burgers, pizza and grilled foods. They’re especially tasty with a little seafood like fish tacos!

Here’s a list of 10 popular commercial examples of California Common beer, each with a brief description:

  1. Anchor Steam Beer – The most iconic and widely recognized example of California Common. Brewed by Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, this beer is known for its deep amber color, distinctive malty flavor, and a subtle hint of fruity esters from the unique fermentation process.
  2. Flying Dog California Common – A modern take on the traditional style, Flying Dog’s version offers a slightly more hop-forward profile, balanced with a solid malt backbone. It’s a refreshing and approachable beer, perfect for those looking to explore the style.
  3. Steamworks Steam Engine Lager – Brewed by Steamworks Brewing Company, this beer strikes a beautiful balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness, featuring a crisp and clean finish that’s characteristic of the style.
  4. Schell’s Nordeast – A tribute to the heritage of California Common, this beer from August Schell Brewing Company offers a robust and rich flavor, with a smooth and slightly sweet finish, making it both unique and highly drinkable.
  5. Sierra Nevada Steam Breaker – Sierra Nevada’s interpretation of the style, Steam Breaker, showcases a more pronounced hop character, while maintaining the smooth and balanced profile typical of California Common.
  6. Telegraph California Ale – Telegraph Brewing Company presents a slightly different take on the style, with their California Ale being more yeast-forward, resulting in fruity and spicy notes complemented by a subtle hop bitterness.
  7. 21st Amendment Toaster Pastry – An interesting twist on the California Common, this beer from 21st Amendment Brewery is slightly stronger and offers unique berry-like esters, alongside the traditional malty and hoppy flavors.
  8. Common Roots Brewing Company’s Modern American Common – This beer puts a contemporary spin on the classic style, offering a brighter hop profile with a clean and refreshing finish.
  9. Anchor California Lager – Although technically a lager, this beer from Anchor Brewing shares a similar historical background and flavor profile with California Commons, featuring a rich maltiness balanced by a moderate hop presence.
  10. Urban Chestnut Schnickelfritz – While not a traditional California Common, Schnickelfritz from Urban Chestnut Brewing Company incorporates elements of the style, delivering a beer with a smooth lager-like cleanliness, complemented by a unique fruity and spicy yeast character.

California Common: The Unique Beer Style with a Rich History

Hey there, beer enthusiast! Ever heard of California Common? If not, you’re in for a treat. This isn’t just any beer; it’s a style with a story, born and brewed in the Golden State.

It stands out in the crowded world of beers with its unique characteristics and fascinating history. So, let’s dive into the world of California Common and discover what makes it so special.

History of California Common

Early Beginnings in the Golden State

Imagine California during the Gold Rush era – a place bustling with prospectors and adventurers. Amidst this chaos, a beer style was born: California Common. It’s like the old Western movies, but with beer!

This beer was a product of necessity, crafted by ingenious brewers who had to adapt to the limited resources and unpredictable conditions of the time.

Impact of the Gold Rush Era

Now, picture the Gold Rush scene: miners craving a cold one after a hard day’s work. California Common was their go-to drink.

But why? Because it was brewed locally, using the unique ‘steam’ method – a technique born out of the lack of proper refrigeration. This era wasn’t just about finding gold; it was about finding the golden balance in brewing a good beer.

Evolution of the Brewing Process

Over time, California Common evolved. Brewers refined their techniques, and the beer matured into the distinctive style we know today. It’s like watching a black-and-white movie turn into color – the essence remains, but the quality improves.

This evolution showcases the ingenuity and resilience of early Californian brewers who turned limitations into a brewing art form.

What Makes California Common Unique

It’s All About the Ingredients and Process

Here’s the secret sauce: California Common is brewed with a special type of lager yeast. But there’s a twist – it’s fermented at warmer, ale-like temperatures.

Think of it as a hybrid car of the beer world, combining the best of both worlds. This unique fermentation process gives California Common its signature flavor – a bit like a lager, but with the fruity notes of an ale.

A Flavor Profile Like No Other

Now, let’s talk taste. Imagine a beer that’s like a warm California sunset – amber in color, with a hint of caramel, and just the right amount of hoppy bitterness.

That’s California Common for you. It’s the kind of beer that makes you say, “Ah, that’s different!” after the first sip.

Not Just Another Beer

Comparing California Common to other beers is like comparing surfing to swimming – both are in the water, but the experience is entirely different.

While it shares some characteristics with other ales and lagers, its unique brewing process and flavor profile set it apart. It’s not just another beer; it’s a testament to California’s brewing heritage.

Brewing Techniques and Ingredients

Crafting the California Common

Brewing California Common is like being a part of a historic tradition. It’s not just about throwing ingredients into a vat; it’s about maintaining a legacy.

The brewers use specific techniques, especially the steam brewing method, which involves fermenting lager yeast at higher temperatures.

Imagine a tightrope walker balancing delicately – that’s the brewer, balancing the yeast’s behavior to create this unique beer.

Key Ingredients: More Than Just Hops and Barley

The main characters in our story are the hops, barley, and the special lager yeast. Each plays a crucial role.

The hops provide a subtle, earthy bitterness, while the barley brings in the rich amber color and malty sweetness.

And the star of the show? The lager yeast, fermenting away at ale temperatures, creating a symphony of flavors.

Fermentation: The Heart of the Process

Fermentation is where the magic happens. It’s like a dance between the yeast and the sugars, transforming the brew into the beer we love. This process is what gives California Common its distinctive flavor – a little fruity, a little crisp, and entirely delicious.

How to Brew California Common

How to Brew California Common with Recipe

Flavor Profile and Serving Suggestions

Taste the Golden State

Sipping a California Common is like taking a bite out of California’s brewing history. The beer greets you with a rich amber hue, a creamy head, and a scent that blends caramel with light fruity notes.

As you taste, the malt’s sweetness hits you first, followed by a refreshing hop bitterness. It’s a well-balanced act, leaving you with a clean, satisfying finish.

Perfect Pairings and Serving Tips

California Common is quite the versatile companion for a range of foods. It pairs splendidly with grilled meats, hearty stews, and even spicy dishes.

The key is to serve it just right – not too cold, letting the flavors shine through. Think of it as serving a fine wine; you wouldn’t rush it, would you?

Popular Brands to Try

There’s a world of California Common out there. Anchor Steam Beer is the poster child, the one that started it all. But don’t stop there! Explore other brands and discover how each brewery adds its own twist to this classic style.

The Cultural Impact of California Common

A Pillar in American Brewing

California Common isn’t just a beer; it’s a piece of American brewing history. It’s a survivor of the Prohibition, a testament to innovation in the face of adversity.

Its journey from the Gold Rush to modern-day craft beer menus tells a story of resilience and adaptability.

A Staple in Modern Craft Beer Culture

Today, California Common stands tall in the craft beer scene. It’s like an elder statesman in a room full of young upstarts – respected, admired, and emulated. Its unique style has inspired brewers far and wide, influencing new variations and interpretations.

Influencing the Beer World

The legacy of California Common extends beyond its own style. It’s like a teacher whose lessons have shaped many students.

Its brewing techniques and flavor profile have inspired a whole generation of craft brewers, making it a pivotal part of the beer world’s evolution.

Pros and Cons of California Common

Advantages: Why It’s a Brewer’s Delight

  • Historical Significance: Brewing California Common is like tapping into a rich vein of brewing history. It’s a chance for brewers to connect with and continue a storied tradition.
  • Unique Flavor Profile: This style offers something different in the vast sea of beers. Its blend of ale and lager characteristics makes it a standout choice for those seeking variety.
  • Versatility: Its balanced flavor profile makes it a great companion for a wide array of foods, enhancing its appeal in bars and restaurants.

Disadvantages: The Other Side of the Coin

  • Brewing Challenges: The unique fermentation process can be a tightrope walk, requiring precise temperature control and expertise.
  • Niche Appeal: While it’s a gem, California Common might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or pint of beer), especially in a market that constantly craves new and bold flavors.
  • Competition: In the ever-growing craft beer market, standing out can be a challenge, and California Common, despite its uniqueness, faces stiff competition from more trendy styles.

Ratings and Reviews

The Digital Verdict

  • Online Beer Communities: On platforms like Untappd and BeerAdvocate, California Common enjoys a respectable reputation, often praised for its balance and drinkability.
  • Brewer Websites and Blogs: Craft beer bloggers and brewers who delve into historical styles frequently highlight California Common, noting its significance and unique brewing process.
  • Comparative Ratings: Compared to more mainstream styles like IPAs and stouts, California Common holds its own, often appreciated for its uniqueness and historical roots.

FAQs about California Common

Q1: What exactly is California Common?

A1: It’s a uniquely American beer style, known for its hybrid brewing process using lager yeast at warmer, ale-like temperatures.

Q2: How does it taste?

A2: Expect a balanced blend of malty sweetness and a light, hoppy bitterness, with a touch of fruitiness.

Q3: What makes it different from other beers?

A3: Its distinctive fermentation process and the combination of ale and lager characteristics set it apart.

Q4: What are some popular brands of California Common?

A4: Anchor Steam Beer is the most iconic, but there are many craft breweries that offer their own versions.

Q5: Is it easy to brew at home?

A5: It can be challenging due to the specific fermentation requirements, but it’s definitely achievable with some brewing experience.

Q6: What food pairs well with California Common?

A6: It’s great with grilled meats, spicy dishes, and robust stews – really versatile for pairing!

Q7: What’s the alcohol content typically like?

A7: It generally ranges from 4.5% to 5.5%, making it a moderately strong beer.

Q8: Is California Common widely available?

A8: While not as ubiquitous as some mainstream styles, it can be found in many craft beer bars and specialty stores.

Q9: How should it be served?

A9: Ideally, serve it not too cold to allow the flavors to fully express themselves.

Q10: Has California Common influenced other beer styles?

A10: Yes, it has inspired brewers globally, contributing to the evolution of hybrid and craft beers.


As we wrap up our journey into the world of California Common, it’s clear that this beer is more than just a refreshing drink. It’s a piece of history, a testament to innovation and resilience, and a beloved member of the craft beer community.

Whether you’re a seasoned beer aficionado or a curious newcomer, California Common offers a unique taste of California’s brewing heritage and a delightful experience for your palate.

The Future of California Common

Looking ahead, California Common is poised to continue its legacy in the ever-evolving craft beer scene. Its unique story and distinctive flavor profile ensure it remains a cherished choice for those who appreciate a beer with character and history.

As new breweries experiment and add their own twists, the future of California Common looks as bright and promising as a sunny California day.

Embracing Tradition and Innovation

In the world of craft beer, where the quest for the new and novel often takes center stage, California Common stands as a reminder of the importance of tradition.

Yet, its story is also one of innovation – a beer style born out of necessity that has adapted and thrived through the ages. It embodies the spirit of brewing at its finest: honoring the past while embracing the future.

A Toast to California Common

So, here’s to California Common – a beer that’s as much a part of California’s history as the Gold Rush itself.

Whether you’re enjoying a pint at your local pub or toasting with friends at a beer festival, remember the journey this beer has taken from the 19th century to your glass. Cheers to a beer that’s truly a common treasure.