Style of the week: Steam Beer!

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July 21, 2014 by fhsteinbart

Traditional open fermentation tank of Steam Beer called a "coolship" or Baudelot cooler.

Traditional open fermentation tank of Steam Beer called a “coolship”

Truly an American original, Steam Beer is as unique as it is undefinable. Lost to history is the naming convention, and what does it really mean by “Steam” beer anyways? Of all the opinions I’ve heard over the years, the only consistent one that makes any sense at all refers to the frothy head and the geyser-like spouting of beer foam when the keg was tapped. Steam power had existed for over a century when the style erupted on the West coast of the U.S., so I don’t think that explanation fits. At any rate, this hybrid beer is more like a lagered amber colored IPA than anything else. Fermented at higher than usual and customary lager temperatures, yet cooler than most ale temperatures of the day, Steam Beer proudly sits as America’s one true unique brewery creation. According to the Wahl-Henius guide to beers and brewing, this beer was light straw to deep amber colored, well hopped, and highly charged with carbon dioxide gas, hence the billowing head upon dispense. Most common was the serving of the beer on draught, but bottled versions were made, but to a much lower enumerative effort by the breweries. Below is a recipe that replicates the last and most well known representative version of the style: Anchor Steam.

Extract version:

OG:1.052 FG:1.018

7 lbs. Extra Light LME

8 oz. Crystal Malt 60L

8 oz. Dextrin Malt

3.25 oz. Northern Brewer Hops (bittering, flavor, aroma)

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or ½ tsp. Irish Moss

Wyeast 2112


  • Heat 2-5 gallons of water to 165°F
  • Place grains in a steeping bag and steep at 160°F to 170°F for 30 min. Remove grains.
  • Turn off heat and add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • Return to Heat, bring to boil for 5 min. then add 1.75 oz. bittering hops. (Northern brewer)
  • At 30 minutes .75 oz. flavor hops (Northern Brewer) and Whirlfloc tablet or Irish moss.
  • At 10 minutes add .75 oz. aroma hops (Northern Brewer) and finish boil.
  • Turn off heat and cool mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller.
  • Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using non-distilled bottled water or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well)
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 68°F to 70°F.

All Grain version:

OG:1.054 FG:1.015

9 lbs. 8 oz. Domestic 2 Row Malt

1 lb 8 oz. Crystal Malt 40L

8 oz. Dextrin Malt

1.75 oz. Northern Brewer Hops(bittering-60 min)

.75 oz. Northern Brewer Hops(flavor-30 min)

.75 oz Northern Brewer Hops (aroma-10 min)

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or 1/4 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast 2112 or Whitelabs WLP 810 or Fermentis Saflager W-34/70


  • Infusion mash at 155F for 90 min.
  • Sparge until 6~6.5 gal wort has been obtained.
  • Boil for 1 to 1 1/2 hours
  • Adding bittering hops after 15 minutes boiling and continue to boil for 60 minutes
  • Aroma hops at last 20~30 minutes remaining
  • Flavor hops and Whirlfloc at last 10~15 minutes
  • Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 150 gms. corn sugar, or kegged to 25 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 55~60°F in a proper straight sided mug or tapered pint glass.


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