Steam beer is just plain fun. Since most fun things are born out of the phrase “necessity breeds invention” it makes it even more the fun. You see, what is now a trademark by the Anchor Brewing Company (Steam Beer) was really a beer that was just nicknamed what it looked like in different forms: first, it was called a “steam” beer because in the days of yore before the mother of invention birthed the ability to adequately cool the hot wort (unfermented beer) prior to fermentation the folks of San Francisco (where the style developed) had to cool their Lager wort on the ceilings of the brewery, so the cool Pacific breeze could lower the temperature. Because there were vats of just boiled liquid on the rooftops getting cooler, the liquid let off it’s own steam due to the difference in temperature and the brewery looked as if, to the onlookers, it was “steaming.” Second, also because of this lack of temperature control (we’re talking somewhere during the Gold Rush days), pouring the beer for the customer would result in a lot of pressure building up in the vessels and the barkeep would have to add relief to it before pouring, which would basically sound like a steam engine. In actuality, a Steam Beer is simply a lager, which is fermented at either warmer-than-lagers-are-typically-fermented or what could also be known as “ale” temperatures.
This style also has the “necessity gives a happy little birth to invention” across the pond as well, where the Germans have their own version known as Dampfbiers. Those were born in the forests of Bavaria (at the time a not-so-rich area) where local brewers had to use what they had in order to make their beer. For them, they had barley, not wheat and they had no way to control the temperature for fermentation. They would scrounge yeast from nearby Weissebier breweries (Wheat beer) and ferment in large open vats. These fermentations, because they’re warm, would actively chug along and their appearance would be remarked that it looks as if they’re steaming (Dampfbier is translated into English by way of the words, “Steam Beer,” go figure).
Of course, there’s much much more to the stories than that. I’m not trying to rewrite Wikipedia again (my lawyer says I have to stop doing that, still); I’m just trying to give you a glimpse into the world that is the history of beer. We will have a really nice version of the California Common (also another name of a Steam Beer, better known as an “AKA”) from Berryessa Brewing out of Winters, California, which is 68.5 miles away from San Francisco by way of I505-South and I 80 West.
What you can expect is a beer that is straw to golden in color with a bready Lager medium bodiedness and hoppy bitterness.