Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn
- Caramel and nut
- Rich, sweet toffee followed by hoppy bitterness
- Strong bitterness
There are certain beverages that have achieved legendary status in my mind. They have the combination of great memories and difficulty in procuring. If I could find these legendary drinks regularly, they’d probably tip into the mundane and lose their shine in my memory. There’s an irony in that, but the fall from legendary isn’t that great, as I’m loyal to my favorites. All this is my way of saying, “Stop making these things hard to find!”The pinnacle of my legendary beverages is Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn. My friends, family, and the poor souls who would dare sit next to me at a bar know that Old Foghorn is practically my Holy Grail. There was a time that I was able to find this in my area regularly. That was close to twenty years ago. But for about one year, there were two locals where I could find it on tap—I’ve still never had it in the bottle. One of those places, Tubby’s, home of the $2 pint, burned down. The other, a deli that for some reason serves pints of beer, is still there, but, while have achieved legendary status of its own around here, has stubbornly refused to join the 21st century by having no web page and no longer having Old Foghorn on tap.
I’ve begged local beer distributors to get a keg or a case. I’ve offered to buy what ever inventory they get so it wouldn’t stay collecting dust in their stores. (This offer still stands!) I’ve sent tweets to Anchor Steam, asking if it knew where Old Foghorn was in New York. I’ve checked beer menus online, and considered how much it would cost to travel to another state where it might be more available. And for years, there was much disappointment and wistful thoughts about the fabled, legendary Old Foghorn.
But the wonderful Mrs. Ferment went to search for it, hoping to buy a six pack as a gift for me. She has a contact in San Diego who was unable to find it. Anchor Brewing is in California! Even in its home state, the beer is impossible to find. Imagine her surprise and delight when she searched Beer Menus and found Old Foghorn, on tap, at one unlikely place within 10 miles of DnU HQ. Road Trip American Ale House is a sports bar/restaurant that has 20-some-odd teevees all tuned to football. But they have a mighty selection of craft beer. I couldn’t believe it when Mrs. Ferment told me she found Old Foghorn. I was sure once we got to the restaurant, I would be told that no one ever heard of it.And sure enough, the waitstaff had not heard of it, but that’s because no one ever orders it. It was there, on tap at the bar, as promised. At long last, I was going to get a glass of Old Foghorn. The wait between ordering and receiving was filled with anxiety that I grew out of my enjoyment of it. What if my tastes have changed radically from so long ago? When the beer was put in front of me, I could barely raise it to my lips.
But when I did taste it, twenty years of memories flooded across my tongue. Old Foghorn remains the best barleywine. There is not a hint of the coppery flavor that some barleywines have. The mix of bitterness to sweetness is perfection. It’s a strong beer, so there’s some kick to caramel malt, a hoppy heat that lingers on the palate. It doesn’t punch one in the mouth, like so many other hoppy beers, but lulls with the sweetness that turns sharply bitter when swallowing. The barleywines that followed in Old Foghorn’s footsteps don’t capture that balance.
I bought a growler of Old Foghorn at Road Trip American Ale House. The bartender was surprised by my interest, since it doesn’t sell. I’m saddened by this. With no financial reason to continue distribution in New York, it’s likely that it will be another twenty years before I come across it again. Or worse, Anchor Brewing may cease to make it, just like the second-best American barleywine, Monster by Brooklyn Brewery. I live in an IPA world, and it seems like barleywines won’t ever get the recognition that they deserve. The last glass of Old Foghorn that I pour out of my growler may be the final one that I get to drink.