California Common

Glassware: Shaker pint
  • USA
  • Lager
  • ABV = 4.5 – 5.5% (Normal)^
  • IBU = 30-45
  • SRM = 9-14

An amber-coloured American lager with a rustic, traditional American hop character, pronounced bitterness, and a light fruitiness possible.

Similar in appearance to American Amber Ale, but with specific choices for malt (toastier) and hopping (traditional, not modern, American hops); also, warm-fermented lager yeast is used.


  • Colour^ = Light amber to amber
  • Clarity = Generally clear

Key Aromas & Flavours:

  • Malt = Low to moderate; toast, caramel
  • Hops = Moderate to high; herbal, resinous, floral, or minty
  • Yeast = None to low; fruity, if present
  • Malt = Moderate; toast, caramel
  • Hops = Low to moderately high; herbal, resinous, floral, or minty
  • Yeast = None to low; fruity, if present (otherwise clean)
  • Perceived Bitterness^ = Pronounced
  • Balance = Slightly towards bitterness (Moderately malty with a pronounced hop bitterness)

Fairly dry and crisp finish, with lingering hop bitterness and a firm, grainy malt flavour


  • Body = Medium
  • Carbonation = Medium to medium-high

Characteristic Ingredients/Processes:

  • Malt = Pale ale malt, plus small amounts of toasted or crystal/caramel malt
  • Hops = Traditional (non-citrusy) American hop varietals, often Northern Brewer
  • Yeast = Lager yeast
  • Process = Fermented at warmer temperatures than ususal for lager yeast (13-16 °C / 55-60 °F)

Historical Development:

An American West Coast original, brewed as Steam Beer during the Gold Rush era. Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were used to compensate for the lack of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area.

Modern versions are based on Anchor Brewing re-launching the style in the 1970s, with Anchor Steam serving as the prototypical example.

Northern Brewer hops are not a strict requirement for the style, but modern American and New World hops (especially citrusy ones) are inappropriate.

Commercial Examples:

Anchor Steam, Steamworks Steam Engine Lager

^Sourced from the Cicerone Certification Program’s International Certified Beer Server Syllabus (Version 5.0)
All other information is sourced from the BJCP 2021 Style Guidelines

Discovering Beer is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.

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