REVIEW: Prohibition Ale from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Location: San Francisco, CA
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 6.10%
IBU: 45
Appearance: Warm, Deep Reddish Hue; Light, Fluffy, Tan Head
Aroma: Complex; Citrusy, Piney & Spicy Florals
Flavor: Sweet; Malty with Toasted Grain & Caramel Notes
Availability: Year-round — Bottle & Draft
Pairs With: Cheeseburgers, BBQ Chicken, Pizza

Before the terrifying days of Prohibition, the United States was chock full of small breweries – over 3,000, in fact.

Unlike the middle of the 20th century, it was easy for a large town to have multiple traditional brewers. The Prohibition put many of these brewers out of business, and most of them got rid of their hardware and moved on to different careers.

Some of them resorted to brewing sodas and other non-alcoholic drinks, keeping the equipment in shape for post-Prohibition recovery. Some of these also may have brewed some beer on the side, supplying alcoholic beverages to illegal drinking establishments, known as speakeasies.

It’s with a wink and a nod to this dark period in beer history that Speakeasy Ales and Lagers has named its brewing company, and its beers. With names like Bootlegger Black Lager and Untouchable Pale Ale, there’s a clear theme running through the brews. Their flagship beer, Prohibition Ale, is a hugely popular amber ale that is one of the most widely available beers in the San Francisco area, where Speakeasy is based out of.

Speakeasy Prohibition Ale


The label is a striking red and white on black backing affair, evoking movie posters from the Prohibition era. A man stands outside of a speakeasy, dame on his arm, a pair of eyes looking back at him. Very artistic, and a label worth keeping.

Pour it out into the recommended English pint or shaker glass, and it will have a warm, deep reddish amber hue to it. The head is very light tan, fluffy, and leaves some great lacing around the glass.


The aroma is complex, with a number of scents from hops coming through. Citrus is the most obvious, especially the grapefruit that tends to come from the West Coast hops used in this beer – Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial.

This is followed by some pine notes and spices, all of which is underscored by the slightly sweet and bready caramel malt base


The taste has a sweet, malty backbone to it that shines the whole way through. There are notes of toasted grain and caramel underneath the maltiness. While the hops come through in the aroma, they are a bit more subdued in the taste.

There is still the mildly bitter, lightly citrus flavor throughout, with a very light finish too it, no real hops sting on the end of a mouth full.

Tasting Notes

Prohibition Ale is creamy, with a medium-to-light body. It has average carbonation, not overpowering, allowing for a smooth finish. It is a brew that is incredibly easy to drink, no severe bitterness, and while not overwhelming in any one area, it is an all-around star.

The mid-range alcohol by volume means that this beer toes the sessionable line, and it definitely drinks like it. It is an outstanding beer, but if you’re looking for an amazing flavor experience, it might not be the one for you.

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

A favorite in the San Francisco area since it was founded in 1997 by Steve Bruce and Forest Gray, Speakeasy has only recently expanded its distribution area. The company has attributed making it this long in the competitive California market to not overstepping its bounds and staying traditional – they still use their original hands-on, steam-fired brewhouse to produce the beer, with no computers involved in the process.

The majority of their beers are simple and flavorful. They do produce some experimental batches now and again, but these beers are only available at their tap room or their brewery. The company has the feeling of one where the folks involved are doing something they enjoy, and not pushing themselves to be overly successful or to push the boundaries, but simply to have fun and make a living at the same time.

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Jeff Flowers

About Author

Jeff Flowers has been a self-described beer geek for over a decade now. When he's not chasing his daughter around, you can usually find him drinking a fresh brew and wasting too much of his time on both Google+ & Twitter.

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