Fill a large pot or bowl with cold water and a small handful of salt. Set the pot next to the sink.
Rinse each clam under a light stream of cold water from the faucet while using a brush to scrub off any dirt.
Place the scrubbed clams in the salted water to soak for 15 minutes, which will draw out the sand.
Remove the clams to a colander and drain the water from the pot. Rinse out the pot.
Fill the pot or bowl once more with salted water and soak the clams again for 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse the clams before steaming them.
Steam the Clams
To steam the clams using a steamer basket: Place the 12 ounces of beer, 12 ounces of water and bay leaf in a pot that fits your steamer basket. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. (See notes if you don't have a steamer basket.)
When the broth is boiling, add your steamer basket filled with clams to the pot. Cover and wait five minutes to see if the clam shells are starting to open. Some will open after 7 minutes. Others will take 15-25 minutes, depending on how close your basket is to the steaming liquid.
Lower the heat as needed to keep the broth from boiling over.
Use kitchen tongs to remove each clam when it opens wide and place it in a bowl. If you have any clams that won't open after 25 minutes of steaming, discard them.
To serve, pour some of the beer broth into the serving bowl(s) with the clams to keep them warm. Melt the butter in the microwave and give some to each person in a bowl for dipping.
To eat, use a fork to remove the clam from its shell, squeeze lemon on, if desired, and dip the clam into the melted butter. (You can also dip the clams in the broth, if you wish.)
To steam the clams without a basket, place equal parts beer and water in a pot, just enough that it will come halfway up the clams when you add them later. Add the bay leaf and bring the liquid to a boil. When it's boiling, add half the clams and cover the pot. Check on them after a couple of minutes to see if any are starting to open. Remove each clam after it opens. Continue with the rest of the clams.Remember to plan for discarding any clams that don't open after steaming. When I made these recently, I had to discard three clams out of 50.