Anchor Brewing Company is about as old as it gets for craft beer in America; and as important as it gets for craft beer as well.
They have been a mainstay in the brewing industry since their founding in 1896. Nearly going out of business before being saved by Maytag in the 1960s (yes, the appliance company Maytag).
A brief history on Anchor Brewing Company:
Anchor began during the California Gold Rush when Gottlieb Brekle arrived from Germany and began brewing in San Francisco. In 1896, Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr., bought an old brewery at 1431 Pacific Avenue and named it Anchor Brewery. The brewery burned down in the fires that followed the 1906 earthquake, but was rebuilt at a different location in 1907. There is no record of what Anchor did during Prohibition, but it resumed serving Steam Beer after Repeal, possibly as the only steam brewing company still in operation. However the brewery burned down yet again within the year, and it relocated once more, this time to a building a few blocks away.
The brewery continued operations into the late 1950s, but suffered heavily from the country’s increasingly strong preference for the light lagers produced by the megabreweries. Whereas there had been more than 4,000 breweries at the turn of the twentieth century, only 70 remained by the 1960s.
Anchor shut its doors briefly in 1959, but was bought and reopened the following year. By 1965, however, it was doing so poorly that it nearly closed again. Anchor’s situation continued to deteriorate largely because the current owners lacked the expertise, equipment, and attention to cleanliness that were required to produce consistent batches of beer for commercial consumption. The brewery gained a reputation for producing sour, bad beer.
In 1993, the company opened Anchor Distillery, a microdistillery in the same location as the brewery, and began making a single maltrye whiskey, named Old Potrero after the hill. In 1997, the microdistillery began producing gin, called Junípero—Spanish for juniper, and a reference to Fr. Junípero Serra, an important figure in San Francisco’s and California’s history. Recently they have also begun producing a Jenever style gin called Genevieve, using wheat, barley, rye, and the same herbal ingredients as their Junípero gin.
In 2010, Maytag sold the company to former Skyy vodka executives Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, from Novato, California, who planned to expand Anchor’s business while keeping its commitment to artisan brewing. In 2013, the brewery launched Anchor California Lager, a re-creation of a historic Boca Brewing lager from the 1870s. The brewery also announced a major expansion plan at Pier 48 in the Mission Rock neighborhood near Oracle Park, which would expand Anchor’s maximum annual production capacity from 180,000 barrels to 680,000 barrels.
In 2014, Anchor officially announced Anchor IPA, the first India Pale Ale in the brewery’s history. Anchor ended production of its winter seasonal Bock in 2014 and replaced it a year later with Anchor Winter Wheat.
In 2019, Anchor Brewing workers voted by an almost 2-to-1 margin to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, making Anchor Brewing – including Anchor Public Taps, the brewery’s on-site brew pub – the first unionized craft brewery in the United States.
In 2021, Anchor Brewing announced a major makeover of their logo and beer labels. On the eve of their 125th birthday, the brewery replaced their vintage-looking labels with a large Anchor logo in a two-tone color schemes per beer. Most labels were not changed in decades or at all. The beer itself remained unchanged.
But now, it would seem the brewery has again fallen on hard times. They will be limiting their footprint, as well as limiting their scope, production, and beers that will be distributed, some of which are celebrated favorites of the craft beer community.
Anchor Brewing Company No Longer Nationally Distributed
According to S.F. Chronicle (The San Fransisco Chronicle) the brewery has announced that they are significantly scaling back distribution.
Anchor Brewing Co. is significantly scaling back its distribution — and canceling Christmas this year.
The San Francisco brewer will halt national distribution of all of its beers, including its signature Anchor Steam Beer. Currently, the beer is available in all 50 states. Going forward, Anchor beers will be available only within California, which represents 70% of its sales, according to a company representative.
Then, this coming holiday season, Anchor won’t be releasing one of its signature offerings: Anchor Christmas Ale, a dark winter warmer made annually since 1975. A small amount, however, will be for sale solely at Anchor Public Taps for visitors to the tasting room.
Cult favorite, beloved craft beer, cherished Christmas ale, has been cancelled going forward. Much to chagrin of thousands of craft beer fans across the United States (and abroad).
arrett Kelly, a former brewer at Anchor, said the recent news confirmed concerns he and others voiced after the sale to Sapporo. “The loss of a beer as iconic as the Anchor Christmas Ale, the first American holiday beer post prohibition, is a loss for not only beer nerds like me, but anyone with an interest in preserving culture against the grinding pressure of corporate Darwinism,” Kelly wrote to The Chronicle.
Anchor typically begins brewing Christmas Ale in June at its Potrero Hill production facility, where it has operated since 1979. The beer arrives on shelves nationally each November. Christmas Ale is known for its annually changing combination of spices — last year’s version was advertised as offering “notes of orange, honeysuckle, toasted malts and eucalyptus” — and a changing, hand-drawn label of a tree to match. That was designed by artist Jim Stitt for decades until his retirement in 2019. Anchor redesigned all of its labels in 2021.
The San Fran area craft beer scene has also seen its own acquisitions and merges in recent months.
After a period of strong growth, the craft beer business has recently faced stagnation and consolidation. Locally, Drake’s Brewing Co. of San Leandro acquired Bear Republic of Cloverdale, and San Francisco’s Speakeasy Ales & Lagers was acquired by Fresno’s Full Circle Brewing. Beer sales were down about 3% by volume last year, according to the National Brewers Association, with craft beer sales about even. Because it’s not independently owned, Anchor doesn’t meet the association’s definition of a craft brewery.
The following comes from Untappd. Anchor Brewing Company is a macro brewery from San Fransisco, California. It is a subsidiary of Sapporo Breweries. They have 338 unique beers and over 1.3 Million ratings, with a global average rating of 3.52 (as of 6.11.23). Their Untappd description reads: Brewing hand-crafted beer in the heart of San Francisco since 1896.
You can follow them on the following social media pages:
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