A Look at Craft Beer History: Anchor Brewery

When you think of breweries with lots of history, chances are good that companies like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors come to mind. That’s pretty natural. After all, they’re the major players in the US mass-produced beer scene. However, there’s another brewery that should pop into your mind here: Anchor Brewery out of San Francisco. Anchor actually dates back to the late 1800s when San Francisco was little more than a backwater town.

Anchor Brewery was founded by Gottlieb Brekle, but was soon sold to two other German brewers who promptly named it Anchor. During its early years, Anchor had quite a few threats to contend with. The 1906 earthquake forced the company to move and then another move was forced by a fire. After Prohibition, Anchor suffered another fire and had to move yet again. In all, the brewery has been located in six different places within San Francisco, but it’s always managed to rise from the ashes once more. Currently, Anchor can be found on Mariposa Street.

Anchor has faced more than natural disasters though. It has suffered from mismanagement, poor quality cleaning standards and more. However, that began changing in 1965 when Fritz Maytag came onboard. Maytag had no brewing experience at all, but immediately fell in love with the struggling brewery. He bought a majority share in the company in 1965 for just pennies on the dollar – the brewery was actually about to close its doors.

Today, Anchor Brewery remains one of the smallest successful breweries in the nation with only about 90,000 gallons produced each year. With that said, they’ve certainly become more successful, thanks in large part to the dedication and determination of Maytag. Over a few years after buying into the company, Maytag learned the craft of traditional brewing and took a new tack, one that would be recognizable to any craft brewer today. Maytag’s innovation and drive toward experimentation in his brewing actually helped to kick-start the current craft brewing industry.

By the early 1970s, Anchor had become a recognized name and one of the most highly regarded beers in the industry and they’ve remained true to their roots by producing traditional, handcrafted beer with a bit of experimentation and ingenuity mixed in. When you think of successful breweries with rich histories, Anchor Brewery and their Steam beer should certainly rank pretty high on that list. If you’ve yet to sample Steam, there’s no better time to toss back a cold one.

Posted on June 13, 2011 .