Is it throughout for San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing or does hope nonetheless stay?

Sapporo USA’s choice to close down San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing has been the discuss of the beer world for weeks now. The information had been rumored, however the actuality of it hit on July 12. Quickly after, I had the chance to go to the historic brewery for a farewell tour organized by certainly one of Anchor’s native gross sales reps, who invited Bay Space business veterans for the impromptu occasion on Potrero Hill.

A espresso roastery when it opened in 1937, the constructing is an imposing sight, with a nook tower topped with a flag pole reaching to the sky. Stepping inside was like going again in time. Brewing had already ceased, though there was nonetheless beer within the tanks ready to be packaged. However the copper brewing vessels and the coolships had been all empty, with solely a skeleton crew readily available, making it unusually quiet as we
walked the empty corridors.

Whereas I used to be grateful to have a final go searching and commiserate with colleagues, it was in the end bittersweet. Steam beer has been synonymous with San Francisco since lengthy earlier than I moved right here, virtually 40 years in the past. It could be a tragic factor for it to vanish solely from the Bay Space panorama. That has occurred earlier than — briefly — on three distinct events, however like the town itself, risen from the ashes like a phoenix.

A farewell tour of San Francisco’s historic Anchor Brewing, from its burnished copper brewing vessels to its stash of hops, proves bittersweet. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks) 

The massive query is, is Anchor actually gone? Sapporo’s intends to liquidate the brewery, however a white knight — like Fritz Maytag in 1965, for instance — has swooped in to avoid wasting the corporate earlier than.

One potential savior is Anchor’s personal staff. The brewery’s union despatched a letter to Sapporo USA on July 19 saying they supposed to make a bid to buy the brewery. Sapporo was open to that, so long as funding, in fact, was in place. However the union’s newest announcement, delivered by union spokesman Pedro Sa final week, signifies they’ve run up in opposition to problems with time and entry to Sapporo’s monetary info. Sapporo advised them on July 27 that they might not share their monetary info as a result of, Sa stated, it was now “too near the date once they would hand over management of their property.”

After I spoke final week to packaging lead Patrick Machel, who’s lively within the union negotiations, he was nonetheless cautiously optimistic, however famous that there have been main hurdles to beat. However he has been impressed by the outpouring of help for Anchor for the reason that announcement. The sense of historical past on the brewery and the sensation of being a part of the Anchor household is palpable, he stated, and staff hope they’ll be capable to create a “new technology of staff that respect the model they’re part of.”

It’s exhausting to overstate the brewery’s significance to right this moment’s vibrant beer scene. The truth that you may stroll into virtually any native bar and drink a novel beer from certainly one of virtually 10,000 American breweries is due in no small measure to Anchor and its resurrection by the hands of Fritz Maytag, who purchased the then-failing brewery in 1965.

Between the brewery’s founding in 1896 and the Nineteen Sixties, it struggled by way of the 1906 earthquake and hearth, Prohibition, a number of homeowners and several other places. In 1959, then-brewmaster Joe Allen introduced he was closing the brewery, one of many final to brew steam beer in California. A white knight arrived from Marin within the type of Minnesota-born Lawrence Steese and his companions, who purchased the tools, moved the brewery once more and by 1960, had been making Anchor Steam Beer as soon as extra. However by 1965, with large nationwide beer manufacturers gaining traction with youthful drinkers, Steese was struggling.

A farewell tour of San Francisco's historic Anchor Brewing, from its burnished copper brewing vessels to its stash of hops, proves bittersweet. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks)
A farewell tour of San Francisco’s historic Anchor Brewing, from its burnished copper brewing vessels to its stash of hops, proves bittersweet. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks) 

Certainly one of Anchor Steam’s most ardent followers was Fred Kuh, who owned the Outdated Spaghetti Manufacturing facility in North Seashore. One evening, he advised certainly one of his regulars, current Stanford grad and fellow Anchor Steam fan Fritz Maytag, that the brewery was about to shut, so he ought to go have a look round earlier than then. Maytag did. By August, Maytag had bought a controlling curiosity within the brewery.

The brewing scene in 1965 was a far cry from what it’s right this moment. Again then, it was dominated by only a handful of huge nationwide corporations with just a few older regional breweries hanging on by a thread. By 1980, there have been fewer than 100 breweries left.

After all, Maytag didn’t know he was going to vary that trajectory. In 1965, he was attempting to determining the right way to make steam beer the old style means. Steam beer was widespread all through the American West within the nineteenth century and early twentieth, but it surely died out because of Prohibition. After repeal, Anchor was the one brewery making something prefer it, but it surely took a number of years of analysis and experimentation to re-create the unique — after which bottle it for market starting in 1971.

The improvements had been simply getting began. Porter, a darkish type of ale, had all however died out in its native England when Anchor Porter debuted in 1972. A 12 months later, Anchor made Outdated Foghorn, the primary industrial barleywine type ale within the U.S. To commemorate the 2 hundredth anniversary of Paul Revere’s journey a 12 months
earlier than the bicentennial, Anchor created Liberty Ale, which is taken into account by many the primary trendy IPA. In 1997, they made the primary trendy small beer, brewed with the primary runnings of Outdated Foghorn to create a low-alcohol beer.

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