San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. celebrates its 125-year anniversary this February. Wowsers. The brewery was founded in 1896, but its big craft moment came in 1965 when indie beer pioneer Frederick Louis Maytag III bought it, saving it from closure. It wasn’t his intention to get into the beer business or create a revolution:
“The 26-year-old Fritz Maytag stepped in and gave [previous owner Laurence] Steese $5,000 to keep Anchor open, buying a 51 percent interest in the company. In a January 1983 article in Inc., Maytag described the reason for his investment: “I was sort of drifting along, the way you do when you get out of graduate school, looking for something to do. … [Anchor] needed an angel, someone to come through with a tiny bit of money. [My intention was] to give a little advice and go away.” Before he stepped in, the company was in such desperate financial condition that “[Anchor was] selling the old wooden beer kegs on the sidewalk for 50 cents …,” according to Maytag in a March 1999 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
It would take years for Maytag to get the brewery in working order, but as he did, he reimagined cheap beer into a higher class of beverage alcohol. Some highlights: Anchor and Maytag pushed expensive two-row barley malt (rather than the less flavorful six-row variety). The brand would not include any adjuncts like corn or rice. Rather than use pellets or extract, Anchor was famous for using whole hops. Anchor was also one of the first U.S. breweries to embrace brewery fans tours, use four-packs and charge that hefty, premium price.
Alas, Maytag sold Anchor in 2010 to the Griffin Group, a local investment firm, and then Japan’s Sapporo bought Anchor in 2017. Ah, times, they do change. Here’s a good example: Anchor Brewing Co. products are getting a new look — a new “retro-modern aesthetic” on cans and bottles of brands like California Lager, Liberty Ale and Anchor Porter. New beers from Anchor’s innovation team led by Pilot Brewer Dane Volek will debut this March too with the new branding. The brews include a Tropical Hazy IPA and Crisp Pilsner, along with Anchor’s first 100-calorie brew, Little Weekend, a light Golden Ale brimming with juicy mango flavor.
To the press release!
“During this moment where we are celebrating Anchor’s legacy by growing for the future, our innovation team is excited to introduce new brews that we’ve spent a year perfecting,” says Dane Volek, who has been with Anchor Brewing for 13 years. “We are inspired by Anchor’s deep roots to pull out some surprises, introducing Anchor to new audiences in 2021 while laying the groundwork for another 125 years as the brewery that changed the way many Americans experience beer.”
Dig this! To commemorate the 125th anniversary and celebrate the new packaging, Anchor is offering retro-priced $1.25 Anchor Steam six-packs from their Public Taps Beer to Go pick up location in San Francisco. Starting January 25th orders can be placed online at AnchorBeertoGo.com for pick up Thursday, January 28 through Sunday, January 31. Orders are limited to (1) six-pack of cans and bottles per person and are only available from the Anchor Public Taps Beer to Go location.
What else is going on?
As part of its investment for the future, Anchor continues its sustainability efforts in 2021. The brewery is completing a water treatment project with Cambrian technologies that will allow Anchor to recycle industrial use water and dramatically reduce its overall water usage, while the brewery’s recent shift toward the production of cans further reduces its carbon footprint. Additionally, Anchor has committed to continuing its partnership with Baykeeper, a non-profit that fights for the health of the beautiful San Francisco Bay, and has forged a new partnership with the California State Parks Foundation in support of their mission to protect the state’s parks.