Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco

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Anchor Brewing Company is an American alcoholic beverage producer, operating a brewery and distillery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California. The brewery was founded in 1896 and was purchased by Frederick Louis Maytag III, in 1965, saving it from closure. It moved to its current location in 1979. It is one of the last remaining breweries to produce California common beer, also known as Steam Beer, a trademark owned by the company.


Anchor began during the 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 the brewery and named it Anchor. 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 and attention to cleanliness that are required to produce consistent batches of beer for commercial consumption. The brewery gained a deserved reputation for producing sour, bad beer.

In 1965, Frederick Louis Maytag III bought the brewery, saving it from closure. Maytag purchased 51 percent of the brewery for several thousand dollars, and later purchased the brewery outright. It moved to its current location near Potrero Hill in 1979.

Turning the failing brewery around required more than the infusion of money that his fortune made possible. Maytag also had to change the character of the beer that was produced there. Between purchasing Anchor and producing the first batches of bottled Anchor Steam in 1971, Maytag had to learn the brewing process from scratch, invest in improvements to the equipment, and focus heavily on cleanliness in the brewing process. The recipe started with a twice-baked bread known as bappir as well as malt, and was sweetened with honey and dates. It did not include hops or other bittering ingredients, so it was considerably sweeter than modern beers. The recipe is described by Charlie Papazian.

In 1993, the company opened Anchor Distillery, a microdistillery in the same location as the brewery, and began making a single malt rye whiskey, named Old Potrero after the hill. In 1997, the microdistillery began producing gin, called Junípero — Spanish for juniper, and a reference to Junípero Serra, an important figure in San Francisco's and California's history. Recently they have also begun producing a Jenever style gin called Genevive, using wheat, barley, rye, and the same herbal ingredients as their Junípero gin.

In 2010, Fritz Maytag sold the company to the former Skyy vodka executives Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, who plan to expand Anchor's business while keeping its commitment to artisan brewing.<ref name="chron"/>


Anchor has a year-round range of five beers, as well as several occasional beers.

Core beers
  • Anchor Steam: 4.9% alcohol by volume (abv)
  • Anchor Small: 3.3% abv
  • Liberty Ale: 6% abv
  • Anchor Porter: 5.6% abv
  • Old Foghorn Barleywine: 8-10% abv
Occasional beers
  • Anchor Bock: 5.5% abv (January-April)
  • Summer Beer: 4.6% abv (April-August)
  • Humming Ale: 5.5% abv (August-November)
  • Christmas Ale: 5-6% abv (November-January)

See also

  • California breweries

External links