R.I.P. Anchor Brewing Co.

27 Apr

It’s  confirmed — San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. has been sold.  Longtime owner and microbrew pioneer, Fritz Maytag, sold the iconic brewery to a pair of Bay Area entrepreneurs for an undisclosed sum.  In addition to beer (my favorite is the Liberty Ale), the Anchor empire also includes a distillery operation, which produces some outstanding spirits, including Junipero and Genevieve gins.

I have a personal interest in this particular story for three reasons:  1) Anchor Brewing Co. is located in my neighborhood, Potrero Hill, in San Francisco, and is one of the most famous and beloved businesses in our little community; 2) My ties with Ridge Vineyards have rendered me fairly familiar with Mr. Maytag’s history as it relates to wine.  He’s also the owner of York Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley, which has supplied Ridge with grapes for their York Creek Zinfandel since 1975; 3) I’m always wary when products I like change hands, particularly when the thing happens to be a small production beer, wine, or spirits purveyor.

I can’t help but think that with this change will come an increase in production, and that that increase in production with mean the inevitable decrease in quality, consistency, and originality.  It so often happens that way.  A small, undiscovered drinks maker gets noticed by a few interested parties, they tell their friends, soon there’s a little buzz (pun sort of intended) going.  In a few months or a few years the little undiscovered drinks maker isn’t so undiscovered.  And, soon it isn’t so little either.  Other than the fact that it took 45 years to happen, this is in some ways what’s transpiring now with Anchor.

I don’t want to jump on the bigger is never better bandwagon, or imply that change is never good.  But, I will say that this is truly then end of an era; an instance when change is difficult to accept.  Here’s hoping that Anchor Brewing will reamain a San Francisco original… and that it stays within walking distance of my house.


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