Anchor Brewery Sold

anchor-steam
Today around lunchtime, I heard the rumor from two separate sources that Anchor Brewery had been sold and started working the phones, calling everyone I knew, to no avail. But apparently at least two beer publications received the following press release, which is below. In addition, see below for some updates and thoughts. Also see a second update below.

The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company focused on beverage alcohol brands, announced its acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company which includes its portfolio of craft beers and artisan spirits, including the award winning Anchor Steam Beer.

The Griffin Group is led by beverage alcohol veterans, Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, two longtime San Francisco residents who have been working with Anchor Brewing Company’s owner, Fritz Maytag to maintain the iconic brewery and distillery in San Francisco.

“Anchor Brewing Company has a long history in San Francisco and The Griffin Group is ushering in an exciting era while maintaining our proud, time-honored history,” said Fritz Maytag. “Combining Keith and Tony’s passion for the Anchor Brewing Company, their industry experience and expertise only means that Anchor will be enjoyed in San Francisco for generations to come.”

“Since 1896, Anchor Brewing Company has been an icon of San Francisco’s history and culture,” stated Griffin’s Founding Partner, Keith Greggor, “I am honored to bring Anchor Brewing Company into our family of craft beers and artisanal spirits through establishing Anchor Brewers & Distillers, LLC.”

Anchor Brewers & Distillers intends to establish a “Center of Excellence” in San Francisco for craft brewers and artisan distillers from around the world. An epicenter of development, education, entertainment and innovation, all designed to further contribute to the culture and heritage of craft beer and artisan spirits.

“San Francisco is the perfect place to establish this center,” stated Tony Foglio, “Through our extensive portfolio of craft beers and fine spirits our focus will be to educate and satisfy the increasing consumer demand for authentic, quality and natural products that reflect the passion of their creators.”

Continuing the Anchor heritage, Mr. Maytag has been named Chairman Emeritus of Anchor Brewers & Distillers.

The Griffin Group operates as both boutique merchant and investment bank for premiere craft beers and artisan spirits. In addition to the Anchor Beers, The Griffin Group will assume control of the spirits brands including Old Potrero Whiskey, Junipero Gin and Genevieve Gin through the acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company. Additional affiliated companies to be held under Anchor Brewers & Distillers include Preiss Imports, a leading US specialist spirits and beer importer, and BrewDog USA, LLC, the US division of the leading UK craft beer.

The Griffin Group is headquartered in Novato, Marin County, California.

UPDATES & THOUGHTS: Since the news came out, several odd bits have emerged, which leaves me wondering about all this. First of all, the news itself, the press release. They appear to be from just two sources, Beer Advocate and DRAFT magazine. Inc. magazine has slightly more, including the information that the two principals of the Griffin Group made their money with Skyy Vodka.

Now, some thoughts. This may sound like sour grapes — it’s not — but it seems odd that such big news would be disseminated by two national beer sources and not through local beer sources or local mainstream news outlets. This is especially odd given that the company is in the very town I live in, yet I learned of it from sources outside California. Every other beer journalist I’ve spoken to or corresponded with never got a press release and neither, apparently, did any mainstream newspapers or other media. Why would the news be released that way? I don’t know. In speaking with other beer industry insiders, everybody was caught off guard by the news, and no one I know has been able to reach anyone at Anchor for comment. I was only able to get through to one person I know there, and he couldn’t say anything. I left messages for several others and have not heard back from anyone. I’m not sure what that means, but it does seem odd, almost like we’re being punk’d. But the longer there’s nothing to contradict the news, the more likely it becomes.

That no one has been able to reach anyone from the Griffin Group is likewise somewhat strange. With such big news, you’d think someone would be available and not so hard to reach. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like the best way to ingratiate oneself with the beer community. People are already speculating the worst, as often happens, and it would be great to get additional information one way or the other. Not sure what all of this means, but it’s the talk of the town, and people are getting concerned about the lack of information from either side.

UPDATE 4.27: I have now received confirmation of the deal from John Dannerbeck, CEO of Anchor Brewery. Dannerbeck writes. “Fritz Maytag has entered an agreement to sell the Anchor Brewing Company. This will be an exciting time for us as we begin the process of transitioning to the next generation of owners.” I’ve sent back some additional questions that are likely on all of our minds and will update this once I know more.

I had lunch today with Keith Gregger, one of the principals at the Griffin Group. It’s been a busy afternoon and I”ll have more from our talk shortly.

Comments

  1. zdk says

    The title scared me… I didn’t think Maytag would ever sell out to a BMC, but you never know in this economy.

    Glad to see that this move (at least from a publicity standpoint) could strengthen craft beer movement).

  2. Mr. Nuts says

    I was under the impression Fritz would never sell. To a big brewer at least. Wonder if John Dannerbeck will remain at Anchor.

    Time will tell if this will be good for Anchor or not. If the buyers have loaded up on debt to make this acquisition — that’s a concern.

    Another area of concern is the other holdings Griffin has. Say what? I just took a look at the Preiss Imports web site — and it’s like poking yourself in the eye. BrewDog? There’s no US presence. Just some dopey site from the UK.

    I dunno about this. Then again, I don’t know anything about Griffin. If it’s a bunch of fartheads from San Francisco who made a ton of money in high-tech or something and are yanking their tinks in the beverage business because they can — yikes.

    Then again, who am I to question Fritz? Everything he has done with Anchor has been brilliant so far — so I can’t imagine him not turning his company over to capable hands.

  3. Mr. Nuts says

    The two guys in the release helped build Skyy Vodka (remember that) in the 90’s. They think very highly of themselves, too. Will be interesting to see how they do — as Anchor isn’t selling to the super urban cool youth crowd.

  4. Julio Peix says

    It was just a matter of time before he soldout. There keg volume keeps going down. Ever since they brought John Dannerbeck in the picture it has gone down. The moral of the company and having him live and try to run a brewery from Arizona, won’t work and it didn’t. I feel sorry for the labor force there. Being a ex employee and know what people are making and under this new ownership. The good old days are over. These guys are going to streamline and get rid of alot of fat (salaries) and build it back up to over 100,000 barrels then flip it for about $60 million. They can walk away with a nice profit. I figure they paid alittle over $30 million for it. They are going to do what Fritz should of done 30 years ago. He would have been Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams. But when your born rich it dosn’t matter. Then he brought John in his nephew and the writing was on the wall. Anchor began a slow death. R.I.P.

  5. BeerGreek says

    The respect I have for Fritz Maytag and those that contributed to Anchor is immense. The best to you all. I only hope the new owners understand what they have and treat it well.

  6. Justin says

    Give Mr. Maytag his due – he has created great brews and is a legend in the craft beer movement. Do you really think he’d release this big news through blogs?

    • says

      Justin,

      Ignoring for a moment the dismissive way in which you used the term “blogs,” as if they’re not a legitimate news source, what you’re saying he’d never do, is exactly what DID happen. The two places the news was first reported was DRAFT magazine’s blog and Beer Advocate’s news portion of their site, effectively the same as a blog. When you say that “Do you really think he’d release this big news through blogs?,” that is exactly what he did do, though it’s more likely that Griffin Group sent out the press release and not Anchor. What happened was that no press release went to a newspaper or magazine or any other mainstream news outlet, nor did anyone else in the beer press get a press release. In addition to this blog, I also write for a newspaper group and many magazines, both trade, consumer and general circulation, as do many of my colleagues. None of us received a press release either. This “big news” was only released through blogs, and only two of them. Does that make sense? Because I think you may have missed the point, in fact getting it backwards.

  7. Brian Hunt says

    Fritz and the long-working staff have earned a relaxing retirement!
    It will be a travesty if the new owners don’t have the necessary passion to operate the brewery with the dedication and skill to make outstanding beer. Bank funding has strangled many brewery ventures and it will take more than just the venerable Anchor name to continue successfully. Anchor has a history of integrity, and any destabilization of these beers will be felt with pain by myself, all dedicated brewers, and the beer-knowledgeable community.
    Best wishes to the new owners and may they fully understand and appreciate the public trust that they have now been passed.

  8. beerman49 says

    I saw the news on local Channel 2 around 10:30 PM & got a couple e-mails from my beer-geek friends shortly thereafter. All the previous commentary makes sense – my wish is that the new owners’ beancounters don’t ruin it, as Pepsi’s beancounters ruined Chevy’s (original was 1985 in Alameda). The owner expanded gradually in SF Bay Area, then up-down the West Coast. After he sold out circa 1995, it turned continually worse as the corporate beancounters & marketing idiots took over. May the new owners take heed & live up to their PR hype!

  9. says

    The press release itself was up on the beer&nosh website out of San Francisco around 2 pdt and the San Francisco Chronicle had it online at 7 pdt. I was contacted by the Griffin Group PR firm this morning but with nothing beyond the news release and and asking if I was interested or need additional info.

  10. indie says

    Trust in Mr. Maytag. Sure the new owners will pump up production and marketing. Sure, their style will be different from the traditional Anchor. Have confidence that Mr. Maytag wouldn’t sell to a “flipper”. Perhaps a press release from Mr. Maytag in conjunction with the new owners would help ease everyone’s angst. Cheers to Anchor Brewing & the new owners. May they be welcomed into the Bay Area brewing community.

  11. says

    Having done some calling I found out that the press release for the sale had some issues, similar to the Dogfish/Sierra collaboration. Basically, news went out before it was supposed to. It wasn’t supposed to be a big topic on Monday, but the big topic on Tuesday. Did some people get a taste of the info and jump the gun on the whole thing for a scoop? Who knows, but the word coming from the people I’ve talked to at Anchor said that they weren’t ready for the news to be released when it was.

  12. Barley Daniels says

    While I enjoy this blog quite a bit, and Anchor Steam even more so, it is somewhat off-putting to read your conspiratorial, thinly veiled sense of insider sense of entitlement about not being involved in this news first hand. No offense intended here, but what is the difference when you find out? I love Anchor more than a lot of people, live nearby and love beer, so it seems I should be notified too? I fail to see the connection between this transaction and your imagined rule that their responsibility is to notify everyone who thinks they deserve an explanation, especially your “sour grapes” paragraph (which reeks of sour grapes by the way) or this gem:I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like the best way to ingratiate oneself with the beer community. ” why would they need to ingratiate themselves to anyone? It’s Anchor Steam-the beer speaks for itself, so what is your major complaint here anyway besides not being let in first? It all just seems a bit blustery, if you owned / worked at Anchor and didn’t know that would be one thing, but if you are a beer fan/writer/or whatever then you are not really in the $30 million club and therefore have to wait like everyone else. I am sure all will be revealed in due time.

    • bill says

      I agree with almost all of your points except for one – even the employees can be kept in the dark on this. Fritz is now 72 and has invested 45 years of his life and has risked his person wealth in resurrecting this company from bankruptcy. If he now wants to sell, more power to him. He has done a great service to jump start the resurrection of the craft beer industry and has been extremely helpful to others in this industry. It is up to the new Owners to do what they may, but without Fritz’s pioneering efforts and generous nature, we might not enjoy the variety of American craft brew that we do today.

  13. says

    I first found out about the sale through a retail location, who found out through their distributor. I put up a tweet.

    I then got further confirmation about the sale, including the detail that it was “being sold to Skyy Vodka.” At that point, I went ahead and put up a post on my blog, explaining what i knew and didn’t know. I omitted the Skyy vodka detail, since I couldn’t get more confirmation.

    Once the press release was posted on BA, I added that press release to my post (I wasn’t sent it directly.) After the Chron story published, I updated to include a link to that as well.

    I normally don’t deal in gossip or breaking news, but made an exception in this case.

    – Jesse

  14. Adam says

    I didn’t like the sound of it either when I show it in my inbox today. I’m with Jay on this 100%. The craft beer industry is not like most industries. It grew out of love and community for a product. Yes, some get big and others don’t, whether by choice, chance or actions. This is a blog about beer and for those that love it. It’s no different than–well, actually it is by a lot–someone that’s really into celebrity news and someone plays the stock market. You can say we that don’t work for the brewery don’t have a stake in it, but we do. If you drink the beer regularly, love it when you can or just love the “big” little guys (Boston, New Belgian, Sierra, Dogfish, ect) this could change things for you. The quality might change, the styles they make my change, where you find it (which could, and probably would, be in more places) and might effect your local market negatively (as in distributors bumping a smaller guy for this new high dollar pushed beer). It all comes down to the new ownership.
    Now personally I hate corporation because they almost always ruin a good thing and only focus on huge profits. Yes, a company needs to make profit, but come on, don’t sacrifice a quality product so the executives can buy second, third, ect. mansions or whatever that drives people to make millions for company leadership. If you can make millions with a quality product made with local workers and paid reasonably with some sort of proportion to the leadership (because without the people that make the product, you have no product), great. Buy small islands in the Pacific. Just don’t sell out for selfish reasons.
    Sorry, getting off topic there. Speaking of all this. I really would like the know exactly what stakes companies like ABInbev and SAB Miller have in some of these craft breweries like Red Hook, Widmir and Leinenkugel. I have yet to find any specifics on deals like theirs.

    • says

      Specific shares and values aren’t something I know much about, but the Craft Brewer’s Alliance (Goose Island, Widmer, Redhook, Kona) is 1/3 owned by AB InBev. The deal is primarily to gain access to the AB distribution channels. Say what you will about some of their more readily available beers, but AB hasn’t been poking their nose into the individual CBA brewer’s business.

      Having just run through 5 Goose Island releases last night and on the heels of Widmer releasing a Prickly Pear Braggot and Redhook announcing a double IPA I think it’s fair to say that these breweries are still producing craft beer and some rather interesting ones at that.

  15. fraggle says

    adam, i couldn’t have said it better myself
    we are still sticking with our immediate kneejerk reaction. which was “this is gonna suck”
    we were joking with some of our reps today, as which would come out first “Anchor Select” or “Anchor Ultra”…
    hope we are wrong, but anytime an inestment bank buys into a brewery, our hackles go up and fast.
    blame it on 30 yrs of punk rawk………..

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  1. Anchor Brewery Sold…

    The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company focused on beverage alcohol brands, announced its acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company which includes its portfolio of craft beers and artisan spirits, including the award winning Anchor Steam Be…

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