Today is the 59th birthday of Tom Riley, who is the brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. Tom grew up in the Potrero Hill area of San Francisco, not to far from the brewery he began working at in 1983. He started on the packaging line, then moved on to being a tour guide and later became an assistant brewer. Last year he was named brewmaster, only the third one at Anchor since the 1970s (not including Fritz Maytag). I’ve run into Tom over the years at events at Anchor events, but got to know him much better earlier this year working on a couple of pieces for Flagship February for which we spent considerable time talking on the phone, and he’s a terrific person. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Ernst F. Baruth (April 28, 1842-February 1906). While what would become Anchor Brewing began during the California Gold Rush when Gottlieb Brekle arrived from Germany and began brewing in San Francisco at what he called the Golden City Brewery, it didn’t become known as Anchor Brewing until 1896, when “Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr., bought the old brewery on Pacific Avenue 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.” Baruth had passed away the same year as the earthquake, shortly before it.
I did discover that he was a president of the Norddeutscher Verein (or North German Association) in 1886 as noted in this portrait from a book celebrating the organization’s 25th anniversary, or Silver Anniversary 1874-1899.
According to Anchor Brewery’s website:
[In 1896] German brewer Ernst Frederick Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr., bought the old brewery on Pacific (the first of six Anchor locations around the City over the years) and named it Anchor. No one knows why Baruth and Schinkel chose the name Anchor, except, perhaps, for its indirect but powerful allusion to the booming Port of San Francisco.
Surprisingly, there isn’t much biographical information about Baruth. He was born somewhere in Germany, and arrived in New York City on August 13, 1875, on a ship named the “SS Neckar” that departed from Bremen, Germany and then sailed to Southampton, England, before heading west to America.
Today is the birthday of Gottlieb Brekle (February 23, 1821-January 25, 1888). He was born somewhere in Germany, most likely Württemberg, though possibly Ludwigsburg or Hamburg, arriving in America on July 31, 1852, along with his wife Marie and young son Frederick. In 1871, according to Anchor, “Brekle bought an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the American brewery that, twenty-five years later, would be renamed Anchor” when it it was bought by “German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.” Given how long ago Brekle was born, not to mention all of the records lost due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, little is known about Brekle’s life, and I don’t know of any pictures of him. Even the spelling of his name seems uncertain, with records existing where it’s spelled Breckle, Breckel, and Breckels, too, making trying to find information a lot harder.
After Gottlieb, or George, as he took calling himself later, died, his son Frederick took over the business. Since we know the brewery was sold in 1896, we can be pretty sure Gottlieb died before then, but it could have been in 1888, or some other year, nobody seems sure. Anchor wrote on their blog, in a piece entitled Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born, which I assume was written by Anchor’s historian Dave Burkhart (who I consider a friend) that Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers indicate he became a citizen in 1854, and they display a small image of those papers.
But as much as it pains me, I’m not sure that’s right. Look at the paper blown up a bit, so it’s a little easier to read.
From what I can make out, he was a subject of the King of Württemberg on September 21, 1861, but became a U.S. citizen August 5, 1854, which I don’t quite understand, but then some of language is hard to read. But the name on that document appears to be “Carl Gottlieb Breckles,” so I’m wondering if it may be a different person?
I found this document on Ancestory.com, which is a voter “Register 7th Precinct, 4th Ward, San Francisco County, 1880.” Line 34, the third from the bottom, lists a Gottlieb Brekle, age 59 (which would make his birth year 1821 if he was 59 in 1880). It also lists his occupation as “Brewer” and his address as “1431 Pacific,” in San Francisco. But more telling is that last column, which lists the date he was naturalized. And for Gottlieb, what’s listed is August 4, 1879. And more confirmation is in the line below, where it lists a Frederick Brekle, also listed as a “Brewer” and living at the same address. Since we know that was his son’s name, it seems pretty clear that this document is referring to our Gottlieb Brekle.
Sadly, there isn’t much more known, though Anchor also has some more information they found in researching newspapers at the time.
Fortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!
In 2011, Anchor Brewing released a beer named after their first brewmaster, Brekle’s Brown.
And here’s a short video Anchor released at the time.
Bruce Joseph, who’s been at Anchor Brewery for many, many years turns 66 today. There’s a big picture of him when he was very young in the stairwell at the brewery that I see every time I’m there. He’s been doing the distilling for Anchor’s whiskey and gin for a long while now and plays bass with the Hysters (Anchor’s big band) and used to be with the Rolling Boil Blues Band (the Celebrator beer band that was all industry musicians). If there’s a nicer person in the beer industry, I’ve yet to meet him. Join me in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.
On stage at the Northern California Rhythm & Blues Festival several years ago.
Today is the birthday of Joe Allen (February 9, 1888-April 24, 1976). Allen’s parents were Irish and came to America, settling in Minnesota, in 1883. At some point, Joe made his way to San Francisco and was working as a brewer at the Anchor Brewery when it reopened after the end of prohibition in 1933 at 1610 Harrison Street. Unfortunately, less than a year later, in February of 1934, the brewery burned to the ground. Owner Joe Kraus then partnered with his brewmaster, Joe Allen, and they re-built the brewery in an old brick building at 398 Kansas Street, by 1st Street.
Here, I’ll let Anchor Brewery’s website take up the story from The Era of Mass Production.
Kraus and Allen valiantly and lovingly kept Anchor afloat until Kraus’s death in 1952. By late 1959, America’s—even San Francisco’s—new-found “taste” for mass-produced, heavily marketed lighter beers had taken its toll on Anchor’s already declining sales. In July of that year, at the age of 71, Joe Allen shut Anchor down for what would, thankfully, be a brief period.
Again, Anchor Brewing picks up the story, Surviving Another Challenge from 1960.
Lawrence Steese bought and re-opened Anchor in 1960 at yet another nearby location, retaining Joe Allen to carry Anchor’s craft brewing tradition forward. But one of Anchor’s oldest accounts, the Crystal Palace Market had already closed its doors. And Steese had an increasingly difficult time convincing loyal Bay Area establishments to continue serving Anchor Steam. By 1965, Steese—like Allen six years before—was ready to shut Anchor down.
The next year, 1961, the brewery moved to 541 8th Street, where it remained until 1977. Of course, in 1965, another owner invested in the brewery, eventually buying out the remaining partners. That, you probably already know, was Fritz Maytag. There’s not much I could find on Allen’s life before and after he worked at, and then owned, the Anchor Brewery, not even the year of his death. If anyone has any more information, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.
Fritz Maytag, who bought the failing Anchor Brewery in 1965 and turned it into a model for the microbrewery revolution, celebrates his 84th birthday today. It’s no stretch to call Fritz the father of craft beer, he introduced so many innovations that are common today and influenced countless brewers working today. A few years ago, Maytag sold Anchor Brewery and Distillery to Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio of the Griffin Group, and in 2017 acquired by Sapporo Breweries, but continued to make his York Creek wine and for a time consulted with Anchor as Chairman Emeritus. I was happy to see him again a few years ago, first at the California Beer Summit, and later when I was invited to introduce him to receive an award from the Northern California Brewers Guild in Sacramento. Join me in wishing Fritz a very happy birthday.
Fritz with the organizers of SF Beer Week at our inaugural opening event at Anchor in 2009.
Today is the 73rd birthday of Bob Brewer, longtime brewery rep. for Anchor Brewing. For many years, he worked from southern California, circling the country with the entire nation his territory (the only exception being the Bay Area) representing Anchor beers. More recently, he moved back to the Bay Area, but you could find him at every nook and cranny of the beer world. Several years ago, Bob retired from Anchor, although he still occasionally works a festival or does other work, like giving a great talk at my class at SSU and more recently he was working the taps for Anchor at the Lagunitas Circus. Join me in wishing Bob a very happy birthday.
This morning Anchor Brewing and Sapporo anounced that Sapporo Holdings Limited was acquiring all of the equity interest in Anchor Brewing Company, and that they’ll take over at the end of the month, August 31. As large as the beer industry is, it’s also a small community where everybody knows everybody, and everybody talks. As a result, there are few secrets. This was one of those rumors that has been circulating around the beer world for months. It’s a rumor everybody was talking about but no one could confirm, though no one was denying it either. Anchor’s press release holds back the amount of the sale, but the news release from Sapporo gives the transaction as $85 million, which seems like a bargain. Sapporo bought only the brewery; Anchor’s distillery business will be spun off into a separate company.
Here’s Anchor’s press release:
San Francisco, CA (August 3, 2017) – Anchor Brewing Company announces that Sapporo Holdings Limited will be acquiring the company with plans to continue Anchor’s traditions and legacy in San Francisco while growing the brand globally. Anchor Brewing Company’s flagship beer, Anchor Steam® Beer, has been brewed in San Francisco since 1896. Sapporo has a long-standing history in Japan dating back to 1876 and an appreciation for tradition, craftsmanship and provenance which are all fundamental tenets of Anchor.
“Sapporo shares our values and appreciates our unique, time-honored approach to brewing,” said Keith Greggor, Anchor Brewing Co-Owner. “With both a long-term vision and the resources to realize it, Sapporo will keep brewing Anchor’s beers in San Francisco while expanding to new markets worldwide.”
“Anchor Steam Beer is a San Francisco original, inspiring a new generation of brewers and beer lovers around the world,” said Masaki Oga, President and Representative Director, Sapporo Holdings LTD. “Both companies share a brewing philosophy backed by long histories and this transaction enables both Sapporo Group’s US business and Anchor Brewing Company’s global business to make a further leap forward.”
More than 50 years ago, Anchor started the modern craft beer movement with a series of innovations. Anchor brewed the first post-prohibition Porter, ignited todays IPA boom when it introduced dry-hopping and the cascade hop and created the industry’s first seasonal beers. Since then, the emergence of thousands of craft breweries within the United States and around the world has created the need for scale and synergies to compete in a growing global market for craft beer.
Anchor’s experienced management team will continue to run the business but now benefit from superior financing and additional resources. Sapporo is committed to preserving and maintaining Anchor’s operations in San Francisco, including the historic Potrero Hill brewery. Sapporo will invest in the brewery to improve production efficiencies and will strengthen all aspects of management and production to ensure the highest quality of beer is consistently delivered. In addition, Sapporo is fully supportive of Anchor’s new public taproom concept that will be opening soon. Sapporo will also export Anchor to new international markets using its global distribution resources.
The transaction is expected to close on August 31st; subject to customary closing conditions. Terms are not disclosed. Anchor Distilling Company is not part of this transaction and will now become a fully independent company in its own right.
Sapporo first made its way to America in 1964. In 1984, SAPPORO U.S.A., INC. was founded to help preserve our high standard of quality throughout the country. Today, Sapporo stands alone as the best-selling Asian Beer in the United States for more than 30 years.
Sapporo’s announcement on their website is more perfunctory and all-business, but in some ways more illuminating:
Sapporo Holdings Limited (hereinafter “Sapporo Holdings”) will acquire all of the equity interest of Anchor Brewing Company (California, US; hereinafter “Anchor”).
The Sapporo Group plans to further expand its US beer business by adding Anchor, a prominent beer manufacturer which produces the leading brand “Anchor Steam® Beer,” to its group.
1. Equity transfer agreement
Sapporo Holdings will enter into an equity transfer agreement with Anchor’s parent company Anchor Brewers and Distillers, LLC (hereinafter “ABD”). The transaction will be conducted through Sapporo Holdings’ subsidiary, to be established for the purpose of entering into the agreement. Sapporo will obtain all of ABD’s equity interest in Anchor which will join its group companies.
Execution date of agreement: August 3, 2017 (Thursday)
Equity transfer date: August 31, 2017 (Thursday)
2. Rationale behind Agreement
Last year, the Sapporo Group formulated the new Long-Term Management Vision “SPEED 150” through 2026, the year marking the Group’s 150th anniversary since its founding. The vision set forth in Speed 150 is for the Sapporo Group to be a company with highly unique brands in the fields of “Alcoholic Beverages,” “Food,” and “Soft Drinks” around the world.
Regarding its “Promote Global Business Expansion” policy, a key driver of its group growth strategy, Sapporo Group is pushing forward a distinctive plan that designates North America its business base and the rapidly growing “Southeast Asian” region as its highest-priority markets. In the US where the SAPPORO brand has maintained its position as the No. 1 Asian beer in the country over 30 years, the Group has been considering expanding its beer business through the acquisition of a new brand as well as further growing the SAPPORO brand.
Anchor is a prominent and historic US beer producer founded in 1896 in San Francisco. “Anchor Steam Beer,” its flagship brand, is said to be an icon that ignited the current craft beer boom in the US. Armed with its strong brand power primarily in San Francisco, where it is based, as well as other areas across the US, it has been enjoyed by countless beer lovers throughout the years.
The addition of Anchor’s strong brand power and network to the Sapporo Group’s US beer business portfolio through the conclusion of this agreement is expected to accelerate its speed of growth in the US.
3. About Anchor
Name: Anchor Brewing Company, LLC (beer manufacturing and sales)
Location: 1705 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, California, USA
Year founded: 1896
Representative: CEO Matt Davenport
Num. of employees: 160 (as of December 2016)
Production plant: One plant (San Francisco, California state)
Sales volume Approximate: 1.75 million cases (equivalent to 355ml × 24 bottles in 2016)
Annual sales Approximate: 33 million U.S. dollars (about ¥3.7 billion in fiscal 12/2016)
(Note 1) Sapporo Holdings acquired Anchor Brewing Company’s “equity” instead of its shares due to the fact that the latter is a limited liability company.
This is, of course, big news, especially locally. The Chronicle got the exclusive on the story because Fritz Maytag had a good relationship with his local paper and after the Griffon Group bought Anchor they continued that tradition. So my newspaper group, like everyone else, was a little behind, and while their reporters are working on the story itself, they asked me to write an analysis of what the sale means for beer lovers, written for a mainstream audience, so please forgive the explanations of everyday things known by most beer aficionados. After an introduction similar to the one that began this post, here’s my initial thoughts on the acquisition of Anchor:
We know why Sapporo wanted Anchor. Their 150th anniversary is coming in 2026, and they’ve made it policy “to be a company with highly unique brands in the fields of ‘Alcoholic Beverages,’ ‘Food,’ and ‘Soft Drinks’ around the world.” They call it “Speed 150,” or the “Promote Global Business Expansion” policy. For the last thirty years, Sapporo has been the number one beer in the Asian market, but they have plans to expand worldwide through the acquisition of new brands. For example, in 2006, Sapporo bought the third-largest brewer in Canada, Sleeman Breweries.
Sapporo considered Anchor a prime target, characterizing the brewery as “a prominent and historic US beer producer founded in 1896 in San Francisco. ‘Anchor Steam Beer,’ its flagship brand, is said to be an icon that ignited the current craft beer boom in the US. Armed with its strong brand power primarily in San Francisco, where it is based, as well as other areas across the US, it has been enjoyed by countless beer lovers throughout the years.”
So what about Anchor? Why were they interested in being part of Sapporo? According to the rumors, Anchor’s been looking for funding to help fuel their growth for at least a year, as sales faltered somewhat in recent years. They’ve remained a strong brand, but the many new beers they’ve been releasing haven’t all done as well as hoped, and it’s been widely rumored that capacity has been down. Capacity is the maximum amount of beer a brewery can brew in a year, and the closer to 100% a brewery is, the more profitable they are. According to Anchor’s president, Keith Greggor, they’re currently operating at between 55 and 60 percent. The grand Pier 48 plan to build a new brewery and event space near AT&T Park has been on hold for a while now, and it’s unclear if that will change. What will change is Anchor will have access to expansion money and other resources that a company as large as Sapporo can make available for them. For example, they’ve already announced a new public taproom on De Haro St., across the street from the existing brewery will go forward as planned.
As is almost always the case, initially nothing will change at Anchor Brewing. None of the beers will change, they’ll continue to brew at their location on Potrero Hill and the current management team will remain at the helm. When Fritz Maytag sold Anchor to the Griffin Group in 2010, very little changed initially, though many hardcore beer lovers were concerned. As the beer industry is going through a period of time where breweries being bought by other breweries or financial groups is becoming commonplace, these deals are often met with a backlash. After an announced sale, many vow to no longer drink beer from the acquired brewery. It was particularly strong when Anheuser-Busch InBev bought 10 Barrel Brewing, Golden Road Brewing and several others recently or when Constellation Brands bought Ballast Point.
Most beer drinkers will be unaffected. Most don’t follow the beer industry’s news at all, and just buy the beer they like to drink. That’s what recent history has shown. There’s a small subset of all craft beer drinkers who really do follow the beer news, and care deeply about whether or not the brewery is independent. They’re often vicious on social media and once a brewery has “sold out,” they become dead to them. But in almost every case, the new markets and increased distribution that resulted from the acquisition more than makes up for losing their business and sales overall increase, often dramatically.
The trade association for craft breweries — The Brewers Association — has been promoting the value of independent breweries for many years, and rewrote their definition of a “craft brewery” in part to reflect that but also to determine who can be a member. They also recently rolled out an “Independent Craft Beer Seal” that members can put on their labels to indicate that they’re not owned by another company (or at least not more than 25 percent).
Being bought by Sapporo will make Anchor no longer eligible to be a member of the Brewers Association, which is particularly strange since Anchor Brewery is credited with starting the entire craft beer movement that resulted in the conditions that led to a trade group representing small brewers being viable. So as the days and weeks unfold, it will be interesting to see how hardcore beer lovers react. So far this morning, after the announcement, reactions have been fairly tame, at least compared to previous sales. Maybe we’re getting used to these things. They’ve definitely become part of the maturing of the craft beer industry, and we’ll continue to see many more in the coming years. This is simply part of the ups and downs of any industry.
But many beer lovers tend to be more emotional and feel an attachment to their favorite brewery, much more so than seems to happen in other businesses. Many breweries, in addition to their beer, sell a brand lifestyle that’s a part of the brand’s identity. Small brewers regularly promote themselves as being mavericks, rebels, independent or just different as a way of distinguishing themselves from the larger breweries. And it often works too well, so much so that their fans sometimes feel betrayed when they reveal themselves to have been a savvy business all along. I think with Anchor Brewery, who’s been around since 1896, they’ll be less of a backlash than in some of the more recent high profile sales. Anchor, and Fritz Maytag, re-invented itself in 1965 and sparked a revolution in beer-making. No one can take that away from them as they start the next chapter of their journey. As long as I can still get a fresh Liberty Ale the next time I stop by the brewery, everything will be fine.
As I’m sure many people are wondering, I asked Anchor’s press contact whether or not Fritz was consulted — not that they’d have to, of course — but just as a courtesy, and if so, what his thoughts were. As far as I can tell, I don’t think they did talk to him (again, not that they had to at all) and this was the response I got:
We think they would recognize the difficult decision we had to make and would approve of the care and diligence we have made in the route chosen. This acquisition and investment insures that Anchor will be able to continue its time-honored brewing tradition in San Francisco for a long time, which was Fritz’s goal when he sold the brewery.
When Anchor’s Liberty Ale was first released in 1975, few people knew what to make of it, and in the intervening years, I’ve heard debates on both sides about whether or not it’s a pale ale an IPA or something else altogether. Certainly it was the first beer to be brewed with Cascade hops. But Anchor seems to have an answer at last to that eternal question with the announcement today that they’re releasing a new beer, Liberty IPA, based on the original Liberty Ale. The press release is below, but all you need to know is in this sentence. “Liberty IPA is Anchor’s reimagining of the craft beer classic Liberty Ale, envisioned through the lens of today’s IPAs.”
Today, Anchor Brewing Company announces the release of Liberty IPA™, a bold and modern twist on an original craft classic, Liberty Ale.
Like its predecessor, Liberty IPA (6.3% ABV) is made with two-row pale malt and Cascade hops. It is the combination of Cascade with new hop varieties—Nelson Sauvin and El Dorado—that creates the mouthwateringly complex and robust aromas of pine and citrus in this crisp, American-style IPA.
“Liberty IPA is a revolutionary brew—reimagined,” said Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann. “The beer is a bright straw golden color and boasts aromas of dank and resinous pine up front, with bold citrus and grapefruit notes on the back end. You can really taste the assertive bitterness, with hints of a light biscuit malt base and a smooth, dry finish. Liberty IPA is a celebration of the Cascade hopped IPA’s that Anchor first popularized back in 1975 and remain at the forefront of American craft beer trends.”
Liberty IPA is Anchor’s reimagining of the craft beer classic Liberty Ale, envisioned through the lens of today’s IPAs. Liberty Ale was first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and was the first American IPA brewed after prohibition. This revolutionary forerunner of the modern IPA introduced America to the Cascade hop and the nearly lost art of dry-hopping, a steeping process to infuse beer with bold hop aromas.
Taking cues from the original Liberty Ale packaging, the newly designed Liberty IPA label features the bald eagle, a symbol of strength and freedom.
Liberty IPA is available starting January 2017 nationwide for a limited time in 6-pack bottles and on draught at select bars, restaurants, and stores as well as at the Anchor Brewing Taproom in San Francisco.
After posting a different Anchor Christmas Ale label every day for the last 42 days, I guess I’m not quite ready to let go just yet. Old-timers like me may also remember that Anchor made a Spruce Beer in 1991 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival.
I recall it being available on draft at GABF that year, but the remaining beer was then bottled in six-packs and sold until it was gone. I picked up several six-packs during that time, and apparently I am one of the few people to have really enjoyed the beer. It had a very fragrant nose, almost like Pine-Sol or a spruce cleanser, but it was much more muted in the flavor.
Unfortunately, Anchor rarely ever mentions it anymore. Even Fritz Maytag apparently thought it was too strong on the spruce character. There’s nothing about it on their website, and the only mention I could find was in a Modern Brewery Age article from 1991:
The Anchor Brewing Co. is presenting a draft of brewing history with a “spruce beer” that will be sold only in the city of San Francisco and in Colorado. The production of the brew will commemorate the 10th Great American Beer Festival to be held in Denver in early October.
Spruce beer is a revival of an old brewing tradition that was originated centuries ago in Northern Europe. Spruce beer was also a part of United States colonial history, as it was required by the Continental Congress to be part of every American soldier’s rations in 1775.
According to Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing Co.’s president and brewmaster, spruce beer is one example of many beers popular in pre-industrial Europe and America, which were brewed at home with locally available flavors and spices.
“This tradition includes everything from root beer to wassail,” Maytag noted. “Making this historic beer is a gesture of exploration and celebration. It’s an essay, an attempt to reach back into brewing history to honor the 10th anniversary of The Great American Beer Festival, and to celebrate our modern brewing Renaissance.”
Personally, I wish they’d brew it again, but I’m almost certain that will never happen. Anyway, here’s what the label looked like. It’s a shame I don’t have any to open for Unbottling Day.