Anchor was America’s first craft brewery; it was a craft brewery before anyone even knew or used the words “craft” and “brewery” together. The significant part of the story of this venerable San Franciscan brewer took place in 1965 when Fritz Maytag bought a controlling share of the failing Anchor Brewery, rescuing it from otherwise imminent bankruptcy.
The brewery’s history tenuously leads back to 1871, which is when a German brewer named Gottlieb Brekle bought an old saloon and plumbed in a brewery. In 1896 Brekle sold the brewery and the name changed to Anchor. From then on it passed to multiple owners, burnt down twice, shuttered through Prohibition, then reopened and moved location half a dozen times until Maytag took it over. Maytag then moved it again a few years later—this time to Potrero Hill, where it’s been ever since—and tried to transform its tumultuous wellbeing and then-terrible reputation.
The Anchor Brewery Tour Visit The Original American Craft Brewery Photo Gallery
Between then and now a lot happened and for much of the early years of craft brewing Anchor were at the forefront; they were the sole point of reference for new small brewers, especially so for those opening in California. Steam Beer is the flagship brew, a style they’ve kept alive and which has become a unique American invention—it’s a lager brewed at a warm temperature with a specific yeast that’s evolved to suit this method of production. If we want to know what American beers tasted like 100 years ago, then this is one of the closest brews for telling us the answer.
Alongside Steam they effectively brewed the first IPA with their Liberty Ale, though they did it before modern IPAs were a thing. And they brewed Old Foghorn Barley Wine in 1975, the same year that the first American Light beer was released (see post 37). In 2010, Maytag retired from the brewery and sold it to Bay Area booze entrepreneurs Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, who are continuing the traditions of this historic brewery and also building a new site near the Giants’ baseball stadium (which should be open by the time this my blog is published).
You should visit the brewery on Potrero Hill. You begin and end in the taproom. The impeccable, handsome brewhouse next to the bar has three copper vessels, which were built in Germany in 1956. You’ll see the impressive open fermentation room; you’ll get to smell the intoxicating hop room; there’s the cellar, packaging area, and a walk down a hall of fame-style line of photos and beer history, which takes you back to the taproom for a flight of beers. Tours sell out months in advance, so plan ahead.
Once you’re done at the brewery, you should find an old bar somewhere in town and sit down with a pint of Steam Beer. It’s a key beer in America’s craft beer history.
One of America’s most handsome brewhouses.
WHAT: Anchor Brewing
HOW: There are 90-minute tours two or three times a day throughout the week. my blog months in advance to avoid disappointment (www. anchorbrewing. com).
WHERE: 1705 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, California 94107, USA