SF's Anchor Brewing Company, country's 1st craft brewery, shutting down after 127 years

ByAmanda del Castillo and Suzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, July 13, 2023
SF's historic Anchor Brewing Company shutting down after 127 years
After 127 years in business, San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company is shutting down as they faced declining sales since 2016.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After 127 years in business, San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company is shutting down.

According to a press release, the brewery has been facing challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016.

"This was an extremely difficult decision that Anchor reached only after many months of careful evaluation," Anchor Brewing spokesperson Sam Singer said. "We recognize the importance and historic significance of Anchor to San Francisco and to the craft brewing industry, but the impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations."

With roots dating back to the California Gold Rush, what's often referred to as America's first craft brewery is officially liquidating business.

"Right now, these are some tough economic times," Singer told ABC7 News. "And Anchor's demise is symbolic of that."

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Resident Elise Mackanych said, "It's sad to see such an institution go out of business."

The announcement was made after 1 a.m. on Wednesday. At this point, brewing has stopped. However, the crew will continue packaging and distributing the beer on hand while available or through the end of July.

This is certainly sad news for fans who have long loved Anchor's fleet of beer, including the flagship Anchor Steam, that started it all, and so much more.

"Anchor sales were centered in bars, taprooms. When the pandemic came along, those ended completely," Singer shared. "The company had switched to selling in grocery stores and markets and was late to the game to do that at a large level."

Singer said simply put, Anchor was out of cash and out of time.

He said there's hope another buyer might be able to keep the brewery anchored in San Francisco, but that hasn't happened yet.

The company's 61 employees were given a 60-day notice on Wednesday, and will be given transition support and separation packages.

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"There's a lot of skill and care that goes into craft work and particular trades, and that's really important," SF resident Vicky Carrillo said. "And different types of labor are really important. And I think we need to be more conscious of how each individual is giving something to our society, whether it's beer or tech or whatever."

This latest development comes one month after Anchor announced it was stopping national distribution and discontinuing its Christmas Ale, which it has produced since 1975.

A difficult decision after what Singer said is many months of careful evaluation.

"It's a very sad day. I'd say Anchor is a San Francisco institution. It's a shame that it's closing," said San Francisco resident Caroline Keddy.

Frances Baxter drove from Pacifica hoping to buy her brother something special from Anchor Brewing Company.

"...my brother Paul Baxter - he's always a big a big fan of Anchor and he's right now back in Pennsylvania," said Baxter. "I was hoping to stop by and pick up a bottle of maybe the Christmas ale for him."

"I wanted to get a little bit of 'Old Fog Horn,' is what it called," said Robert Whitton of San Francisco.

Anchor Brewing means so much to a lot of people.

"It means San Francisco history. I guess it was the first craft beer that started the spawning of other micro-breweries," said Baxter.

"When I first moved to San Francisco, it was one of those things where anchor steam is made in San Francisco so had to try it because I came for the East Coast. I never heard of it before and then it became a favorite," said Keddy.

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At Connecticut Yankee Bar in Potrero Hill, we found David Nelson drinking an Anchor Liberty Ale.

Nelson is heartbroken to see anchor brewing company go.

"I just hate to see some other company come in and buy something as so iconic as Anchor Steam and then close it down," said Nelson.

"It was great that Fitz Maytag saved it back in 1966. I just wish somebody would save it now. Maybe someone from Salesforce, someone from the Golden State Warriors could buy Anchor Steam and bring it back you know," said Baxter.

Anchor Public Taps will remain open temporarily. They'll sell remaining inventory, including a small volume of 2023 Anchor Christmas Ale, brewed prior to the company's recent decision to cancel the nationwide release.

Anchor was established in San Francisco in 1896 and was the country's first craft brewery.

The company's assets will be put up for sale as an alternative to bankruptcy. Anchor has had no luck in finding buyers for the brewery, but state in the press release that one may still come forward in the liquidation process.

"Anchor is grateful for its employees who exude so much passion for the Anchor brand," Singer said. "Anchor thanks them for their commitment and all that they have done to build and care for this beloved brewery."

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