Craft beer movement calls Bay Area home


Anchor Brewing Company started at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco during the Gold Rush producing steam beer. Fritz Maytag bought Anchor in 1965, started bottling in 1971 and launched a revolution.

"It caught on; he had pride in his product, he charged higher price than the average American beer, which was unheard of in those days, but it worked," Anchor Brewery Brewmaster Mark Carpenter said.

What sets Anchor and other craft beers apart is a rich, strong taste.

"Most of them are going for full flavor and character," Ken Weaver said.

Weaver is fascinated with Northern California craft beers. They have achieved cult status. He's written an insightful guide.

"We like choices and have good, artisanal, focused, high quality products we can have access to," Weaver said.

What Anchor fostered was followed by hundreds of other places. Chico, Hopland and the little town of Lagunitas. Then Lagunitas Brewing Company moved to Petaluma.

"The IPA was our first seasonal; it quickly caught on and quickly became our best seller," Lagunitas Brewing Company spokesperson Don Chartier said.

It makes up 65 percent of the brewery's business.

The next step logically were brew pubs, where customers can enjoy food with the beer and meet the people who work there.

The first place that came up with this concept may be in Hayward.

"Well, on our license we have 001," Buffalo Bill's Head Brewer Mike Manty said.

Buffalo Bill's brews a half dozen beers in barrels in the back of the brewpub.

"Produced on premise, getting a fresh product and keeping it local," Manty said.

Their beers include Alimony Ale, once the most bitter beer in the world. At least the name still is.

The craft beer industry represents just 6 percent of the market but it is growing. There are 2,000 craft breweries in the United States with 1,000 more planned.

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