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Anchor Brewing Co., the First US Craft Brewery, Announces Imminent Closure

Anchor Brewing, the iconic San Francisco craft brewery established in 1896, has announced its closure due to economic challenges. Learn about the factors behind this decision, as well as the company's plans for liquidation. 

Anchor Brewing Co., the First US Craft Brewery, Announces Imminent Closure

Anchor Brewing Co., a world-renowned brewery in San Francisco with a rich history dating back to 1896, has made the tough decision to cease operations and liquidate the business, according to a press release unveiled in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The company attributes its closure to several economic factors, including declining sales since 2016, exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic, inflation and intense competition in the market. The decision has left the city and the craft beer community saddened by the loss of this historic and cherished brewery.

Declining Sales and Economic Pressures Led to Closure

Anchor Brewing Co. officials officially announced the closure on Wednesday, delivering 60-day notices to employees. The company intends to provide transition support and separation packages to the affected staff in line with its established practices and policies. "This was an extremely difficult decision that Anchor reached only after many months of careful evaluation," Anchor Brewing spokesperson Sam Singer said in a press release. "We recognize the importance and historic significance of Anchor to San Francisco and to the craft brewing industry, but the [economic] impacts… and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations."

Shift in Strategy and Limited Distribution

In 2017, Anchor was sold to Sapporo, which then acquired craft stalwart Stone Brewing in 2022 (representing a seismic shift in craft brewing). Earlier this year, Anchor Brewing Co. had begun to take steps to adapt to the challenging market conditions. The company had announced a restriction on the sales of Anchor beers to California and had scaled back production of their highly regarded Anchor Christmas Ale. Despite these measures, the economic pressures became insurmountable, leading to the difficult decision to shut down the brewery.

"Anchor has invested great passion and significant resources into the company," Singer continued in the release. "Unfortunately, today's economic pressures have made the business no longer sustainable, and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to cease operations."

Closure Details and Future Prospects

Following the announcement, Anchor Brewing Co. has halted its brewing operations. However, the company will continue packaging and distributing its existing beer inventory until the end of July or until supplies last. In the meantime, Anchor Public Taps, the brewery's taproom, will remain open temporarily, offering the remaining inventory for sale, including a limited quantity of the 2023 Anchor Christmas Ale.

Looking ahead, Anchor Brewing Co. is currently in negotiations to determine whether to file for bankruptcy under federal Chapter 7 or 11. While bankruptcy is a potential outcome, the company is also exploring the option of selling its assets as an alternative. Although finding a buyer for the brewery has proved challenging so far, Anchor remains hopeful that a prospective buyer may emerge during the liquidation process.

Appreciation for Employees and Legacy

"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."

The closure of Anchor Brewing Co. marks the end of an era for San Francisco and the craft brewing industry at large. As Anchor bids farewell to its loyal customers and employees, its legacy as the country's first craft brewery will forever hold a significant place in the hearts of beer enthusiasts all over the world.

Stay tuned as more information about this shocking closure becomes available.

History of Anchor

Established in 1896 by German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and Otto Schinkel, Jr., Anchor Brewery got its name from the booming Port of San Francisco. The year 1906 brought a series of unfortunate events, with the sudden death of co-owner Ernst Baruth and the subsequent destruction of the brewery in the devastating fire following the great earthquake. However, the brewery persevered thanks to German brewers Joseph Kraus and August Meyer, along with Henry Tietjen.

Prohibition struck in 1920, effectively shutting down Anchor Brewery. While there might have been some illicit activities during this time, there is no record of Anchor Brewery's involvement. The end of Prohibition in 1933 marked the return of Anchor Brewery, with owner Joe Kraus brewing Anchor Steam Beer. The brewery faced another setback in 1959 when changing consumer tastes and the rise of mass-produced, lighter beers affected sales. Joe Allen temporarily closed Anchor, but it was reopened in 1960 by Lawrence Steese.

The craft brewing revolution took hold in 1965 when Fritz Maytag, a Stanford graduate, acquired 51% ownership of Anchor Brewery, rescuing it from imminent bankruptcy. By 1971, Anchor began bottling Anchor Steam Beer, followed by the introduction of four other distinctive beers in 1975: Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale, and the annual Christmas Ale. In 1977, owner Fritz Maytag purchased a new home for Anchor Brewery, a former coffee roastery on Mariposa Street, which will remain its location until the brewery shutters.