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Pioneering Anchor Brewing Co. to halt operations after 127 years with beer sales in decline

Anchor Brewing-Closing
Posted at 11:43 AM, Jul 12, 2023

San Francisco’s 127-year-old Anchor Brewing Co. will shut down and liquidate after years of declining sales, citing tough economic conditions.

Anchor has been a trailblazer in the U.S., brewing craft beers when most Americans were loyal to one of the few major breweries.

The brewery teetered on insolvency in the 1960s, when it was acquired by Stanford grad Fritz Maytag, according to Anchor Brewing.

Maytag implemented new brewing practices such as dry hopping, and began bottling the beer in 1971. By the mid 1970s Anchor Brewing had assembled a solid portfolio of respected brews including Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale, and the first annual Christmas Ale, a sought-after brew around the holiday every year in multiple regions of the U.S.

In 2017 it was purchased by Japan's Sapporo.

Beer makers have faced increasing difficulties over the past few years, including lockdowns implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation concerns and the rise of sales of spirits.

Last year, overall beer sales volume was down 3.1% in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association. Craft brewer sales volume was up 0.1% during the period, but imports are rising.

“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,” spokesperson Sam Singer said in a written statement Wednesday.

Anchor said that it made repeated efforts over the past year to find buyers for the brewery and its brands, but that it was unable to find one. The company said that it is still possible that a buyer will come forward as part of the liquidation process.

Anchor recently announced that it would limit sales of its beers to California and that it would cut production of its Anchor Christmas Ale, a popular beer in many parts of the country, in an effort to cut costs.

The company has stopped brewing and will continue packaging and distributing the beer on hand while available or through around the end of the month.

Anchor Public Taps will remain open temporarily, selling remaining inventory, including a small volume of 2023 Anchor Christmas Ale, which was brewed prior to the company’s recent decision to cancel the nationwide release.

The brewer is giving employees a 60-day notice and plans to provide transition support and separation packages.

Anchor was founded in San Francisco in 1896.