Anchor Brewing, America’s oldest craft brewing company founded in San Francisco in 1896, has made the difficult decision to close after 127 years of operation.
The closure comes as a result of falling sales over the years, which has been exacerbated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese brewing company Sapporo, which acquired Anchor Brewing in 2017, said its efforts to revive the brand have not been successful.
The closure of Anchor Brewing marks the end of an era for craft beer enthusiasts and the wider brewing industry. The company, often referred to as the “godfather” of American craft brewing, played a key role in the craft beer renaissance. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, mourned the loss, saying, “Anchor was basically the grandfather of all American craft brewing… That was Anchor Brewing Company. And all of his people were the best.”
Anchor Brewing faced many challenges in recent years including a highly competitive market, inflation and declining sales. The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a significant blow, as 70% of the company’s sales came from restaurants and bars, which suffered significantly during the pandemic. Anchor Brewing spokesman Sam Singer acknowledged the impact of the pandemic, saying, “The pandemic has hit at the heart of Anchor.”
While the past few years have seen a rise in the popularity of craft beer, independent breweries have faced economic challenges. Anchor Brewing’s closure reflects the struggle of craft beer distributors in the face of changing consumer habits and declining sales. The pandemic exacerbated these difficulties, leading to acquisitions, rebranding, or closures of smaller breweries throughout the industry.
Anchor Brewing’s legacy is deeply rooted in the history of American brewing. The company survived historical events such as the San Francisco earthquake and the Prohibition era. Under the ownership of Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing experienced a resurgence, making specialty beers such as their Pale Ale and Christmas Ale popular.
Anchor Brewing hopes to find a buyer during the liquidation process, but the future remains uncertain. The company will continue packaging and distributing its remaining inventory in California through the end of July. Despite the challenges faced, the impact of Anchor Brewing’s closure on the craft brewing industry and the legacy it has left cannot be overstated.
As Oliver rightly puts it, “It takes a great deal of creativity, agility, and a modicum of luck for breweries, even great breweries, to weather all storms and remain the people’s choice. I hope It’s that they’ll come back somehow.”