San Francisco’s iconic Anchor Brewing is closing after 127 years

Anchor Brewing Co., the iconic San Francisco brewery opened in 1896 and purchased by Japan’s Sapporo in 2017, announced Wednesday it has stopped brewing its ales and will cease operations in the coming weeks. Anchor spokesman Sam Singer said the brewery was “losing millions of dollars a year” and had informed its 61 employees of the shutdown Wednesday morning. “We recognize the importance and historic significance of Anchor to San Francisco and the craft brewing industry,” he said, “but the impacts of the pandemic, inflation — especially in San Francisco — and a highly competitive market left us with no choice but to make this sad decision.”  

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Sapporo spent $85 million to buy Anchor in 2017, and brewery employees unionized two years later. “Over the past several years, we implemented a variety of measures to improve the business, such as releasing new products, product renewals, and making brand investments,” Sapporo President Masaki Oga said in a statement. “However, Anchor’s business performance continued to be sluggish.”

Anchor has nearly folded several times in its 127-year history, the Los Angeles Times noted: The brewery burned down in the 1906 earthquake, effectively closed during Prohibition in 1920, burned again in 1933 not long after new owner Joseph Kraus began brewing the company’s flagship Anchor Steam Beer, closed for a year in 1959, then settled into its heyday when Fritz Maytag bought a controlling stake and saved Anchor from bankruptcy in 1965. 

But this may be Anchor Brewing’s actual last call. The company said it will put its assets up for sale soon using a bankruptcy alternative called Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors. “Anchor’s always had a special place in the beer world and a special place in San Francisco,” Singer said. “They were out of cash and out of time.” Anchor will continue distributing its remaining stock in California until it is gone and keep operating its on-site taproom until August.

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