Since the brewery poured its first pint back in 1896, the business has changed hands, shut down, reopened, relocated, and retooled countless times. The first brewers, Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel, Jr., ran the original location for about a decade. Then it all fell apart—Baruth died unexpectedly, a fire destroyed the brewery, and Schinkel was killed by a streetcar. The bad luck didn’t stop there; the next generation had to weather Prohibition, effectively ending Anchor's operations for 13 years. The brewery then operated from 1933 until 1959, when it shut down yet again due to the rising popularity of mass-produced national beers, which were systematically pushing out local brewers.
The lean times and sudden upheavals finally began to level out in 1965, when Stanford graduate and Anchor aficionado Fritz Maytag rescued the operation from the clutches of bankruptcy. From then until his retirement in 2010, Maytag carried the business onward and upward, expanding its selection, hiring a larger staff, and even opening an in-house distillery. Today, Anchor operates out of same Mariposa Street location it opened in 1979.
Anchor's iconic copper brewhouse hybridizes hundreds of years of traditions and wisdom. The machinery itself is handmade and decades old, but the quality-control systems are anything but dated. Brewers use state-of-the-art methods, including open fermentation, to ensure the beers are as pure and fresh as possible. Still, they manage to marry both the antique and the modern by using an ancient process called dry hopping. A process akin to steeping tea, dry hopping is the art of adding bagged hops to maturing ales—a practice that’s existed for centuries but has just recently come back into vogue.
In 1973, when Anchor only brewed one type of beer, visionary owner Fritz Maytag was seeing the future. Mark Carpenter, Anchor's brewmaster for more than 40 years, recited Maytag's prophetic vision to SF Station: "Down the road there are going to be hundreds of little beers around the country and I don’t just want to be known for Anchor Steam—I want to be known for Anchor Steam, and porter and ale [and so on]."
And indeed, since then they've led the microbrewery revolution. "So many of our beers that were the first of their varieties in the U.S. have gone on to be huge,” continues Carpenter, “Liberty Ale is probably the most copied beer in the world—cascade hops are used everywhere now, and we were the first. Old Foghorn barley wine was the first barley wine in the U.S., and we created the first wheat beer."
What’s on Tap
Ingredient Origins: Meats and produce hail from farms and producers around California, unless imported from Spain. Expect produce from Knoll Organic Farms and seafood from CleanFish.
What’s Behind the Name: Owner Ron Silberstein found an article in the Chronicle titled “Thirsty Bear Bites Man for Cold Beer.” It was the story about an escaped circus bear who wandered into a bar, bit Victor Kozlov’s hand to get his beer, and then fell asleep in a park outside the bar, probably with a fake mustache drawn on by his friends.
Where to Sit: Grab a brushed-steel chair near a red-felt pool table in one of the industrial-style rooms surrounding the brewery’s glass-encased tanks.
When to Go: Sunday—if you like flamenco. Local artists such as Roberto Zamora and Clara Rodriguez give lively performances each week.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Pick up a book on David Lynch or Henri Matisse at 871 Fine Arts (20 Hawthorne Street)
After: See a postmodern performance at the absolute cutting edge of theatre at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts (700 Howard Street).
When to Go
Belgian red ale: Different from an irish red ale, the belgian version has a distinctly sour taste produced by fermentation with lactobacilli and long aging periods in oak barrels, which also give it a wine-like character.
Sisig: Filipino for “sour snack,” the most common form of this dish consists of pork marinated in vinegar or citrus, and then flavored with savory seasonings.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Marvel at the thousands of novelty pins in every imaginable shape and slogan at Oriental Art Gallery (1340 9th Avenue).
After: Head to Urban Bazaar (1371 9th Avenue) for an evening class in crafts such as crochet and printmaking, or bring a growler to the monthly Stitch ‘n’ Bitch gathering.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Longtime Social chef Christopher Wong created the menu at Blueprint Tap Room (680 8th Street)—the concept’s similar, although the beers aren’t made in-house.
The Vibe: This space designed by Kelly Malone mixes reclaimed and recycled wood with exposed ductwork and hidden hideaways to create a functioning nod to the speakeasies of old.
The Food: There’s no kitchen at the taproom, but food trucks frequent the nearby streets. Guests can also bring their own eats from home or steal a picnic basket on the way over.
Where to Sit: After entering through the peephole-equipped door, belly up to the solid-wood bar to watch the bartenders pull from 12 taps. Guests can also sneak away to one of the many nooks and crannies, including a lounge-style area with pallet windows and plush banquettes.
While You’re Waiting
What to Drink: You can’t go wrong by sampling anything from the current draft list, which Zagat called one of the most “awesomely-curated” beer lists in the city.
The Vibe: When Imbibe magazine’s editors selected Magnolia as one of their 75 favorite breweries in 2014, owner Dave McLean told an interviewer that he wants to replicate the “comfortable and convivial atmosphere of a true ‘public house’,” complete with pints, brewery tours, and growlers to go.
Inside Tip: Magnolia doesn’t accept reservations. So if you want to get a seat without long waits, avoid peak dining hours.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Grab a whiskey and some stick-to-your-ribs barbecue at Magnolia’s sister restaurant, Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. (2505 3rd Street).
Housed within the heart of Golden Gate Park, Park Chalet Garden Restaurant manages to simultaneously embrace its natural surroundings and its contemporary, urban setting. Glass walls and ceilings completely surround the diners, affording them pastoral views of Queen Wilhelmina's windmill and the dutch-tulip garden without sacrificing the comfort of an indoor environment. During warm, sunny days, natural light floods the space and the retractable glass doors slide open to admit warm breezes. The dining room's pendant lamps and immense stone fireplace become invaluable at night, keeping the restaurant brightly lit and the temperatures toasty throughout the evening.
To complement this elegantly cozy ambiance, Executive Chef Matthew Urban and his team devised a menu of familiar comfort foods with subtly refined touches. Smoked paprika oil adds an unfamiliar yet welcome burst of savory flavor to the fried chicken, and cornmeal-crusted trout arrives at tables with an aromatic saffron aioli. Occasionally, the chefs look for inspiration in other cuisines and fuse those flavors with Californian ingredients. Crushed avocados add to the ahi tuna tartare's richness, but the dish's ginger-sesame vinaigrette balances those flavors with a hint of zesty spice.
However, the chefs aren't the only culinary talent at Park Chalet Garden Restaurant. The staff also brews a variety of beers in-house, crafting everything from smoky, German-style märzens to refreshingly hoppy IPAs. As diners enjoy one of these brews with their meal, they can take in the views and applaud the local bands and extraterrestrial magicians that perform every Tuesday evening.