The Three Faces of Anchor Brewing Company
San Francisco Legacy Since 1896
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.
Refined Brewing Methods
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."