Ever seen a short, pear-shaped bottle in the beer section of your local supermarket? There’s only one beer in the country that still uses that shape of bottle: San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, which bills itself as “America’s first craft brewery.” But as good as it tastes from the bottle—and as old-school cool as that bottle is—Anchor beers are even better on tap.
To taste what we mean, we recommend taking a guided Anchor Brewing tour to see its historic brewhouse, learn about it customized brewing techniques, and drink a pint in its taproom. Read on for a preview of what you’ll see and drink on your tour:
Located in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, Anchor Brewing Company operates inside a distinctive art-deco style factory built in 1937 (the brewery moved here in 1979).
Taking a tour here will feel like you stepped into another era of brew-making in pre-Prohibition America. You’ll get to see the brewery’s all-copper machinery, which are specially used for Anchor’s decades-old processes. A tour guide will explain how this equipment works to eventually turn open-cone hops, wheat malts, yeast, and water into delicious beer. And you’ll learn how Anchor’s special location along the California coast allows it to use the cool San Francisco air during open fermentation.
Afterward, you’ll head into the Anchor Brewing taproom, which has the ambiance of a turn-of-the-century California saloon, to taste some of its brews.
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Rejoice: Each Anchor Brewing tour includes samples. Tasting a brew right from its source is an essential experience for any budding beer connoisseur, and Anchor offers up to 12 different options on tap. While we encourage you to let your tastebuds guide your selections, there are three flagship Anchor beers you simply have to try:
California Steam | ABV 4.9%
It’s Anchor Brewing’s most-popular beer...and its most unique. Anchor Steam is the ancestor of “steam beers,” which were made during the California Gold Rush using an unusual open-fermentation technique. These beers are so named because during that process, the rooftops of local breweries would appear to emit steam. Today’s Anchor Steam beer is smooth, well-balanced, and one-of-a-kind.
American Porter | ABV 5.6%
Introduced in 1972, Anchor Porter is considered the first American porter brewed after Prohibition, and it’s the perfect compliment to Anchor Steam. Roasted malts lend the beer rich, creamy, and toffee flavors. But it’s surprisingly light and easy-to-drink, especially on a winter’s day.
American IPA | ABV 5.9%
Brewed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous ride, Anchor’s Liberty Ale helped revive the now-prevalent style of India Pale Ales in America. The brewery calls it “the beer that started a revolution” for its use of Cascade hops and its dry-hopping process. Naturally, it’s hoppy and crisp, with flowery aromas.
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Interesting Facts About Anchor Brewing
Anchor Brewing opened in 1896, making it the oldest brewery in California and west of Colorado.
The brewery was featured in the 1970’s TV crime drama The Streets of San Francisco in an episode starring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played an Anchor Brewing employee.
Anchor Brewing was on the cusp of closure in the mid-1960’s, when Fritz Maytag (of the Maytag appliance family) purchased the company. He’s credited with turning around the brewery and helping perfect the recipes for Anchor Steam, among others. His work earned him a James Beard Lifetime Achievement award in 2008.
Janis Joplin and the band Big Brother & the Holding Company held a photo session at the old Anchor Brewing Company in 1965.