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Six Important Things To Know About Anchor’s Sale to Sapporo

Including that many drinkers are bummed

Throgers/Flickr

News yesterday that San Francisco’s craft brewing stalwart Anchor would sell to Sapporo has made the rounds by now. That means it’s time to process it: Here are six key facts to know about what changes — or doesn’t — with Anchor owned by Sapporo.

  1. The originally undisclosed sale price was $85 million. That’s smaller than other California craft beer buyouts in recent memory, like Ballast Point’s sale to Constellation Brands for $1 billion and Heineken’s acquisition of Lagunitas for about $1 billion. But Anchor actually produces less beer than those other breweries do: 135,000 barrels in 2016, doing roughly $33 million in sales (although that represents the brewery only operating at around 50 percent capacity).
  2. Anchor will keep its operations in Potrero, and add a new taproom across the street. Anchor owns the brewery where it operates as well as space across De Haro street, where the new owners plan to open a tap room to the public.
  3. Anchor’s plans to build a second brewery and visitor center at Pier 48 are on hold. In 2013, Anchor announced it would expand to Pier 48, building a brewery in the space there that would triple its current beer-making capacity. The idea was a partnership with the Giants, who are still planning to develop the area adjacent to Pier 48 (currently a parking lot) with offices, housing, and park space. But Anchor’s involvement in the Giants’ project was already losing momentum before the sale to Sapporo, and now an Anchor spokesperson hints to the Chronicle that it’s on hold completely. Largely at issue are problems with Pier 48’s structural integrity. It could be very expensive to bring up to code and move in, and that’s a price Sapporo might not care to pay for a brewery it just bought.
  4. Anchor Distilling isn’t included in the sale and will spin off on its own. The deal will give Sapporo total ownership of “all of the equity interest of Anchor Brewing Company,” but that doesn’t include Anchor Distilling Company, an offshoot of Anchor that produces premium gin, vodka, and more spirits and has a tasting room above the Potrero brewery. Anchor Distilling “will now become a fully independent company in its own right.”
  5. Anchor will get kicked out of the SF Brewers Guild when the sale goes through. SF’s independent beer trade association writes that Anchor no longer fits the bill for membership because it’s now more than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer. “It will be beyond sad not to count Anchor Brewing Co. as a member, given their rich heritage both in the craft beer industry and San Francisco,” the guild’s executive director, Joanne Marino, writes in a press release that was then tweeted out by Chronicle food editor Paolo Lucchesi.
  6. The local beer community’s reaction is mixed. Rather than shocked, locals and industry insiders appear sad or disappointed by the sale, reports Jonathan Kauffman of the Chronicle. Some Twitter pundits suggest that Anchor’s acquisition, and its sale price, reveal a financially precarious company that had to be bought to survive in the long run. That’s in contrast to a vision of craft beer sellouts who talk about the importance of independent brewing before cashing in to Budweiser. Anchor’s most prominent owner, Fritz Maytag, didn’t start the brand: He bought it and built it up into what it’s become. And then he sold it in 2010, to The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company from former Skyy Vodka executives

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