Anchor Brewing, a true San Francisco institution of more than 127 years, is shutting down operations, the company announced Wednesday, July 12. The beer production already stopped, and Public Taps closed temporarily Wednesday in light of the news (although the taproom will resume operation Thursday, July 13, through the end of the month, a spokesperson confirms). The history of the company considered the first American craft brewery, includes another near-death acquisition in 1965, a major acquisition by Sapporo USA and subsequent union drive, followed by lagging sales in recent years. Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, the company ceased distributing beer outside of California and halted its popular annual Christmas ale.
According to Vinepair, the Japanese conglomerate subsidiary held an all-hands meeting at the historic Potrero Hill brewery where they let workers know the company is ceasing all operations and liquidating. Sam Singer, a representative retained by the company, issued an early morning press release confirming the closure ahead of the 9 a.m. meeting. Singer told the San Francisco Chronicle the brewery was losing millions of dollars a year, but employees told Vinepair that Sapporo’s neglect of equipment maintenance and anti-union behavior were significant factors to those losses. “I think Sapporo sunk Anchor,” Nate Dias, a former production worker who left in June 2023, told the outlet.
Sapporo USA bought the company in 2017 for $85 million and implemented a series of changes during its ownership, including brewing trendy flavors, a branding overhaul, launching a public taproom, and selling beer in a can for the first time. Just two years later workers voted to unionize, joining the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. At the time, workers were asking for better pay and better hours. A current worker who spoke to Vinepair told the outlet they had not heard about the shutdown until that conversation.
That all said, the brewery could be purchased at the final hour. The company is selling its assets through a process called Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors (ABC), which is used to make money back for investors quickly, in comparison to bankruptcy. It was through this same process longtime owner Fritz Maytag bought the brewery in 1965. As Peter Hartlaub for the Chronicle wrote, the beer is as much a San Francisco staple as It’s-It ice cream sandwiches and Oracle Park garlic fries. Perhaps another company will decide to take up the mantle and keep the beer flowing.