Anchor Brewing in San Francisco is ceasing operations after 127 years

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Bottles of Anchor Steam beer are on display on August 3, 2017 in San Anselmo, California.

New York

Pour one over to Anchor Brewing: America’s oldest craft brewer is closing after 127 years in business.

The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday that it is ceasing operations and liquidating the beloved business, “following challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016,” according to a press release. Craft brewers, in particular, are struggling for a variety of reasons, including changing consumer habits. Rising costs and persistent supply chain challenges.

Another issue is Japanese beer company Sapporo, which bought the brand in 2017. Employees complained to Winebaer Last month about Sapporo’s mismanagement and lack of understanding of craft beer in America. Additionally, Anchor’s 2021 rebranding was criticized for straying too far from the brand’s classic look.

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Anchor Brewing spokesman Sam Singer. “The impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market, left us with no choice but to make this sad decision to cease operations,” he said.

Workers at Anchor, which employs 61 people, were given a statutory 60-day notice on Wednesday and will be offered “alternative support and severance packages”. Brewing stopped immediately and the beer on hand will still be sold until the end of July.

Last month, Anchor cut national distribution, limited its sales to California, and announced it would end production of its fan-favorite Christmas Ale after nearly 50 years. (The “small batch” of Christmas Ale is now sold in its tap houses until it runs out.)

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“While final efforts were made to evaluate all possible outcomes, those decisions were made to reduce costs,” Anger said, however, “ultimately, costs continued to exceed revenues and the company had no other viable choice.”

Sapporo has made “repeated attempts” to sell the business over the past year, Anchor said. But those efforts fell through, although Anchor said it was “possible that a buyer could come forward to take over the brewery as part of the liquidation process.”

Anchor was launched in San Francisco in 1896 and was the nation’s first craft brewery. Fritz Maytag, a descendant of the Maytag Corporation, bought Anchor in 1965 when it was in bankruptcy and helped the craft beer industry in America. Its most notable brew is Steam Beer, a pale ale.

According to the Brewers Association, under Sapporo’s ownership, Anchor’s beer production has declined drastically every year (except in 2021). Brewbound, a beer industry website, reported earlier Sapporo’s recent acquisition of craft brewer Stone Brewing has sparked concerns among Anchor’s staff about how their brewery fits into Sapporo’s plans.

Sapporo did not respond to a request for comment.

The situation for craft breweries has not improved this year. NIQ data provided to Kraft Business Daily showed sales of the category are down nearly 4% year-to-date and volume is down more than 7%, showing it “has a tough start to 2023”.

“This is a sad day in the history of craft manufacturing in America,” Harry Schumacher, publisher of Craft Business Daily, told CNN. “I know Fritz must be heartbroken. He literally grew the brewery to become San Francisco’s hometown beer from bankruptcy in the ’60s and symbol of America’s craft beer renaissance.

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Anchor’s closing “highlights the lingering economic barriers” facing craft brewers, Brian Crawford, CEO of the Beer Institute, told CNN. “Between unnecessary and harmful tariffs on aluminum, ongoing supply chain disruptions, and suspected tax loopholes for hard liquor products, the beer industry faces significant challenges.”

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