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I went to Anchor Brewery yesterday while I’m here in San Francisco and as you can see from our blog, I have visited several breweries all over the country. However, none of the other breweries I have visited seem to have the amount of history or charm, as Anchor Brewing.
Our guide Delia, showed us an excellent time and gave us the full story of America’s first craft brewery. From the mid-sixties when it almost went out, to the not so distant future of opening a second location, Anchor is the foundational inspiration for many other breweries. For example, Anchor uses gigantic copper kettles imported from Germany for more efficient thermal exchange during the brewing process and after consulting with Anchor prior to opening, so does Sierra Nevada. Delia told us the story of how Fritz Maytag (great grandson of Maytag) revitalized the company after becoming fifty-one percent controlling partner in the late nineteen sixties with about $3000. Fritz cleaned up the existing facilities and gradually transformed Anchor Brewing into what it is today. In 1981, Anchor trademarked the term ‘Steam Beer’ and now other beers of this type must legally go by the name type of ‘California Common’. Fritz’s passion for Anchor brewing is so pronounced, it took him ten years to find suitable buyers to continue to have Anchor Brewing keep the successful tradition of firsts well into the future. Fritz finally found this kindred passion in Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, when he sold Anchor Brewing in 2010.
On the tour we learned that production and bottling are all done onsite and their beer is bottled at a rate of 420 bottles per minute, over 25,000 per hour. Anchor does not force carbonate their beers, instead they employ a process called Krausening. A traditional method of carbonating beer without the use of adjuncts. They add vigorously fermenting one day old yeast (wort that has yeast added to it) to a almost completely fermented (or dormant) three day old yeast in order to continue the fermenting while capturing the additional carbonation and sealing it into the brew. Lagers are brewed at cooler temperatures and sometimes the yeast stop or go dormant before fermentation and consequent carbonation is complete. The process of Krausening will complete the fermenting process and add desired carbonation to the lager and is usually more effervescent as a result.
After touring the bottling level we continued on to the tasting room where we tasted five different brews. It was my first taste of the Argonaut series that so far includes Double Liberty and Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout. We also had a few others that I had not had previously: Meyer Lemon Lager, No 8 Luxardo Cherry Ale and what has become my favorite collaboration Brotherhood Steam. Brotherhood Steam originated as a collaboration between Chris Robinson and his other band project, the Brotherhood Band and Anchor Brewing. Previously, this one was exclusively available on tour with the Brotherhood Band. Brotherhood Steam became so popular that it is now being canned and made available elsewhere. We also had Anchor’s tribute to the San Francisco Giants, Orange Splash. Delia was that five tastes or six? 🙂
The brewery is filled with historical brewing artifacts, stories and photographs that allowed you to get lost in the past while enjoying the delicious present. Anchor Brewing has a planned expansion at a new location a few miles away along the wharf next to the new stadium at Pier 48. They will quadruple their output while maintaining their traditional brewing style. I inquired as to how this was going to happen, as the gigantic copper kettles alone might be hard to come by today. Anchor Brewing has been well-prepared for more than forty years as Fritz purchased even larger copper kettles at the same time he got the ones that are currently in use. These kettles will come out of storage and be installed at the new facility when it opens in about two years. I am making my reservations to enjoy this location and return to San Francisco now. Cheers to Anchor Brewing and thank you for all that you do.