With roots dating back to the California Gold Rush, Anchor Brewing Company is America’s first craft brewery, founded in San Francisco in 1896. Today, Anchor combines the time-honored art of classical brewing with carefully applied, state-of-the-art modern methods, producing handmade beer from all-malt mash in a traditional copper brewhouse.
The company’s flagship beer, Anchor Steam Beer, owes its deep amber color, creamy head and rich, distinctive flavor to a unique brewing approach. The name Steam Beer refers to Anchor’s original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco rooftops in the cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. To achieve similar effects, Anchor’s modern practice involves fermenting a blend of pale and caramel malts with lager yeast at warmer-than-usual temperatures – more to temperatures used for ale – in shallow, open-air fermenters. Additional carbonation follows regular fermentation through an all-natural process called kräusening.
Anchor Steam Beer survives today thanks to Fritz Maytag, who purchased a 51 percent ownership interest in the company in 1965, when it was nearly broke after decades of struggle. Prohibition had forced Anchor to take a 13-year hiatus; then came years of turmoil that included a fire and several ownership changes. Under Maytag’s leadership, the brewery resumed bottling Anchor Steam Beer and began producing four other distinctive beers: Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale and the first Christmas Ale, all by 1975. Though the terms “microbrewing” and “craft brewing” had yet to be coined, it was clear that Anchor was leading a brewing revolution.
In 2010, after 45 years, Fritz Maytag, having inspired thousands of craft brewers, announced his retirement with the sale of Anchor Brewing to Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio. Anchor’s owners have pledged to preserve and expand the iconic brand’s operations and cement its position as a leader in craft brewing.