USA: "America's First Craft Brewery" Closes After 127 years

Anchor Brewing, the oldest craft brewery in the United States and a beloved San Francisco institution, will be closed and liquidated  after 127 years of operation.

Sapporo Holdings, the Japanese owner of the brewery that bought it in 2017 (, 4.8.2017, well ahead of the pandemic, said the decision was driven by declining sales and economic pressures, including the impact of the pandemic and inflation, which have affected numerous breweries.

Prior to the announcement, Anchor had already discontinued the production of its popular Christmas Ale which it has made almost 50 years and halted national distribution of its beers. The company provided its 61 employees with a 60-day notice and assured them of transition support and separation packages.

Sapporo's announcement last week that its other US brewery, Stone Brewing fromEscondido, California, would begin production of Sapporo beer, "the #1 selling Asian beer brand in the US," (, 8.7.2023) makes even more sense in light of the decision that has now been made public.

The closure of Anchor Brewing, often referred to as "America's first craft brewery," saddened many people, considering its significant role in San Francisco's food, culture, and social scene.

The Chief Economist at the Brewers Association, Bart Watson, acknowledged the historical significance of Anchor Brewing in the American beer industry, stating that its contribution cannot be overstated. He also mentioned that the craft brewing market has experienced radical growth, leading to increased competition even for established brands. Watson emphasized that Anchor's closure should be understood within the context of a maturing craft beer market that the brewery itself helped shape.

Anchor Brewing has deep roots in San Francisco, with its flagship beer, Anchor Steam, tracing back to the Gold Rush era. The distinct taste of Anchor Steam beer is often associated with the essence of San Francisco, evoking imagery of a cold foggy day, the aroma of a sourdough factory, and a hint of the metallic rail of a cable car.

Throughout its history, Anchor Brewing faced various challenges but managed to overcome them. The brewery was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire but successfully rebounded. It temporarily shut down during Prohibition and resumed brewing in 1933. However, mass-produced beers affected its sales in the late 1950s, leading to closure until it reopened under new ownership in 1960. Fritz Maytag, the iconic figure behind Anchor Brewing, played a crucial role in its revival and revolutionizing microbrewing in the United States. Maytag's rescue of the brewery became a foundational story in the American craft beer movement.

Maytag sold Anchor Brewing in 2010, and the company changed hands again when it was acquired by Japanese brewery Sapporo in 2017. The challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic further compounded Anchor's difficulties, with a significant portion of its sales relying on bars and restaurants that were forced to close. The company attempted to adapt by producing bottled and canned beers for retail, but it proved insufficient to compete against larger brands already dominating store shelves.


Despite efforts to recover, such as discontinuing the Christmas Ale and limiting beer sales to California, Anchor Brewing was unable to find a new owner in the past year. The company expressed the possibility of a buyer emerging during the liquidation process. Fans of Anchor Brewing have expressed their sadness and support, contacting the company to inquire about where they can find the last remaining batches of their beloved beers.

Anchor Public Taps, located across from the brewery, will remain open temporarily to sell the remaining inventory, including a limited supply of the Christmas Ale, offering enthusiasts a chance to savor the brewery's final offerings.

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