The oldest craft brewery in the United States is shutting down after 127 years

Jul 13, 2023, 5:00 AM

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

Bottles of Anchor Steam beer are displayed on August 3, 2017 in San Anselmo, California. Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

NEW YORK (CNN) — Pour one out for Anchor Brewing: America’s oldest craft brewer is shutting down after 127 years in business.

The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday it’s ceasing operations and liquidating the beloved business “following a combination of challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016,” a press release said. Craft brewers, in particular, have been struggling for a variety of reasons including changing consumer habits, rising costs and lingering supply-chain challenges.

Another problem has been Sapporo, the Japanese beer company that bought the brand in 2017. Employees complained to VinePair last month about Sapporo’s alleged mismanagement and lack of understanding of craft beer in the US. In addition, a 2021 rebrand of Anchor was also criticized for pivoting too far away from the brand’s classic look.

“This was an extremely difficult decision that Anchor reached only after many months of careful evaluation,” said Anchor Brewing spokesperson Sam Singer. He added that the “impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.”

Workers at Anchor, which employs 61 people, were given a legally mandated 60-day notice Wednesday and will receive “transition support and separation packages.” Brewing has stopped immediately and beer on hand will still be sold through the end of July.

Last month, Anchor cut national distribution, limiting its sales to just California, and announced it was ending production of its fan-favorite Christmas Ale after nearly 50 years in production. (A “small volume” of its Christmas Ale is now being sold at its tap houses until it runs out.)

Anchor said that those decisions were made to “reduce costs while final attempts were made to evaluate all possible outcomes,” however, “in the end, expenses simply continued to outstrip revenues, leaving the company with no other viable choice.”

Sapporo has made “repeated efforts” over the last year to sell the business, Anchor said. But those efforts have failed, though Anchor did say it’s “possible that a buyer will step forward for the brewery as part of the liquidation process.”

Anchor got its start in 1896 in San Francisco, becoming the nation’s first-ever craft brewery. Fritz Maytag, a descendent of the Maytag Corporation, bought Anchor in 1965 when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and helped usher in the craft beer industry in the US. Its most notable brew was Steam Beer, a pale ale.

Under Sapporo’s ownership, production of Anchor’s beer has largely declined every year (except in 2021), according to the Brewers Association. Brewbound, a beer industry website, previously reported that Sapporo’s recent purchase of craft brewer Stone Brewing sparked concerns among Anchor’s employees of how their brewery fits into Sapporo’s plans.

Sapporo didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The state of craft breweries hasn’t improved this year. NIQ data given to Craft Business Daily showed the category’s sales are down nearly 4% year to date and volume is down more than 7%, showing that “craft has had a tough start to 2023,” the publication said.

“This is a sad day in the history of craft brewing in America,” Harry Schuhmacher, Craft Business Daily’s publisher told CNN. “I know Fritz must be heartbroken. He literally nurtured that brewery from insolvency in the 60s to becoming San Francisco’s hometown beer and symbolic of America’s craft beer resurgence.”

Anchor’s closure “highlights the sustained economic headwinds” facing craft brewers, Brian Crawford, CEO of the Beer Institute, told CNN. “Between unnecessary and harmful tariffs imposed on aluminum, to continued supply chain disruptions, to dubious tax loopholes for hard liquor products, the beer industry faces significant challenges.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Breaking News

Salt Lake police were called to investigate a suspicious circumstance at the King’s English Books...

Curt Gresseth

Bomb threat shuts down drag queen story time

Drag queen story time at the King's English Bookstore on Sunday canceled by bomb threat. The bookstore owner joins the show to talk about the incident.

18 hours ago

A man in a bomb suit returns from the area. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)...

Mariah Maynes & Devin Oldroyd

Police confirm no threat after U.S. Bank tower evacuation

SLCPD said it is helping evacuate the U.S. Bank tower in Downtown SLC after a suspicious circumstance was reported.

22 hours ago

a graphic shows jodi hildebrandt...

Simone Seikaly

Jodi Hildebrandt, Ruby Franke business partner, surrenders professional license

Hildebrandt, along with Franke, gave parenting advice on a YouTube channel called “8 Passengers.”

7 days ago

FILE - The icon for the video sharing TikTok app is seen on a smartphone, Feb. 28, 2023, in Marple ...


TikTok is hit with $368 million fine under Europe’s strict data privacy rules

The investigation found that the sign-up process for teen users resulted in settings that made their accounts public by default, allowing anyone to view.

11 days ago

possibly exposed to covid...

Simone Seikaly

Secure protocol lifted at Highland High

Highland High School was temporarily on secure protocol Thursday afternoon after an adult was seen brandishing a weapon nearby.

12 days ago

hunter biden...


Hunter Biden indicted on federal firearms charges in long-running probe weeks after plea deal failed

Hunter Biden is accused of lying about his drug use when he bought a firearm in 2018, a period when he has acknowledged struggling with addiction.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

The oldest craft brewery in the United States is shutting down after 127 years