Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Food & Drinks
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Published on July 12, 2023
UPDATE: Liquidation Likely, As Anchor Brewing - 127 Year Old S.F. Institution & America's Oldest Craft Brewery - Closes Up Shop in Devastating Addition to "SF Exodus"Source: Wikimedia / Picardin

Update: Anchor Brewing owner Sapporo will likely liquidate assets. The brewery could find a lifeline in a fire sale.

The iconic San Francisco brewery, Anchor Brewing, has announced its shutdown after an astounding 127 years of crafting its signature steam beer. The SF Chronicle reports that the company has halted brewing and all 61 employees have been notified of the decision, a devastating blow not only to the industry but also to the city, which has seen a growing number of businesses close their doors.

Wikimedia / Binksternet

According to the company spokesperson, Sam Singer, in reports by NBC Bay Area, the root cause for the brewery’s downfall lies in financial losses driven by the culmination of the lingering effects of the pandemic, rising inflation, and the highly competitive craft brewing market. Anchor Brewing has faced declining sales since 2016, and its traditional steam brewing technique only added to the financial burden.

Anchor Brewing gained a reputation as the nation's first craft brewery since its inception in 1896, and its influence on San Francisco's culture and the broader craft brewing scene was immense. However, the company's historical status as a pioneer in the industry did not protect it from the financial strain in recent years, which led to the Japanese beer giant Sapporo purchasing Anchor in 2017. Despite the acquisition, the company's revenue continued to decline, affected by both the loss of its official "craft" designation and competition in the market that seemed relentless.

Wikimedia / HaeB

The brewing industry as a whole faced similar challenges in the past few years. A San Francisco Chronicle article from 2022 reported that beer sales were down about 3% by volume, leading to several Bay Area breweries consolidating to survive. The situation only worsened for Anchor Brewing, which relied heavily on sales through bars and restaurants. Although the company attempted expansion into retail distribution, it was unable to make a significant breakthrough, adding to the challenges faced by the iconic brewery.

Wikimedia / WolfmanSF

Furthermore, Anchor Brewing took several measures to mitigate its financial challenges, such as discontinuing its beloved Christmas Ale and limiting distribution to California. Even so, these efforts proved insufficient, forcing the company to make the difficult decision to cease operations.

Anchor Brewing had already halted national distribution of its beer and brewed its final batch at the historic Potrero Hill brewery, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of many enthusiasts and San Francisco residents, who now look back at the San Francisco institution's legacy with nostalgia and sadness. Anchor Public Taps, the brewery’s taproom, will continue operation until at least August 1st, possibly longer, but the future remains uncertain.

Facing insurmountable financial difficulties, the company now plans to liquidate the business through a process called Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors (ABC), which serves as an alternative to bankruptcy aimed at paying back creditors as quickly as possible.

There is still a glimmer of hope. As reported by SFGATE, Anchor Brewing has been unable to find a new buyer, but someone could potentially step in and purchase the brewery during the liquidation process. This outcome would potentially save Anchor Brewing and allow it to continue its long-standing legacy in the craft brewing community and the city of San Francisco, where it's always had a special place.