Craft Beer Pioneer Anchor Brewing Is Being Sold

Aug 03, 2017

Anchor Brewing, the company widely credited with sparking the craft beer movement in the United States, is being bought by an international beer giant.

Japan's Sapporo has purchased Anchor for an undisclosed amount, as first reported by SFGate. Sapporo, which also owns a Canadian brewery, is the top selling Asian beer in the U.S. The deal comes after a yearlong search, where Anchor held talks with several large brewers around the world to find the right partner.

Big breweries have been buying up notable names in the craft world at a rapid pace of late. AB InBev purchased North Carolina's Wicked Weed Brewing in May. That same month, Heineken bought full control of Lagunitas.

Anchor is unique in the brewing world, though. Opened in 1896, it had fallen on hard times when it was bought in 1965 by Frederick Louis "Fritz" Maytag III. Rather than compete with the macro breweries of the time, he decided to try something different, offering his flagship product at a higher price—and discovered there actually was a market for more expensive beer.

"Certainly Steam beer is responsible for starting [interest in craft beers] because every other beer in the U.S. at the time was a yellow beer," Mark Carpenter, Anchor's brewmaster in 2015, told Fortune.

The brewer says its products, which include Anchor Steam and the company's annual Christmas beer (another industry trend led by Anchor), will continue to be made in San Francisco.

Not included in the sale was Anchor Distilling, a small operation that has traditionally run out of the brewery and produces such spirits as Hop Head vodka and Junipero Gin.

That operation will become a separate company.

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