Inflation and San Francisco’s market conditions just destroyed an iconic brewery that has been making beer in the Bay Area since 1896.
Anchor Steam Beer announced that it would cease operations after 127 years. In a statement to SFGate, the company’s leaders cited pandemic-related inflation, as well as the high cost of doing business in the Bay Area, as the reasons for throwing in the towel.
Changes Didn’t Stick
The brewery had been losing money for years, but had tried to scrape by by making big changes to their business model. For example, they eliminated some of their most popular brews and limited sales to California only.
Even that turned out not to be enough to combat the destructive power of inflation. In a less expensive area, perhaps Anchor could have weathered the storm, but here in the Bay Area, prices are so high that they just couldn’t keep going.
SfGate reports that the company’s employees have been given their 60-day notice. It’s likely that Anchor will be liquidated and sold off to other brewing companies.
A Sad Day
It’s a sad day for San Francisco’s beer aficionados and for the craft brew community in general. Anchor considered itself America’s first craft brewery and produced beers using a unique process for over a century.
I first encountered Anchor Steam Beer over a decade ago when I was living in Baltimore. A friend brought some to a party, telling me that it was an iconic beer that had represented San Francisco for generations.
At the time, the bottle still featured a nautical-inspired logo that looked like something straight out of the 19th century. Anchor tried to modernize its look and to offer more contemporary brews, like an IPA pictured above, but clearly, it wasn’t enough.
I remember enjoying my first taste of Anchor Steam Beer. The original brew had an intense, honey-like sweetness, along with a happy bitterness that made it delicious, complex, and surprisingly refreshing.
I’ve served it at barbecues and events ever since, including here in the Bay Area. When I heard about the closing, I went to take the photos for this article; I already had some in my fridge. That’s how common the beer is in the Bay Area.
Anchor Will be Missed
And that’s how much it will be missed. If you love Anchor Steam Beer, I advise you to stock up now before the brew becomes unavailable. I’ve kept the beer in my fridge for over a year in some cases, and I find that it degrades much more slowly than cheaper or generic beers.
You can probably get up to a year more of drinking this brew. After that, though, Anchor will be no more, consigned to the history books and to the long list of SF institutions that inflation and the pandemic have brought to an end.