Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Anchor Brewing’s Next Chapter

It’s hard to imagine Anchor Brewing without Fritz Maytag. He launched America’s microbrewing movement and was recently named one of the founding fathers of U.S. whiskey by Food & Wine magazine. But times move on, and so has Maytag. He sold Anchor in late April to The Griffin Group, a beverage investment and consulting company, for undisclosed terms. Anchor’s been brewing beer in San Francisco since 1896, surviving fires, Prohibition and the advent of mass-market brands. Maytag bought 51% of the struggling company in 1965. He assumed full ownership in 1969 and began bottling Anchor Steam Beer. In 1993, he added the distillery. Why? Maytag told me during an interview at the company’s Mariposa Street headquarters in March that he was intrigued by distilling and wanted to recreate whiskey as it was in early American times. So, he came up with Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whiskey, a 100% rye malt whiskey aged in toasted, hand-made oak barrels.  There’s also a 19th Century style, which I haven’t tasted, and Junipero, a pot-distilled gin. Maytag says he was so certain that competitors would follow Anchor into the spirits business that he initially blocked the stills off from view. He was eventually right. Anchor started a craft distilling revolution—according to DISCUS, the number of craft distillers has grown from several dozen to more than 200 in just the past decade. It’s a legacy to be proud of.

Fritz Maytag taking at taste at Anchor Brewing's distillery