4 Anchor


Almost all beer lovers and drinkers would have heard or tasted anchor beer once during their lifetime. Anchor is a very famous beer throughout the world, serving beer for more than 125 years since it first opened in 1896. The anchor brewing company is, located on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California. “It is one of the last remaining breweries to produce California common beer, also known as Steam Beer, a trademark owned by the company” (our craft, 2012). How the unusual name steam derived is still a mystery today, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer in San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. The deep amber colour, thick, creamy head, and rich, distinctive flavour, derives from a historic brewing process called Kraüsening. Its Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is 4.9%.



Photo source: Scott (Photographer). (2011, May 11). Anchor Steam Beer [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://beersandears.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/IMG_0673.jpg


In the year 1896, “German brewers Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr., bought the brewery and name it Anchor, it’s still a mystery as to why did they name it Anchor” (Our history, 2012). Anchor brewery has a long history of survival, despite the challenges, it withstood its craft brewing roots. Soon after, Ernst bought the brewery, in 1906, in a very misfortunate event, he passed away. Black clouds of misfortune didn’t stop there, two months later, the brewery was consumed in the devastating fire that was followed right after San Francisco’s great earthquake. Co-owner Otto decided to open back the brewery in the January of the following year, 1907. In the same month, he then was run over by a car. Anchor brewery also survived the prohibition years, starting from 1920. When the prohibition ended in 1933, after 13 years of shut down, the then owner, Joe Kraus began brewing the beer again, and the same misfortune came upon him, the brewery was burned again in the fire in the following year (our history, 2012). It even made history right after the prohibition era was over, by releasing a holiday beer, which was the first one in America, which now has become a tradition for the brewery (the new school, 2021). The brewery was shut down for a brief period in 1959, after “San Francisco’s-newfound taste for mass-produced, heavily marketed lighter beers had taken its toll on Anchor’s already declining sales” (our history, 2012). After many years, and many owners taking over, it was not until 1971, the brewery brought its first bottled beer, by the then-owner Fritz. “By 1975, Anchor had produced four other distinctive beers” (our history, 2012). In another turn of events, in 1989, “the brewery was rocked but not damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake, out of which Anchor’s Earthquake Beer was born” (our history). In the year 1993, the brewery also became the first with its “own in-house distillery” (our history, 2012), by making Potrero rye whiskey. In 1997, it also began to make its “unique pot-distilled gin, Junipero” (our history, 2012). After all the misfortunate events and going through many owners, Anchor remains one of the most “traditional breweries in America” (our history, 2012).


  • 1965 – The owner of the old spaghetti factory, Fritz Maytag, bought 51% of the brewery to save it from bankruptcy (our history, 2012).
  • 1979 – Fritz Maytag bought an old coffee roastery on Mariposa Street, to give the brewery a new home, which remains home to date (our history, 2012).
  • 2010 – Fritz Maytag announces retirement, after running the brewery for 45 years (our history, 2012).

Industrialization and Brewing Science

Industrialization and brewing science seem like very complicated topics, well they were in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Anchor brewery being established in that duration, gone through the process to adapt to the changing times. Already declining sales, changing owners frequently, they had to step up their game to stay in the market. When Fritz Maytag bought the brewery, he noticed the changes that were required, and then he made this a mission. He decided on using only limited ingredients in the brewing process such as hops, barley, yeast, and water, and he strictly implemented for no use of supplements (Anchor Brewing Company, 2022). He even brought in expensive machinery and introduced a fermentation process called Krausening, which at that time was only used by few of the large-scale commercial breweries. It was a German technique, in which natural carbonation was developed to produce creamier, richer, long-lasting head and finer bubbles. Maytag changed one more significant step, instead of pasteurizing the beer, he started centrifugation method instead (Anchor Brewing Company, 2022). All this indicates that Maytag utilized the industrialization in the beer industry to his favour, his knowledge of brewing science and experience was a bonus. Anchor can be a great example on how the industrialization impacted the beer industry, as they emerged from almost going bankrupt to becoming one of the most famous beers across United States(Anchor Brewing Company, 2022).

Photo Source – https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/53e15485e4b068f76d2b172e/1490743192913-N8M5QVDV22G7E141V1AJ/?format=1000w&content-type=image%2Fjpeg

This image gives the visualization of the process of brewing beer, shows how the ingredients turns into the beer we enjoy.

Beer Style

What type of the anchor beer exactly is? Answer to that question is- it is a steam beer. No one really knows where the unusual name came from, but it is believed that due to the chilly California weather, rapidly cooling down of the beer after fermentation leading to the production of steam, is what attributes its name. This name is now the trademark owned by the brewery and is one of a kind (Anchor Steam Beer, 2022). The primary ingredients include barley, hops, yeast, and water. Maytag the then owner insisted on using only expensive two-row barley malt, rather than the traditional, inexpensive, and less flavourful six-row variety. He even excluded the use of any kind of adjuncts like rice or corn, which were much cheaper and that replaced 40-60% of the use of barley, which at that time most of the breweries used. The use of whole hops instead of pellets or extracts was another huge step that made them stand out from others. This all initiatives raised the first craft beer of US. They remained to their roots, producing only few kinds of beers, they started brewing ale, wheat beer, seasonal beers as well in later years (Anchor Steam Beer, 2022).

WW1 and WW2

Talking about the impact of WW1 and WW2 on breweries around the globe, is important to understand the history of the brewing traditions. Compared to Europe, US didn’t see a lot of negative impact of WW1 on beer, until 1917, when it joined the war, but even then, it still only saw decrease of 10% in beer production (Beer through the ages, 2022). Keeping that fact in mind, US government-imposed grain rationing, which led to lower alcohol content of only 2.75% in beers. They even started using alternative grains such as rice and corn. The major consequence of WW1 on beer industry was the restrictive policies on drinking. Government found this perfect opportunity to impose this restriction, which would have been difficult to impose in peacetimes, which led to shutting down of many breweries, thousands of people in the industry unemployed (Beer through the ages, 2022). The temperance movement grew stronger than ever, leading to sympathetic politicians to get elected and shut down beer and liquor business all over the country (The Beer Column: Beer and War). At the time, Germans had huge influence on the beer industry across the US, which of course felt the sting of the patriotic people’s attitudes (The Beer Column: Beer and War, 2018). WW2 led to increase in taxes for the industry, certain amount to be send to the battlefield. All this events, left impact on beer industry for many years, Anchor was no exception. At the time, Anchor was still struggling with the sales and now the new measurements left them more vulnerable. After the WW1, the brewery was almost closed for 15 years during the prohibition period. To conclude, WW1 and WW2 left a huge impact on beer industry, but it gave them to think outside box and come out of the traditional methods. If it was not for World Wars, then it’s hard to imagine drinking beer from bottles and cans today.

Video source – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uU9GMJ8a5w

This video really summerizes the impact of WWI on US and how it lead to prohibiton era.

Consolidation and Globalization

Anchor brewery was first opened in 1896 by Ernst F. Baruth and his son in law, Otto Schinkel, Jr. It has a long history since it opened, burning down many times, first in 1906, second time after prohibition and years of loss-making business, not after Fritz Maytag bought the brewery in 1965.  It was one of very few microbreweries to survive the impact of WW1 and prohibition era.

1896 – Ernst F. Baruth and his son in law, Otto Schinkel, Jr. bought the brewery and named it Anchor Brewery.

1959- Anchor brewery was shut down for brief period and was sold and reopened again the following year.

1965- Fritz Maytag bought the brewery by investing few thousand dollars and saving it from closure and bankruptcy. Few years later, he purchased the brewery outright.

1971 – Anchor produced the first batch of bottled beers.

1993 – They opened Anchor distillery and started the production of single malt rye whiskey.

1997 – distillery now began to produce Gin.

2010 – Maytag finally sold the brewery to former Skyy vodka executives Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, after spending almost 6 decades in running the brewery. He got the brewery out of bankruptcy and made it a success.

2017 – Brewery was purchased by Sapporo.

2021 – On the 125th anniversary of the brewery, the company brings new logo.

Anchor brewery became success under Fritz Maytag, he wisely and with hard work utilized the impact of globalization and industrialization into his favour, making it one of the old running craft breweries in United States (Anchor Brewing Company, 2022).

Marketing and Branding

Maytag thought that the label of perfect beer would be insufficient to build a company, so began marketing his products very uniquely. He believed that product needed to be of good quality over large quantity, so he started selling smaller amounts at a high price and used strategy of mouth-to-mouth advertisement. He started a brewery tour, hand painted delivery trucks and traditional labels. His idea of four packs instead of six packs was also unique at the time. In 1977, anchor won grand prizewinner of New west magazine’s taste test and was labelled the “Rolls Royce” of US beers by Joseph Owades (Anjalicutek, 2010). Today, with digital revolution, marketing and advertising also has changed around digitalization. “A beer is social tab integrates social media channels to make the website a hub. And it’s all constructed using the latest technology brew craft, like smooth java scripts that allows slideshow-like vertical scrolling between images” (Anchor Brewing, 2022). Anchor has its own way of keeping connected with its customer, they do it by a branded social presence in multiple channels, and connections connecting different brand themes like brew craft and history of San Francisco. (Anchor Brewing, 2022).

Photo Souce – https://brewpublic.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/image-of-2020-Anchor-Christmas-Ale-courtesy-of-Anchor-Brewing.jpg

This is their Christmas Ale, which was first released in 1975, as seasonal beers, which was first of its kind in US during that period.

Video source – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZRD89S0qq0&t=32s

Another advertisement from Anchor showing their unique marketing skills.

Modern Era

Anchor has started its journey as craft brewery since day one and it remains one of the oldest craft breweries in US. Modern generations are transitioning into more different style of beers rather than traditional style beers; thus, we see an increasing number of craft breweries across North America. Anchor initially started off with only one styles of beer, their distinctive steam beer, which till date is their major production, but Fritz realized the trend and started improvising according to the market need and bringing out different kinds of beer over the years. For instance, they started doing seasonal beers when it was a very new concept back in 1975. Despite all the changes in beer market over the years, Anchor never left its root of being a craft brewery, which helped them survive two world wars, prohibitions, years of loss-making business and growing competitive market. They realized very early those markets in North America and Western Europe have become matured, so they started working to expand into developing economies like Asia and Africa. They kept in mind what the new generations are into, as we know them by social media generation, where social media presence makes huge difference in this competitive era. It is safe to say, Anchor being the only craft brewery from Gold Rush Era, it has become inspiration to modern craft breweries around the globe.



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Anchor Brewing 2021 Christmas Ale features vintage labels, new flavours. (2021, October 25). The New School. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from


International Directory of Company Histories. (2022, March 11). Anchor Brewing Company. Retrieved March 11, 2022 from



Anchor Brewing. (2022, March 11). Anchor Steam Beer. Retrieved March 11, 2022 from



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Beer through Ages. (2022, March 11). Beer and Brewing During WWII (1939- 1945). [ DC Connect PowerPoint slides]. DC Connect. Retrieved from


Wikipedia. (2022, April 08). Anchor Brewing Company. Wikipedia. Retrieved from


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Anjalicutek. (2010, December 10). Marketing Strategy of Anchor Brewing Company. Managementpedia.com. Retrieved from





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Beer Through the Ages Copyright © by Jordanne Christie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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