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Anchor Steam Beer and the Anchor Brewing Company

Anchor Steam Beer brewed by the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, California

Anchor Steam® Beer owes its deep amber color, thick, creamy head, and rich, distinctive flavor to a brewing process like none other. It is a process that combines deep respect for brewing tradition with many decades of evolution to arrive at a unique approach: a blend of pale and caramel malts, fermentation with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures in shallow open-air fermenters, and gentle carbonation in our cellars through an all-natural process called kräusening.

   Anchor Steam Beer brewed in San FranciscoAnchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, California
Anchor Steam® Beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. Once a nickname for any West Coast beer brewed under these conditions, today the name “steam” is a trademark of Anchor Brewing and applies only to the singular process and taste of our flagship brand - San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam® Beer. The classic of American brewing tradition since 1896.


Anchor Brewing Company

Anchor Brewing Company is an American alcoholic beverage producer, operating a brewery and distillery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California. The brewery was founded in 1896, and was purchased by its current owner, Frederick Louis Maytag III, in 1965, saving it from closure. It moved to its current location in 1979. It is one of the last remaining breweries to produce California Common beer, also known as Steam Beer, a trademark owned by the company.

Anchor Brewery is largely responsible for the growth of the microbrewery movement in the United States. After prohibition ended in the U.S., many small, locally-operated breweries were able to re-open and recommence brewing (although many more, perhaps most, were not). The vast majority of these concerns served only the immediate vicinity of their sole plant, a radius of a few miles to perhaps a 100 or so. Local breweries and beers were the source of local pride in many communities, especially those with large populations of German, Polish, or Czech extraction. Many of these thrived on through World War II and into the 1950s. Most did not survive the 1950s, however, due to the influence of television advertising and the mass marketing tactics of major national breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller. The whole idea of such beers and breweries was largely forgotten in the U.S. Maytag desired to establish such a small-scale brewery, with small-town quality and taste being the hallmarks of his beer. He was already a fan of Anchor Steam Beer when he learned that the brewery was about to close. In 1965, Maytag purchased 51 percent of the brewery for a few thousand dollars, and later purchased the brewery outright.

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Things began to change in the 1980s when Maytag's signature brew, Anchor Steam Beer, began to achieve national notice. Demand skyrocketed from only a few thousand cases a year that he had been making in the old tradition. His success prompted many imitators, which he welcomed, since he could not have produced Anchor Steam in the mass quantities of Budweiser or similar mass-marketed brands and made a product with which he and his consumers would have been satisfied. The rise of modern microbreweries also encouraged the establishment of "brewpubs", where beer is brewed on the premises in small batches for consumption in what is often something of a fine-dining restaurant setting. Anchor and other microbreweries have been the beneficiaries of a trend to drink smaller quantities of higher quality alcoholic beverages of all types which has been developing in the United States since the 1970s. Anchor Brewing remains the only commercially demanded producer of steam beer in the United States.

Year Round Beer
Anchor Porter Porter
Anchor Small Small beer
Anchor Steam Steam beer
Liberty Ale American pale ale
Old Foghorn Barleywine

Seasonal beers
Anchor Bock Bock
Summer Beer Wheat beer
Christmas Ale Spiced beer

How Anchor got started
In the summer of 1965, a young Stanford grad named Fritz Maytag frequented the Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach known more for its eclectic decor, bohemian clientele, and Anchor Steam Beer than its spaghetti. One fortuitous day, as the great-grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company sat at the bar enjoying his glass of Anchor Steam, the restaurant's owner, Fred Kuh, mentioned to Fritz that if he liked Steam Beer, he had better hurry down to see the Brewery. Kuh, who had always proudly served just one beer on draught, Anchor Steam, knew that Fritz would appreciate the historic little San Francisco brewery that was about to close its doors forever.

When Fritz arrived at the Brewery on 8th Street, it was love at first sight, somewhat blinding him to equipment that was practically medieval, cleanliness (the most unsung secret to consistently good beer, as Fritz would soon discover) that was not even a low priority, and a Brewery bank balance (as of December 31, 1964) of $128. On September 24, 1965, Fritz bought 51% of the operation—for a few thousand dollars—rescuing Anchor from imminent bankruptcy. That was the easy part, for it would take Fritz the next ten years to turn the ailing Brewery and its Steam Beer around.

Starting a Craft Brewery - Brewers Library

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