Fritz Maytag, owner of the Anchor Brewing Company, has sold the operation to a pair of San Francisco entrepreneurs. Anchor was the first real craft brewery to pop up in the United States in the post-WWII era, and Maytag is widely considered the inspiration for the American microbrew and craft beer renaissance that started in the late 1970s, remaking the brewing landscape and American palates in the process. What was once a thriving brewing culture – nearly 4000 breweries dotted the American landscape in 1900 – had shrunk because of Prohibition and consolidation in the 40s and 50s to the point where there were only 70 or so breweries left in the country. Anchor Steam beer was first produced by Fritz in 1971 and because of its success and that of the beers it inspired there are now nearly 1500 breweries again.
Anchor Steam, the company’s trademark beer, was one of the first quality brews I was turned on to in my early days of exploring non-mass market beers. I’d venture to say this has been the case for many a budding beer geek since 1971; tasting your first Steam helps open you up to a variety of new beer styles from around the world. When I made it out to San Francisco a few years ago I managed to take the brewery tour, and it still remains my favorite of those that I have visited.
I sincerely hope the investors taking over Anchor will retain the vision and spirit that guided Fritz Maytag for the last 45 years.