With sale to Ja­panese firm, his­toric San Francisco brewer is California’s lat­est to be swal­lowed up

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Rachel Spacek

An­chor Brew­ing has been a San Francisco sta­ple since 1896, sur­viv­ing earth­quakes, pro­hi­bi­tion and tech booms and busts. But on Thurs­day, the brewer announced it will be a San Francisco com­pany no longer af­ter a sale to Ja­pan’s Sap­poro Hold­ings Ltd.

Ex­act terms of the deal were not dis­closed, but a spokesman for Sap­poro said the price was about $85 mil­lion.

The deal marks the lat­est California brew­ery to be ac­quired by a larger beer maker. It comes amid ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion among craft brew­eries — a sec­tor of the beer in­dus­try that An­chor has been cred­ited, by some, for help­ing in­spire.

“We have been eval­u­at­ing the fu­ture for some time and rec­og­niz­ing the chal­lenges in craft brew­eries and the num­ber of brew­eries that have come to the mar­ket, we felt we needed to have a stronger part­ner to achieve our long-term goals,” said An­chor co-owner Keith Greg­gor.

An­chor will not lay off em­ploy­ees as part of the sale, and its beers will con­tinue to be brewed at its head­quar­ters in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neigh­bor­hood. The com­pany plans to open a tap­room across the street.

It took Greg­gor 18 months to find a buyer that met his cri­te­ria: re­spect for An­chor’s re­la­tion­ship to San Francisco and its his­tory. Greg­gor said Sap­poro — founded in 1876 — has a com­mit­ment to tra­di­tion and won’t change An­chor’s recipes or meth­ods.

Sap­poro Pres­i­dent Masaki Oga said in a state­ment that “both com­pa­nies share a brew­ing phi­los­o­phy backed by long his­to­ries.”

Sap­poro is the lat­est big brewer to pur­chase a California craft brew­ery. Ear­lier this year, Heineken com­pleted its ac­qui­si­tion of Pe­taluma’s La­gu­ni­tas Brew­ing Co. In 2015, Con­stel­la­tion Brands, the com­pany be­hind Corona, ac­quired San Diego’s Bal­last Point Brew­ing and Spir­its for

$1 bil­lion.

“As the mar­ket has slowed and has be­come more com­pet­i­tive, brew­eries are look­ing for part­ners or com­plete ac­qui­si­tions,” said Bart Wat­son, chief econ­o­mist with the Brew­ers Assn.

Un­like La­gu­ni­tas and Bal­last Point, which were founded in the 1990s and rose to promi­nence with their hoppy ales, An­chor is a cen­tury older and most fa­mous for its Gold Rush-era steam-style beer, An­chor Steam.

Yet long be­fore those younger brew­eries found suc­cess, brew­eries like An­chor and Sierra Ne­vada Brew­ing Co. helped prove that a small brewer making fla­vor­ful ales could com­pete in a mar­ket dom­i­nated for decades by mass-pro­duced light lagers.

As such, An­chor — and An­chor Steam in par­tic­u­lar — are brands many beer drinkers know well, Wat­son said.

An­chor beers are a sta­ple in Bay Area restau­rants and bars. The beer’s pop­u­lar­ity in California, a key mar­ket for brew­ers, could be an­other rea­son Sap­poro might want in, Wat­son said.

Greg­gor and Tony Foglio bought An­chor in 2010 from Fritz May­tag, who ac­quired the com­pany in 1965 as it was on the verge of bank­ruptcy. May­tag was the first to bot­tle An­chor Steam and added a num­ber of beers to An­chor Brew­ing, in­clud­ing An­chor Porter, Old Foghorn Bar­ley­wine Ale and An­chor’s Christ­mas ale.

San Francisco bar owner Nat Cut­ler doesn’t fore­see cus­tomers putting down the An­chor Steam now that it’s owned by a for­eign cor­po­ra­tion.

“As long as they keep making good beer I think any back­lash will go away,” said Cut­ler, who owns the Monk’s Ket­tle in San Francisco’s Mis­sion District.

His bar will con­tinue to pour An­chor.

“It is an icon to San Francisco. They are the ones along with Sierra Ne­vada to re­ally get craft beer go­ing,” Cut­ler said. “It is very well­re­spected in the city and in the craft beer in­dus­try.”

Liz Hafalia The Chron­i­cle

THE AN­CHOR sale comes amid ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion among craft brew­eries, a sec­tor of the beer in­dus­try that An­chor has been cred­ited, by some, for help­ing in­spire. Above, out­side the San Francisco brew­ery.

Eric Risberg As­so­ci­ated Press

AN­CHOR’S beers, in­clud­ing An­chor Steam, will con­tinue to be made at its head­quar­ters.

Eric Risberg As­so­ci­ated Press

SAP­PORO — founded in 1876 — has a com­mit­ment to tra­di­tion and won’t change An­chor’s recipes or meth­ods, an An­chor co-owner says. Above, peo­ple en­joy beer sam­ples af­ter tak­ing a tour of An­chor Brew­ing in 2012.

Justin Sul­li­van Getty Images

A SAN FRANCISCO sta­ple since 1896, An­chor is most fa­mous for its Gold Rush-era An­chor Steam.

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