Anchor Brewing, America's Oldest Craft Brewery, Announces Closure After 127 Years

Anchor Brewing, a craft brewery with a 127-year tenure, will be closing, reports CNN. In 2017, Japanese company Sapporo bought America's first craft brewery following decreased sales due to many factors. The purchase was not enough to turn things around and seems to have even contributed to the failure of this San Francisco institution.

The craft brewing industry, characterized by small-scale, relatively low-yield productions of fewer than 6 million barrels of beer annually, has been struggling to stay afloat. Many businesses have experienced supply chain issues due to pandemic realities and changing consumer preferences, and craft breweries have been an industry that has been hit particularly hard. For example, because of the sharp rise in popularity of hard seltzers and canned non-alcoholic cocktails, Ball Corporation – a sizable supplier of aluminum cans — had to significantly increase the minimum order size to offset production pressure. Not only does that require small businesses to pour out more upfront cash, but it also means that craft brewers now have to spend more money on storage space or purchase smaller quantities from more expensive distributors. Coupled with the rising cost of grains and rent and a seven-year downturn in sales, Anchor Brewing simply could not make ends meet.

How did Sapporo change Anchor Brewing?

The consensus among employees of Anchor Brewing is that Sapporo management did not take the time to understand the culture and values of this San Francisco craft beer classic. As an example, the decision was made to stop brewing "Our Special Ale," more commonly known as "Anchor Christmas Ale." It was a beloved holiday tradition, and though it was more costly to make than other brews, taking it off the market gave serious Grinch vibes to employees and loyal Anchor fans.

The vintage-looking yellow label adorned with hops and a ship anchor was scrapped for a bold, bright, monochrome, and modern brand revamp. They also decided to nix national sales and focus only on deepening distribution in California. Sales were slipping an average of 15% each year even before Sapporo took over, and it seems like the changes they made didn't help remedy the situation. Indeed, doubling down on the California market, but mainstreaming the look of this iconic beverage, seems counterintuitive.

Employees were given their two months' notice, brewing has already been halted, and equipment is being liquidated. Anyone that can get their hands on a bottle of Liberty or Anchor Steam will now be holding onto the bittersweet end. As for the leftover beer, the plan is to sell it for a limited time. And for the world's saddest Christmas in July, the very last of the Christmas Ale is on tap at a few select San Francisco taprooms.