Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anchor: Pilgrimage in S.F.

    Spent last weekend in the San Francisco Bay area, hanging out with old friends and fitting a few brewpub stops in the edges of the weekend.  Anchor Brewing was a must-see; Liberty Ale was my first taste of craft beer, back in 1984, and I still remember the amazement on my taste buds. 
   Anchor puts a "founded 1896" statement on their labels, and a company with the Anchor Steam label registered and all has been around since then. It limped through the Prohibition years and came back in 1933, but 30-plus years later it was on life support.  That's when appliance heir and recent Stanford grad (! Beat Cal!) Fritz Maytag bought it, in 1965, and started bringing it up to speed.
   Maytag began with an intense focus on sanitary brewing and to this day the crew all wear white coveralls.  The big (125-barrel system) mash tun (front left), lauter tun (rear) , and brew kettle (front ruight) are the first bits of apparatus seen on the tour.
The unneeded barley filtered out in the lauter tun goes to a local dairy farm, in major quantities.
Several levels below the kettle action, rows of fermenting tanks line up like soldiers to age the dozen or so ales and lagers Anchor is preparing to bottle and send--so they say--to all fifty states.

The tour continues through the bottling line and ends at the tasting room/gift shop which also has some noteworthy art on the walls.  I was impressed by some shots of Janis Joplin and the band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, when they visited the brewery in 1967 and hoisted some pints for the camera. 
When you look at the founding years of some of our most venerable craft brewers now, 1983, 1984, 1986, you have to be awed by what Maytag kept alive years before that. I sure was.
(Visited 7/27/12)

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