Makers of San Francisco's famed Anchor Steam beer are going out of business

San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing will turn off the taps and draw a close to the century-old brewery whose contribution to "American beer history cannot be overstated," it said Wednesday.

The company — one of the country's oldest craft breweries, founded in 1896 — "will cease operations and liquidate the business following a combination of challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016," it said in a statement.

"Like many breweries and brew pubs, Anchor has been dramatically impacted by economic pressure that have made the business no longer sustainable," it said.

Wednesday's announcement triggered a 60-day period for operations to completely cease and the company to pay "separation packages" to eligible employees, officials said.

Brewing operations have already been halted, but the company will continue to package and distribute the beer that's left in a process that's likely to go through the end of this month.

Anchor Steam fans probably knew bad news was on tap a few weeks ago when the brewer announced it wouldn't be producing its popular Christmas Ale this year.

“This was an extremely difficult decision that Anchor reached only after many months of careful evaluation,” company spokesman Sam Singer said in a statement.

“We recognize the importance and historic significance of Anchor to San Francisco and to the craft brewing industry, but the impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.” 

It’s still possible that the company’s plant in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco and its recipes and other assets could be purchased in a liquidation sale, with a new buyer continuing the operation, Singer said.

“The Anchor team is hopeful that somebody sees the value, the history and the benefit of buying a 127-year-old historic brewery and keeping it alive,” he told NBC News on Wednesday.

“But that’s really up in the cards and in the hands of the liquidators to see if someone steps forward to make a bid,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Brewers Association, which represents more than 5,400 brewers, distributors and craft beer retailers, said the trade group doesn't normally, by policy, comment on the opening or closing of any beer company.

But the impending closure of Anchor Brewing — an iconic San Francisco staple as famous as sourdough bread, Ghirardelli Chocolate or Rice-A-Roni — prompted it to offer a heartfelt eulogy.

"Anchor’s contributions to craft brewing and American beer history cannot be overstated," chief economist Bart Watson said in a statement.

In the growing, fast-changing landscape of craft brewing, not even the most beloved brands, such as Anchor, have free passage into the future of brewing, Watson said.

"While the longevity of the brand is a testament to its innovation, the craft brewing market has radically grown and shifted over recent decades, with that change only accelerating in recent years," he said.

"A competitive distribution market and rising costs mean that even strong brands may be struggling to find growth in a slow growth environment that now includes nearly 10,000 breweries nationwide. Anchor’s announcement partially reflects this new maturing era for craft and should be taken in the context of the large and competitive market that Anchor helped create," he said.


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