Anchor Brewing Sees New Life From Shepherd Futures, the owner of Chobani

Anchor Brewing on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. (image courtesy of Anchor Brewing Company)

Anchor Brewing Company has found a new savior for the brewery that dates back to 1896 in San Francisco, California. This time the brewery has been rescued by self-made billionaire Hamdi Ulukaya of Shepherd Futures, the owner of Chobani.

This is not the first time that Anchor Brewing has been saved. After coming out of prohibition, the brewery faced stiff competition from other regional breweries. After various ownership changes, Fritz Maytag saved the brewery from foreclosure when he purchased a majority share of the brewery in 1965. Four years later he owned the entire thing. Then in 1971 he began to bottle his Anchor Steam beer and then added Liberty Ale, Anchor Porter and Old Foghorn to its portfolio.

Maytag relocated the brewery to its last location, a former coffee roasting plant, on Potrero Hill in San Francisco in 1979. The brewery continued on and was bolstered by the early microbrewing movement and later succumbed to the competitive craft brewing market.

Fritz sold the brewery in April 2010 to the Griffon Group, two gentlemen that made their money from in the spirits industry at SKYY Vodka. Anchor did have a spirits division at this time. Fresh with this new financial backing, Anchor Brewing expanded its footprint and its portfolio of beers. Enough so that it piqued the interest of Sapporo Breweries that purchased Anchor Brewing in August 2017 for a sum of $85 million.

Under Sapporo’s leadership, it faced some challenging battles with the brand as it was considered a legacy brewery and was not as contemporary as the new shiny breweries opening up all over the country. The brewery’s sales plummeted while the brand did a label and packaging refresh that infuriated the few fans it still had.

Anchor Steam Beer in its new and final packaging.

Then on July 12, 2023, Sapporo announced that it was ceasing brewing operations and would liquidate the iconic brewery. It would sell through the remaining inventory and would hopefully be sold at liquidation. The buyer from this liquidation sale was supposed to be announced on January 31, 2024 or thereabout but nothing was mentioned until some rumblings last evening.

The new owner, Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani yogurt, now plans on bringing new life to the shuttered iconic brewery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. The purchase price has not been made public but it includes all assets of Anchor in hopes of continuing its 128-year legacy.

“What an exciting time for San Francisco and Anchor Brewing,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, in a press release. “Both are experiencing the magic of rebirth. I have fallen in love with this city, its history, grit and charm. I believe brands born in places like this are incredibly special and must be treasured, respected and loved.”

“San Francisco is at the heart of Anchor Brewing, and Anchor embodies so much of what makes this city great,” continued Ulukaya. “I am humbled and excited to be part of this city and its rich community of people, who have a spirit that is special and unique. I have learned so much about Anchor and its role in San Francisco’s journey, and I look forward to doing whatever I can to support this amazing story of revitalization.”

Ulukaya intends to bring back the iconic brand that so many in San Francisco and around the world have loved for so long. In doing so, he will face challenge like no other. Craft beer sales are down, the brand had been in a free fall for many years and nostalgia can only sell so many cases. It’ll be an interesting story to follow over the next few years!

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