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May 18, 2010

PNW Trip Part II: Anchor Brewing Company

Before we left San Francisco I made it a point to get in a visit at Anchor Brewing Company. If all of the microbreweries in the United States were a family, Anchor would be considered the grandfather. In fact, the (now former) owner of Anchor, Fritz Maytag might just be the first real champion of craft beer in America. Anyways, I booked my tour several weeks in advance of the trip as various sites online stated that they filled up early.

The tour lasted about an hour, as its still a pretty small operation despite its wide distribution and success. My tour group got to see the all-copper brewing operation, the cold cellar and the bottling line area.

Wish I could have one of these at home. I don't think I've ever seen a copper brew kettle like this up close. It really makes you think of the Sam Adams Utopias bottle.

Tour guide giving us the 411. The most interesting factoid we learned was that during the 1989 earthquake in SF, Anchor had their famous Steam Beer brewing in the tanks. The power at the brewery went out and the beer sat in the kettle for awhlie before power could be restored. They continued the brew and found that it came just slightly different than their usual Steam Beer. They decided to commemorate the beer by bottling the entire run with the label upside-down.

Above the tasting bar you will see quite a few bottles. What you're looking at is a bottle of every single Christmas Ale Anchor has brewed since they started brewing it in 1975. That's one helluva vertical.

We got to sample 5 of Anchor's offerings: their flagship Steam Beer, Porter, Old Foghorn Barleywine, Liberty Ale and the newly-bottled Humming Ale.

Anyone visiting San Francisco should really make a point to go to Anchor. It feels like the mecca of microbrews that every beer geek should worship at. Just keep in mind its nearly required to book your tour early.

As I mentioned above, Anchor was recently sold to a group thats known for marketing Sky Vodka. While its been said this group has plans to expand the brewery, they've also stated they'll keep the roots of what makes Anchor a great brewery. My opinion? If they can keep it great and experiment more on top of that? I'm all for it.

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