retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Anchor Brewing, which began making beer in 1896 and makes San Francisco's iconic Anchor Steam beer, has been sold to Japan's Sapporo Holdings. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but published reports put the price at about $85 million.

The Los Angeles Times writes that "the deal marks the latest California brewery to be acquired by a larger beer maker. It comes amid rising competition among craft breweries — a sector of the beer industry that Anchor has been credited, by some, for helping inspire ... Sapporo is the latest big brewer to purchase a California craft brewery. Earlier this year, Heineken completed its acquisition of Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Co. In 2015, Constellation Brands, the company behind Corona, acquired San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits for $1 billion."

The company says amid all the competitive pressures in the craft beer business, it felt a larger partner with deep pockets was needed to achieve its long-term goals.
KC's View:
My first reaction to this story was chagrin, and a bit of sadness ... but then I read the San Francisco Chronicle coverage, which, I thought, provided a bit of needed context...

"The story is so familiar these days that it’s become cliche: beloved craft brewery, squeezed by today’s frenetic beer market and unable to expand without extra help, sells to big company," the Chronicle writes. "Equally cliche are the all-too-predictable reactions that inevitably follow, bemoaning that the little guys are selling out to greedy corporate interests intent on destroying craft beer.

"In San Francisco, the emotional stakes are especially high when it comes to Anchor. Not only is it our brewery — our first, our signature — but it’s America’s original craft beer. It’s an icon of independence, and has seemed, at least we thought, large and established enough to be insulated from the pressures that have forced others to sell."

But, the paper points out, "this is hardly the first time Anchor has sold. Anchor’s very founding, in 1896 by Ernst F. Baruth and Otto Schinkel Jr., was a buyout of sorts: The father and son-in-law bought an existing brewery on Pacific Street and rechristened it with their own brand. Over the next half-century, that brand saw several owners — Joe Kraus, Joe Allen, Lawrence Steese, all struggling to keep the dismal business afloat. Anchor was on the verge of closure when Fritz Maytag bought it in 1965. You might say Maytag was a harbinger of corporate America himself, heir to his family’s washing-machine dynasty.

"Even if Maytag was the soul of Anchor’s modern era (and I believe that he was) — well, he’s long gone anyway: He sold the brewery to the Griffin Group, a local investment firm, in 2010. Griffin is no AB InBev, but its partners, Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, are former executives of Skyy Spirits. And Scott Ungermann, who in 2016 succeeded brewmaster Mark Carpenter (with Anchor since 1971), came to Anchor fresh from a nearly 20-year career with Anheuser-Busch."


Okay. I no longer feel quite so chagrined and sad. But I still like and appreciate the independents ... and you can read a little about that in today's "OffBeat," below.