When San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing announced it would cease operations, it rocked the beer community, but a Rhode Island brewery hopes to rescue it.
Anchor, founded in 1896, is considered by many to be where the craft beer industry began. The announced closure on July 12, 2023 struck the beer community as not merely the loss of a business, but the loss of an icon. Anchor was acquired by Fritz Maytag in 1965 and he immediately began improving Anchor’s flagship Steam Beer and introducing new, flavorful products that were markedly different from other beers available at the time – and the American craft beer movement was born.
Maytag sold Anchor Brewing in 2010 to some drinks industry veterans who themselves sold it to Japan’s Sapporo in 2017.
“A lot of craft breweries and craft beer drinkers recognize Anchor Brewing as the founder of craft beer,” says Mark Hellendrung, president of Narragansett Beer. “It has a monolithic space in the community.”
Hellendrung, together with a group of investors, purchased Rhode Island’s Narragansett from Pabst Brewing Company in 2005 and has grown it into the 27th largest craft brewery in America, according to the Brewers Association. It is this prior success in bringing a historic beer brand (Narragansett was founded in 1890) back into the craft beer community that gave Hellendrung the belief that he could do something to rescue the Anchor brand.
Narragansett has started a petition on change.org titled “Stand Together to Save Anchor Brewing Company!”
Hellendrung acknowledges that gaining community support through signatures will not be sufficient to save Anchor, but “I’ve got a lot of wild ideas,” he says. “If there was an opportunity to buy it with a group of people who are as passionate about Anchor as I am, I’d be open to that.”
“We can’t anticipate where this petition will lead, since we don’t know what Sapporo is doing,” says Hellendrung. “But we want to be part of the conversation.” Craft beer stretches across the country and if successful in acquiring Anchor, it seems fitting that Hellendrung will have rescued breweries on both coasts.