Anchor's Away

12 July 2023 about a 3 minute read

I spent the summer of 1990 in Europe, mostly in Leicester, England, taking classes at what is now DeMontfort University. That meant a summer drinking a lot of beer - English beer, mostly Leicester’s Everard’s Old Original because, hey, Drink Local!

I was dreading heading back to Athens, GA, and being stuck with the beer choices we had. The microbrew revolution - thanks, President Carter! - ironically hadn’t made it to Georgia just yet. Which meant my beer choices were slim. So slim that were were happy with Killian’s Irish Red and ecstatic with the occasional splurge on Samuel Smith’s 4-packs.

Home was inevitable, so off to Gatwick and the standard US beer aisles. I had a minor surprise on the flight back to Atlanta. We were shown an episode of Michael Jackson’s The Beer Hunter. It featured Fritz Maytag and Anchor Brewing. I learned the term “microbrew” and that Anchor Steam had wide distribution. Maybe I had hope for hops!

This is how Anchor Steam became my favorite beer. It was pretty easy to get. It was less expensive than Sam Smith’s. It was exotic because it came from California. I was an oddball asking for it.

Anchor Steam beer bottle label
The Anchor Steam beer label up until the rebrand of 2021.

A classmate had a t-shirt of this (now) “old” label. He never would sell it to me. And I never managed to steal that shirt from him. It took until 1995, on the one time I made it to the brewery, for me to get my own shirt. And I wore it to threads a few years ago.

I’ve fondly enjoyed just about every Anchor style - Liberty Pale Ale just never worked for me. The California Lager was really nice in the summer. Especially after they stopped brewing Anchor Wheat, after the rebranding of it to Anchor Summer. I still have a magnum of the 2019 Anchor Christmas Ale and a six-pack of Christmas 2021. Wow those are good. I’ll save them even longer now - they keep and age well.

Even as I moved to the west coast in 1993, and the number of beer options became anxiety-inducing, I still had Anchor fairly often.

When I had season tickets to the San Francisco Giants, there was an Anchor Steam tap at the top of my aisle. It was my first stop at a game for ~20 years. I called it the freshest beer in the stadium since it was brewed a mile-and-a-half away. I even imagined pipes running from 3rd & King down to the vats in Potrero Hill.

The brewpub across from Oracle Park never materialized. Yet another project where the developer and the City of SF couldn’t get aligned. It died when Sapporo bought Anchor. It would have been amazing.

They opened the Anchor Public Taps instead, and during the COVID semi-lockdown, we drove up for crowlers-only brews a couple of times. Those always felt special.

I woke up today to the news of Anchor Brewing ceasing operations. I’m sure the facilities and the brand are worth something. Maybe Anchor just needs to be saved one more time. After all, beer.

I’m probably part of the problem. But not today. So off to the grocery for one last run for some Steam.

Last Six Pack
The last six of Anchor Steam at my grocery, 2023 July 12

It was a misfit six-pack, the cardboard handle torn. It felt fitting that in the weight of this moment - the last Anchor Steam at this store - the cashier had to scan the barcode by lifting it with both hands.

If this is the end, Anchor, so long and thanks for all the beer.


This article is tagged with personal and history.