Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, considered America’s oldest craft brewery, is being sold to Sapporo Holdings, the company announced early on the morning of August 3. The deal will help Sapporo expand its holdings outside of Japan, but it’s also an indication of where craft beer is at in America. Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred, even 121-year-old independent breweries.
Anchor Brewing was established in 1896, and currently has annual sales of around $33 million, according to the press release issued by Sapporo. It’s currently distributed in 20 countries. Sapporo announced last year that it wants to be a company with “highly unique brands” by 2026 for its 150th anniversary, and Anchor Brewing is the first purchase “pushing forward a distinctive plan that designates North America (as) its business base,” the press release states.
Fans of Anchor’s Steam Beer and others shouldn’t be too concerned about change in quality. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the brewery won’t expand production beyond its current brewery, the staff won’t change, and the beer won’t change. As far as the ownership changing, well, that’s happened twice before already in Anchor Brewing’s history — once in 1965 to an heir of the Maytag fortune, and once in 2010 to the Griffin Group investment firm.
The sale is a sign of the times. AB InBev’s The High End already owns a slew of formerly independent breweries (each purchase drawing increasingly angry public reactions), Heineken is working on its own “high end” starting with Lagunitas, Constellation has Ballast Point, and even craft breweries are investing minority stakes in each other.
But perhaps most surprising is the amount that Anchor Brewing sold for: $85 million. Compare that to Ballast Point’s sale price in 2015 of $1 billion. Craft breweries: Get ‘em while they’re hot.