Sapporo buys Anchor Brewing

Japan’s Sapporo Holdings has purchased Anchor Brewing, the San Francisco brewery credited with igniting the American craft beer renaissance. Sapporo reportedly paid $88 million for the brewery, considerably more than AB InBev spent ($38 million) to acquire Goose Island but much less than Constellation brands paid ($1 billion) for Ballast Point Brewing.

Sapporo’s statement announcing the deal describes Anchor in a most modest way:

“Anchor is a prominent and historic US beer producer founded in 1896 in San Francisco. ‘Anchor Steam Beer,’ its flagship brand, is said to be an icon that ignited the current craft beer boom in the US. Armed with its strong brand power primarily in San Francisco, where it is based, as well as other areas across the US, it has been enjoyed by countless beer lovers throughout the years.

“The addition of Anchor’s strong brand power and network to the Sapporo Group’s US beer business portfolio through the conclusion of this agreement is expected to accelerate its speed of growth in the US.”

Although Anchor was founded 121 years ago, American beer enthusiasts focus on its history since 1965, when Fritz Maytag took a stake in the struggling business. He took full control of the company in 1969, first reviving the “steam beer” style the brewery is best known for, but then many others not brewed in the United States. The brewery, and its beers, inspired a new wave of small breweries — that would later be called craft breweries — including Sierra Nevada Brewing.

The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company headed by Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, purchased Anchor in 2010. According to Greggor, the sale to Sapporo comes after a year during which the company spoke with “many, many” larger breweries all over the world to find the right fit. “When you take a brand like Anchor, its very soul exists in the heart of San Francisco,” Greggor said. “Of all the people we spoke to, (Sapporo) respected Anchor the most, what it stood for and the importance of its connection with San Francisco.”

SFGate asked Greggor what does the deal means for the future. Greggor replied that Sapporto agreed to keep using the Potrero Hill brew house — at least for the time being. “Sapporo committed to investing in the Potrero Hill brewery until we exceed capacity of that brewery, but I have no idea when that would be,” Greggor said. “We are currently running at about 55 to 60 percent of that capacity.” The deal also likely means that Anchor’s long-delayed Pier 48 expansion is likely to be dead in the water, though Anchor would not comment on the status of the project.