Anchor Brewing was on its last kegs—sorry, last legs—just a few months ago. But its staff, unable to let go, started drafting a plan to rescue the beermaker-in-distress. Now, the 127-year-old brewery’s six-year-old union is more than halfway to raising enough money to buy it out.
The few dozen employees in the union can’t afford to buy Anchor Brewing out of pocket, but an outpouring of community support will likely do the trick. A GoFundMe campaign to buy the brewery, launched by the Anchor union on Monday (Sep. 4), has already raised almost 80% of its $50,000 goal in less than two days.
The Bay Area brewery, which got its start in 1896, has survived two World Wars and a handful of owners, but it has been struggling to survive its latest parent company. The Japanese beer brand Sapporo, which took over in 2017, has run Anchor and its ambitions into the ground, according to employees and industry watchers. Anchor’s union has publicly blamed mismanagement by Sapporo for the brewery’s bankruptcy filing.
But the $50,000 fundraiser seems too small considering that the brewery and the property under it alone are likely worth millions, the news outlet SFist points out. Of course, there’s nothing stopping the campaign from exceeding that threshold. And then there are other potential sources of funding. A San Jose brewery, Fox Tale Fermentation Project, has already released a Solidarity Ale, whose proceeds will go to support the Anchor employees’ bid. Other local brewpubs may step up too.
We decided that the most qualified people to save Anchor were the people who produce it... Workers have formed a co-op with the intention of purchasing and running the business collectively and carrying on the Anchor’s legacy. We are working with organizations who specialize in worker ownership and are guiding us through this process. We need the community’s help to cover our costs as we explore the possibilities of worker ownership.”
August 2017: Sapporo Breweries, Japan’s oldest beer brand, buys Anchor for $85 million.
2021: Sapporo faces criticism for Anchor’s rebranding, which veers too far from the brand’s classic look.
August 2022: Sapporo completes its $165 million purchase of another craft brewer in California, Stone Brewing, raising questions about how Anchor fits into Sapporo’s plans.
July 13, 2023: “The impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations,” Sam Singer, an Anchor Brewing spokesperson, says in an announcement about the company’s closure. Less than a day earlier, Anchor employees had told VinePair that Sapporo’s US subsidiary had been deferring necessary plant maintenance, picking fights with its union, and investing in costly automation equipment likely to convert Anchor’s facility into one that can handle its lager-based ambitions.
July 22, 2023: “Overwhelmed with the responses for help. We are working behind the scenes to try and figure out the best possible way to raise funds and actually do this,” the Anchor union tweets as it rallies to gin up the money to buy the brewery.
August 2023: Anchor Brewing stops production.
Sept. 4, 2023: The Anchor union launches its GoFundMe campaign on Monday, with a goal of $50,000 in donations.
Anchor, which survived prohibition, was close to meeting its end once before, when it was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1965. Fritz Maytag, a descendent of the home appliances giant Maytag Corporation, bought Anchor and saved it back then. He played a pivotal role in reviving the company’s famed Steam Beer as well.
🧾 Tax loopholes served bigger companies better than they did smaller breweries, putting the latter at a disadvantage.