Japanese Beer Titan Sapporo Buys Anchor Brewing

Before you panic, don't forget that Fritz Maytag already sold Anchor in 2010 and the sky didn't fall.

Sapporo promises an expansion, not a diminution, of Anchor’s reputation for craft excellence. (Anchor Brewing)

Barely three months after the fatally mediocre yet music-festival-dominating Heineken bought the half of Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Company that it did not already own, the grandaddy of Northern California craft beer has sold itself to another multinational conglomerate. The 121-year-old Anchor Brewing‘s CEO Keith Greggor announced that Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Ltd. has purchased the company, for undisclosed terms.

(Before you panic, Anchor has been sold before. Fritz Maytag, who revitalized the brewery in the mid-1960s, unloaded it in 2010 to Greggor and Tony Foglio, longtime spirit-industry executives who set it on its current course.)

In theory, bottles and cans of Anchor — America’s oldest craft brewery, and the inventor of “steam beer” — will continue pouring out of the Mariposa Street brewery just as it always has. No one will be laid off, and according to SFGate, there are plans to open a new taproom across the street. But giant corporate mergers have a way of grinding down commitments to independence and artisanal excellence — especially when, as Greggor admits, it was the bottom line that spurred the brewery to seek a suitor in the first place.

”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 told the Gate. “We are currently running at about 55 to 60 percent of that capacity.”

While certainly a known quantity in the beer world — and its flagship lager is no. 1-selling Japanese beer in the U.S. — Sapporo isn’t even among the 12 largest worldwide brewers by sales volume. Because Japan’s population is aging, the 141-year-old company has commenced a buying spree to focus its growth globally. Lastly, this only affects Anchor Brewing. Anchor Distilling, the maker of Hophead Vodka and Old Tom Gin, is unaffected.

 

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