This will probably be surprising but of the dozens of breweries I’ve visited I’ve never once taken the opportunity to tour the facility. I’m uncertain whether it was reluctance or an obsession in reaching the tasting room/bar quicker but that all came to a screeching halt with a recent tour of the San Francisco landmark, and American craft beer legend, Anchor Brewing Company.
The tour was courtesy of the amazing Jann and James Robinson—who’d won the tour at a charity auction, I believe—and it was a remarkable way to spend a few hours on a Wednesday evening. Anchor is regarded as the ‘godfather’ of the modern American craft beer scene although they’re very modest about their influence. A pioneer when society wasn’t quite ready for quality beer they even reintroduced several styles to the American palate (like the porter and barley wine). Wikipedia sums the history up fairly well and is accurate to the guided tour:
The tour began with several beers in the cozy, welcoming tap room that’s not open to the public so was literally owned by our little group (although they do frequent tours). The room had a quaint feel, accented by the comfortable furniture and brewing memorabilia (including some great old photographs). It was a terrific atmosphere and I would gladly visit again just to hang out.
Starting with their Zymaster #1: California Lager, our gracious and knowledgeable host Jeremiah gave us the lowdown on the history of the brewery. A colorful past marked with tragedy and some definite highs and lows, it was an enlightening history lesson (more so by the free-flowing beer as by the end I was working on a Brekle’s Brown).
Refilling our beers, our odyssey through the multi-level Portero Hill location began—and it was a rambling, educational excursion that took us from the massive copper brewing vats to the giant steam tanks (where Anchor makes their world-famous, and amazing, flagship beer—and they even had a batch cooling!) to the very depths of where bottling and shipping take place place.
We even paid a visit to the distillery, where photos were forbidden, which was eye-opening as I had no idea that Anchor had one! It was a pretty incredible and thorough tour and my appreciation and respect for Anchor has grown considerably. I honestly wish I’d taken some notes to record everything (erroneously believing my memory was better), although I did take a lot of pictures!
I tried a number of their excellent beer offerings that night, including:
- Zymaster #1: California Lager
- Zymaster #3: Flying Cloud Stout
- Brekle’s Brown
- Anchor Porter
- Anchor Steam Beer
- Anchor Bock Beer
- Liberty Ale
It was an exciting evening (they even ordered some pizzas for us to enjoy) and one I won’t soon forget…in fact, I’m planning a second trip some day soon!
Our lovely benefactors—Jann and James Robinson!