People are going to blame the 2021 label redesign, but it’s probably more the economic realities of the beer industry that Potrero Hill-based Anchor Brewing Company will stop distributing outside California, and will no longer brew its annual Anchor Christmas Ale.
Many beerheads are understandably still sore that SF’s own Anchor Brewing Co. changed the label design on its top-selling beers, including its signature Anchor Steam Beer, back in 2021 as part of the beer producer’s 125th anniversary. But it is probably more serious news that Anchor Brewing’s beers, currently sold in all 50 states, will no longer be distributed outside California, as the Chronicle reported this weekend.
JUST IN: S.F.'s Anchor Brewing will now only sell beer within California, and one of its most beloved offerings won’t return at all. https://t.co/zthsxjkdD4— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) June 10, 2023
And that’s not the only tough news to swallow, as NBC Bay Area adds that the brewer will no longer sell its seasonal Anchor Christmas Ale. That station reports that the holiday beer offering “wasn’t likely to return next year either,” and that “the change is due to the cost of brewing and packaging.”
Anchor Brewing has produced Anchor Christmas Ale since 1975, though the Chronicle nots that “A small amount” of the holiday ale will be sold at their Anchor Public Taps taproom at their Potrero Hill production facility.
Well this is terrible news, I have to say. After almost 50 years, Anchor will not be offering a new Christmas Ale for the holidays this year. Other changes will be pulling back their national distribution and only brewing beer for California. pic.twitter.com/qTuI3V9erC— Brookston (@Brookston) June 11, 2023
On one hand, the economics of these cutbacks might make sense. The Chronicle notes that company spokespeople say that 70% of Anchor Brewing's sales are within California. So this could be a market efficiency for the beer label to not do extra legwork and just focus on its core demographic of California beer drinkers.
NEW: tipster tells me @SapporoBeer has decided to cease production of @AnchorBrewing’s historic Christmas Ale, and will no longer produce the brand’s portfolio for sale outside of the California market. Working to confirm with comms at both companies. Will update accordingly.— Dave Infante (@dinfontay) June 10, 2023
But it’s also important to note that Anchor Brewing was sold to Japanese beer conglomerate Sapporo back in 2017. So the cutbacks may also be driven by thirst for corporate profits rather than a major dip in consumer appeal.
Former Anchor Brewing brewer Garrett Kelly told the Chronicle, “The loss of a beer as iconic as the Anchor Christmas Ale, the first American holiday beer post Prohibition, is a loss for not only beer nerds like me, but anyone with an interest in preserving culture against the grinding pressure of corporate Darwinism.”
And there are other market pressures at work, as well. In 2022 alone, we saw craft brewer Seven Stills close its last remaining brewery and facility, plus the Modern Times taproom closure in Oakland, and Magnolia Brewing closing one of its locations in Dogpatch. The Chronicle further reported last month on the trend of small Bay Area craft beer labels merging and getting acquired, in order to increase efficiency in what has become a very crowded market.
Now with Anchor Brewing downsizing too, we may be seeing a craft beer market correction after years of growth for the sector.
Image: @AnchorBrewing via Twitter