After arriving in Phnom Penh from a six hour bus trip from Siem Reap in northern Cambodia, I learned this afternoon of the sale of the iconic Anchor Brewing Company to new owners. As I’m on vacation and am concentrating on local stories (some beer related) while half-way around the world, I won’t comment on the matter at length. Instead, I’ll point you to Stan’s piece on the situation and the brewery’s curious, unconventional market approach. From its glowing copper brewhouse to its pleasantly antiquated label artwork, Anchor has long seemed more like a placeholder in history than a true competitor in the American beer marketplace. Consumers were able to find Anchor Steam across the country, from local pubs to airport bars and big chain restaurants. But with its equally antiquated bottle dating system, it was always a risk to buy almost any Anchor product in the bottle outside of certain West Coast markets. The few Anchor Liberty bottles I’ve purchased out of a nostalgic respect for Anchor reinforced that unfortunate situation. While I greatly respect Fritz Maytag and the legacy his brewery leaves, the idea that a brewery can remain small and great instead of necessitating an IPO or massive growth is hard to reconcile with Anchor’s distribution to markets all across the country. I definitely agree with the former statement but Anchor lived the approach of spreading itself pretty thin across the country into hard-to-maintain markets far from home.
With Maytag moved into an emeritus position, the new owners, the Griffin Group, will have to learn to rely on something more than legacy, heritage, and reputation to justify the sales of its brands. With that said, I shudder at the thought of a SKYY Vodka team extending the revered Anchor brand name to a new line of boysenberry triple wits aged on balsa. The final takeaway from this new operation is the continuing trend of breweries changing hands, as I’ve long discussed on this site.