After satiating our cultural needs by dragging the kids to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see some classic pop art and work by Sargent Johnson, as well as Sublime Seas a contemporary film on migration and the sea by British artist John Akomfrah, a beautiful walkthrough light bulb installation, and thought-provoking photography retrospective on Susan Meiselas, we made it up to the teenagers by taking them to The Cheesecake Factory at Maceys after. The food here was so much better than I expected, and the service was superb, but the craft beer opportunities were few so we left our teens to shop till they drop in Union Square’s fancy department stores and headed to a tour of Anchor Brewing Company.
The tour was packed with around 40 people, even though they run several times a day, so we recommend booking. The brewery is just across from their public bar, Public Taps, in what looks to us like a 1930s building.
The tour starts in their private bar, which reminded us in feel of the Coventry Evening Telegraph upstairs suites, highly wood panelled with display cases showing bottles from the past and some interesting old bits and pieces. It looks out onto their beautiful copper stills (tun and boilers). They brew up to 5 times a day in shifts running from early morning until midnight.
Anchor is one of the oldest breweries in the US, so the tour starts with a bit of history recapping how they survived two earthquakes only to burn down days later, speculating as to how they survived 13 years of prohibition (strangely, no book keeping records remain…), and the eight-year search for a new owner who would commit to maintaining the core beers as they were. This talk is accompanied by a drink, the first of many…
The tour covers Anchor’s brewing process by way of chatting through ingredients and method. Anchor are one of the few breweries still using coolships (open fermentation vessels) for everything they do. In fact, that’s where the ‘steam beer’ nomenclature arises from – there used to be windows in the coolships’ room and steam would pour out of them.
We stuck our heads in their hop room (if Jon had been here he may not have moved on from here as he loves the smell of hops) on our way to the cold conditioning area. Here we could see tanks wrapped in ice, cold crashing. After that it was back through the packaging line, but nothing was running so not much to see here. And on to the tasting.
We tried several beers including their California Lager (crisp and tasty, easy drinking); Anchor Porter (dark, traditional); Liberty Ale (a classic IPA, made with Cascade); and then by choice their Barleywine; San Franpsyco IPA; last year’s Christmas Ale (tweaked every year); and a new beer made with cryo hops (frozen, then smashed to dust for maximum flavour extraction). I think there were more, but I lost count!
We then headed over the road to the Public Taps, because we wanted to try this week’s special release – Summertime Crime – but obviously a flight was in order…
- Summertime Crime, Berliner Weiss aged in pinot noir barrels with raspberries and blackcurrants
- Blood Orange Blonde
- Mo Trouble, DIPA
- Blackberry Daze
The place was buzzing with an after-work crowd, out to enjoy the blazing sunshine which is somewhat of a rarity in SF I understand. There looked to be a game of ‘throw the beanbag’ going on in the parking lot but we couldn’t think of a way to join in as it looked like young corporates. We felt we could show them a thing or two about beanbag throwing, given we’d both trained in it extensively at primary school it being one of the few forms of sport on offer in our youth!
Luckily we realised that the beer was talking at this point, so we called an Uber (it’s blimin hilly here!) and headed off to Almanac having much enjoyed our time with Anchor and its ‘radically traditional’ beers.