(Photo by Jon Page)

Sapporo Holdings Limited has announced plans to acquire San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co., which many consider the country’s first craft brewery. 

The brewery, which was founded in 1896, was near bankruptcy when 27-year-old Fritz Maytag purchased a 51 percent share in the company on August 2, 1965. It was under Maytag’s watch that the brewery would not only popularize its iconic Anchor Steam, but also beers like Liberty Ale, Anchor Porter, Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale and Christmas Ale, long before the development of a craft beer industry. 

Maytag sold the brewery in 2010 to The Griffin Group, led by Tony Foglio and Keith Greggor. In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Greggor suggested the brewery had conversations with other companies about the sale, but ultimately chose Sapporo for the deal, which has been a year in the making. 

 “Of all the people we spoke to, (Sapporo) respected Anchor the most, what it stood for and the importance of its connection with San Francisco,” Greggor told the San Francisco Chronicle

The acquisition, Greggor says, could allow for further international expansion as well as improvements at home, including enhancements to Anchor Brewing Co.’s bottling and canning line. Sapporo has also committed to investing in Anchor’s Potrero Hill brewery, which is currently running at 55 to 60 percent of capacity, according to Greggor. 

In its own news release, Sapporo stated that the acquisition is in accordance with Speed 150, its long-term vision for growth through 2026, which will mark Sapporo’s 150th anniversary. Through Speed 150, Sapporo aims “to be a company with highly unique brands in the fields of ‘Alcoholic Beverages,’ ‘Food,’ and ‘Soft Drinks’ around the world.”

In 2006, Sapporo purchased Canada’s Sleeman Breweries Ltd., which was at the time the country’s third-largest brewery. Sapporo also owns Unibroue, which Sleeman acquired in 2004.