Today we went on a tour of the Anchor Brewing Company brewery and distillery in Portrero Hill, about a mile from where I live here in San Francisco. The Anchor Brewery is best known for its Anchor Steam beer, a rich, slightly dark beer not unlike a Sierra Nevada or Samuel Adams.
The Anchor Brewery is also known locally for its brewery tours, which consist of about 45 minutes of touring the facility, and about an hour and a half of beer tasting; both free. I can now say based on experience they do not skimp on the beers.
Anchor is one of those rare remaining manufacturers left in San Francisco. They produce about 90,000 barrels of beer per year for sale in all 50 states, Europe and parts of Asia. They use pretty basic brewing methods, which are largely manual and require great skill and are a tribute to the brewery craft. I've toured numerous brewery operations in the past, including:
- Coors, in Golden, Colorado
- Budweiser, in Suisun, California
- Heineken, in Amsterdam
- Stroh's, in Seattle, Washington
- Red Hook, in Seattle Washington
- Pyramid, in Berkeley, California
- Bridgeport, in Portland, Oregon
- The Other Redhook Brewery, in Seattle, Washington
- Guinness, in Dublin, Ireland
- Boulevard, in Kansas City, Missouri
Of all of these, I would say that Anchor appears to be closest to an artisan operation, and provides a great insight into how beer is made. After all of these beer tours, I suppose I largely continue going on tours for samples, but you do learn a little something each time you visit.
Anchor Brewery tours are in high demand, and have to be booked months in advance. Afternoon tours are preferred, as the tasting starts around 3:00 and largely continues, surrounded by brewery staff, late into the evening. I booked our tour in September, and the next available afternoon tour was March, 2009. I highly recommend the tour. Tours are only offered during weekdays, and not on holidays.