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September 19, 2018
Photo by Erin Conger

How to Experience San Francisco's Anchor Brewing and Anchor Public Taps

San Francisco draws more than 25 million visitors each year, and attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower aren’t the only reason. Innovation and excellence set the Bay Area apart from other travel destinations. That extends to the city’s long tradition of craft beer. Whether you are in town for a day or a week, make sure Anchor Brewing (America's first craft brewery) and Anchor Public Taps are part of your San Francisco itinerary.

The History of Anchor Brewing

The 1849 gold rush impacted the U.S. in unexpected ways. That year, immigrants arrived from all over the world, including German brewer Gottlieb Brekle. Brekle opened his brewery in 1871, making it the first craft brewery in the nation. After 25 years, he sold the business to Ernst Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr. The two christened their new business Anchor, and a legend was born.

Despite significant obstacles, including a major earthquake, two massive fires, and a tragic streetcar accident that claimed Otto's life, Anchor survived. Anchor's crew waited patiently through thirteen years of Prohibition to carry on their practice of traditional craft brewing methods (even though the term craft brewing had not yet been coined).

In 1971, one hundred years after Brekle first opened his doors, Anchor expanded its market by bottling its distinctive Anchor Steam brew. A series of other unique beers followed, including Liberty Ale, Anchor Porter, Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale, and its first annual Christmas Ale.

The brewery moved to its current Mariposa St. home in 1979, where it continued to create and innovate. The fifth anniversary on Mariposa St. brought a new product: the first wheat beer brewed in the U.S. since Prohibition. Later, Anchor launched the Sumerian Beer Project, which followed a 4,000-year-old beer recipe to create the remarkable Ninkasi brew.

Anchor's innovation expanded beyond beer in 1993, when the company unveiled its own in-house distillery. This made Anchor the first brewery in the world with a distillery, and the artisans on staff wasted no time making their mark. They created Old Potrero rye whiskey using methods from George Washington’s time, as well as the unusual pot-distilled gin, Junípero.

Today, Anchor’s beers are still made by hand, and you can experience the process for yourself. Take a tour of the brewery, then cap off your visit with a tasting in the tap room. If that doesn’t quench your thirst, make your next stop the brand-new Anchor Public Taps.

Touring the Brewery

Your tour of the Brewery takes you through all three floors of the facility, so you see how Anchor’s liquid gold is made from start to finish. Along the way, your knowledgeable guide will share historic details and Anchor trivia. This portion of the tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.

Afterwards, you will spend 45 minutes in the taproom for a tasting session. In addition to the classics, you may have an opportunity to try other Anchor favorites like Go West! IPA, Anchor’s Mango Wheat, Anchor Coffee Porter, and Anchor's Blood Orange Blonde.

Anchor Brewing tours are quite popular. While we recommend you book your reservations online at least a month in advance, the tours can be booked the week of. If you are designing your itinerary well ahead of time, you can make reservations up to three months before your tour date. All guests over the age of 21 must pay the tour fee, and the full amount is due at the time of reservation. Public tours are $25 per person; private tours and tastings are $40 per person. If you must change or cancel your reservation, be sure to do so at least 48 hours before your scheduled start time.

Anchor Public Taps

Before or after the tour, head over to Anchor Public Taps, a new project from Anchor, offering a perfect gathering place for San Francisco locals and visitors. It is located across the street from the Brewery at 495 De Haro St. in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill district. Here, you can enjoy an exclusive selection of craft brews developed through Anchor’s Potrero Project, which you won't find anywhere else. Popular choices include Nelson Session IPA, Citra Pale Ale, BayBright Brut IPA, Emperor Norton Imperial Steam Beer, and Deep Purple Berliner Weisse.

Anchor Public Taps also features the area’s best food trucks, with a different selection every day of the week. Recent guests include Frank Grizzly's, Batter Up SF, and La Flamme. The events calendar is always packed, so plan to stick around a while. Join the party at Public Taps for a 49ers game, or test your brain power at Trivia Night.

Getting There

If you are driving, there is limited on-street parking around Anchor Brewing and Anchor Public Taps. Many visitors prefer ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, or they use San Francisco’s excellent public transportation system. The closest BART station is 16th St., and the 22 Muni bus will let you off one block from the Brewery.

Neighboring Attractions

You can fill your days in the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods, whether you choose to check out a band at the Bottom of the Hill or try more beer at the Triple Voodoo Brewery. The Museum of Craft and Design always has something fascinating on display. In 2019, you can enjoy the sculpture of six diverse artists in Material Domestication, and in 2020, catch a glimpse of architecture in the age of climate change with Survival Architecture.

No visit to the Bay Area is complete without a look at the United States’ first craft brewery. Make sure Anchor Brewing is at the top of your list of must-see attractions.


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