The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has recently acquired objects and archival materials from the now-closed Anchor Brewing Co., generally known as the nation’s original microbrewery, for its collections. The museum collected the company’s business records and a selection of items from the historic San Francisco brewery. Among the items are brewing charts, photographs, blueprints, signage, tools used in the brewery and lab, a wood barrel used to transport “steam beer” to 19th-century taverns, sample tiles from the brewhouse floor in custom “Anchor blue” and other records and materials related to the brewery’s history and its former owner Fritz Maytag III.
Anchor Brewing Co. was founded in 1896. In 1965, Maytag bought a controlling stake in the business. At the time, the American brewing industry was highly consolidated and dominated by large corporations. Brewers at Anchor Brewing Co. produced beer in small batches using ingredients like American-grown Cascade hops and traditional techniques. The revitalization of Anchor Brewing Co. attracted waves of interested journalists, visitors yearning for new flavors and homebrewers curious to learn more about the business’s approach. Maytag sold the brewery in 2010, Sapporo Holdings Limited acquired Anchor in 2017 and the brewery was liquidated this year.
“This donation is significant to our American brewing history collection because it preserves the history and contributions of Anchor Brewing Co. of San Francisco, California,” said museum curator Theresa McCulla. “This tremendously influential business is widely recognized as the first American microbrewery. The ingenuity and dedication to the craft of brewing modeled at Anchor Brewing Co. inspired generations of brewers and changed the course of the industry.”
While the museum currently has no plans for a stand-alone exhibition of these materials, the collection and archival materials will be available for study and research, future exhibitions, publications and loans to other museums.
These artifacts join a growing collection that is part of the American Brewing History Initiative. Part of the long-standing Smithsonian Food History Project, the museum began the American Brewing History Initiative in 2016 with funding from the Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colorado-based not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers. More information about the initiative is available online.
Brewing History on Display
The museum’s foundational “FOOD: Transforming the American Table” exhibition explores the history of food and eating in the United States since 1950. In the section “Brewing a Revolution,” visitors see artifacts, archival materials and photographs that originated in the homebrewing and microbrewing movements of California and Colorado in the 1960s through 1980s—the beginning of the craft beer “revolution”—including items previously collected from Anchor Brewing Co.
Program: “Last Call—American Beer in a Changing Climate”
Visitors can learn more about the work of the American Brewing History Initiative through “Last Call,” an annual program that is part of the museum’s Food History Weekend. This year “American Beer in a Changing Climate” will take place Nov. 3 and looks at the impact of climate change on beer production and consumption. From field to glass, American beer is vulnerable to the varied effects of the changing climate. Nevertheless, women in the industry are at the forefront of making American beer resilient, responsive and environmentally and socially sustainable. Speakers include Andrea Stanley, founder of Valley Malt in Holyoke, Massachusetts; Victoria Garza, Latin America Sales Manager at Yakima Chief Hops in Yakima, Washington; Denise Ford Sawadogo, co-owner of Montclair Brewery in Montclair, New Jersey; and Morgan Owle-Crisp, co-owner of 7 Clans Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Artifacts collected from Anchor Brewing Co. will be part of an Object-out-of-Storage display. This is a ticketed event, check the website for ticket information.
About the Museum
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. The museum, located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, is open daily except Dec. 25, between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. The doors of the museum are always open online and the virtual museum continues to expand its offerings, including online exhibitions and programs. The public can follow the museum on social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For more information, go to https://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
# # #