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Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born

Posted by at 10:12 pm | Category: Craft Beer History, San Francisco 1

Anchor Historian Dave Burkhart brings us interesting tales of Anchor’s past, guided by the factoids printed on the underside of Anchor Steam Beer crowns. 

Under every Anchor Steam Beer crown (we brewers call bottle caps crowns) is a little piece of Anchor lore. Each represents anywhere from ounces to tons of research, and there are over 200 different crowns in all—start collecting them now! In the Under the Crown blog series, I’ll offer a brief elaboration on each UTC factoid (Under The Crown—another industry term).

1849: Brewer Frederick Brekle born in Germany

1849_ASB-CrownEarly dates like this are from what I call our pre-history, before 1896 and before our brewery’s name became Anchor. Frederick Brekle—ironically known as Fritz—was the son of our first brewmaster Gottlieb Brekle, who arrived in San Francisco with his small family at the height of the California Gold Rush. After Gottlieb’s death in 1888, Frederick tookover the business.

01-Brekle's Brown Label copy

Brekle’s Brown Ale is named after our first brewmaster

1854: Brewer Gottlieb Brekle applies for citizenship

1854_ASB-CrownResearching San Francisco history can be quite a challenge because most of its records were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (see below). Some records, however, are preserved in the National Archives, like German brewmaster Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers. During his lifetime, Gottlieb’s last name was spelled many different ways: Breckle, Breckel, Breckels, you name it. We use the spelling that his descendants use today.


1854-Brekle Naturalization Papers

Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers

1873: Gottlieb Brekle’s brewery sells 585 barrels of beer

1873_ASB-CrownFortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!


1873-The Golden Gate circa 1873

The Golden Gate circa 1873

1896: Baruth & Schinkel’s Anchor Brewery established

B1896_ASB-Crowny 1895, what had once been known as the Golden City Brewery had become the Lux Brewery, owned by its principal creditor, maltster Frank A. Lux. In 1896, he sold the brewery to brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel Jr., who changed our name to Anchor. That’s why we have said Made in San Francisco since 1896 on every bottle of Anchor Steam Beer since we started bottling in 1971 (but that’s another story).



Ernst F. Baruth (standing by carriage) & Otto Schinkel Jr. (driving first beer wagon)

1906: San Francisco Earthquake & Fire

1906_ASB-CrownOn Wednesday, April 18, 1906, just before dawn, the San Andreas Fault rocked California. In San Francisco, the temblor and its fiery aftermath destroyed 508 city blocks and left over 200,000 homeless. Our brewery, on Pacific between Larkin and Hyde, had been there since 1871. Its wood-frame building burned on Thursday, April 19, leaving only a partially crushed brewkettle behind—an eerie monument amid the devastation.


1906-Anchor Brewery After the Quake_horiz

Anchor Brewing after the 1906 earthquake and fire

1907: Anchor reopens at 18th & Hampshire

1907_ASB-CrownAnchor co-owner Ernst F. Baruth died on Valentine’s Day, 1906, so he never witnessed the fate of his Anchor Brewery that April. His son-in-law, co-owner Otto Schinkel Jr., reopened the brewery at 18th St and Hampshire St, south of Market Street, which was then known as South of the Slot. “Old San Francisco,” wrote Jack London, “was divided midway by the Slot. The Slot was an iron crack that ran along the center of Market Street, and from the Slot arose the burr of the ceaseless, endless cable that was hitched at will to the cars it dragged up and down.”

06-Anchor Brewing 1909

Next time you pick up a 6-pack of Anchor Steam Beer, be sure to check out what fun facts are under the crown! Share what you find with us on social media and tag @AnchorBrewing and #DrinkSteam for a chance to be re-posted! Use our handy Beer Finder to locate a brew near you!


Readers Comments (1)

Super cool idea Anchor Brewing.
Your labeling is of the nicest quality of any other brewery.
Wish I had them all.

Ken Niesen

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