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Under the Crown: Anchor in Pop Culture

Posted by at 12:56 am | Category: Beer Backgrounds, 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 (Under The Crown—another industry term) factoid.

Anchor Brewing has been a part of pop culture for many decades. Here are a few examples.

1977: Arnold Schwarzenegger at Anchor in Streets of SF

Fans of 1970s TV will undoubtedly remember The Streets of San Francisco, starring Karl Malden as San Francisco Detective Lieutenant Mike Stone. For the episode called Dead Lift—first aired on May 5, 1977—Richard Hatch, who replaced Michael Douglas for the show’s fifth and final season, plays Malden’s sidekick.

The episode opens with the murder (no surprise) of a young woman by a sensitive bodybuilder named Joe, played by (spoiler alert) an aspiring young Austrian actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger. We soon learn that Joe works at a local brewery, which brings us to the Emmy-Award-worthy performance, if we do say so ourselves, by Anchor Brewing!


The brewery scene opens with a cameo by Fritz Maytag, serving as inspector on the bottling line (cue Laverne and Shirley theme song-ha!). Arnold walks briskly past him, carrying on one shoulder what we are supposed to believe is a full keg of beer. Arnold obviously works too hard and fast for his fellow employees. When the foreman fires him for his buffness and enthusiasm, Arnold goes ballistic, hurling 15.5-gallon “golden gate” kegs around the warehouse.


Dead Lift 04.Arnold vs Anchor Keg

As the stars get to work solving the murder, Arnold heads off to his other gig, posing for an art class. One of the art students sketching Arnold, we fear, may become his next victim. The actress who plays her has the unique distinction of having played three different doctors on Star Trek.

Since this blog is about pop culture, we might as well have a pop-culture trivia contest:

Can you name her?

Can you name the three doctors she played?

Extra credit: Two of the doctors were in the original Star Trek series. Can you name the episodes?

1966: Janis Joplin/Big Brother photo shoot at Anchor


Visiting Anchor Brewing? Be sure and have a look to your right as you enter our taproom. On the wall you’ll see rare photos by Bill Brach, hailed by rock-and-roll historian Hank Harrison as “one of the most brilliant photographers to emerge from the Haight-Ashbury experience.” They forever freeze an important moment in the tale of Chet Helms (1942 –2005), Big Brother & the Holding Company, Janis Joplin (1943–1970), and Anchor Brewing.

Chester Leo Helms came to San Francisco after dropping out of the University of Texas in 1961. In 1965, the same year Fritz Maytag bought Anchor, Big Brother & the Holding Company got its start, jamming in the basement of the old Haight-Ashbury mansion where Chet and many others made their bohemian home.

Joplin_02-Big-Brother-and-the-Holding-Company-First-Record-Front[1]In 1966, as Big Brother’s manager, Chet invited his friend Janis Joplin to return to San Francisco to join the band. His Family Dog Productions sponsored their first concert together, June 10, 1966, at the Avalon Ballroom.

Photographer Bill Brach reminisces: “Chet said, ‘Bill, I am bringing this girl singer out from Texas to join the band and I want you to photograph them.’ I said, ‘Chet, you already have the best band in town—why do you want to add a new singer?’ Anyway, I took the band to do some photos at the Anchor Steam Brewery on Eighth Street, because it was a great place. Later, Chet told me, ‘Bill, I can’t use any of the photos because there isn’t one picture that doesn’t have a glass of beer in it!’”

In an old Anchor scrapbook is a picture of Janis and Big Brother at the bar of our old brewery on Eighth Street. No one at Anchor knew that it was Bill Brach who had taken that photo—and more at the brewery—until a friend of Bill’s contacted me about them. Bill was kind enough to show us the rest, from which Fritz Maytag and I selected four. Bill printed them and signed them for us. We framed them, and they’ve been in the taproom ever since (no, they are not for sale).

These rare photos evoke a marvelous era in San Francisco rock—and brewing—history. The band members (so young), relaxing by the potbelly stove in the old taproom are (left to right) Janis Joplin, Dave Getz, Peter Albin, James Gurley, and Sam Andrew.

Joplin 04-Janis-Joplin-Big-Brother-at-Anchor-1966-Photo-Bill-Brach

Trivia questions:

What was Janis Joplin’s middle name?

Where was Janis Joplin born?

For what event did she return there and when?

1966: Ron Boise sculpture installed on Anchor’s roof

Ironically, unlike Janis Joplin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Coloradoan Ron Boise (born Ronald Lee Bosse) was already famous in San Francisco by the time of his Anchor factoid– 1966. He was a sculptor of human figures and musical instruments in scrap metal—usually from old car bumpers and fenders. Although not the defendant, Ron and his art were the talk of the town in a widely publicized 1964 obscenity trial.

On April 6, SFPD and a police photographer arrived at the Vorpal Gallery, then located in North Beach in the alley between Vesuvio Café and City Lights Bookstore. They were there to take pictures of some of the Ron Boise sculptures on display.

Inspired by the Kama Sutra, there was no question that the sculptures were erotic. But were they art? Were they obscene? Sure it was San Francisco in the ’60s, but those burning questions would be answered not in Golden Gate Park or Haight-Ashbury, but rather in a San Francisco courtroom.

The groundbreaking “dirty art” trial made headlines in the summer of 1964, and the not-guilty verdict “freed” the Vorpal Gallery’s owners and the sculptures that had been seized as evidence. It also vindicated a pioneering artist.


Less than two years later, Fritz Maytag purchased a dramatic, 12-foot-tall Boise sculpture of a nude couple and had it mounted atop our brewery. At that time, we were located on Eighth Street, a stone’s throw from the James Lick Freeway. Prudish commuters complained, of course. Fritz’s defense was eloquently straightforward: “That freeway gets pretty monotonous,” he noted. “We thought we’d put up something to say hello.”


Tragically, the promising young sculptor Ron Boise died shortly thereafter, at just thirty-four years of age.

Our naked man and woman moved to Mariposa Street with us in the late ’70s and have since retired to warmer climes.

Trivia questions:

Another, more famous, obscenity trial took place in the summer of 1964. Who was on trial? Where? What was the verdict?

Was that person also tried in San Francisco? For what crime? When? The verdict?

Fritz Maytag wasn’t the only one who bought a Boise in the 1960s. Acid-Tester and Grateful Dead mentor ___ _____ bought one of Boise’s interactive sculptures, a “Thunder Machine.”

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)

The first Anchor Steam beer I ever had was in Florida some years ago. I live in Juneau, Alaska now and still enjoy it. It took a while to find the very few that serve it.

I actually just discovered the bottle cap history very recently. I’ll start keeping them from now on.


by Jack Brandt | May 21 | Reply

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