My best friend is about to marry a drummer for an up-and-coming SF-based indie band, Geographer. We joke that she finally gets to live out our angst-y teenage daydream of being band aids, attending shows, and tossing about cheesy phrases like, “I’m with the band.”
Geographer is San Francisco’s sweetheart band, if such a category exists, and they’re quickly becoming known outside of the Bay Area as they just finished criss-crossing the nation on their first headlining tour.
There are some great perks to being the best friend of the drummer’s soon-to-be-wife, such as free swag, an comped free ticket, and, every so often, a backstage pass. Most recently, the perk was a private tour of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company.
Despite having lived off-and-on in the Bay Area and working in the food biz, I’ve never toured Anchor Brewing, which is totally shameful. But I’m one of those people who never climbed the Eiffel Tower though I practically lived at its base and never ascended the Chrysler Building though I’ve spent tons of time in Manhattan. When it comes to Anchor Brewing, I’d like to think I somehow knew there’d someday be an awesome tour like last Sunday.
Anchor’s got more than a bit of history, dating back to the Gold Rush Era when German immigrants wanted to strike it rich off of those striking it rich on gold by selling them beer. They didn’t realize how warm the Bay Area was and found they couldn’t make their beer as they had in Germany and in the Midwest, via fermentation in caves and with ice, respectively.
They eventually came up with the idea to use the roof of the brewery to simultaneously cool off the and begin fermentation. It sounds to me like the sourdough of beers since the brew would pick up those strains of wild yeast that make our local bread so famous. The beer was coined “steam beer” because steam would pour off the roof as the beer cooled and that, my friends, is why their most classic beer is known as Anchor Steam.
Before you think that I went through hours of being lectured about the history of Anchor Brewing, let me assure you, that was not the case. One of the the best parts of the tour is that it starts at the bar so you get to taste your way through the beers immediately. Though Anchor Brewing is through and through a San Francisco company, it has grown to become one of the United States’ biggest craft breweries.
So, if you’re into beer, you’ve probably come tried quite a few of the beers in the Anchor line-up – like the classic Anchor Steam, their Liberty Ale, the delicious Anchor Porter, or their seasonal Christmas Ale. There are, however,a few beers that are strictly local as part of their Zymaster series and lucky us, we got to try them all.
The extra special bonus was that we got a peek into the spirits room on the roof of the building (no longer used for steam beer making, of course). Anchor has been distilling top-notch spirits like Junipero Gin and Old Potrero Rye since the mid-90s and the most recent experiment is Hophead Hop Vodka — a sort-of marriage of the company’s brewing and distilling history. With a slight resin and anise flavor faintly reminiscent of Pastis, it’s something a non-vodka drinker like myself can enjoy. Hophead vodka is just starting to roll out but is already available in NYC and San Francisco, of course!
I’m not sure why it took so long for me to take the Anchor Brewing tour but I found that very good things do indeed come to those who wait. So, while I’ve been the recipient of many a great perk thanks to my generous friends of Geographer, if I had to pick a favorite, well, this private tour would definitely be it.
Anchor Brewing Company
1705 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Food Field Trip is a recurring series where I visit artisanal food and beverage producers and family farms and share their stories with you.
Photography by Aida Mollenkamp and Chris Kalima