Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Say it ain't so: Fritz sells the brewery

Ok, I'll admit it, this isn't a story about New Media, Old Media, or any media. Tough, for me this is news: Fritz Maytag has sold the Anchor Brewing Co.!

Hang around the Bay Area long enough and you'll hear some amazing local stories -- stories about the sixties are especially appreciated. A story I like to repeat is the one I heard about the guy who came to the Bay Area to attend Stanford. He was the great-grandson of the founder of the Maytag Corporation -- yes, the washing machine folk. One day in 1965, after dropping out of graduate school, he heard about a historic brewery in San Francisco that was suffering tough times and he bought it, revitalized it and created San Francisco's own Anchor Brewing Company.

"I did have a nest egg (from the Maytag inheritance), but I spent it all on the brewery," he told the great sports writer Scott Ostler of the Chronicle. "I became enthralled with the process of brewing beer. It was pure romance. To see beer made, it was a miracle."

If you don't live in the Bay Area, and are not from Seattle which considers itself the west coast capital of microbrews, you might not know that this was the start of a great beer movement that helped future brews such as Sierra Nevada, and other local breweries.

Fritz Maytag, courtesy UC Davis AES

Maytag also owns the York Creek Vineyards, which year in and year out produces one of the great Zinfandel wines thanks to Paul Draper at Ridge Vineyards. Maytag and Draper had become friends from the Stanford days.

Now comes word that Maytag has sold the brewery, but Maytag is 72 years old and everyone hopes he has found good owners. According to a press release Tony Foglio, 64, and Keith Greggor, 55, who developed the Skyy Vodka brand, will take over the operation.

"Anchor Brewing Company has a long history in San Francisco and the Griffin Group is ushering in an exciting era while maintaining our proud, time-honored history. Combining Keith and Tony's passion for the Anchor Brewing Company, their industry experience and expertise only means that Anchor will be enjoyed in San Francisco for generations to come," read the release.

Maytag will retain the title of chairman emeritus and Bay Area lovers of Anchor hope that this will be a reminder of the incredible legacy the man has created -- a gentle poke in the side to the new owners to remind them that this an operation worth treasuring.

Note: Tom Abate of the San Francisco Chronicle has written a very nice story about the sale -- well worth reading. His story is the source for the quotes from the Chronicle.