27 April 2009
Today I took the Anchor Brewery tour with lady Lauren, thanks to my new pal Andy. Andy's got a sweet job as their tour guide and though normally you need reservations three weeks in advance, he squeezed us into yesterday's tour. He did a great job illuminating the finer points of their historic brew process, all while donning a very Willy Wonka jumpsuit and talking over the bells and whistles of the brewery's copper kettles.
It was my first time seeing whole hop flowers up close. Anchor has large quantities of them in trough-like wooden bins, so the whole room is pungently scented.
The amazingly powerful bottling line, manned (literally) by guys in those jumpsuits and the laboratory for testing and experimenting were really impressive, but the brewery's tasting room almost stole the show. It's a small museum of ephemera showcasing California brewing history and general beer enthusiasm presenting quite a bit to take in, let me tell you. Some of my favorites included a Chez Panisse-esque hop homage, an old tray from the original Philadelphia Brewing Co. encouraging you to "Drink Old Stock: finest beer in town" and an old photograph of a bar serving Anchor Steam Beer on Draught. I wanted you to see the amazing old counter with neon sign, but also the expression on the bartenders' faces. What happened to facial expression like this? I contend it's got Depth you just don't see in faces today.
With their detailed touring and generous tasting, I've wondered more than once what is the incentive for the brewery to host such events free of charge? But as soon as you're on a tour like this one, it's pretty clear: easy marketing. Tours like these make stewards out of each tour-goer, sending out champions of the Anchor label into the many corners of the earth. Looking at the guest list, most of my fellow tourists were in fact, Tourists from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, cities with thriving beer cultures all their own. So it's probably helpful to go ahead and show a handful of beer enthusiasts from each of those cities a good time here in San Francisco. It's a pretty good bet they'll buy Anchor more often at home.