It is a little embarrassing that, even though I've lived in the Bay Area since 2001 and have been drinking Anchor Steam beer since I can remember, I've never been to the Potrero Hill brewery for a tour. On top of that, I've been the spirits buyer at K&L since 2009 and have been working closely with Anchor's distilling arm since that time. Yet, I've never found the time to stop by their head office and check out the scene at San Francisco's pioneering craft distillery. How lame is that?
Since David OG was going to be in town this weekend, I figured we both needed to check this little task off our list of things to do. We headed up to the city this morning to meet with our friends at Anchor and take a tour of the place. The distillery is actually in the brewery on Mariposa Street; it's located in the back of the warehouse at the end of a long walkway. The small pot stills were installed by Fritz Maytag in the early 1990's and the rye whiskey production began – long before anyone cared about craft distillation, American whiskey heritage, and the rye renaissance.
What's great about Anchor is that they actually buy malted rye and ferment it there on site. Many small distilleries don't do their own cook, but rather contract that part out to a brewery. Since Anchor is a brewery they can handle it all in-house. We got to dip our fingers in and have a taste. Deliciously sweet!
Almost all of Anchor's distillates are transported via tankers to Sonoma, where the barreling and warehouse maturation takes place, but they do have a few casks aging at the distillery. There were a few rye barrels and what seemed to be some experimental projects. We never got full confirmation, but we believe that a bit of the White Christmas distillate has been put into wood.
After retasting the entire portfolio, my enthusiasm for the entire Anchor portfolio was refreshed and reinvigorated. These guys really know what they're doing up there on Potrero Hill and they've been doing it for more than twenty years. And they're in our own backyard!
I'm glad we finally got around to a visit. It was long overdue.