Bend was basically a sleepy logging town in the middle of central Oregon when the Deschutes Brewpub opened downtown in 1988. A few years later Deschutes built a larger production production brewery, a major driver in the craft brewing revolution in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, helping to transform Bend into the vibrant destination it is today.
It’s not just a brewery, to me it’s the Mecca of craft beer. Maybe because it’s so far away, yet within a day trip where I live, is why I find visiting Sierra Nevada to be a pilgrimage. It’s like going to the source of where the craft beer revolution started. And yes, you could really argue the Mecca of craft beer is Anchor’s brewery. Except its current location is not where Fritz Maytag transformed a dying brewery into one the transformed the American brewing landscape. But then, you can also say that about the current Sierra Nevada brewery location and Ken Grossman’s pioneering work. Maybe because Anchor’s Brewery is a short trip for me to San Francisco that makes it seem more accessible, and therefore seemingly less mystical.
I’m rambling. I do that when attempting to be profound about something I feel reverent about. Somehow, Sierra Nevada feels like where the craft beer revolution all started, even though logically, you could argue Anchor is the place. I just can’t quite express why into words. So I’ll stop rambling and just show you a bunch of pictures I snapped on the Sierra Nevada brewery tour. It’s been over three years since I first made this pilgrimage. I just hope I don’t have to wait another three years to come back.
(An edited version of this post was published in the Oct/Nov 2012 issue of Adventure Sports Journal.)
|This isn’t a museum. It’s Anchor’s Historic Brewhouse
(Photon courtesy of Anchor Brewing)
There’s revolution going on in this country, born largely in California that has nothing to do with music, politics, or some insanely great gadget. It’s a revolution in beer, a beverage that’s existed for over 5,000 years of human history that continues to be reinvented to this day. Large breweries run by multinational corporations producing unoriginal light, flat tasting yellow lagers are dramatically losing market share to a growing fleet of smaller independent breweries concocting a wide variety of rich, flavorful, and unique brews. People are enjoying the endless flavor combinations and possibilities of beer and becoming more aware about where their beer comes from. California breweries are major pioneers of this movement.
Go to Anchor Brewing and you’ll see a piece of San Francisco history. The brewery is housed in a four story Depression-era brick building in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. Visitors meet in brewery’s tap room, with its classic carved wooden interior and old brewery photographs, which include Janis Joplin happily enjoying an Anchor Steam. The brewery itself, with its old copper kettles and brick interior, looks like something out of a museum, but is where all of Anchor’s beer is brewed today.
The tour starts with recounting of the tumultuous history of Anchor Brewing. It’s one of the oldest breweries in the United States, dating back to the Gold Rush-era in San Francisco. It survived the 1906 Earthquake and Prohibition, but nearly went out bankrupt in 1965 before Fritz Maytag, a recent Stanford graduate from a Midwestern family of prominent dairy farmers (think “Maytag Blue Cheese”) learned of the imminent demise of his favorite beer and purchased 51% of the business.
Maytag developed a system of open shallow vats in a more controlled environment to replicate brewing technique, and today every drop of Anchor Steam slowly ferments in these vats. A highlight of the tour is catching a glimpse of these vats, which had long been a brewery secret. As brewery spokes person Candice Uyloan describes, “These fermenters are an important part of our unique brewing history and represent a marked difference from the vertical tanks found in other breweries. Except for the occasional hot day, we still simply use the naturally cool air from San Francisco’s foggy coastal climate.”
The brewery offers two tours a day on Weekdays. Tour reservations are taken up to six months in advance and dates fill up quickly, often weeks in advance. Call 415-863-8350 for more information and to make reservations. Admission is free.
|Don’t let all those controls in the Anderson Valley Brewhouse fool you,
none of them actually work.
Tours start Daily at 1:30 and 3:00 pm, except between January and March, when they only run Thursday-Monday. The tour costs $5, and include two beer samples from the tap room, and a $5 coupon for any purchase over $10 in the brewery gift shop. Call (707) 895-BEER for more information.
|Ryan Tamborski discussing Lagunitas’s Barrel-aged Brews|
Brewery tours typically have the aura of a high school science field trip, but as tour guide Ryan Tamborski tells the story of Lagunitas founder Tony Magee, he works the room like a stand-up comic. “In the early days, there was a problem when Tony Magee flushed yeast into the community septic tank. Does anyone know what you get when you flush yeast into septic tank? Coors Light!” Indeed, there’s plenty of entertaining stories behind many Lagunitas beers, and most involve either marijuana or owner Tony Magee thumbing his nose at various authorities. The tour guides are master story tellers, and the Lagunitas Brewery tour is the most entertaining hour I’ve ever spent at a brewery.
Mondays-Tuesdays 3:00 pm, Wednesday at 3:00 and 5:00 pm, Saturdays 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 pm
|The dignified splendor of Sierra Nevada’s Brewhouse|
Monday – Thursday: 11:00am 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm 3:00pm & 4:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: 11:00am 12:00 pm, 12:30pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 2:30pm 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 4:30pm & 5:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00am 12:00 pm, 12:30pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 2:30pm 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm