Late last year, San Francisco's beloved Anchor Brewery in Potrero Hill was acquired by Tony Foglio & Keith Greggor, who established Anchor Brewers & Distillers, an umbrella company meant to unite and empower craft brewers and artisan distillers. Focusing mainly on their spirits portfolio, Anchor Brewers & Distillers inked a strategic partnership with Berry Bros. & Rudd , one of the oldest and most venerable wine and spirits merchants in the world. Through the partnership, the British company, which supplies spirits and wine to the Royal Family, plans to introduce their own artisan spirits (like No. 3 Gin and King's Ginger liquer) to San Francisco.
We spoke with chairman Simon Berry and Anchor's Head of Spirits David King about what's in Anchor's future.
What enticed you to Anchor brewing? You typically deal in spirits, why beer?
Simon: Our company is the oldest wine merchant in the UK, maybe the world. About a year ago, we had a whiskey plant called Cutty Sark. We sold that and were presented with an opportunity to establish a partnership with Anchor. It's not only a brewery, it’s a distillery as well. We have a number of spirits, including No. 3 Gin and the King’s Ginger, therefore the spirits distribution part of Anchor was a wonderful opportunity, apart from just giving me a chance to come to San Francisco.
What do you think of the Anchor brewery so far?
Simon: It’s amazing. About 6 years ago we had a master of wine at our shop who was also passionate about beer, and that was how I first tried Anchor Steam.
It fits so well because Anchor is an archetypal beer that comes from a unique place. It’s part of San Francisco, part of its history, and it’s not mass-marketed.
It’s worth making the effort to find the smaller places to work with wherever you are. Anything with individuality, which is also what San Francisco’s about.
David: The vision behind Anchor is really interesting. We want it to be a center of excellence in San Francisco for craft beers, artisanal spirits, and we want to use the brewery and distillery as centers for education. We want to get food involved. We’ve got over 500 years of experience between Anchor and Berry Brothers & Rudd, and that collective knowledge is amazing.
What’s your take on SF’s bar scene?
David: The big trend that I’ve noticed here is mixology. That’s something we really got into when we were developing our spirits brand. We launched our Number 3 dry gin here at the brewery with a lot city bartenders, and they were really interested in our products.
Simon: Almost a hundred years ago, Edward XII had just bought the latest toy, which in those days was called the "horseless carriage." But they hadn’t invented roofs for cars yet, and it was a very cold winter. His doctor came into our shop and said "I’m very worried about this man’s sickness, I’d like you to create something good and warming that he can drink as he drives along." So we invented this ginger liquer (hence the name, the King's Ginger), which if you come to SF now, you’ll hear all these mixologists here talk so passionately about it. It used to be such a traditional drink and now it’s got a completely new life.
What bars have really caught your eye while you’re here? What bars can we look forward to seeing your Berry Brothers spirits at?
Simon: I’ve led a very sheltered life and I’d never had an Aviation cocktail. I’ve had two of them now here.
David: We had an amazing Negroni at Epic Roasthouse, that’s a really good bar. It’s small, but it’s a proper bar. The other place I think is really great is Rickhouse. They do an amazing drink called the Blood & Sand.
Simon: Zero Zero’s great too.
David: Zero Zero’s great. So is Twenty-Five Lusk. The guy that runs the bar there is an English guy, and they carry a lot of our products. Really cool environment as well. There’s a place out in Potrero near the Anchor Brewery called Skool. It’s got a great bar, and it’s not expensive either.
Simon: There’s so much more passion here than London. You feel that everyone here has tasted the food and knows the wine lists.