Anchor Unveils Taproom & Plaza at AT&T Park

Photo © Brian Stechschulte

When San Francisco Giants fans arrive for Opening Day on April 13 they’ll have a new watering hole to enjoy behind the centerfield wall on the upper concourse. Anchor Brewing has come on board as Giants sponsor this year by creating a signature taproom and beer garden called Anchor Plaza, which was unveiled yesterday during media day. They already sell more beer at AT&T Park than any other location in the country, so creating a venue for fans to enjoy their local beer while rooting for the Giants appears to be a win win for everyone involved.

At the heart of Anchor Plaza is a replica of their Potrero Hill brewery tap room. They’ll serve flagship beers, a few seasonals, and Junípero Gin and tonics thanks to their distilling operation. After getting a drink, you’ll then be able to relax in the beer garden on benches and still watch the game on TV’s mounted above the taproom. The space is also lined with a variety of concession stands so you can pick the perfect food to pair with your beer.

John Dannerbeck, president of Anchor Brewing, and owner Keith Greggor were on hand for yesterday’s unveiling and answered a few questions about the new plaza.

John Dannerbeck and Keith Greggor

How long has Anchor Plaza been in the works?

John Dannerbeck: It’s been in the works for about a year, but in all honesty it goes back to 2000 when the Giants built the ballpark. They’ve talked to Anchor Brewing about doing something every year and we’ve just politely declined, but Keith and Lynn Lackey (Marketing Director) really saw the opportunity here, to really expand our relationship with the Giants. We’ve sold beer here from day one and it’s our number one account. It’s a phenomenal account and we’re all huge Giants fans so why not build on that relationship. The Giants are great to work with, Keith and Lynn had some particularly interesting and creative ideas and the Giants really embraced it and then came back at us and challenged our creativity.

Keith Greggor: They really welcomed us. “How can you make this area more fun for us? What can you do to create an atmosphere for people back here?” That’s when the notion of the taproom we have at the brewery came in and we’ve tried to replicate that as best we could at the ballpark. Anchor’s association with baseball goes way back to the San Francisco Seals.

What were the key creative things you wanted to get out of this space, or project to people that come to the games?

Keith Greggor: We want it to project the Anchor brand and what we stand for, which is traditional, high quality brewing with no compromises. That’s pretty much what we do. We may do a few things a little bit differently, but the processes are exactly the same. We may bottle it a little bit more quickly, we might sell a little bit more aggressively, but our brilliant tradition is what we stand behind.

Can you talk a little bit more about the interest in replicating the brewery taproom? Is it simply a way to translate that experience to the ballpark?

Keith Greggor: Yeah, if anybody’s been to the taproom at the brewery you can see how it really fits into the building, which is an old 1930’s art deco building and so it really evokes that taproom of days gone by. We wanted to have something that felt traditional. We certainly weren’t looking for anything contemporary or have anything that was frivolous, but rather an expression of the kind of history and timelessness of Anchor replicated in this version of our taproom, which if you compare it to any other concessions around the ballpark looks very different. We’re hoping this draws people back here. One of the nice things about being back here now is that it enabled the Giants to put up some TV screens up here as well. There were no TV screens up here before, which prevented people from coming back here often. Now we think people will be more tempted to come back and grab beer or even a Junípero Gin and tonic. That’s one of the nice things about our relationship with Giants. We can have a relationship on the beer side, but also through Anchor Distilling.

Will any of the Zymaster beers show up here on occasion?

Keith Greggor: We’re just going to focus on our main beers, Steam, Liberty and Porter and occasionally a seasonal like Summer or Humming.

Beer Dinners: How Much Are You Willing to Pay? (Poll)

Monks Kettle Braised Beef Cheeks

Multiple courses, rare beers and brewers waxing on about food pairings have become the standard ingredients for the ever-popular beer dinner. Just about every brewery is getting into the act, either partnering with restaurants or serving up delicious meals in their own dining rooms. They can be geared towards education, utter decadence, or even become a circus sideshow.

The grandiosity of the event usually dictates the cost for attendees (not necessarily quality), which can vary anywhere between $25 and $195 per person. A lot of different factors go into setting the price point: location, number of seats, courses, ingredients and rarity of beers. Thankfully, there’s seems to be a dinner for every palate and budget. We’re wondering what’s the most amount of money you would be willing to spend on a beer dinner?

In the comments below the poll feel free to share your thoughts about the cost of beer dinners, what you think makes a beer dinner special, and any memorable meals you’ve had that were paired with beer. Thanks for sharing!

[polldaddy poll=6085029]


Brewers Association Reveals Epic Growth Data for Craft Beer in 2011

Earlier today the Brewers Association published a press release and nifty infographic containing sales and industry growth figures for 2011. The results are pretty extraordinary.

In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.68 percent of volume of the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97 in 2010, with production reaching 11,468,152 barrels. Additionally, the BA estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2011 was $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010. Increased retails sales represented 9.1 percent of the $95.5 billion dollar U.S. beer market.

“While the overall beer market experienced a 1.32 percent volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing five percent total market volume share for the first time,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”

“Moving In Lagunitas” Captures Brewery Expansion On Film

Lagunitas Brewing LogoThe last six months at Lagunitas Brewing has been filled with ups and downs. The seasonal beer Brown Shugga’ had to be shelved for a year due to capacity constraints and new brewing equipment was damaged at sea in transit. A little bad luck can be all in a day’s work when skyrocketing demand requires a massive expansion of facilities. Lagunitas is one of the fastest growing breweries in the country and a new 250 barrel brewhouse will launch them into nearly all 50 states in the coming year.

A little web surfing over the weekend uncovered a video below that documents some of the monumental change taking place at the Petaluma based brewery. The film, Moving In Lagunitas, was produced by Brooklyn based filmmaker Jillian Buckley as part of an upcoming feature. It includes interviews and numerous shots of the brand new equipment and expanded facilities. In typical Lagunitas fashion, owner Tony Magee provides one of the highlights, stating that the “brewery is going through puberty now.”

The second video below, also produced by Buckley, is a fun ride through the Lagunitas bottling line. Enjoy.

Steep Brew Opens at Whole Foods Potrero Hill, Meet Manager Wesley Anderson

Wesley Anderson / Photos © Brian Stechschulte

It’s official San Franciscans, you can finally relax with a pint of liquid courage before playing bumper cars in the grocery store aisles at Whole Foods in Potrero Hill. On March 9th the beer taps started flowing at Steep Brew, a bar and cafe run by the grocery store chain at the corner of Rhode Island and 17th Street.

Inside you’ll find 16 rotating beer taps, wine, coffee and a seasonal menu of small plates geared towards beer, such as charcuterie, and large items like burgers and salads. Customers can also drink bottles found inside the store for a nominal corkage fee, but you can’t shop while tipping back a beer due to licensing, which is probably for the best.

The atmosphere is part bar and quaint cafe. A TV is mounted above the bar or you can find a little privacy near the kitchen in a booth. Tons of natural light pours through the wall of glass windows, filling the two story venue, which is open daily from 11am to 10pm. Happy hour is from 5pm to 6pm Monday through Friday and be on the lookout for a steady stream of special events. The grand opening happy hour celebration is March 30 from 5pm to 7pm.

The man in charge of this multifaceted operation is Wesley Anderson, who’s been stacking beer on shelves at Whole Foods for several years before moving into his new position. Anderson can be regularly found at beer events across the Bay Area and has developed a small following on Twitter, which he uses to drive sales at the store with in-stock updates and news about new releases.

Now seemed like the perfect time to learn a little about his background, his experience at Whole Foods, how he uses social media to sell craft beer and what he sees on the beery horizon.

How did you become interested in craft beer and get started at Whole Foods?

I’ve always respected craft beer, brewers and breweries. I love how creative it is and how much love goes into it. Craft brewing is an art in my opinion.  I started buying beer over 6 years ago at a mom and pop grocery store for two years and then I came to Whole Foods where I’ve been doing it for the past 4 plus years and couldn’t be happier.

Do you remember your first craft beer?

Yeah, I remember my first craft beer and it was Anchor Steam. I grew up in the East Bay and I’ve always been drawn to local and Californian, but to be honest, the first beer that I considered craft, or at least much different than the norm, was New Castle Brown Ale. It’s what my friends were drinking and I was just pretty much going with the flow up until I got that beer and it changed my life and love for beer. I became the guy showing up with Anchor six packs and not drinking the other beer that took up room in the fridge.

You’re pretty well know on Twitter locally for using it as a tool to announce new products, tell me how that got started and what it’s been like communicating with customers over social media? Do you find it to be successful?

Twitter actually started as a joke. I was telling my girlfriend one day that I was going to create a Twitter account just so I can talk about beer and food, which is mostly what I do on it, but I never went through with it. It came to life because I had a customer looking for a certain beer and I told him it would be coming in soon and he asked me how he would know. At that time all I could say to them was call the store, but he asked me if I had a mailing list. I didn’t and also told him that a mailing list could be hard, but Twitter would be super easy, and well it is. And yes its very successful and helpful not only for me, but the customer and beer fan. I have customers telling me all the time they follow me on Twitter and that makes me happy cause I know it’s working.

As helpful as Twitter can be, I’m sure it can also stir up so much excitement that a beer sells out very quickly, disappointing late customers. Doesn’t that risk make you a little nervous?

I do worry about disappointing customers who follow me on Twitter when it comes to special beers and it selling out before they get a chance to get it. I want everyone to get their hands on these special beers. I actually stopped posting about special beers that I feel will fly out of the store after I post it. I still use Twitter to tell people about new beers, but if I only get one or two cases of something I either leave it off Twitter or leave it up to luck, or I post on Twitter how limited it may be. That’s all I can do really.

What part of Steep Brew’s operation excites you the most?

The part of Steep Brew that excites me the most, besides the obvious of running a beer bar, is working with local smaller breweries such as Pac Brew Labs, Magnolia Pub & Brewery, Almanac Beer and Dying Vines. I’m also looking forward to working with breweries that I’ve always loved like Anchor, Lagunitas, and Speakeasy. I’ll be able to do events like tap take over’s, meet the brewers, bottle release parties etc. That and Steep Brew is a working restaurant and coffee bar. We got a whole new lunch and dinner menu that complements beer, which Potrero’s awesome prepared food team came up with.

If there was one thing you wish customers understood about how your section of the store operates or how the craft beer industry works, what would that be?

Craft beer is special and it wouldn’t be if it were massed produced and so occasionally some beer will be out of stock or in limited supply. But, that’s why I’m here to help customers. I can maybe point them towards a beer like what they’re looking for or show them something new.

Since you have first hand knowledge of what’s moving off the shelf, what beers or styles seem to be the most popular and do you see any upcoming trends on the horizon?

I’m sure we all know the most popular style of beer right now is the IPA and all the forms it comes in, Double India Pale Ale, Black India Pale, Wet Hop IPA, etc. The IPA in the craft beer world, especially in California, is the king of craft beer right now. I also see a growing love and appreciation for Belgian sours and also see Schwarzbier, one of my favorite beer styles, on the rise.