Anchor Brewing Employees Want to Buy the Shuttered Brewery, Run It as a Co-Op

Drink News craft beer
Anchor Brewing Employees Want to Buy the Shuttered Brewery, Run It as a Co-Op

Just over a week since we learned that the original American craft brewery, Anchor Brewing, was being shut down by ownership at Sapporo USA, it has become clear that many fans, potential investors and employees have no intention of quitting their fight to keep the iconic business, first founded in 1896, open and producing beer. There have been numerous potential plans to save Anchor floated around, as well as petitions–which sound nice, but don’t seem geared to affect any actual outcome. The idea of the brewery persisting has largely been left up to the unlikely idea of some well-heeled angel investor stepping forward to acquire all of its materials and intellectual property before everything is sold off piece by piece, but the latest development would keep things much more in the family as it were: The former employees of Anchor want to buy the place themselves. According to Dave Infante at Vinepair, who has been following this story from the beginning more closely than anyone else, members of Anchor’s union have voted to extend their offer to Sapporo, hoping for a quick response on potentially buying the brewery, which would be owned and operated as a worker co-op.

“We are not asking for a handout or charity,” wrote representative Pedro de Sá in a letter published by Vinepair. “All we want is a fair shot at being able to continue to do our jobs, make the beer we love, and keep this historic institution open. We do not want the brewery and brand we love to be sold off before we even had a chance.”

The workers asked Sapporo USA president Mike Minami to respond by the end of Friday, July 21 to the offer, and whether the mega corporation would be open to “creating the framework and raising the funds necessary for this purchase.”

Frankly, it’s difficult for us to say how serious this effort can really be viewed, especially put together with such short notice. What kind of resources and monetary ceiling do the former employees of Anchor Brewing really have, or are they hoping that the court of public opinion will help generate a favorable deal? Sapporo USA acquired Anchor six years ago for roughly $85 million, for reference, and the mega brewer had reportedly been shopping the entire brand and its iconic brewery around for the last year without finding any feasible offer. But with the threat of such a beloved, iconic brand vanishing forever, would this motivate buyers to come out of the woodwork who weren’t willing to get involved before?

Likewise, would Sapporo want to sell the company and its facilities to employees, after those very employees detailed how Sapporo’s mismanagement allegedly led to its demise? We’ll be keeping an eye on this story at the end of this week, hoping for a happy conclusion for Anchor Steam fans everywhere.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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