Whisky Advocate

Anchor Brewery (and Distillery) sold!

April 27th, 2010

This is the big news of the day here in the U.S. I’m seeing several news sources reporting it right now, but here’s one from Inc. Magazine. Give it a read.

What does the selling of a brewery have to do with whiskey? For starters, Anchor also makes whiskey (Old Potrero). In fact, Anchor, and its leader Fritz Maytag, pioneered the craft distilling movement here in the U.S., similar to how they lead the craft beer movement a couple decades ago.

The other connection to whiskey is the company buying Anchor: The Griffin Group. A couple years ago they purchased a major position in Preiss Imports. Preiss Imports bring into the U.S. Springbank, Duncan Taylor, BenRiach, GlenDronach, as well as distributing the Hirsch line of American whiskeys.

I’m not sure what all the synergisms are yet, but I am sure they will all play out in due time.

38 Responses to “Anchor Brewery (and Distillery) sold!”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    In the Article, the big fact presented about Griffin Group is that its some of it’s more important members helped develop Skyy Vodka. I would expect that, at the very least, we’ll see a little more advertising for Old Portero– just maybe some expansion of that name into a line of products.

  2. Tanguy says:

    Just met Fritz Maytag at the Whisky Fest in Chigaco. Will he stay with the Griffing Group?

  3. Mark says:

    May they not compromise the quality of Junipero.

    Here’s to being able to do what you love, doing it and doing it exceptionally well.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      That’s their gin, right Mark? I’ve been curious about it. How would you describe it?

      • Karl says:

        Anchor makes two gins: Junipero and Genevieve. The former is a dry gin, very juniper forward…my favorite for making a Perfect Cocktail or a Bronx. It is quite assertive at 98.6 proof. The latter is a Genever-style gin, malty and complex…perfect for a Gin Old Fashioned or an Improved Holland Gin Cocktail. Distinctive, but not as hot at 94.6 proof.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Man, Karl– I bought that Genevieve; bought it and forgot it. Put it in my father’s trust. He liked the historical intentions behind the bottling. Sipped straight it was one of the foulest things I’ve ever tasted, but maybe in the right cocktail it could have contributed something.

          In fact it was the Genevieve that scared me off the Junipero. I love gin though so if anyone could compare/contrast Junipero to some other gins I’d appreciate it.

          • Karl says:

            Genevieve (and Genever generally) is definitely not best compared to other gins…I tend to think of it in the funky/aromatic pisco family when trying to find drinks it works in.

            If I had to, I’d slot Junipero in the Tanqueray line of dry gins, but Junipero is bolder. Personally, I can’t stand Sapphire but love both Tanqueray and Junipero, if that tells you anything. Have you had Northshore Distiller’s Gin #11? That might be the closest gin I can think of to Junipero as far as flavor profile is concerned.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Thanks Karl. I haven’t had Northshore #11. Tanqueray is ok for me. My favourites are Magellan, Blue Coat, Ethereal (Berkshire Distillery’s gin which changes recipe every year), Old Raj, Plymouth. I just picked up a bottle of that new Knockabout Gin, which is Produced in Gloucester, MA– good stuff. Perhaps I’ll pick up a bottle of Junipero when I kill that.

          • Karl says:

            I haven’t tried any of the first three you list, but my understanding is that they would fall into the ‘New American’ style of gins. My favorite in that style (actually my favorite gin overall) is Leopold Bros. out of Colorado. Junipero is quite a bit larger and more up front in flavor than anything I’ve tasted in the New American style, neither is it as smooth as an Old Raj or Plymouth, both which I have had and enjoy.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Actually, I think Magellan is in the “New French” style :)

          • Mark says:

            Hey Red. I have no problem recommending Junipero to any lover of traditional gin. I use Tanq, Brokers, Hendricks, Plymouth and Junipero at home. The latter two I will sip after the addition of one piece of ice. With Junipero, I tend not to add tonic and definitely nothing else; citrus gets in the way.

            I’ll add this for you: I introduced friends at my regular bar to this gin. The place now sells it and several of them have it at home as well. Worked the same way when I shared HP 18 with them.

          • George Jetson says:

            Junipero is in my Gin pantheon. Both of the North Shore styles are also good (a new batch of No. 6 is out), but not widely available outside of the Midwest. Also along the lines of Juipero is Dogfish Head’s Jin. I hope the new owners of Anchor leave well enough alone and don’t mess with success.

  4. Seth Nadel says:

    Maybe that expalins why I’ve been getting tons of orders for Old Potrero.

  5. David D says:

    Do not use the Genevieve as your basis for avoiding the Junipero. They are night and day.

  6. MrTH says:

    Unsettling news…one certainly hopes they’ll do right by it. The only thing I know about Preiss is that they set very high prices for Springbank in the US (Preiss-gouging, if you will), which I don’t think does their client any great favors.

  7. Steve says:

    MrTh
    You do not know what you are talkig about on Pricing on Springbank! if your state has a high price you need to look around and you can find Springbank at good prices all over the US
    I am sorry if you can not find good prices you just have to look around instead of complaning
    Preiss has a very good name all aroud the US

    • MrTH says:

      You may well be right…my impressions were based on conversations at another forum that are probably two or three years old now. I distinctly remember that there was not a lot of warm feeling for Preiss. Maybe things have changed. Or maybe it’s just that everyone else has caught up!

    • MrTH says:

      Five years old, in fact…I was going to link it here, but it just occurred to me that it’s a rival publication. Seemed bad form.

      I’m very much annoyed to see that I used almost word-for-word the same language I did above.

    • Mark says:

      That’s an interestingly dogmatic comment, and perhaps too aggressive to come from someone with a conflict of interest. Still, you must be specially placed to have the inside track on their whole national reputation.

    • Louis says:

      Unfortunately, a quick check on Springbank prices on both sides of the Atlantic shows otherwise. I checked The Whisky Exchange and Binnys, and while the 10 year old only cost about 20% more over here (allowing for the 50ml larger bottle), the 15 and 18 year oldds are marked up by 57% and close to 100% respectively. Almost the same proportianally for Glendronach of the same ages.

  8. John Hansell says:

    A few hours I posted this, I was sent a formal press release from a representative of the Griffin Group. Some bits from it:

    “Anchor Brewing Company has a long history in San Francisco and The Griffin Group is ushering in an exciting era while maintaining our proud, time-honored history,” said Fritz Maytag. “Combining Keith and Tony’s passion for the Anchor Brewing Company, their industry experience and expertise only means that Anchor will be enjoyed in San Francisco for generations to come.”

    “Since 1896, Anchor Brewing Company has been an icon of San Francisco’s history and culture,” stated Griffin’s Founding Partner, Keith Greggor, “I am honored to bring Anchor Brewing Company into our family of craft beers and artisanal spirits through establishing Anchor Brewers & Distillers, LLC.”

    Anchor Brewers & Distillers intends to establish a “Center of Excellence” in San Francisco for craft brewers and artisan distillers from around the world. An epicenter of development, education, entertainment and innovation, all designed to further contribute to the culture and heritage of craft beer and artisan spirits.

    “San Francisco is the perfect place to establish this center,” stated Tony Foglio, “Through our extensive portfolio of craft beers and fine spirits our focus will be to educate and satisfy the increasing consumer demand for authentic, quality and natural products that reflect the passion of their creators.”

    Continuing the Anchor heritage, Mr. Maytag has been named Chairman Emeritus of Anchor Brewers & Distillers.

    • MrTH says:

      It would be very surprising if someone like Mr Maytag would be willing to sell his baby without some safeguards for its future…still, it remains to be seen how this will play out.

  9. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    was it this press release, John?

    http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20100427006862&newsLang=en

    Well methinks that every time such a takeover occurs you read only beneficial press releases full of good intentions.

    What else? More critical comments you probably read in places like this one only. Much to the chargrin of the ones commented on most of the time.

    As to Preiss…

    I do only know their web site which I find ok.

    What they did to the last bottles of A. H. Hirsch 16yo and the preiss, err price they ask for the rebottling now is ridiculous.

    http://www.preissimports.com/productsdetail.aspx?A.H.%20HIRSCH%20RESERVE%20POT-STILLED%20SOUR%20MASH%20BOURBON%2016%20YEAR%20OLD

    The price is no longer given but it was around 1000,- $ if I remember right.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • John Hansell says:

      Yes indeed. That’s the press release.

    • sam k says:

      And Preiss continues to bill the Hirsch 16 as “pot distilled” even though it has been verified that no pot stills existed at Michter’s beside the one-barrel demonstration still that was never used for aged whiskey production.

      • Steve says:

        Were do you get your info on Michter’s that there is no pot still, I have been there and seen it.
        I would to see you veritied info, I have a lot of info show that you are wrong

        • sam k says:

          Steve, if you consider a doubler to be a pot still, then yes, Michter’s has one. However, if you also consider that virtually every bourbon distillery in this country also has one, what’s the big deal? You don’t see Wild Turkey claiming to be “pot stilled bourbon.”

          To my mind, when the term pot still is used, it describes the graceful copper single batch stills used in Scotland, in which the high and low wines are distilled in two separate vessels. Saying that a doubler is a true pot still is disingenuous and inaccurate, in my opinion.

          I may be the only person here who actually toured Michter’s when it was operating. They had a column still and a doubler like every other major American distillery. The only true pot still on the premises was the one-barrel Vendome system installed for the American bicentennial, which was never used for whiskey which was to be aged or included in their standard product. The spirit from that still was only bottled as “quarter whiskey,” a briefly-aged white dog. David Beam purchased Michter’s at auction specifically to get that small distilling system. It had been stored in his garage in Kentucky since then, and I understand that it may have been purchased recently for use in a new craft distillery elsewhere.

          I have also confirmed this with Dick Stoll, the last plant manager and distiller at Michter’s in extensive conversations. The Hirsch product was produced under contract to a different recipe than Michter’s own, which has too little corn to be called bourbon. It was distilled on the equipment used for every production whiskey made there: a column still and a doubler. There were no true pot stills in use in Schaefferstown when the Hirsch was produced, and probably hadn’t been for over 100 years.

          I am friends with John and Linda Lipman, whose site kallaskander mentions. They have laid out very good evidence there to reinforce their skepticism on this subject. I also have a personal interest in verifying whether or not true pot stills existed there, as I have blueprints and documents to prove the existence and use of large-scale scotch-style copper pot stills at the Dillinger distillery in Ruffs Dale, PA in a building constructed after Prohibition expressly for distilling. I am almost positive these were the only genuine pot stills installed and distilling whiskey in the modern post-Prohibition era in the United States.

          I would be extremely interested in the evidence you have that conflicts with anything I’ve written here, as historical accuracy is critical to understanding how the industry got where it is today. Thanks!

          • Red_Arremer says:

            I enjoyed reading your post, sam. I don’t know the history of distilling in America. What do you think of the claim that Woodford Reserve is Pot distilled?

          • sam k says:

            Thanks, Red. Yes, the pots at Woodford count as genuine, for sure, and I should have noted their place in the big picture. Having said that, they were installed after years of scotch-centric awareness and the growth of craft distilling. They are also unique to the distilling world in that one of them actually recirculates grain-laden distiller’s beer (as opposed to liquid wash) in the first distillation to provide the “modern” (read: column still) bourbon flavor we now expect as consumers.

            I was trying to emphasize the fact that pot distilling was thought to have been totally eliminated from the American whiskey scene after Prohibition. As a Michter’s drinker before their demise, I was fascinated by their claim to using pot stills, and was disappointed after my tour, knowing that they were co-opting the term to capitalize on the illusion of craft distilling without the substance to back their claim.

            Here is a short piece from a Pittsburgh newspaper about the sale of Dillinger in 1948 (after production had ceased the year previous) to a set of owners who had no intention in restarting the operation as claimed in the article. Note the compelling use of the description of “a complete unit for manufacture of Scotch whisky.”

            Pittsburghers Buy Distillery
            Dillenger (sic) Plant At Ruffsdale Sold
            From the Post-Gazette Correspondent

            Mount Pleasant, Pa., Jan. 18 (1948)—In a deal, reportedly involving between two and three million dollars, Samuel Leff of Pittsburgh and his sons, Marshall of Pittsburgh and Jay of Uniontown, have purchased the Dillinger distilling plant at Ruffsdale from Dillinger Distilleries, Incorporated.

            The plant, founded 66 years ago, is regarded as one of the most modernly constructed and equipped in the United States. Whisky manufacture at Ruffsdale started in 1882 when the Dillinger family secured a Government permit.

            The distillery was closed for about 15 years during the “dry” era but late in 1933 was renovated for resumption of production following repeal.

            Extensive remodeling again took place after fire caused heavy damage in 1945. The plant is equipped for manufacture of rye and bourbon whisky and commercial and beverage alcohol. It also has a complete unit for manufacture of Scotch whisky, said to be the only one of its kind in the United States. Leff said there will be further extensive remodeling at Ruffsdale. The family owns a distillery at Meadville.

  10. Henry H. says:

    Thread hijacking in progress:
    Springbank 10 y.o. in Washington state: $67.35; in California at K & L: $54.99; in California at D & M: $61.99; in Chicago at Binny’s: $49.99
    Springbank 15 y.o. in California at K & L: $91.99; in California at D & M: $104.99; in Chicago at Binny’s: $89.99
    Springbank 18 y.o. in California at K & L: $154.99; in California at D & M: $162.99; in Chicago at Binny’s: $149.99

    These Preisses are indeed quite high (sorry, couldn’t resist.), although Binny’s 10 y.o. price is okay. A drinking buddy always says,”Springbank sure loves their whisky, don’t they.” Yet we hadn’t considered the distributor’s involvement in setting price. Anyway, isn’t it fairly unusual to see a reader defending a distributor here on this blog? Makes one wonder about that reader’s affiliation, though it wouldn’t be neighborly to cast aspersions. Steve, might you be willing to tell us whether or not you’re associated with Preiss in some capacity?

    • Steve says:

      Henry

      Yes I am the National sales manager for Preiss Imports
      As for prices go I will not go round and round on this
      Prices can be higher in so states and lower in others
      Any one can give me a call and I will explane adout prices work in the US
      818-249-6680

      • Henry H. says:

        Steve, I very much appreciate your reply and your candor. I believe I speak for many whisky drinkers – especially those who read avidly about this passion – when I ask that in the future you reveal your position up front. Thank you.

        And thanks to kallaskander below for reminding me about Springbank’s artisanal approach to whisky-making.

  11. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    probably from here.

    http://www.ellenjaye.com/michters.htm

    They do very good features on all things bourbon. And I have read the “Michter`s pot still legend” elswhere where it was said that it was not a real pot still made from copper but a copper thumper or doubler sitting on top of a still.

    As to Springbank prices… Here in Germany and I think Europe in general Springbank is one of the more expensive whiskies to start with and to give truth the honour.
    Their standard 10yo lies about 10.- € above other 10yos from other distilleries. And this higher pricing goes all through the range if you compare Springbank malts within their peer groups.

    Question ist if you are prepared to pay for a malt which is handmade all on the premisis of its distillery from malting to bottling and is made with traditional methods and in an artisanal way.

    And to get back to the thread – there is the parallel to Anchor :o

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  12. Chap says:

    So what’s Maytag going to do–focus on the winery, or just retire? He’s been so influential in so many areas.

  13. [...] been a lot of chatter around the blogosphere this week:  Big news #1:  Fritz Maytag sells Anchor to The Griffin Group.   Big news #2: An affordable (relatively) 40 year old whisky from [...]

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