At a time when companies across the nation
are merging, forming joint ventures and absorbing one another in an
effort to turn larger and larger profits, Anchor Brewing stands head
and shoulders above the ugly word of corporate pirates and backroom
deals. While other companies seek to monetize their businesses at
every angle, cutting quality to produce higher quantities, Anchor has
remained firm in their ways. They sell craft beer, plain and
simple. Or maybe not so plain and simple because they don’t just
sell craft beer, they have been selling incredible craft beer since
The small, privately held company has held on to its roots from its
humble beginnings. The owner of Anchor Brewing, Fritz Maytag, is an
heir to the Maytag fortune. However, after heading west to study
English Lit and Japanese at Stanford University, he found himself
engrossed in San Francisco’s “Beat” culture in the late 1950’s.
Wondering what to do, and not wanting to “sell out”, Maytag decided to
purchase a dilapidated old brewing company filing for bankruptcy.
Brewing only a few hundred barrells each year at the outset, Maytag
and his Anchor Brewing were lauded by competitors as a small time
operation that was not capable of keeping up with the big boys.
Although Maytag wasn’t able to use his Stanford degrees to his
advantage at Anchor, he quickly began to master the art of craft
brewing. Members of the San Francisco bar scene fell in love with
Anchor Brewing, and soon the product was turning up all over the United
By the early 1990’s Maytag faced a serious dilemma. He needed to
raise funds to spread his product into more U.S. markets, however, in
order to do so he would have to go public. After pondering the
decision for a few months, he decided against the public offering. He
and his employees knew they had a good thing going, and bringing in a
board might stifle their corporate culture or worse - lower the
quality of their beer.
The decision to remain private turned out to be the decision that
defined Anchor Brewing. Over the past two decades dozens of larger
beer companies have sought out the small craft brewing house, hoping
to sell the brand in an effort to increase their revenues. Each time,
Maytag just smiles and politely says, “No thank you.” His goal is to
continue creating a great craft beer, not to make hundreds of millions
of dollars. His business mantra is simple, and is one that more
business owners should consider: Take pride in your work. Don’t
grow beyond your company’s means. Treat and pay employees well, even
after they’ve retired. Create a collaborative atmosphere. Give
generously to schools, libraries and other neighborhood nonprofits. Thanks for the wisdom, Fritz. Keep knockin’ ‘em dead!