I am ashamed to say I have lived in the Bay Area for ten years, and San Francisco for over six (and within a mile of the brewery for all that time), and I only recently did the Anchor Brewing tour. A big factor was that the tour used to only be on weekdays (but was free!). However, it used to get booked up months in advance, and it was very hard to get a last minute reservation (one time I called every day for two weeks to try and get in for my birthday, and there were no cancellations).
Recently, Anchor opened the tour up on weekends, and although they now charge $15, having it on the weekend is clutch. We were able to book about 4 weeks in advance, and had a group of 10.
Anchor is one of the pioneering craft breweries, and only remaining breweries to make steam beer. Anchor Steam is always a solid option, and is pretty ubiquitous in the City.
The tour starts off in the very cool bar. The bar is a relic from years past. Walls are lined with beer trays from other breweries, and the bar is covered in wood.
Tour starts with a (small) pour of Anchor Steam. There were a couple extras poured so you know I grabbed one of those as well.
You are then brought into the brewery for a tour of the facility. The copper tuns are a sight. We got to see the hop rooms, steam rooms, bottling area, barrel room and more. The brewery has great views of downtown as well.
During the tour you get a pretty good sense of the history of the brewery, dating back to the late 1800s, to when Maytag purchased and saved the brewery until the present.
After the tour ends, you return to the bar area for a tasting. On tap for us was Anchor IPA, Liberty Ale, Winter Wheat, California Lager, Barrel Ale, and the 2015 Christmas Ale.
Liberty and California Lager are my favorite of the Anchor beers at the tasting. Liberty is a nice, simple but balanced IPA. California Lager is a prime summer beer.
I was not blown away by the 2015 Christmas. 2013 is my favorite recent vintage. However, the Christmas “Tree” was pretty cool!
I was somewhat surprised at the number of beers on tap. The day before, I went to the Anchor tasting room at the Yard (www.the yardsf.com). They have 16 beers on tap. Apparently, the brewery itself only really gets the flagship or most popular beers. I suppose it makes sense, considering that it is not open to the public, but I was a bit bummed that I had already had every beer they had at the brewery.
Ended the day buying a few things in the gift shop, which was small but sufficient. It was a great tour, and even more fun with friends. My wife thoroughly enjoyed herself, and she is not a big beer drinker. However, non-beer drinkers will enjoy the history, and I think that makes people more willing to try beers they otherwise would not consider.
Overall, a must do when in SF in my humble, beer-loving opinion. The reservation process is easy but I would plan on booking several weeks in advance for a weekend tour.
Cheers to beers!