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Anchor Brewing sold to Chobani yogurt king. Yes, the old label will return

The image features a black-and-white photo of an industrial area with various Anchor Steam beer cans and bottles superimposed, and a man with a microphone pointing.
Source: Illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard; photo by Murat Sengul/Anadolu /Getty Images

After its abrupt closure last July shocked city beer fanatics—and led to a run on the dwindling supply of the brewery’s products—the historic San Francisco Anchor Brewing finally has a new buyer and a real chance at revival. 

Billionaire entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born CEO and founder of Chobani, the country’s largest producer of Greek yogurt, has purchased the brewery and its 2.17-acre Potrero Hill home.

Ulukaya’s personal investment firm, Shepherd Futures, is working with local developer Presidio Bay Ventures to help restart the brewery operations, restoring its traditional branding and repositioning the company again as a national player in the beverage space.

Ulukaya has only been to San Francisco a handful of times, but after learning the country’s oldest craft brewer was closing through a media report, he sent the article to a colleague and asked them to find out more.

That initial exploration led to a visit to Anchor Brewing’s San Francisco facilities, where he met with an employee who had worked at the company for 25 years. Soon enough, he was convinced.

“I walked in those hallways, I read a lot of the history, I met the people in the community and talked about the brand,” he said in an interview, sporting a dark blue Anchor Brewing baseball cap and a We ❤️SF lapel pin. “I felt completely home.”

A person in a mask is placing a case of assorted beer bottles into a shopping cart in a store with stacks of Stella Artois and other beer brands.
David Dalzell loads cases of Anchor beer into his shopping cart at Costco in San Francisco after the brewery was shuttered by Sapporo in 2023. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Over Anchor’s 127-year history, it has had a string of owners ranging from German immigrants to appliance heir Fritz Maytag to international beverage brands. Anchor’s last owner prior to its closure was Japanese-based Sapporo Breweries, which purchased the company for $85 million in 2017.

Sapporo shuttered the brand in 2023, blaming flagging sales after a much-maligned label redesign and rebranding. Ulukaya made sure to note he was no big fan of the brand’s new direction and intends to restore its beloved historic branding and imagery. 

“That is what really attracts me, a true brand in business, coming back in a new refreshed way, but still connected to its roots,” Ulukaya said. “Being part of a rebirth and brand of the company and being part of maybe a new dimension of the city is pretty exciting.”

Patrick Machel, the chair of the Anchor SF Cooperative, a group of former Anchor employees who also sought to purchase the brewery, hopes the new owner avoids the mistakes made by Sapporo.

“It’s a business at the end of the day, but you have to understand you’re also part of the community and a long legacy,” Machel said. “With Sapporo, they tried to turn Anchor into something it was not—or maybe they didn’t realize what they had in the first place.”

The Potrero Hill property includes Anchor’s main brewing facility at 501 De Haro St. and a taproom across Mariposa Street at 495 De Haro St., totaling around 110,000 square feet. Land-use sources have raised the potential for rezoning of some adjacent undeveloped land into a residential property. 

John Jensen, a longtime commercial real estate broker with Colliers who has worked in Potrero Hill for decades, said the Anchor Brewing facility is a jewel within the neighborhood that could help spark a renewed vibrancy. 

“There’s an unbelievable opportunity there,” Jensen said. “It’s probably the icon of the whole district, I would say.”

‘Addicted to restarting’

Ulukaya was selected as the buyer at the end of a complex, months-long auction process, which divided the company’s real estate holdings, brewing equipment, branding and intellectual property, including the iconic steam beer Anchor helped pioneer. 

Each of these assets was for sale individually or as a whole. Among those in the running to purchase the brewery were the Anchor SF Cooperative and Potrero Hill resident and venture investor Mike Walsh.

The purchase price for Anchor was not disclosed, but brokerage firm CBRE previously listed the real estate assets for $40 million. The company’s intellectual property was seeing bids of up to nearly $10 million, according to a source close to the process. 

Anchor fans feared that the piecemeal process could diminish the 127-year-old brewing company. Ulukaya said the sellers were attracted by his offer to keep all parts of the company intact.

A man with curly hair and glasses, wearing a suit, gestures while speaking in front of a blurred, colorful background with text.
Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya has a new reclamation project, San Francisco’s 127-year-old Anchor Brewing Company. | Source: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

“Anchor Brewing has always been a beloved part of San Francisco and thanks to Hamdi Ulukaya, it will be a part of San Francisco for years to come,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “I’m grateful for his commitment to being a part of the future of our city and for keeping the tradition of Anchor Steam beer being brewed right here where it belongs.”

Ulukaya said he’s embarking on a listening tour to ask community members what they would like to see. While there is no exact timeline for the relaunch, he plans on moving quickly.

“I don’t like sitting around and waiting too long,” Ulukaya said. “I don’t have a lot of patience. You have to get to work.”

Ulukaya was born into a Kurdish dairy farming family in eastern Turkey and immigrated to the United States at the age of 22, where he started his journey into entrepreneurship. In line with his own immigrant story, Ulukaya has been outspoken in his support for refugees and has created the nonprofit Tent, meant to link refugees to jobs at major companies. 

Chobani was born after Ulukaya purchased a shuttering yogurt factory in New York previously operated by Kraft Foods. After hiring four of the laid-off workers, Ulukaya reformatted the facility to create strained yogurt similar to the type he grew up with in Turkey.

The company, which has expanded into categories like oat milk, yogurt drinks and creamers, has surpassed $2 billion in sales. Ulukaya himself is worth some $2.4 billion, according to the Forbes Real-Time Net Worth index. 

Ulukaya said he sees a parallel between the humble beginnings of Chobani and his hopes for revitalizing Anchor Brewing. He recently spent two hours with the four employees who have been with the company for decades keeping the legacy of the historic brand alive. 

“I wish someone could listen to the passion and love and mixed with the emotion that comes out of it,” Ulukaya said. “I’m addicted to restarting something.”

Ulukaya noted he’s not particularly prone to invest in other food and beverage brands outside of Chobani. In 2015, he became the majority owner of La Colombe Coffee Roasters, purchasing his stake from a private equity company he feared would dilute what he loved about the company and its products. In 2023, Chobani acquired the brand outright for $900 million. 

“These are pretty special brands, but sometimes people don’t see it,” Ulukaya said. “I go back to the line that Rumi says, ‘When there are ruins, often there’s treasure.’”

Kevin Truong can be reached at