Anchor Brewing Company Appoints Potrero Hill Native Thomas Riley to Brewmaster

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Tom Riley, Anchor Brewing Company Brewmaster. Photo: Steven J. Moss

Last month Anchor Brewing Company appointed Thomas Riley as Brewmaster.  Riley, who has worked with the 124-year-old company for 36 years, is its fourth Brewmaster since 1965. Riley is now responsible for beer production and brewhouse management.  

Riley grew up in Potrero Hill, where Anchor’s brewhouse has been operating for more than 40 years. He started on the packaging line in 1984, when he was 21. Since then he’s worked nearly every production job  at Anchor. 

“Anchor has always been deeply connected to our local community, so going from a Potrero Hill neighborhood kid to the Brewmaster at Anchor is really a dream” said Riley. 

Riley, who had been assistant Brewmaster, follows former Brewmasters Fritz Maytag, Mark Carpenter and Scott Ungermann. 

They “…were all committed to keeping our classics, like Anchor Steam, in their purest forms, using the most traditional techniques, while still innovating new beer styles, brewing methods and beers that carry forward the next generation of Anchor’s legacy.” Riley added, “It’s an honor and privilege to follow in the footsteps of these brewing icons and continue the legacy at Anchor. We have a lot of exciting new things coming up and I’m extremely proud to be a part of it all.”

Anchor Steam Beer’s moniker comes from the 19th century, when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast in rooftop coolers before invention of modern refrigeration. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off warm open pans. Today, Anchor Brewing is one of a few American breweries that still employs open fermentation on a commercial scale. 

In 1965, Maytag revived the struggling Anchor Brewery. Anchor Steam became the first handcrafted beer to be reinvigorated after Prohibition, sparking the craft beer movement. In 2017, Anchor Brewing was purchased by Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Ltd.