It only took 122 years.
To some beer historians, America’s craft beer revolution started in 1965 when Fritz Maytag bought a dying San Francisco brewery called Anchor and revitalized its flagship beer, Anchor Steam. (Anchor Steam finished 11th on our list of The 25 Most Important Craft Beers Ever Brewed.) Maytag’s renewed focus on quality and dedication to technique set a standard that slowly reverberated across the beer world, pointing the craft scene in a direction it still follows today. Now, the beer that helped launch a movement is jumping on a beer bandwagon itself: For the first time ever, Anchor Steam is available in cans.
Before Maytag took over, Anchor Steam could trace its origins back to 1896, meaning that, technically speaking, the iconic brew has actually never been canned before in its 122-year history. Of course, a lot has changed for Anchor Brewing during that time, including an infamous buyout by Japanese beer giant Sapporo last year — a sad turn for a brand that had spent decades as a beacon of craft beer independence.
Seen in the light of that Sapporo buyout, Steam’s recent canning could potentially be seen as corporate disregard for tradition spun into an opportunity to sell more beer. But whether or not that’s the case, making one of America’s oldest craft beers available in new 19.2-ounce cans also speaks to a larger beer trend: the explosion of canning. Even as recently as 2001, canned craft beer essentially wasn’t a thing; Even after Colorado’s Oskar Blues kicked off the new era of canned craft beer, many industry stalwarts still weren’t sold.
But since 2011, when Heady Topper and other renowned New England brews began making the tallboy their signature packaging, cans have exploded as the hippest way to sell beer on shelves. In fact, many beer snobs now gravitate to cans, pushing aside 12-ounce bottles as old and stodgy. In that light, the fact that even Anchor Steam, the O.G. of the craft beer world, has finally succumbed to the can after over a century in bottles, might simply be evidence that cans have finally reached peak acceptance.