San Francisco drinks legend Fritz Maytag, head of the Anchor Brewing Company, Anchor Distilling Company and York Creek Vineyards, will be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the James Beard Foundation, it was announced today. The presentation will be made during a gala ceremony in New York City on June 8.
Commonly regarded as the father of modern American craft brewing, Maytag purchased an interest in the flagging Anchor Brewing Company in 1965, purportedly to keep the operation from going under. With no experience in brewing or running a brewery, Maytag admits that the early years were a struggle, but he persevered and by the early 1970's owned the company outright. Among his more gutsy, if not outlandish moves were the introduction of a hoppy pale ale (Liberty Ale) and barleywine (Old Foghorn) in 1975 and the creation of what was likely America's first post-Prohibition Christmas beer (Our Special Ale, commonly known as simply "Anchor Christmas Beer").
In 1994, Maytag added a distillery to his business and began crafting an authentically old fashioned rye whiskey called Old Potrero. Other spirits, including a boldly juniper-flavored gin called Junipero, soon followed.
It is safe to say that hundreds, perhaps thousands of craft brewery owners and operators have found inspiration in Maytag's spirit and tenacity. And just as he motivated by example the development of small scale brewing in the United States (and beyond!), he is also today providing leadership to a new generation of micro-distillers.
For more information, visit the James Beard Awards homepage at http://jbfawards.com.