Anchor Brewing, widely considered the first craft brewery in the US, is shutting down after 127 years, its owner Sapporo Holdings has announced.

The San-Francisco-based brewery, which was bought by Sapporo for $85m in 2017, has ceased brewing and the business will be liquidated.

The Japanese company’s US unit cited challenging economic conditions and declining sales, which it said “made the business no longer sustainable”.

Employees were informed of the decision to close Anchor on Wednesday morning (13 July). As per federal regulations, the brewery’s 61 staff have been given 60 days’ notice and will be provided with “provide transition support and separation packages in line with company practices and policies”, the company said.

Production at the brewery has already stopped but packaging and distribution will continue until all remaining beer has been sold or until the end of July. Anchor’s taproom will also remain open to sell through its remaining inventory.

Sapporo said several attempts to sell Anchor Brewing had been unsuccessful and subsequently it needed to liquidate the business to pay its creditors.

A buyer could yet emerge as part of the liquidation process, the group added.

“This was an extremely difficult decision that Anchor reached only after many months of careful evaluation,” Anchor spokesperson Sam Singer said. “We recognise the importance and historic significance of Anchor to San Francisco and to the craft brewing industry but the impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.”

News of closure had been foreshadowed by the company’s announcement in June that it would be pulling back from national distribution to focus solely on its home state of California, as well as cancelling its annual Christmas Ale release.

The move, Singer said, had been a last-ditch attempt to save the business, which was losing “millions of dollars a year”, with revenues down by almost three-quarters since 2016.

Anchor Brewing was founded in 1896 and survived being burnt down during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the prohibition period, and both world wars. The brewery was under threat of closure prior to being acquired and revived by Frederick Louis Maytag in 1965.

After Sapporo’s purchase of the brand and its assets in 2017, the brewery underwent a drastic rebrand in early 2021. Volumes, however, continued to decline and were down 10% in 2022.

Sapporo, meanwhile, purchased San Diego outfit Stone Brewing in a $165m deal in June last year. The Japanese brewer plans to use Stone’s two US production facilities to expand production of its flagship namesake beer in the US.

Singer said the move to purchase Stone Brewing had no bearing on Sapporo’s decision to close Anchor.