Japanese mega-brewery Sapporo is buying a popular US craft beer maker for $85 million

Japanese mega-brewery Sapporo is buying the maker of the popular craft beer Anchor Steam for $85 million, the company announced Thursday.

The acquisition of Anchor Steam Brewing will help Sapporo — which makes the macrobrew of the same name — expand its footprint and distribution in the hop-loving US as beer drinking continues to decline in Japan.

The deal is expected to close at the end of the month.

Founded in San Francisco in 1896, Anchor is one of America's original craft breweries and the 22nd-largest in the country, according to the Brewers Association. It sold 1.75 million cases last year and generated $33 million in revenue.

America's favorite beer brands of 2017
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America's favorite beer brands of 2017
1. Coors
2. Corona
3. Yeungling - Tied
3. Samuel Adams - Tied
4. Michelob 
5. Budweiser
6. Dos Equis
7. Busch 
8. Heineken
9. Stella Artois - Tied
9. Miller - Tied
10. Pabst 

The deal is just the latest in a wave of macrobrew takeovers of smaller craft producers, as American palates and preferences have tilted from traditional domestic offerings to the unique and myriad flavors conjured up by smaller beer outfits.

Craft beer continues to grow, albeit slower than in years past, according to Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson. Two breweries are started every day in the US.

But regional craft breweries like Anchor — facing stiff competition from both the macrobrewers that have entered the craft market via acquisition and the local microbreweries and brewpubs — have struggled of late.

That may be why Sapporo got the brewery on the cheap, compared with other deals. Bloomberg reported that Constellation Brands paid 8.7 times revenue for Ballast Point in 2015, while Sapporo only paid 2.6 times revenue for Anchor.

"Some of the older brands are struggling a little more in the market," Watson told Business Insider. "Obviously Anchor have a venerable brand, as the original brewer that started this revolution ... but they fit the pattern of breweries that are struggling a little bit more in this slowdown."

Anchor's home base of San Francisco is an especially competitive and high-cost market, Watson said.

Earlier this summer, the Brewers Association changed up its criteria for earning the designation "independent craft," capping barrel sales at 6 million and conglomerate ownership at 25%.

As a result, 14 breweries — including AB InBev acquirees Goose Island, Kona, Blue Point, and Breckenridge — can no longer bill themselves with the associations "independent craft" seal.

Add Anchor Brewing Company to that list.

Old, nostalgic beer advertisements
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Old, nostalgic beer advertisements
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1930: The Whole Family Beer Advertisement. ca. 1941, An advertisement for Mathie Ruder Brewing Company. (Photo by LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
USA - 1949: A menu for Pabst Blue Ribbon reads 'Menu, Finest beer served...anywhere!' from 1949 in USA. (Photo by Jim Heimann Collection/Getty Images)
USA - 1940: A menu for Budweiser reads 'Drink Budweiser, America's Social Companion' from 1940 in USA. (Photo by Jim Heimann Collection/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Deutschland: Reklameschild für Bier von Wolfshöhe- 1920er Jahre (Photo by Zangl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Poster advertising Guinness, c1920. Illustration shows a rabbit standing holding a golf club, and the caption It's Guinness time - Guinness is good for your golf. (Photo by Sarah Fabian-Baddiel/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
''My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer!' says Pat Burrage, Miss Rheingold 1950.' Advertisement for Rheingold beer showing woman carrying skis.
'Pabst blue ribbon beer' 'Pabst blue ribbon beer' advertisement. Caption reads: 'So much more enjoyment when you say- Pabst'. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1900: This rich brew promises a superior beer. This label acts as both a bottle label and an advertisement by promoting 'Drink.' The clown balancing a full beer glass on his finger as a goat breaks through a paper covered hoop adds to the whimsy of this colorful picture. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
A color lithographed Victorian era trade card, designed to promote the ale, beer, and porter produced at the Cherokee Brewery, St Louis, Missouri, circa 1885. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
Lithographed advertisement (by Hoen & Company, Baltimore) features an illustration of polar bears as the relax with mugs of beer, accompanied by the text 'Fresh and Cold, Lager Beer Direct from the North Pole,' 1877. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
George Ehret's Hell Gate Brewery, undated. Established 1866. Lithograph by Trautmann, Bailey & Blampey, N.Y. (Photo by The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)
Ind Coope & Co, Romford, Essex, c.1890. (Photo by History of Advertising Trust/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

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