The Aberdeen Brewing
Company was not this city's first brewery. In late 1887 Louis Blum & H.
E. Anderson purchased property on Walnut Creek (now Wilson Creek) for
their Grays Harbor Brewery & Bottling Works. However, in mid-1889 the
operation was purchased by Ferdinand Toklas¹,
a San Francisco businessman who was a principal in Toklas, Singerman &
Then in 1890, the plant was dismantled and removed to Ocosta (about 12 miles SW of Aberdeen). On the 1st of April,1892, it was re-opened as the Grays Harbor Brewery, under the ownership of Richard & Mary Sandback, managed by H. Barthel. They were a lager beer producer, but the beer may have been lacking since it closed for good the following year.
Three years later in August of 1896, John Hemrich and son, Louis, principals in the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., considered the establishment of a brewery and cold storage plant in Aberdeen. The townspeople were greatly interested in the project and offered to donate a site and some building material in the aid of the enterprise. However, the Hemrichs canceled their plans and the project was abandoned.
In 1900 an investment group, headed by Louis kern, did proceed with a similar plan and established the Grays Harbor Brewing Company. The plant, with a 100,000 barrel capacity, was planned and started by Ernest Bloch. The new company was incorporated in 1901. A stock certificate (left), signed by Kern on the 5th of February, 1901, shows an image of the planned, wooden frame plant.
However, theventure was under capitalized. In August of 1901 contractor's liens totaling about $2000 placed the project in receivership. In November of 1901, Alvin Hemrich (see his biography) purchased the brewery from the receiver for $3000 and went forward with plans for a more modest brewery. Ironically, it was his father and brother who had considered this very same project in 1896.
Alvin organized a stock company (that included his brother Louis), which
was incorporated with a capital stock of sixty thousand dollars. The
first officers of the company were Alvin Hemrich, president; E. J.
Guaver, secretary and manager: and H. L. Smith, treasurer.
The first draught beer was placed on the market on the 21st of May,and was warmly received. However, their bottling works was not fully operational until early July. The bottling line had a capacity of 10 Barrels, or 1680 quart bottles per day.
The first bottles were filled on July 8th and promptly delivered to local outlets. Their first ad was run on the 21st of July and announced: "Aberdeen Brewing Co.'s - Bottle Beer! Is now on the market in Pints and Quarts. It Has No Equal. Telephone 901. Ask for our A.B.C. Prima."
The firm also obtained a contract with the Eagle Brewing Co. of S.F. to bottle their "Prima Lager" for Bay Area distribution. On the 9th of July of '02, 100 barrels were shipped to San Francisco on the steamer Santa Monica.
The brewery's output for the first year was 8,500 barrels, a significant amount of which was exported to San Francisco. The initial capacity of the plant was 50 barrels of beer per day, and much to Mr. Hemrich's surprise he found that an increase in capacity was necessary to meet the immediate demand. Within months of opening he was purchasing the necessary equipment to double the plant's output to 100 barrels per day. He also found it necessary to increase the bottling works capacity. The capital expenditure now equaled $100,000.
With an improved bottling plant they found it more profitable to bottle
their own beer and ship casks packed full of cork-finished bottles to
their San Francisco distributor.
The weekly shipments, by water and rail, consisted of approximately 100
casks. Each cask contained six dozen quarts of beer, which were packed
in sawdust for protection.
A trial case certainly sounds reasonable! And to counter Olympia's
slogan, "It's the Water" - Aberdeen claimed that "It's the Material."
That sounds reasonable as well!
The Company's trade mark was its initials - ABC, which can just barely be made out on the brewery's wall, in the image above. The ABC trade mark on the butt of a beer barrel can be seen clearly on two of the embossed quart bottles (below). These bottles were produced in both quart and pint sizes. They were also manufactured with two different lip finishes: crown and blob. The blob was made to accept a cork, which was used in their export trade.
Embossed bottles ca.
Another slogan - that sounds like wishful thinking - is stated in the ad
By 1906 the brewery employed 25 people, and produced $200,000 worth of beer a year. Increased sales and demand required even further expansion. In order to increase capacity an annex to the plant was erected in June 1907.
The brewery had also installed a new ice plant, which was then consolidated with the two other plants of the city. They were now supplying all the ice for the Aberdeen area, and were selling as much ice as beer. The water for the brewery and ice plant came from their own well, sunk 200 feet deep in order to tap the aquifer far below the bottom of the harbor and sealed off from the salt water by a thick layer of hardpan. In May of '08 they drilled an additional well at a cost of $2000.
The company purchased a Witteman carbonating outfit in 1907 and began
producing a line of sodas under their "Prima" brand, as well as a
product called "Puritas Water." A Daily Bulletin ad on 31 October
announced: "Puritas Water delivered at your home.
Costs but a trifle." Two years prior they had obtained a Witteman
"gas collecting outfit" which was used in the brewing process.
Concurrent with Elmer assuming greater responsibilities was the introduction of a new product. On the 11th of March, 1911, the Grays Harbor Post published an announcement that the Brewery was now offering a dark Bavarian style beer called "Original Erlanger."
However, Prima remained their flagship brand, and was considered a premium beer. It must have been an excellent product for it to compete in the San Francisco market.
While Prima was the best seller in the brewery's home market they did have competition from other brands. The Crescent Bottling Works of Aberdeen and Centralia were agents for the Independent Brewing Co. of Seattle, and they distributed Independent's Old German Lager. Additionally, they contracted with Independent to brew and bottle Glenweiser Beer which Crescent marketed as a budget brand.
perpetual calendar - Bryan Anderson collection
perpetual calendar - Bryan Anderson collection
Prima seltzer (click
on image to enlarge)
Match safe with raised lettering on ends for striking match.
On top: "Golden Age Beer"
On Bottom: "Loggers Pal"
In 1915 Washington voted to go dry, with statewide Prohibition to go
into effect on January 1st, 1916. This terminated the production of all
alcoholic beverages - four years before national Prohibition. Most
breweries were forced to close, but the Aberdeen Brewing Co. stayed open
by increasing their production of soda waters. This enterprise was named
the Prima Bottling Works, and used the Prima logo. An example of one of
their soda siphon, or seltzer bottles, sporting an etched Prima logo,
can be seen above. Along with their bottling works the brewery still had
a high capacity refrigeration plant which allowed them to remain in the
retail ice business. They also introduced a cereal beverage,
euphemistically called "near-beer." By law these beverages could contain
no more than ½ of 1% alcohol, and could not use the word "beer" on the
label. The company named their product "Golden Age" the same as their
once popular brand of beer. At this same time Alvin Hemrich was
producing a near-beer called "Lifestaff" at his
Hemrich Bros. Brewery in Seattle.|
North Coast Products - In 1918 a new business entity was formed when the Aberdeen Brewing Co. was dissolved, and the North Coast Products Co. purchased $2,091.46 worth of bottles and $1,753.50 worth of signs from the old company. Elmer Hemrich remained vice-president and treasurer, and continued manufacturing soda waters, cereal beverages and ice.
Ice Delivery Company - In 1920 the ice manufacturing part of the business was sold to Russell G. Hall, who had established the Hoquiam Ice Co. eight years earlier. However, in 1924, the entire plant was sold to Hall, and North Coast Products was liquidated. This divestiture allowed the Hemrichs to concentrate on their new ventures. They established the Surf Packing Company, with razor clam canneries in Grays Harbor and Alaska. There was even a Hemrich Bait Co., in Aberdeen for a short time.
Products - At some point after taking control of the soda works, R.
G. Hall incorporated the Quinault Products Co. Their "Beverages of
Quality" included "Quinault Club Special Brew" which appears to have
been a near-beer. The principals in the company were Russell G. Hall,
president; M. T. Thorpe, vice-president; and Fred Amacher, secretary and
treasurer. Their brewmaster was Louis Marelich.
Hall, and his partners were also planning to enter the
brewing business. With their experience brewing "Quinault Club" they
planned to re-open the brewery with the real thing.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the
manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, was
ratified in January 1919, to go into effect the following year, on the
16th of January 1920. Brewers believed that a product containing less
alcohol than their previous 6% brews would be permissible. This issue
was resolved by the Volstead Act of 28 October 1919, which established
the enforcement guidelines, and defined "alcoholic beverages" as those
containing more than "one half of one percent" alcohol by volume.
Pioneer Brewing Company
"Pioneer Pete" back-bar chalk figure
PIONEER BEER LIVES ON
While Aberdeen's Pioneer Brewery had closed - the brand continued. The 1944 purchase was executed by W. D. Bryan, president of the Mutual Brewing Co. of Ellensburg, and the Silver Springs Brewing Co. of Port Orchard. However, Bryan was acting on behalf of the Williams Brothers, Inc. of Tacoma who owned these breweries.
In 1943, Bryan purchased the United Union Breweries plant in Walla Walla - also as an agent of Williams Bros. The Ellensburg plant was closed in February of '44 and most of its equipment went to the Walla Walla plant to increase capacity. A year later the firm purchased the assets, equipment and brewing formulas of the Pioneer Brewing Company. Operations at the Aberdeen plant were also discontinued and the Walla Walla plant carried on the activities of the three units.
In the fall of '45 the name of the firm was changed to the Pioneer Brewing Company of Walla Walla.
WARNING - I've seen phony match safes from seven different WA breweries - all with graphics taken from my history pages. The fakes I'm aware of are supposedly from: Hemrich Bros. Co., Seattle Brewing & Malting, Bellingham Bay Brewery, Aberdeen Brewing Co., Albert Braun Brewing Assn., Columbia Brewing Co., and the Washington Brewing Co. of Everett.
You can purchase this article which was featured in the ABA Journal for March-April, 2010 - Go to: PERIDOCIALS
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