Claussen Brg. Assn. logo - image

History of the Claussen Brewing Association
(1901-1915)

The Claussen Brewing Association was established in March of 1901, by Hans Johanne Claussen.  As detailed in his biography, the German born, Claussen, came to Seattle in 1888, after working in the Fredericksburg Brewery in San Jose, CA and the National Brewery in San Francisco. Once in Seattle he took the position as brewmaster at E. F. Sweeney's Puget Sound Brewery which by now was known as the Sweeney Brewery. The following year Claussen became a principal in the firm which reorganized as the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company. The new firm was capitalized at $80,000 with Edward Sweeney as president, and Hans Claussen as secretary-treasurer. 

In May of 1891 Hans Claussen decided to sell his interest in the brewing company to George F. Gund, in order to pursue other interests. This new "interest" may not have had anything to due with having become a newly wed, but the Brewery would have occupied most of his waking hours.

Claussen's new endeavor was the formation of the Diamond Ice & Storage Company, along with Charles Crane and George Sackett. Hans assumed the position of vice-president of the new firm and remained as such into the 1920s.

In February of 1901, nearly ten years later after leaving the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Co., Hans formed a stock company for the purposes of opening a new brewing enterprise - the Claussen Brewing Association. The venture was capitalized at $50,000 - all the stock having been subscribed for by local retailers, i.e. saloons. The location for his brewery was 3455 21st. Ave. W., in the Interbay¹ section of Seattle, and was to be named the Interbay Brewery. On the 15th of the following month, a trade publication reported that Claussen was in San Francisco buying machinery for the new brewery, and that the building was nearing completion.
Tannheauser Beer label - image
Shortly after the release of their first beer on October 1, they chose to re-name the brewery after their flagship beer, rather than for its location at Interbay. The new Tannhaeuser Brewery had an initial capacity of 100 barrels per day and produced a number of  brews, including Salvator, Standard Lager, Ye Olde English Porter, a non-alcoholic Mother's Malt tonic, and their flagship brand, Tannhaeuser. They also produced a darker, all malt Wuerzburger style Tannhaeuser Beer. 

Their beer proved to be popular with the patrons of Seattle saloons, and they soon made plans for expansion.

Claussen's first brewmaster was Ernest Bloch, who had been involved in a failed start-up of the Grays Harbor Brewing Co. However, in March of '01, Claussen replaced Bloch with Jacob Leufkens, who for six years had been a brewmaster at the St. Pauli Brewery in Bremen, Germany.

In April of '02, just seven months after going into production, capital stock was increased to $250,000 to underwrite their expansion plans. A brewing industry trade publication reported:   

"Claussen Brewing Association, Seattle, is making improvements in its bottling plant that include an air ventilating system in the storage room; the installation of a three-compartment Volz soaker; automatic Eick washer; a Henes & Keller filler; an improved World labeler, and a crowning machine of the Crown Cork & Seal Co.
Whereby its bottling capacity has been increased to 100 barrels per day. An addition has also been made to the stables and they have been remodeled and enlarged. To take care of the rapidly increasing business it has been found necessary to establish a downtown office with large storage rooms in connection. Further improvements to the main plant are contemplated for the ensuing year."

They did in fact establish a downtown office and depot. It was located at 82-84 W. Marion St. Their beer was widely distributed in the Puget Sound region by agent/bottlers. In Everett Peter E. Misgen's Everett Bottling Works handled their Tannhaeuser Beer.
 
Claussen Brg. Assn. crown top quart bottle - image
Blob top or cork finish top - imageAdditionally, the above mention of installing a crowning machine tells something to collectors of antique beer bottles. There are but a few examples of cork finish, or blob top bottles (right) from the Claussen brewery. They would have been phased out after the introduction of the hand finished, crown top bottles (left) in May of '02, so they would have been used for only the first year or two. 


In January 1906, Edward Sweeney’s holdings in Seattle Brewing & Malting was purchased by the Hemrich brothers, Andrew, Alvin, and Louis, who then followed with the acquisition of controlling interest in the Claussen Brewing Assn., and the Independent Brewing Co. While Alvin Hemrich assumed the presidency of the firm,
Hans Claussen continued running the company as vice-president and general manager. Albin Otto² was then the brewery's superintendent and brewmaster. In late '07, their other Brewmaster, Leufkens, took a position with the Angeles Brewing & Malting Co.

Tannhaeuser Beer ad, c.1906
Tannhaeuser advertisement, ca.1906

The Alaska-Yukon Exposition of 1909, gave the company an additional boost when the prizes were awarded to the many competing Northwest breweries. The Claussen Brewing Assn. was awarded the Grand Prize and a Gold Medal for its flagship, Tannhaeuser Beer. This seemed to confirm their slogan: "Seattle's Best Beer." Also, their Mother's Malt and Ye Olde English Porter both received Gold Medals. 

Playing cards c.1910 - image
Playing cards ca.1910

In February of 1912, the brewery introduced their new White & Gold Beer, but unfortunately it was to have a fairly short run. In November of 1914, Washington voters adopted state-wide prohibition. This was to take effect the beginning of 1916, giving producers of alcoholic beverages all of 1915 to sell their stock and close their plants.

Plans were made to move the Brewery to California, in the belief that the entire country would not be so foolish as to adopt national Prohibition. The plans to relocate did not materialize, which is just as well as they would have had only four more years in business before the "foolishness" became the law of the land.

Tannhauser Beer tray, Claussen Brg. Ass'n., Seattle - image
eagle logo modified for beer tray

Claussen Brewing Assn. beer tray, Seattle
13" tray made by the Meek Co., Coshocton, Ohio

"Original Tannhauser" beer tray, Seattle
13" tray by Meek - stock image "old Friends"

Claussen Brg. Assn. A-Y-P Expo. tray, ca. 1911
stock tray by American Art Works - "The Invitation" © 1911

Claussen Brg. Assn. Mother's Malt tray - image


Claussen Brewing Assn. "Mother's Malt" tray.
"Mother's Malt" etched glass and ad shown below

Claussen Brg. Assn. 24" charger, ca.1910
"Cavalier" 24 in. diameter charger, ca.1910 

"The Invitation" beer tray, pictured above, displays the Gold Medal awarded for their Tannhaeuser Beer in 1909, at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle - as does the charger, directly above. A gold medal was also given to the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., and the Angeles Brewing & Malting Co.

This same tray was re-issued a year later with the addition of the White & Gold logo of their new brand of beer. See glass below.
 

Claussen's 1st Tannhaeuser Beer glass, c.1902 - image
first Tannhaeuser glass, ca.1902

Claussen's "Mother's Malt" tonic glass, c.1908 - image
Mother's malt tonic glass, ca.1908

Claussen's Tannhaeuser Beer glass, c.1910 - image
Tannhauser glass, ca.1910

Claussen's White & Gold Beer glass, c.1912 - image
White & Gold glass, ca.1912


Tannhaeuser - Seattles Best Beer - graphic

Tannhaeuser beer bottle opener - image
cap lifter or "church key"
 

Claussen's Mother's Malt ad, ca.1910
Mother's Malt ad, ca.1910

 

PROHIBITION

In November of 1914, voters approved state-wide prohibition. The law was to take effect
1 January, 1915. However, the breweries were given a year to sell their inventory and shut their plants or shift production to non-alcoholic products.
By the end of November, Claussen had already cut his work force by eight men and expected to reduce further. Many Washington State brewing companies were evaluating a move of operations to California or British Columbia rather than stay in business making soft drinks or near-beer.

On 15 November, 1914, both the Claussen Brewing Assn. and Independent Brewing Co., along with their parent company, Seattle Brewing & Malting, announced that they were planning to move operations to San Francisco - believing that national prohibition would not be adopted. But Hans Claussen ultimately chose to close his brewery and concentrate his efforts on his Diamond Ice & Storage Company.

 

REPEAL

With the repeal of Prohibition in April of 1933, there were many entrepreneurs hoping to establish new breweries, but they needed experienced brewery managers. However, the 72 year old Hans Claussen was now in retirement and couldn't be enticed to re-enter the brewing business, unlike his ex-brewmaster. Both Hans Claussen and Otto Albin died seven years later, in 1940.

 

Footnote:

¹  The Interbay section lies in the flat between the Queen Anne and Magnolia Hills, south of Fisherman's Terminal on Salmon Bay, and north of Smith Cove on Elliott Bay. Today most of Interbay is taken up by Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway's Balmer Yard.

 ²  When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Albin Otto resumed his career as brewmaster with the short lived Peninsula Brewery of Port Towensend. He then moved to the Silver Springs Brewing Co. of Port Orchard to oversee their 1937 re-organization. However, he only held the position for a few years. He died November 26, 1940.

 

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • Thanks to the late Ed "Red" Kacalek for the great Tannhauser Beer label.
  • To Mike Magnussen for images of the rectangle beer tray, "The Invitation" and the "Cavalier" charger.
  • To John Cartwright for the image of the playing cards.
  • And to Kevin McNichols for the image of the Mother's Malt tray.

 

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