Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Co. header
                                                                                                                                                                                      notional 1892 letterhead
 

The Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Co.
(1883-1916)

On March 1, 1883, Edward Francis Sweeney and William J. Rule sailed from San Francisco with plans to start a brewing business in Seattle. It took a number of months but by the following September they had established a small, steam beer brewery south of Seattle, in what would become Georgetown. Sweeney had gained brewing experience in his home town of San Francisco at his uncle's Hibernia Brewery. Prior to that, Sweeney had apprenticed at the Fredericksburg Brewery of San Jose. (see Sweeney's biography). 

However, Rule & Sweeney's Puget Sound brewery had some tough, local competition from the long established North Pacific Brewery, and the Seattle Brewery, as well as an import from the Bavarian Brewery of San Francisco. Additionally there was a recently erected brewery in So. Seattle that was running daily newspaper ads for its Eagle Brewery.

The Eagle Brewery

Seattle ad for Eagle Brewery's beer from MukilteoIn July of 1870, a brewery was established in Mukilteo, by Jacob Barth. Five years later a new owner, Joseph Butterfield, purchased the company but operated it for only three years. In July of 1878, a small group of investors, headed by George Cantrini, re-organized the company as the Eagle Brewery. By 1881, Frederick V. Snyder had become the majority shareholder of the company, with Cantrini serving as plant manager.

In addition to selling in the local market, Snyder's Lager beer (actually Steam beer) was shipped 25 miles south to Seattle, as shown in this Sept. 1881 ad from the Daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer (right).

On July 16, 1882, the Eagle Brewery of Mukilteo burned to the ground. Snyder had planned to re-build there, but instead he formed a new company to build a brewery in South Seattle. Construction of the 40' x 60', two story, frame building began in the summer of 1882, near the site of his burned out slaughter house at the head of Seattle Bay (now just south of Yessler). By November of '82 the new Eagle Brewery began brewing its first batch, and on December 5th, Snyder's beer was again selling in Seattle.

Eagle Brewery ad 1883Unfortunately, on Oct. 14, 1883, Snyder's new brewery was completely destroyed by fire, with a loss of $10,000 (equivalent to $230,000 today). While he was insured, it was only for $6,000.

Snyder was demoralized by this repeat occurrence, stating that he was not rebuilding and was leaving the brewing business altogether. 

Realizing an opportunity in their competitor's misfortune, Rule & Sweeney purchased Snyder's company. While the main plant was mostly Eagle trade markuseless, there were other assets acquired in the purchase. The Eagle Brewery had been supplying the Seattle market for a number of years and had a modest customer base. Additionally, there were a number of saloons that were under contract to the Eagle Brewery for leases, fixtures and licenses. These valuable assets now belonged to Rule & Sweeney's fledgling operation.

The purchase of the Eagle Brewery is reflected in this Claussen-Sweeney trademark from the 1892 Seattle City Directory. It explains the significance of the eagle, as well as the establishment date that precedes Sweeney's arrival in Seattle by one year.

 

Puget Sound Brewery

The partnership of Rule & Sweeney lasted less than a year. On March 1, 1884, the Daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported:

"The Puget Sound Brewery, built last summer near the race track by Messrs. Rule & Sweeney, two young men from California, is now the property of E. F. Sweeney, Mr. W. J. Rule having retired from the firm."

With Rule's departure, Sweeney became the majority shareholder, and the firm was renamed E. F. Sweeney & Co., operating as the Puget Sound Brewery. By 1888 the plant was more commonly known as the Sweeney Brewery, so they dropped the name Puget Sound (this name was soon adopted by a new brewery in Tacoma).

Puget Sound Brewery ad c.1885 - image

 

Claussen-Sweeney Brewery

On November 1, 1888, a new corporation was formed with the plant's brewmaster, Hans J. Claussen, joining Sweeney as a partner to establish the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company. The new firm was capitalized at $80,000 with Edward Sweeney as president, and Hans Claussen as secretary-treasurer. (See Claussen's biography).

The two men had worked together briefly in 1882, at the Fredericksburg Brewery in San Jose. In 1888, Claussen moved to Seattle to become Sweeney's brewmaster.

Claussen-Sweeney Brewery ca.1895

Late in 1889, an article appeared in Seattle Illustrated touting the newly formed "Clausen (sic) & Sweeney Brewing Co." and its product:

Claussen-Sweeney qt. beer bottle - image"About one year ago the above company was organized with Mr. Edward F. Sweeney president, and Mr. A. T. Clausen (sic) secretary and treasurer, both gentlemen in the time given evidenced to the people of Seattle their expertise and success in having now established a brewing company rivaling any in the east as far as excellence of its production is concerned.

Extensive improvements and enlargements are being made and the output will in short time be more than treble its present capacity. Corliss engines, ammonia refrigerators and the most complete brewing facilities are used. Over $140,000 have been invested in the very short time that they have been established, and it will not be long when this favorite coast brewery will be as well know in the east as locally."

Since 1875, brewers were not allowed to bottle their product on site, so when this rule was rescinded in 1890, Clussen-Sweeney beer bottle, slug plate - imageSweeney and Claussen immediately established a separate plant for retail ice sales and beer bottling (see label below). Their Washington Ice & Bottling Co. was located on the Grant St. Bridge, just north of the Bay View Brewery. The close-up shown here (left) is of a slug-plate for a half-pint beer bottle from the brewery's own bottling works. The green, quart bottle (above) is believed to have been manufactured in Germany - as were matching bottles from both the Bay View Brewery and the Victoria Brewing Co. 

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. Nearly ten years later, in March of 1901, Hans formed the Claussen Claussen Sweeney beer label, c.1900 - imageBrewing Association. His Tannhaeuser Brewery was located at 3455 21st. Ave West, in Seattle. He chose the same style of label (at left) that he and Sweeney had adopted. (see his label for Tannhaeuser Beer)

In January of 1893, Sweeney's brewery joined Albert Braun's Brewing Assn. and Hemrich's Bay View Brewing Co. to form a new corporation - the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. (SBMCo). Andrew Hemrich became president; Albert Braun, vice-president; Fred Kirschner, treasurer; and Edward Sweeny, secretary.

By the end of 1893, the Claussen-Sweeny plant (as it was still called) was brewing a million gallons of beer a year, and it was said to be some of the best beer brewed on the West Coast. This plant was now the core facility for the newly formed brewing association.

By the turn of the century the Temperance movement had gained strength, and the brewers attempted to distance themselves from hard liquor by touting beer as a beverage of moderation (as seen in the ad below). However, the ploy ultimately failed since beer was deemed equally responsible for anti-social behavior.

Claussen-Sweeney ad, c.1890 - imageThe following excerpt was taken from a Temperance newspaper published by the Anti-Saloon League:

"What the Brewers Brew....
They brew crime of every sort. Sweep away the breweries and the distilleries, and you will secure municipal reform, banish the most prolific causes of poverty, insanity and crime, and clean the cities of most of their moral rottenness."

This view that brewers were responsible for society's ills must have also resonated with Sweeney's wife. In January 1906, E. F. Sweeney bowed to the moral imperative of Temperance (and the urgings of his wife) selling his holdings in SBMCo to the Hemrich brothers. The company was then restructured, with Andrew Hemrich remaining as president, and Louis assuming Sweeney's position of vice president and general manager.

The company's main plant was now referred to as the Sweeney Brewery, or the Georgetown plant by insiders. The company continued to enlarge the facility and to significantly increase its brewing capacity. However, with the imposition of Prohibition, all production ceased. The company relocated to San Francisco, dismantling and shipping much of the brewing equipment to their new Rainier Brewing Company.

There were plans to use the plant for commercial alcohol production, but ultimately it was only utilized for ice and cold storage. The brewery that was the sixth largest in the world, and Washington's largest industrial complex would never be reopened.

Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., c.1914 - image

 

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • To Bob Kay for the Claussen Sweeney label (ca.1900) - as seen in his publication, US Beer Labels, Vol. 1 - The Western States. To order this, or other volumes - go to BobKayBeerLabels.com
     

  • To the late Ed "Red" Kacalek for the Tannhauser label, and temperance ad.


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