Hemrich Brg. Co. letterhead, c.1933 - image
History of the Hemrich Brewing Companies
(1933-1940)

In early 1933, Alvin Hemrich re-organized Hemrich's Inc. and established Hemrich Brewing Co., Inc. (U-Permit WA-1205) in time for Repeal on April 7, 1933.

The first beer available in Seattle on April 7th was Hemrich's Select. This was a familiar Northwest brand from the Pre-Prohibition era, produced by Alvin's Hemrich Bros. Brewing Co. The 1934 label (below) was a near replica of the pre-prohibition version. The earlier 1933 label was identical, except for the overprint stating: "Alcoholic Content More Than 5%." This was not allowed until the Repel Amendment was ratified on 5 December 1933.

Hemrich's Select 1933 beer label - imageThe only immediate competition from a brewer in Washington State was from Alvin's oldest son, Elmer. Following his father's lead, Elmer had purchased the Columbia Brewery in Tacoma and brought that plant on-line in time for Repeal.

Two other breweries were nearing completion, the Pilsener Brewing Co., and the  Germania Brewery of Seattle. The Horluck's plant came on-line as the Geo. F. Horluck Co. instead of the Germania Brewery, but was soon incorporated as Horluck's Brewing Co.



Hemrich Brewing Company, Inc.
(1933-1934)

With the overwhelming demand for beer, venture capital was readily available for new breweries, so Alvin established a holding company called the Hemrich Investment Corporation. The capital raised allowed for a remodel of the old Hemrich Brewery and the start-up of the Western Brewing Company, known as plants No. 1 & No. 2 respectively.

First he modernized the original frame brewhouse, adjacent to the old Bay View plant, at 2918 Airport Way, and resumed operation under the name Hemrich Brewing Company, Inc. - or plant No. 1.

Alvin hired brewmaster, William Weiss as plant manager. Weiss had a long history of brewing with the Hemrich family, including their Georgetown plant, the Rainier plant at San Francisco, and their Rainier plant in Canada at Kamloops, B.C. during the mid-1920s.

In early '34, Alvin was also joined by his youngest son, Walter, who was a recent graduate of the Chicago Brewer's Institute.

Hemrich's Brewery - plant 1, c.1933 - image
Hemrich's plant No.1 at 2918 Airport Way, ca.1933

On 31 May of 1934, Alvin Hemrich reshaped his brewing enterprises by selling the Hemrich Investment Corp. to a Canadian syndicate - British Columbia Breweries, Inc. The sale included his interest in plant No. 2, along with the rights to the Hemrich Select brand, and use of the Hemrich name.

Following the sale, Alvin established the Apex Brewing Company in the original Hemrich Brewery (shown above), and Plant No. 2 assumed the name Hemrich Brewing Co.

 


Western Brewing Co. (1933-1934)

Hemrich's plant No. 2 was part of the Hemrich Investment Corporation and was briefly known as the Western Brewing Co. The building was located at  5225 E. Marginal Way, and had previously been a soap factory, but after an expenditure of $300,000 it was transformed into a working brewery - and by mid-summer of '33 it was producing their flag-ship brand, Hemrich's Select (under U-permit number 1211). The plant was situated on a leased site affording three direct methods of transportation. A paved highway fronted the plant while the loading platform at the rear of the building gave access to a rail head, as well as the company owned, deepwater wharf.

Upon the sale of Plant No. 2, Hugo P. Bode became that plants brewmaster assisted by his son, Hugo P. Bode, Jr. The senior Bode, a German immigrant, came from a family of brewers in his home country. Prior to Prohibition he was with the Gambrinus Brewing Co. of Portland, the A. Fisher Brewing Co. of Salt Lake, the Capital Brewing Co. of Tumwater (Olympia Brewing Co.), the Hemrich family's Seattle Brewing & Malting in Seattle, and Alvin Hemrich's Aberdeen Brewing Co.



 


Hemrich Brewing Company (1934-1940)


Hemrich Brewing Co. ltrhd. c.1938 - image
letterhead, April 1938


Alvin Hemrich sold his plant No. 2 to notorious bootlegger, Henry Reifel, head of British Columbia Breweries, Ltd., of Vancouver. With the end of Prohibition, Reifel had wanted to enter the U.S. beer market to take advantage of the overwhelming new demand for beer, just as fellow Canadian, Emil Sick had done.

Fortunately, Reifel had in his employ one Rudolph "Rudi" Samet, who had a long history with the Hemrich family. Samet was currently the manager of Reifel's Vancouver Breweries, Ltd. The plant was located at 12th & Yew Sts., and was a unit of his B.C. Breweries group.

Samet had been with the Hemrich family's Seattle Brewing & Malting as early as 1904, when he managed SB&M's Bottling Depot. By 1908 he was their general manager. When state-wide Prohibition shut them down in 1916, he moved to San Francisco to manage the Hemrich's new Rainier Brewery. Just four years later they were shut down once more, this time by national Prohibition. So, the Hemrich family looked to Canada as home for their brewery, as they still had a large export trade with South America and the Pacific rim countries.

Canada had also experimented with Prohibition, which ended in the western provinces in 1920. So, from 1921 to 1926, Samet managed the Hemrich's Rainier plant in Kamloops, BC. When the Kamloops plant was sold to Coast Breweries of Vancouver, B.C. - Rudi stayed on. This long term association with the Hemrich family's brewing interests, and his relationship with the Canadian brewers, explains how he could broker the deal between Alvin Hemrich and Henry Reifel.

Upon completion of the 31 May 1934 sale the plant was re-organized as the Hemrich Brewing & Investment Corp., operating as the Hemrich Brewing Co., still using U-Permit WA-1211. Samet became company president, and plant manager, while retaining his position as manager of Reifel's Vancouver plant. Lester R. McCash became the firms secretary.

In Emil Sick's 1958 memoirs he recalls the circumstances surrounding Alvin Hemrich's sale of his plant No. 2:

"Henry Reifel's project in Seattle started in this manner. The Hemrich Brewery had been located in what is presently our laboratory premises right next door to our brewery, fronting on Airport Way. It was named after Alvin Hemrich, who, during Prohibition, had carried on the little Hemrich Brewing Company next to the Bay View, with near beer. When Mr. Reifel came down and made his deal with Alvin Hemrich, Alvin's financial condition was only very moderate and his plant was small. Therefore, they decided on the new plant on the waterfront, and for the moment there were two Hemrich breweries, which they called No. 1 and No. 2.

Hemrich's Brewing Co. plant 2, c.1938 - image
the new Hemrich Brewing Co., plant No, 2 - ca.1935

In a little while the arrangement between Mr. Reifel and Alvin Hemrich did not work out, and they split up their association.
Alvin took the little No. 1 plant, and changed the name to the Apex Brewing Company; and Mr. Reifel and his sons and associates continued on with the one on the water-front. I should point out that, at this time, Mr. Samet's associate and assistant in the management of Hemrich Brewing Company was Lester McCash, presently one of our directors in Seattle, and our long time manager of the Sicks' Century Brewery."

 

On July 26, 1934, the new firm added Happy Peppy Beer as an alternative to their flagship label - Hemrich's Select. Then in June of '35 they replaced Hemrich's Select with Hemrich Coronet Lager Beer - made with Bohmeian hops blended with the local Cascade hops.
Hemrich Coronet beer label, c.1933 - image
In December of 1935, the Olympia Brewing Co., introduced a new, 11 oz., shorter style of bottle called the "Stubby." They were the first western brewery to adopt the Stubby. It was an immediate success and virtually all of the major brewers adopted this, or the slightly taller "Steinie." Before December was out Hemrich introduced their Coronet Stubby Lager Beer in a 12 oz. bottle (label at left). Their ads promoted the new 12 bottle case as "hardly bigger than a box of candy" and "the only 12oz. stubbies."

On 25 March of 1936, the company got a some needed financial help when the capital stock was increased to $250,000. At his time they changed the legal name of the company from Hemrich B & I, to Hemrich Brewing Co. The Canadian firm, British Columbia Breweries, Ltd. remained the majority stockholder. But all was not well with the majority owners. Emil Sick further recalls:

"About 1935 the Revenue Department had been checking up on certain distillers in B. C., and they built up quite a case on evasion of duties and excise taxes on liquor, which those distillers in British Columbia had shipped to the United States, during the Prohibition era. The matter broke like wild fire in Seattle, when Henry Reifel and his son, George, came to town on an inspection trip to the Hemrich Brewery No. 2. They were arrested and charged with tax evasion and put in jail. Mr. Allen then wrote a surety bond for their appearance in Court, bond being set for $100,000. Both Henry Reifel and his son, George, returned to Vancouver immediately and the bond was escheated.

The Hemrich Brewing Company No. 2 then had to carry on without the owners of the controlling stock being able to come to the United States. This, of course, did not help their business."

Hemrich beer truck, c.1936 - image
delivery truck, ca.1936

Hemrich brewing Co. 1936 calendar - image
This 1936 calendar made by Gerlach-Barklow has an image painted by
Bradshaw Crandall   (right), and displays their two labels - Happy Peppy and Hemrich Coronet.

Four years earlier Crandall also did the art work for a
Hemrich's, Inc. calendar.

By now they were also offering draught lager beer in 32 oz. "Jumbo" versions. Coronet was also available in either quart or half-gallon size bottles. No Hemrich beers were ever offered in cans.

By early '37, sales of Happy Peppy had declined to the point that Samet knew he had to scrap the brand he had created. This was a hard call since he was emotionally attached to his creation. He had even published a song
¹ (see Footnote) to promote the brand!

I can't imagine what possessed Samet to market a beer called Happy Peppy. Perhaps he felt that the housewife would go to the store and decide she would like to make her man happy & peppy! But the majority of beer sales were still in the taverns.

I can just see a longshoreman or a steel worker getting off work and stopping off at the local tavern and saying to the barkeep: "Gimme a Happy Peppy" - I don't think so!

To replace Happy Peppy beer, they announced their new creation - Jockey Club Lager Beer (label below). The roll-out was scheduled for the 4th of July, 1937. The new lager would be available on draught, in stubbies or steines, and in 32 & 64 oz. bottles. Jockey Club  did improve sales, but only marginally.

Then in May of 1939, they announced the release of a new Hemrich's Select with a new label similar to the parchment scroll look of their Coronet brand, and with the slogan: "The Light Beer in the Dark Bottle." The new Hemrich's was offered in steinies and exports (long necks), or jumbo quarts and half-gallons - which had a different label (see below). Their brewmaster, Hugo Bodie, formulated this beer that was purported to have the qualities of both eastern and western beers. Whether they accomplished that or not was moot, as it was too little, too late.

Jockey Club label, c.1937 - imageEmil Sick comments further:

"The business continued to decline, and I think they made certain bad policy decisions, too. The result was that their sales dropped at an alarming rate, and the Vancouver owners were in no position, nor had they any desire, to put up further money. Some of the local Seattle shareholders, one of which at least was very substantial, took a dim view of all these happenings; and Lester McCash was particularly displeased when they put a new manager over him."

In spite of the early restructuring, changes in brand promotion, and gambling games (see below) with the labels, nothing did enough to save the company. With sales dwindling and losses mounting, the Canadian backers had finally had enough and decided to sell the company.

Emil Sick recalls:

"By this time Rudi Samet was not so active and a new man was supposed to be managing the concern. The Hemrich Brewery No. 2 got into desperate condition, and I should tell how. One morning, when I had Just returned from a business trip to Calgary, Rudi Samet came into my office and said, "The Vancouver people are sick of their operation here and have instructed me to liquidate the company." I said, "My dear Rudi, I am not buying any more breweries. What good would your set-up be to us? and besides, I have a hundred letters to answer, and I am terribly busy this morning."

Rudi then said, "But you cannot turn me down. I will give you such a good price, for, if I liquidate over a long period, not only do we get nothing, we lose money in doing so. Come on, you must make a deal with me." I said, "Show me your balance sheet," which he did. I said, "Well, I know you have several hundred thousand dollars invested, but it is already lost, and I see you have $ 60,000 on the balance sheet for beer kegs, and we need some. I will, therefore, offer you $20,000 in cash for everything you have, except the lease." Rudi said, "You cannot do this to me." I said, "I do not want to do anything to you, and I do not want to make any deal with you, and I have these letters to answer. However, if you will promise to leave, so that I can answer the letters, I will make you one more offer: If with the kegs we get everything, except the lease, and when I say everything, I mean the office equipment, including the typewriters, because I want a typewriter for my daughter, Dinny, and if you will take no more of my time, I will give you $ 30,000 cash and this includes your trade names as well.

With that, Rudi said, "It's a deal," and we shook hands. Soon after--I think it was 1939--Lester McCash came over to us to save all of the Hemrich business possible, and, in various capacities, he has remained with us over these many years."


McCash did leave the Hemrich Brewing Co. in 1939. He was an agent for Emil Sick in the purchase of the Horluck Brewing Co. in April of '39, which he then converted and managed as the new Century Brewery.

In late January of 1940, brewing ceased at the Hemrich plant, and remaining stock was bottled and sold by June. The corporation was totally dissolved by December 31st, 1942. Sick never used any of the Hemrich trade names from the purchase.

Hemrich Pop Top ad, c.1939 - image

Perhaps another factor that added to the Brewery's failure was the adoption of a new style bottle sealer. The July 1939 ad (left) states: "Innovation! Surprise awaits you at beverage dealers! A beer in a bottle which needs no opener! A beer bottle cap which can be removed by the most delicate fingers..."
 
This ill fated design must not have held a seal, or removing it proved problematic - even for delicate fingers!

The very last bottle to come off the line was saved by the Bottling Shop's supervisor, George Popovich. George went on to become production supervisor for Glaser Beverages. Coincidently, Paul Glaser had been the manager of Hemrich's Staff Products Co. during Prohibition.

The plant's brewmaster, Hugo Bode, retired after the brewery closure. However, his assistant, Hugo, Jr., relocated to Nampa, ID to take a Brewmaster position with the old Cresent Brewery, now operating as the Overland Beverage Co.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

¹ On Oct. 15, 1934, Rudolph received a copyright for his song "Happy-Peppy." The lyrics were his, and the music was by Mischa Guterson. In 1912, while manager of the Seattle Brewing Malting plant in Georgetown, he had also written lyrics for a song to promote Rainier Beer. The song was "Everybody's Drinkin' It Now" set to the tune, "Everybody's Doin' It" by Irving Berlin.



Breweriana from the Hemrich Brewing Co.

 Happy Peppy table top
Happy Peppy 40" dia. table top

 

Jockey Club glass sign
Jockey Club glass sign


 

Hemrich Coronet gambling label - image
Hemrich's Select Beer label ca.1939, with poker hand behind tear-off panel -
used on the 11 oz. long neck and the 12 oz. steinies



both the 32 oz. Jumbo, and the Half-Gallon used this style label, ca.1939

three ball tap knobs from Hemrich Brg. Co. - image
three Hemrich Brewing Co. ball tap knobs w/enamel inserts


Hemrich Beer neon sign - image
Hemrich's Beer neon sign
 

Hemrich Coronet Lager Beer sign
Hemrich Coronet Lager  tin-over-cardboard (TOC) beer sign
 

Hemrich's Beer ROG lens 15 in. dia.
 Hemrich's Beer, 15" diameter, reverse-on-glass lens for lighted sign
 

Hemrich's Select TOC sign ca.1939
Hemrich's Select, tin-on-cardboard sign, May 1939

 

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • Special thanks to the estate of Al Gile and facilitator, Amy Hebert, for the beautiful, 1936 Hemrich calendar.
     
  • To Jeff Henry for the 1938 Hemrich Brewing Co. letterhead.
  • To Richard Mann, Jr. for his image of the Jockey Club sign.
     
  • And to Mike Magnussen for the Hemrich tap knob (far right) and the Happy Peppy table top.   

 

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