The History of Rainier Beer
In 1978 the Rainier Brewing Company of Seattle observed their Centennial - celebrating 100 years of Rainier Beer. The un-supported claim was that beer had been brewed on that site since 1878. The familiar slogan: "Rainier...since 1878" was merely a catch phrase dreamed up in San Francisco in the early '30s by the marketing people at Louis Hemrich's Rainier Brewing Co.
Actually, Hemrich & Kopp started their brewery on the Seattle site in early 1883. From steam beer to lager, the site saw improvements in brewing, and plant construction, that eventually became the Bay View Brewing Co. Then in late 1892, plans were made for the Bay View plant to merge with two others to form the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company. A brand of beer was then needed to identify the new company's product, and the name of the mountain that dominated the southern view was chosen. On January 10, 1893, "Rainier" was adopted as one of the brands for the new firm, and soon became their flagship mark.
Rainier was the creation of a great brewing family - known as the "House of Hemrich." The brand was then furthered by another brewing family - the Sicks, who's brewing dynasty was referred to as the "House of Lethbridge."
So, the story of Rainier is not that of a brewery, but of the Rainier brand itself, and the story of the two families that made it all happen.
Part 2 of the Rainier Beer story deals with the period after Repeal in 1933, both in San Francisco, and briefly in Seattle.
Early photo of the Bay View Brewery, ca. 1886
"This syndicate was a consolidation (1892) of three plants - the Bay View, founded in 1883; Claussen-Sweeny, established that same year; and Albert Braun Brewing Company, established in 1890. The last named plant was closed shortly after the consolidation was effected."
The officers of the new association represented the old firms: Andrew Hemrich, president; Albert Braun, vice-president; Edward F. Sweeny, secretary; and Fred Kirschner, treasurer. They could not have foreseen that in less that ten years this firm would grow to be the world's sixth largest brewery and the largest on the west coast (as can be seen in the 1913 letterhead below - even allowing for artistic license). For a time, before Washington State introduced prohibition in 1916, the Georgetown brewery was the largest industrial establishment in the state of Washington.
In 1904, Georgetown incorporated -- a “company town” safeguarding the business interests of its brewery. Company superintendent John Mueller was soon elected both mayor and fire chief. The number of taverns and roadhouses doubled, and by 1905 it required 25 horse teams to daily fill the Seattle appetite for Rainier Beer, the flagship label of the brewery. Production by then had reached 300,000 barrels per annum. The company now employed more than 300 men, and there was room to build worker homes beside the Duwamish River that then still curved through Georgetown.
Distribution was now world wide as shown in the 1902 ad shown here (right). The company shipped to Canada, Hawaii, the Philippines, Singapore, and even Australia. Bottlers such as John Rapp and Son of San Francisco distributed Rainier Beer to their local areas. The earlier, blob top bottles were usually embossed with only the name of the local agent/bottler, but carried a "Rainier Beer" label on the reverse. Two examples of these embossed bottles are:
In early 1902 the Pacific Bottling Works was engaged as their agent/bottler in Vancouver, B.C. (see above). Then the following year, in February of 1903, the company purchased the Victoria, B.C. branch of the Pacific Bottling Works and announced the establishment of their own Rainier Bottling Works (ad at left). The plant was located in the B.C. Cold Storage building, and used the modern crown cap system. Kegs of beer were transported from Seattle by ship and the beer was bottled in the distinctive green, crown top bottles for the Victoria market. The half-pint was their specialty. Examples of these bottles are shown (below). The bottles would also have had paper labels but I've yet to see an example.
In 1910 women had been granted the right to vote, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was still at work. So it's no surprise that on November 3, 1914, Washington State citizens voted to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol, including beer. Brewers were forced to wind down their production, and had one year to deplete their inventories, and dismantle their operations.
November 1914 ad
Louis Hemrich was now president of Seattle Brewing & Malting, along with company stockholders, decided to move operations to California - in the belief that national Prohibition would never pass. This move was also chosen by their subsidiary, Independent Brewing Co., and Tacoma's Pacific Brewing & Malting.
The western Canadian province of British Columbia had long been of interest to the Hemrichs. Andrew was a principal in the Victoria Brewing & Ice Co. in Victoria, BC, and in 1891 he hired an agent there for his Bay View Brewery's "Export Beer".
Canada also endured period of prohibition starting on Oct. 1, 1917. It was repealed in British Columbia by a referendum, in 1920 (effective 1 January, 1921). On December 10th, 1920, the Kamloops Telegram announced that the Imperial Brewing Co. had been purchased by principals of the Rainier Brewing Co., and on 4 January, 1921, it was incorporated as the Rainier Bottling Works, Ltd., a B.C. company that Rainier had established in 1903, in Victoria. The following June the company's name became the Rainier Brewing Company of Canada, Ltd.
In 1927 the Hemrich family closed the Kamloops plant and began consolidating their holdings. Curiously, they sold the rights to the Rainier brand in Canada along with the brewery. In 1928 Coast Breweries, Ltd. was established through the merger of the Silver Springs Brewery and the Victoria-Phoenix Brewing Co. They then purchased the Westminster Brewery and the Rainier Brewing Co. of Canada. The Rainier plant was closed, but the name lived on in Canada. And with the repeal of Prohibition in Apr. 1933, Rainier was again being brewed in San Francisco by Louis Hemrich's Rainier Brewing Co.
Rainier poster for 1903 from Sacramento
beer stein by Mettlach, ca.1895
Rainier Beer tray - "Lady and the Bear" ca.1913
curved enamel sign
half-pint beer ca.1898
Rainier poster for 1909 - Wallace, ID
pint and half-pint beers ca.1903
A book on the Rainier Brewing Co. and the Rainier brand is in the works ......
so there won't be many additions to this page.
Rainier coaster from Honolulu ca.1937 - and ceramic coaster ca.1910.
Pre-Prohibition, Rainier Pale Beer glass ca.1910. Go to: Etched Glasses
Pre-Prohibition, Rainier Beer stein. Go to: STEINS
Pre-Prohibition, Rainier Beer tip tray. Go to: TIP TRAYS
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