Salem Brewery Ass'n. letterhead

History of the Salem Brewery Association (1903-1933)

and successors:

Salem Brewery Ass'n. (1933-1943)
Sicks' Brewing Company (1943-1953)

 

Samuel Adolph founded the first Salem brewery in 1866. His Pacific Brewery was located on the south side of Trade Street, between Cottage and Church. When Adolph's brewery burned in 1869, he rebuilt and named it the Salem Brewery but relocated to the southeast corner of Trade and Commercial, three blocks west from his old location.

The July 1878 Salem Business Directory stated:
"Salem Brewery - Best Beer in the City - by quart, gallon, or keg. Commercial Street, near the covered bridge."  The only other locally made beer was from Louis Westacott's Pioneer Brewery - but there was plenty of competition from Portland.


Capital Brewery
(1885-1903)

In 1885 Adolph sold the brewery to two of his employees, Maurice Klinger and Seraphin Beck. They then renamed it the Capital Brewery - shown in the photo below. Later, the partners purchased a lot across the street on the northeast corner of Trade and Commercial (268 South Commercial St.) where they constructed a larger brewery and ice works that, by 1891, had an annual output of 3,500 barrels. As late as 1899 the new facility produced mainly draught beer, but also had a small bottling plant behind the brewery which could bottle three or four barrels in ten hours. They also had an attached saloon for locals to enjoy the freshest Salem Beer at 5¢ a glass.

Capital Brewery personnel c.1895 - image  
 
Seraphin Beck is 4th from the left and Maurice Klinger is shown at far right.


Capital Brewery & Ice Works letterhead - image
Bill head for Mrs. Beck's Capital Brewery & Ice Works, ca.1901 - brewery close-up

Seraphin Beck died in early 1900, at which time the partnership of Klinger & Beck was dissolved and the property sold at public auction.  Beck's widow, Margaret retained the property with a $29,000 bid. She operated the Capital Brewery & Ice Works (see above) as a sole proprietor until selling out on June 5, 1903, for the sum of $75,000.
The purchase was made by Leopold F. Schmidt (of the Olympia Brewing Company) through his agent, Stanislaus T. Zynda, of Whatcom, WA. Zynda spent the previous three years as superintendent of Whatcom Brewing & Malting, departing upon that brewery's takeover by Schmidt's Bellingham Bay Brewery in April of '03.

 

 

Salem Brewery Association
(1903-1915)


On June 30, 1903, a new corporation was formed with L. F. Schmidt, president; S. T. Zynder, secretary and manager; and E. Eckerlin, treasurer. Both Frank G. Deckebach, and Kola Neis, were also a major stockholders and would become office holders in the firm. The new company immediately set about to increase the capacity of the plant to 10,000 barrels/year, to double the capacity of the ice plant, and to add a bottling house with a capacity of 150 dozen/day. With the addition of a Southern Pacific rail head and the plant upgrades, Schmidt proceeded to make the old Capital Brewery & Ice Works the center piece of his new Salem Brewery Assn.

Stanislaus Zynda also served as the plant's brewmaster until his departure in 1904. He was succeeded by Charles Scholl. Zynda relocated to Juneau, AK where he became the supervisor of that city's Eagle Brewery, then two years later purchasing the brewery and establishing the Alaska Brewing & Malting Co.

Upon assuming control of the brewery placed these ads in the Capital Journal:

"As it takes some time to place our product in the market, and wishing to get started in business and in touch with the people of Salem and vicinity, we made arrangements to handle the Olympia and Bellingham brews, both so well and favorably known to the people of the Pacific Coast. Our prices will be the same as that of the local breweries, and the service we will endeavor to make satisfactory."

Leopold Schmidt invested heavily in equipment upgrades and increased the plants capacity. To supervise this new branch operation, Schmidt sent one of his most trusted associates, Frank M. Kenney, who had been Olympia's secretary. Kenney became the brewery president, with Frank Deckebach, vice-president. In late 1903 the plant improvements were completed.

Salem Brewery ad, ca. oct. 1903
Newspaper ad, 17 Oct. 1903

In 1906 the brewery's secretary was William Schuldt, but with the startup of the Acme Brewing Company in 1907, Schuldt was sent to San Francisco to oversee that operation as secretary/manager. Accompanying Schult was a young graduate of the Wahl-Henius Brewing Institute, J.P. Rettenmayer, who had been with the firm for only four months. Kenney and Deckebach continued to manage the plant until state-wide Prohibition closed the brewery in 1915.
Salem Brewery Assn. beer stein, c.1904
The afore mentioned principal, Kola Neis was in partnership with William Faber, founder of the Albany Brewing Co. The Faber & Neis Co. was a hop brokerage firm. Neis was also vice president of the Albany Brewery. In 1905, William Faber suddenly died - at the early age of 48. Neis then became administer of the partnership estate.

In 1906, the Albany City Council voted to ban beer and alcohol sales, and with the loss of Faber, Neis chose to liquidated the two companies. As a principal in the Salem Brewery, Neis was able to broker a deal for the purchase of the Albany Brewing Company which would then be used as its southern Oregon branch. The Albany Brewery had an annual output of 8,000 barrels which could still be shipped into the northern California market, plus an ice plant that could produce six tons of ice per day. However, the Association later chose to utilize the Albany equipment in its expansion of the Salem plant, and the Albany Brewery was subsequently closed in 1908.

About the same time that the Albany plant was purchased, Leopold was looking at a Salem Bottling House -  image possible presence in Northern California. In May of 1908 he was in Redding looking at property, and the following month the Western Brewer reported that the Salem Brg. Ass'n. was beginning construction of a brewery there. Apparently the Redding project was soon abandoned and instead, a Beer Depot was established (thumbnail  right). Joseph Hoefer, who was the Weiland & Fredericksburg agent & bottler, was chosen to bottle and distribute Salem Beer in the Redding area.

Salem Brewery's Redding, CA label
 

Construction was started on a new brewhouse in 1910, followed by a lagering (cellar) building, modern cooker, kettle and tanks. They also added a larger bottling works.

By 1912 the Salem Brewery had been enlarged to a four story structure, and with their new building and equipment the Salem Brewery became one of the most modern on the West coast, with triple the capacity of the old plant.
 
 

Salem Beer etched  glass, c. 1905 -  image
etched glass, ca. 1905

1st Salem Beer tray - image
1st tray - the "Green Salem"
ca.1903
Salem Beer etched glass, c. 1907 -  image
etched glass, ca.1907

Salem Beer tip tray Giselda - image

tip tray by Meek Co.
stock image

Salem Brg. Assn. oval beer tray - blue dress, horse & dog
oval tray - Portland office

Salem Beer tip tray -  image
tip tray by Meek Co.
stock image


Pre-pro Salem Beer label - image

Salamander Brau label - imageTheir flagship brand remained Salem Beer, but in March of 1913, they introduced a new brand called Salamander Braü with a Germanic style label (right). This alludes to the drinking ritual of German university students called "rubbing the salamander." Drinkers of the day would have understood the reference, but here's an explanation from  SCI Master Steinologist, John McGregor:

The word "salamander," in this case, is derived from the term "Sauft alle mit einander" (All drink together). However, the word Sauft means more than just drink; it is one of those over the top words meaning "get sloshed" or "guzzle." To have a Rubbing of the Salamander ("einem einen Salamander reiben") proposed to you is evidently considered a great honor. As the leader, or toast giver, proposes to honor a guest or special person, all stand and lift their steins at the words of the leader, "Ad exercitium salamandris praeparatiestisne?" (Are you prepared to do the salamander?) The drinkers say in unison, "Sumus" (we are). The leader further orders, "Salamandes inciptur, eins, zwei, drei," (Begin the salamander, one, two, three) and each drinker rubs his stein on the table three times. The leader further instructs them with, "Bibte eins, zwei, drei" (Drink up, one, two, three) and all steins are emptied in unison to the count one, two, three. They are then rattled on the table till the leader once again says, "Eins, zwei..." (one, two...) and all steins are held still until the leader says,"Drei!" (three) whereupon all bang their steins on the table.
A variation of this ritual is the "Trauersalamander." All is done as before, except the steins are "rubbed" in the air and they are stopped before striking the table. A silent, solemn ceremony honoring a departed brother."

Newspaper ad for Salamender Brau March 1913
Salamander newspaper ad, 11 Mar. 1913

The German saying below "Salamander" in the ad above translates to: "Hops and Malt, may God preserve them." The saying below the image of the brewery translates to: "Good health and a happy disposition are better than much money and possessions."

It should be noted that the image of the brewery takes a bit of artistic license with reality. The back three rows of buildings were not part of the brewery - if they actually existed at all.

Unfortunately the Salamander brand didn't have a chance to gain a following since the voters of Salem voted in Prohibition measures that would soon cripple the Brewery.

Calling card of Paul L. Schmidt, Salem Brg. Ass'n. - imageAbout this time, Leopold's nephew, Paul Louis Schmidt (son of Leopold's younger brother Louis) became involved in the family business. He earned his Master Brewer's certificate at the Wahl-Henius Brewing Institute of Chicago in 1910. In October of 1913, he went to Salem, and soon assumed duties as brewer and superintendent of the brewery. His assistant brewmaster was Marcel Gehres, who also received his training in 1910 - from the same institute.

From the time brewery commenced production, the business was threatened by the era's crusade against alcoholic beverages. The primary adversaries were the Women's Christian Temperance Union and The Anti-Saloon League, both of which were gaining influence with lawmakers.  

The brewery published the following "Holiday Greeting" quote by Arthur Brisbane in December of 1908, but its anti-prohibition sentiments didn't seem to make much difference.

Anti-Prohibition Holiday Greeting

The State Legislature had passed a "local option" bill that gave each municipality the right to limit saloon operations within their city limits. Unfortunately, the City of Salem adopted the "local option" and voted to go "Dry." Yet the brewery was not required to close, as beer could still be sold outside the city limits. However, on December 1, 1913, further restrictions were adopted by the city. The Association then moved its offices to Portland where warehouses were established, but in November of 1914, state-wide Prohibition was approved. The Salem Brewery Ass'n. ceased brewery operations on 31 May 1915, four and a half years before national Prohibition.

When Oregon's Prohibition was approved, Frank Deckebach and Kola Neis took steps to keep the plant running. They partitioned the ice works and cold storage facilities from the brewery to convert it to a creamery. The new operation was called the Marion Creamery & Produce Company. The rest of the plant was given over to the production of an altogether different kind of libation.


 

Northwest Fruit Products Company
(1915-1920)

Salem Brewery as Loju plant ca.1917
Salem Brewery, ca.1917

Loju ad c.1917 - imageIn June of 1915, the Salem Brewery Association incorporated the remainder of the plant as a division of Olympia's Northwest Fruit Products Company and that year began marketing a loganberry fruit juice called Loju. By the end of 1915 it was being distributed as far as California and the Southwest.

However, more problems were to befall the Salem plant. Due to the war in Europe the Food Administration imposed a severe limitation on the use of sugar for "less essential" food products, which included soft drinks. This limitation failed to ease the sugar shortage, and in the latter part of 1918, a meeting was held by government officials for the purpose of declaring the soft drink industry non-essential and ordering it to be closed. By October of 1920 the company was dissolved.

Deckebach and Neis' Marion Creamery continued operating until 1933, when the entire plant was purchased and re-opened as a brewery. The creamery business was then moved across the street and carried on as before.

 

Salem Brewing Association

Salem Brewery Assn. letterhead c.1943 - image

Salem Brewery Association
(1933-1943)

Salem Brewery, ca.1940
                              Salem Brewery, ca.1940                  courtesy of Brewmaster, E.R. Kunney

After Repeal in April of 1933, the Salem Brewery Association re-incorporated, but no longer as a holding of the Olympia Brewing Company. However, it was purchased by a member of the Schmidt family. Leopold's second son, Frank T. Schmidt, along with Kola Neis and other local investors, raised the capital to start the brewery up again. Neis was president, with Schmidt as manager and head brewmaster. He earned his Master Brewer certification on 31 March, 1905, but chose to hire another brewmaster for the daily operations so that he might devote his time to the business end of the company.

They were a bit slow getting into production, and in Oct. '33, announced that the first brew was completed, and that after 60 days of ageing, the first batch would be released by Christmas.

The effects of the Depression were still being felt, and this was still a period of economic adversity, but the company managed to hang on as a regional brewer. In addition to his flagship Salem Beer (below), Frank produced a Schmidt's Salem Beer. Three variations of this label are known:  the brown bear (below), a black bear, and a white bear - probably to differentiate three different styles of beer. However, he must not have marketed the Schmidt brand heavily since only a couple of old bottles are known to exist with these labels (one black bear & one white bear), nor are there any promotional items known that show the bear motif.

Salem Beer label, c. 1934 - image
Label copyright 1934

Schmidt' Beer label from Salem Brewery Assn. - image
limited brand - registered in 1934

This scarcity may also due to the fact that the brand was not widely distributed, and was no doubt gone by 1937. It was that year that Frank Schmidt lost control of his brewery and returned to Tumwater. There he worked in the Bottling Shop of his family's Olympia Brewery until his death in 1948. 

Frank's brewmaster also left in '37. By March his position had been filled by Ernest R. Kunney, a German born brewer previously with the Rainier Brewing Co. of San Francisco. He recalled that upon his arrival the brewery was dealing with a "wild beer" problem. As he explained it: 

"When you opened a bottle it foamed over the top. The cause was a damaged tank lining, we first patched then replaced it.  Because of that problem, sales had suffered markedly."

Even when problems are corrected, bad reputations are difficult to live down, and lost patrons rarely return.

After Schmidt's departure the new management attempted to generate additional business with some new products. In 1937 the steinie bottle was introduced and with it a new, more modern style label was adopted (below).

Salem Beer label ca.1937

This half gallon version was introduced in 1942, to promote saving of the metal caps due to war time shortages.

In 1938 they introduced both the Polar Brew and Victory Club brands of beer. With the outbreak of the war they dropped "Club" in favor of just Victory Beer.

Salem Brewery's Victory Club beer label - image   Salem Brewery's Victory Beer label - image

They also marketed a Yankee Beer for a short while. Another brand from this period was Balco Beer but rather than a Salem brand it was a contract brew for a market chain. They also made Columbia Club for a Portland beer distributor.

Supporting your local businesses apparently wasn't a concept at this time - as 82% of the beer consumed in Oregon was from out-of-state. Consequently, new management and a few new brands was not enough to gain market share on the imports, and the brewery remained in financial difficulties.

Bauer-Schweitzer letterhead - image

In August of 1938, San Francisco interests took over the management of the brewery. This was the firm of Bauer & Schweitzer, a major supplier for breweries, who were a majority creditor/investor in the brewery. But their new president, Louis Lachman, was no more successful in getting the business back on firm financial footing. Lachman was a hop broker, and no doubt another creditor. In January of 1940, George Stackman announced the withdrawal of the San Francisco backers and he assumed control of the firm.

The 1942 City Directory listed the Salem Brewery Assn. with its officers as George W. Stackman, president; Rene Besse, vice-president and general manager; and Ernest R. Kunney, brewmaster. Ernest was also the secretary-treasurer as well as a director of the brewery, having been elected to these positions in 1939.

Salem was also one of the few brewers who contracted to brew Brown Derby for the Safeway market chain before WWII. They both canned and bottled Brown Derby. See example of can in close-up (below) and with other cans further below.

When the Rose City Brewing Co. of Portland closed in 1940 the Salem Brewery Assn. acquired the rights to their Gambrinus and Beaver State brands of beer. In a 1942 photo of the firm's office (below) you can make out five of their products on the counter behind E. R. Kunney, brewmaster (left) and G. W. Stackman, pres. (seated).

Kunney & Stackman, Salem Brewery - photo
Salem office

Salem Brewery beer display c.1942 - image
close-up

Brewmaster Kunney in Salem Brewery lab - photo
Brewmaster in brewery lab

Another opportunity to increase Salem's production came in '42 from the Silver Springs Brewing Co. of Port Orchard, WA. Since Silver Springs didn't have a canning line they contracted with Salem to produce and can their Oldstyle Pale Export. This product was already in the Portland market, but only in bottles. An example of this rare can can be seen in the close-up (above) and again below. The arrangement was short lived since the Salem Brewery was soon to have new management.

The brewery struggled on, with the added burden of increased war time restrictions and rationing. Finally, in October 1943, the brewery was sold.


Salem Breweriana

Salem Brewery Ass'n. ball tap knob
Salem Brewery Ass'n. ball tap knob

Salem Beer sign by Gillco - image
Back- bar lights by Gillco of Philadelphia, PA - ca.1935.

2nd Salem Beer sign by Gillco - image
Affectionately referred to as "cab lights" by collectors.

 

Lighted Salem Beer sign - image
lighted, box sign

 

Salem Brewery's Brown Derby & Oldstyle Beer cans - image
Brown Derby & Oldstyle beer cans with opening instructions


"Salem Beer" bottle opener - image

This opener clearly shows that the Salem Brewery is no longer a branch of Olympia.   To counter Olympia's famous slogan: 
"It's the Water" they used: "It's the Beer"

Salem Beer coaster - image
beer coaster

1940 ad for Salem Premium Lager - image
  Newspaper ad shows updated Salem Beer label, introduced in Sept. 1939


 

Sicks' Brewing Company
Sicks' Brewing Co. letterhead, c.1946 - image

Sicks' Brewing Company
(1943-1953)


Sick's Brewing Company - Salem, OR 1952 - image

 
In October of 1943, Emil Sick bought the Salem Brewery Association, and on 1 January, 1944, the plant was renamed the Sicks' Brewing Company. This coincided with the renaming of Sicks' Seattle Brewing and Malting Company - referred to as SeaBrew by insiders.

The new Salem branch was completely renovated, and repainted in silver and blue. Additionally, production improvements, in the form of new storage tanks, doubled its previous capacity, and a new bottling plant enabled filling 2000 cases per day. The modernized brewery then commenced production of the Sicks' Select brand of beer. This brand was also being produced for the Seattle market in the old Horluck Brewery, purchased by Sick in 1939, and renamed the Century Brewery.

Emil Sick and his father, managed their brewing empire out of Lethbridge, Alberta, and with the promise of Repeal, moved into the U.S. market. They first bought breweries in Great Falls and Missoula, Montana, then moved on to Washington state with Spokane, and Seattle. Now they had a presence in Oregon.

Floyd W. Shepard, of Lethbridge, received an offer from Emil to come to the U.S. and join them, which he did in November 1933. Floyd was then made co-manager of SeaBrew, and with the 1939 acquisition of the Horluck Brewery, manager of that plant as well.

With the 1943 purchase of the Oregon plant, Shepard moved his family to Salem and  relieved Rene Besse as manager of the Sicks' Brewing Company. He occupied this position until December of 1951 when the company's board of directors promoted him to executive vice president of the firm. He was placed in charge of sales, with offices to be located in Portland.

Brewmaster, John A. Meyers was also involved in the initial phases of the Salem plant. Originally from Minneapolis, he moved to Canada as a boy. He later joined the Edmonton Brewery and worked there until 1942. That year he studied brewing at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, which was followed followed by a six month stint as asst. brewmaster at SeaBrew prior to assuming the duties of brewmaster in Salem.

In 1949, Steve A. Tabacchi replaced John A. Meyers as Salem's brewmaster. A native of Lethbridge, Steve had family connections with the Sicks' which enabled him to gain a position at SeaBrew when he emigrated in 1934. After completing the brewmaster course at the Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago in 1938, Steve returned to Seabrew as an assistant brewmaster, and nine years later was elected president of the Northwestern District of the Master Brewers Association of America.

Steve Tabacchi's assistant, William Weiss, also transferred from SeaBrew's Century plant. William was the youngest son of Hans H. Weiss, Seabrew's brewmaster at the main plant.

Sick's Select Beer label ca.1946

The graphics on the label above had been used since April of 1944, and in 1949 Emil Sick decided to give the label a new look. He hired Walter Landor of San Francisco, who came up with the design shown on the label below. It was introduced in July of '49.

This was Landor's first work with a beer label and it earned him a design award in '49. The following year Landor re-designed the famous, red "R" on the Rainier label. Landor went on to work on other brewer's labels and in '57 he he updated Lucky Lager's distinctive red "X" logo with stylized hop leaves.

new Brew 66 beer label
In early 1951, the formulation of a new product was perfected in the Century plant. It was test marketed in the Seattle area from March to June of '51, and touted as the "new taste of Sicks' Select."

In July of '51, Brew 66 was launched, and production commenced at both the Century Brewery and the Salem brewery.
 
A separate sales organization was formed for the new brand and it proved to be a marketing success.


Steve Tabacchi's business card

Tabacchi's supervision of the plant was cut short when Emil Sick decided to close the
brewery on June 1st of '53. At the time of closing, there had been 70 workers on the payroll of the plant, which produced 75,000 barrels - 27 million bottles - yearly. It was said that Salem lost a good industry and a good beer.

On 22 July, 1953, the Rainier Brewing Co. of SF was purchased by Emil Sick, who then sold the plant to the Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. of MN, retaining sole rights to the Rainier brand. He had been trying acquire rights to the brand since his 1935 licensing agreement with Rainier CEO, Louis Hemrich.

The 1935 agreement gave him the right to market Rainier Beer in Washington and Alaska, but not in Oregon. Sick later admitted that he would not have closed the Salem brewery had he foreseen the subsequent acquisition of the famous Rainier mark, and the ability to grow the brand in Oregon.

With the closing of the plant, Steve Tabacchi then established a Sicks' distributorship, marketing Brew 66, Rainier Beer, and the soon to be discontinued, Sicks' Select.

He was able to utilize the brewery buildings for his office and warehouse, however, in September 1955, a little more than two years after brewing was terminated, the four story Salem landmark was razed.

 


Sicks' Select and Brew 66 Breweriana

Sicks' Select Beer can - image

Brew 66 beer label, ca.1951
Brew 66 beer label, ca.1951

Sick's Select back-bar display, ca.1949
Sicks' Select back-bar "chalk" - ca.1949

Sicks' Select beer glass, ca.1950

Brew 66 ball tap knob

 beer glass, ca.1949; chrome, ball tap knob
and beer can - both ca.1951

Brew 66 FT beer can - image

   

Article by

You can purchase this article which was featured in the ABA Journal for Sept.-Oct., 2007 - Go to: PERIDOCIALS

 

SALEM BREWERY COLLECTIBLES - For Sale 

Salem Brewing Assn. beer stein ca.1904

Pre-Pro stein ca.1904. Go to: MUGS

 


 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • Special thanks to Schmidt family member Paul Secord for historical data and the Schmidt calling card.
     
  • To Bryan Anderson for scans of the 1911 letterhead (that I'm using as the page header), labels and the Gillco "cab light" image.
     
  • To Pat Franco for the other "cab light" image.
     
  • To Chuck Smay of the Polk Co. Historical Soc. for the photo of the Salamander label.
     
  • To Mike Magnussen for the Salem Beer lighted box sign, and Sicks' Select chalk.
     
  • To the late Bill Mugrage for the image of the new Bottling House.
     
  • To Worth Mathewson for the billhead from Mrs. Beck's Capital Brewery & Ice Works, and the "Holiday Greetings" quote of Arthur Brisbane.
     
  • To Steve Tabacchi for his father's story and related Sicks' history.
     
  • To Dave Unwin for the image of the brewery, c.1917.
     
  • To Jeff Henry for the 1946 Sicks' Brewing Co. letterhead.
     
  • And a big thanks to the late Ernest Kunney (brewmaster 1937 to 1943) for providing insights into his pre-war activities with the brewery, and for his photos of the brewery.


      

  For any comments, additions, or corrections - or if you have items for sale - please contact me:

Brewery Gems- beer stein logo

All contents including images are copyright by BreweryGems.com
 and can not be used without permission from Brewery Gems.
Copyright © 2004 ~ All Rights Reserved.

 

BREWERIANA | BREWERY HISTORIES | SITE MAP | CONTACT