Fredericksburg Brewing Co. (1889-1918)
The history of the Fredericksburg Brewery from its founding in 1869 to 1881 is covered in a history of Santa Clara County, that follows. The period from 1881 to its reorganization as the Fredericksburg Brewing Company in 1889 is also covered, although briefly.
The following is from the History of Santa Clara County, California, by J.P. Munro-Fraser. Alley, Bowen, & Co., 1881.
The period of 1881 to 1888 saw continued growth and expansion, with Fredericksburg agencies and bottling depots established over many western states. The brewery was a lager beer producer from its inception, and brewed at least six styles of lager beer. A Sept. 1883 newspaper ad stated that the Brewery was offering a "...Genuine Salvator, Pilsner, and Bavaria Lager Beer." In addition, a 1894 Directory listing stated that they were "Brewers and Bottlers of Extra Pale, Pilsner, Pschorr, and Culmbacher beer."
As early as 1878, the brewery established an agency in San Francisco at 621 Brannan St., but it's not clear who did the bottling. In 1880 the agency relocated to 539 California St.
The brewery also established a bottling depot in Los Angeles, in 1886. It's proprietor was E. C. Schnabel, son of Ernest Schnabel, the brewery's co-owner and manager.
Also in 1886, the brewery used both the Postel Brothers (Arnold & Rudolph), and the Lang Brothers (Otto, Leonard & August) as local bottlers. The following year, the Lang Bros. were the sole bottlers of Fredericksburg beer in San Francisco. This began a long term, business relationship, and the establishment of the Fredericksburg Bottling Co.
architect's drawing of Fredericksburg Brewery, ca.1888
The following is a vivid, first-hand account of a brewery tour found in Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, published by the Pacific Press Publishing Co., Oakland, Cal., 1888.
Prior to 1890 the bottling shop had to be (as stated above) "distinct from the brewery". The bottling works handled the bottling of beer for export to foreign countries, and for local consumption. Beer destined for other west coast markets was sent in kegs to local agents who distributed the beer that they bottled, or had bottled by a separate plant.
Embossed beer bottles usually gave the name of the bottling works so
that they would get the bottles back to be re-used, but the name was
also to be found on the label. In San Jose, the primary bottler of
Fredericksburg beer was Charles Maurer, and then later
The use of bottler/agents continued until national Prohibition put a stop to everything. Some of the other west coast bottlers were: the Oakland Bottling Co. in Oakland, Cal. (above); J. R. Luttrell & Son, San Diego, Cal.; H. Loose in Lovelock, Nev.; C. E. Roos in Seattle, Wash.; Hoefer & Mevius in Redding, Cal.; H. C. Heidtmann in Reno, Nev.; Kalamath Falls, Ore. (below); and C. Schnerr & Co. in Sacramento, Cal. (further below).
Upon completion of the 1888 brewery expansion, the brewery was
adorned with impressive spires and crenellated turrets. It looked
more like a German Rhine castle than the brewery envisioned in the
architect's plans (above). These distinctive architectural elements
became the brewery's trade mark, and appeared on their labels,
letterhead, and all other promotional material. The style was also
adopted by the Lang Bros. when they built their bottling works in
San Francisco, which would suggest that the Fredericksburg brewery
was a principal in the bottling plant.
In 1890, controlling interest in the Fredericksburg Brewery was purchased by San Francisco Breweries, Ltd. This British syndicate was formed to acquire and amalgamate ten breweries in and around San Francisco. The combine consisted of the Fredericksburg and Pacific breweries of San Jose; the Hofburg Brewery of West Berkeley; the Oakland Brewery, and Brooklyn Brewery, both of Oakland; the John Wieland Brewing Co., the United States Brewery, Chicago Brewery, So. San Francisco Brewery, and Willows Brewery - all of San Francisco.
By 1899, four of the breweries had been liquidated. Of the six remaining, the April 1906, San Francisco fire and earthquake destroyed three. The Syndicate lasted until Prohibition with only the Fredericksburg Brewing Co., John Wieland Brewing Co., and the Brooklyn Brewery.
A major fire broke out at the Fredericksburg Brewery in 1902 and the great, six-story turreted tower of the malt house crashed into Cinnabar Street. The brewery was rebuilt by the time of the 1906 earthquake and survived with only minor damage.
The post earthquake rebuilding in San Francisco brought other changes to the cities breweries. They were now updating and installing their own crown cap bottling lines, and the beer bottling unions were demanding the end of embossed bottles and the use of patented stoppers.
It's not clear which happened first, but in May of 1912, the Fredericksburg Brewing Co. announced that their beer was now "bottled by the brewery". Not at the brewery, but by the brewery, which would indicate that they were now the proprietors of the Fredericksburg Bottling Company.
Also in May of 1912, August Lang & Co. released their own "Red Lion Beer" from the Aug. Lang Brewing Assn. at Baker & Geary Sts. Lang may have sold to S. F. Breweries, Ltd. to fund the refit his newly acquired brewery. The bottling works continued operating as the Fredericksburg Bottling Co. until late 1918.
The Fredericksburg Brewery didn't quite make it to Prohibition in 1920. San Jose voted to become "dry" in 1918, in part as a WWI conservation effort, which was actually a thinly veiled prohibition movement. In September, 1918, the Brewery ceased operations.
During the years of Prohibition (1920-1933) many breweries continued operating by producing near-beer or soft drinks, but the Fredericksburg plant remained shuttered until Repeal in April of 1933. It resumed operation as the Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. and they re-introduced the Fredericksburg brand.
Pacific Brewing & Malting operated until 1951, when it became the Wieland's Brewing Co. But before a years time the brewery was purchased by the Griesedieck family of St. Louis, making it their western branch of the Falstaff Brewing Corp. The plant closed permanently in 1973 and was demolished in 1980.
² The Prest-O-Lite key is the square hole in the at the end of the cap lifter which was used as a wrench to open the valve on carbide tanks mounted on the running boards of early autos. Headlights were illuminated by carbide gas from about 1900 to 1915.
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