Construction was completed in early March of '34, and brewing commenced. On June 4th, after three months of aging (or lagering), the first draught beer was ready for consumption. The bottling line was not ready by then, so the first Lucky Lager in bottles did not hit the market until the 6th of July, 1934.
Given time for aging, the May 10th label shown here would have been on a bottle sold in August - the second month of packaged sales.
Early in '34, and possibly when the company was first established, General Brewing Corp. was controlled by Coast Breweries, Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. Yet the Canadian owners did not install their own management team. The company's first officers were: Paul C. von Gontard, pres.; Eugene S. Selvage, sec-treas.; and Julius Kerber, brewmaster.
Kerber was a graduate of three brewery colleges in Germany and a resident of the U.S. since 1900. For six and one-half years he was head brewmaster and production supervisor for the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. During Prohibition he was president and brewmaster of the Northwest Brewing Co. of Edmonton, Alberta.
The company's president, Baron Paul von Gontard, was the grandson of Adolphus Busch, and was no doubt given the title of president to add prestige to to the company's masthead, since he wasn't a stockholder. His Anheuser-Busch connection was a touted, and greatly helped promote the new enterprise. In fact Budweiser published a letter in the major Bay Area newspapers stating that while Paul von Gontard was related to the Busch family, there was no connection between the General Brewing Corp. and Anheuser-Busch - as had been rumored, nor was von Gontard a representative, or an employee of A-B. What he was was a big game hunter, polo player, and bon vivant!
However, von Gontard only held the title of president for a little more than a year. By late '35 he had been replaced by their brewmaster, Kerber. Von Gontard relocated to Albuquerque, NM in 1937. In May of that year he raised money to purchase the struggling start-up, New Mexico Brewery Co., and with the help of brewmaster, Max Leischner, opened the plant as the Rio Grande Brewing Co. By May of '39, the company was bankrupt. Apparently the Baron was more of a socialite than a businessman.
Paul Kerber's tenure as president and general manager was also brief. In January of 1936, after less than a year in the leadership position, he unexpectedly died. The company's secretary/treasurer, Eugene S. Selvage, now became president of the company. He would occupy this position for twenty five years.
On the 7th of Jan., 1949, General Brewing Corporation's Board of Directors voted to change the name of the company to the Lucky Lager Brewing Co.
After WWII, "Lucky Lager" became the best selling beer in California, so the company decided to build a plant in southern California. They found a suitable site in the small town of Azusa, and by May of '49 the new plant commenced brewing.
Lucky Lager of Vancouver, WA (1939-1985)
The second brewery to join the Lucky Lager group was the Star Brewery Co. of Vancouver, WA. It had operated prior to Prohibition, and was one of the first Washington start-ups after Repeal in April of '33.
In early 1939, the company reorganized as the Interstate Brewery Co., and at this point became General Brewing Company's Northern Branch with distribution in WA, OR, ID, MT, and Alaska, relieving the San Francisco branch of shipping Lucky Lager north. On 3 Sept. 1939, after three months of ageing, the first batch of Lucky Lager went on sale. Bankers Ale was also added to the product line, and the brewery continued producing "Hop Gold".
In Oct. 1950 the plant was re-named the Lucky Lager Brewing Co. in keeping with the corporate name change. It would become the longest running plant to brew Lucky Lager, closing in 1985.
Lucky Lager of Azusa, CA (1949-1966)
By the late '40s, "Lucky Lager" was leading the state in sales. They had surpassed the former top selling "Acme Beer" in part due to the poor reputation earned by Acme due to "skunky" beer sent to the troops during the war in the Pacific.
The Azusa plant would serve the Southern Division, handling sales to So. California, So. Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas.
Lucky Lager of Salt Lake City, UT (1957-1967)
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