Rainier Beer SF logo - header graphic

The History of Rainier Beer - part 2
(1933-1999)


The History of Rainier - Part 1 briefly covers the period from the brand's inception to the end of Prohibition, and includes the brands introduction into Canada in the 1920s.

This part of the Rainier history covers the period after Repel, and is further divided into two parts:


In 1915, Washington's state-wide prohibition gave brewers until 1 January 1916 to liquidate their inventories and cease operations. The Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. chose to build a new plant in California believing that national prohibition would not happen. Before the year was out the Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco was on-line with Louis Hemrich overseeing the operation.

Of course, Prohibition was voted in, but the plant continued to operate by producing soft drinks and near-beer. By 1932 people had had enough and elected Franklin Roosevelt, in part for his promise to end Prohibition. With the Repeal in sight, Rainier geared up.

 

Rainier letterhead c.1937 - image
Rainier Brewery of San Francisco letterhead, ca.1937
 

The Rainier Brewing Company, Inc.
San Francisco, Calif.
(1933-1953)


Rainier Brewery of San Francisco c.1933 - photo
Rainier Brewery, ca.1933, at 1550 Bryant St., San Francisco

In 1932 the plant underwent extensive improvements and additions in preparations for Repeal, and by early 1933 the brewery's capacity was 350,000 barrels per year. The company was still under the leadership of Louis Hemrich who, with partner Joseph Goldie, had purchased both the Seattle and the San Francisco breweries from the Hemrich family in 1925. At that time they also purchased the San Francisco plant of Pacific Brewing & Malting (PB&M) from its Tacoma, WA owners.  Like Rainier, PB&M moved to SF when Washington's state-wide Prohibition shut them down in January 1916.

Since the company had maintained production of near-beer during Prohibition, it was easily ready to offer beer immediately upon Repeal. On April 7, 1933, Rainier was again brewing real (3.2%) beer under Calif.
U-Permit 1101.

Rainier Beer & Rainier Dark ad, c.1933 - imageTo celebrate the return of its flagship brand, the company reprised its pre-prohibition Rainier Beer label (below left). The same label was also used for the Seattle market, but rather than "Rainier Brewing Company, Inc." it reads: "Rainier Distributing Company, Seattle Washington." This beer was shipped to the old Georgetown plant, which now served as the brewery's Washington & Alaska distribution center. They also resurrected the pre-prohibition Rainier Pale label (below lower left) but the graphics were soon updated.

In Sep. '33, they introduced Rainier Dark - a Culmbacher-type dark beer (below right). The ad (above)  introduces these two early products.

first Rainier Beer label, Apr. '33 - image
first Rainier Beer label, Apr. '33

first Rainier Dark Beer, Sep. '33 - image
first Rainier Dark Beer, Sep. '33

Rainier Pale, 1st Pre-Pro. strength beer, Jan. '34 - image
Rainier Pale, 1st Pre-Pro. strength beer, Jan. '34

first Rainier Bock, Jan. 1934 - image
first Rainier Bock, Jan. 1934 (see ad below)

When beer was legalized on April 7, 1933, this was actually not the end of Prohibition. On that date the Cullen Act went into effect, allowing the sale of 3.2% beer. It was not until Jan.1, 1934 that repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. It then became legal to produce and sell pre-prohibition "full strength" beer.

Joseph Goldie, Rainier's chairman of the board, stated that "....the brewery had enough 5½% beer in aging tanks to release thousands of cases of their Pale Beer in anticipation of Repeal." He described this pre-prohibition style as a pilsner-type beer that originated in old Austria, and was made with low-kiln-dried malt and Bohemian, Saazer hops.

first Rainier Bock ad, Jan. 1934 - imageThe Rainier Pale Beer label, shown above (left) gives the actual strength - a practice thatRainier Beer label c.1934 - image is no longer allowed. This label soon changed to a more colorful version, similar to the label shown (at right).

Each spring it's traditional for breweries to offer a Bock beer, and Rainier was the first to  release its own version. The January 1934 ad for Rainier Bock is shown here (left), and the first Bock label used by Rainier is shown above (right).

From the 1925 purchase of PB&M's SF holdings, Rainier still owned Pacific Products, Inc., and the Tacoma Brewing Co. They sold the Treat Street plant to Regal Products in 1933 - which became the Regal Amber Brewing Company of San Francisco in '35.

To immediately utilize the brewery's huge production capabilities, Rainier produced Pacific Extra Pale Beer (below left) under the Pacific Products name. They also produced Tacoma Pale Beer (below right) and Tacoma Bock Beer as the Tacoma Brewing Company. They continued with these labels through, at least 1939.
 

Pacific Export Beer label, c.1933 - image
Pacific Export Beer label, ca.1933

Tacoma Pale Beer label, c.1933 - image
Tacoma Pale Beer label, ca.1933

In April of '35, Rainier introduced it's "Special Export - a natural malt beer" (below left) with the slogan: "A lift without a letdown." Special Export remained a primary brand into the '50s. A couple of other products were early brands, one named after the president, and chairman of the Board, Louis Hemrich (below right).

Rainier Special Export Beer label, c.1935 - image
Rainier Special Export Beer label, ca.1935

Louis Hemrich's Beer label, c.1934 - image
Louis Hemrich's Beer label, ca.1934

Piedmont Pale Lager Beer label, c.1934 - image
Piedmont Pale Lager Beer label, ca.1934

Pale Lifestaff Beer, c.1934 - image
Pale Lifestaff Beer, ca.1934

Two other budget brands were early products, Piedmont Pale Lager Beer (above left), and Pale Lifestaff Beer (above right). Lifestaff was a brand used by Louis and brother, Alvin's Hemrich Staff Products Co. during Prohibition. Alvin chose Hemrich's Select as the flagship brand of his Hemrich Brewing Co. and dropped Lifestaff but received a partial royalty for its use by the SF brewery.

Rainier Old Stock Ale label, c.1936 - imageTo further utilize the plant's capacity, the company contracted with wholesalers and grocers to produce private label brands. These beers included Full Value, Gold Medal, Ace Hi, Tornberg's Old German Lager, Old Vienna, Old Mission Steam Beer, Brown Derby, Leideg's De Luxe, Lisco Lager, Piedmont Pale, Schwartz & Weiss, Krug, BB Special Export, Shorty Roberts' Tally Ho, and Pilsen Brau.

In the Spring of '35, the company introduced its English Type, Old Stock Ale (left). It was advertised as Rainier Beer's "Big Brother" containing 6% alcohol. About this time they adopted the tag line: "In the West it's Rainier Beer"Rainier Special Export cone top beer can, c.1936 - image (or Ale).

In May of 1936, Special Export was available both in bottle, and in the new Low-profile, cone top cans (see ad at right). It was soon followed by Old Stock Ale - also in the Continental Can Company's "Cap-Sealed" beer can.

Also, by May of '36, both Rainier Pale and Rainier Dark had been dropped from the line-up. Rainier Dark was replaced by their, Extra Export Stout (below left). This was originally a low alcohol product that was introduced in March of 1918, but were forced to discontinue due to WWI war time restrictions, effective Dec. 1, 1919. The 1936 label is identical to the 1918 version with the exception of the "½ of 1% alcohol" statement on the original. 

In Sept. of '37, the company test marketed a new brand in the San Francisco Bay Area called Rainier Club (below center). The brand was well received, and in the summer of '38, Rainier Club was launched with a new label (below right) - which would remain a flagship brand into the late '40s.

Rainier's Extra Export Stout label, c.1936 - image
Rainier's Extra Export Stout label, ca.1936

Rainier Club test market label, c.1937 - image
Rainier Club test market label, ca.1937

Rainier Club Extra Pale Beer label, c.1938  - image
Rainier Club Extra Pale Beer label, ca.1938

1937 GMC Streamline produced for Rainier - image
One of ten 1937 GMC Streamlines produced for Rainier
 

Rainier Half & Half label, ca.1940The line-up of brands stayed constant until early December of 1940, when Half & Half was introduced. It was offered in a 22 oz. bottle, and a new 8 oz. size that came in a slope shouldered bottle. Half & Half was described in the 9 December press release as a blend of ale and porter, and that:

"Rainier Half and Half is the result of eighteen months of experiments on the part of Rainier's scientific staff to develop a half and half blend which would exactly meet the western taste."
Perhaps they didn't get it exactly right, since Rainier Half & Half was gone by August of 1942.

Rainier for Good Cheer ad, c.1941 - imageIn Oct. '39, the slogan "Rainier - For Good Cheer" was introduced, and continued in use until early '46. In Sept. of 1940, the company made another major change when they streamlined the iconic Rainier logo. Compare the logo in the 1941 Bock label (below) with the Half & Half label above (right). You'll notice that "Rainier" is now Rainier Bock label ca.1941horizontal, the font is thinner, and the curve has been removed from the tail.

The waiter character in the early 1941 ad was a popular figure and Rainier had him made into a back-bar, point-of-sale, chalk figurine. He came in 8" and 13½" sizes. See Breweriana (below).

Rainier was still brewing Bock beer every Spring and this label (right), ca.1941, displays the modified Rainier logo.

The war years were tough on all the California brewers, given the shortages in materials, but Rainier better than most. In '42, they made a move to increase their market share in southern California. The July 22nd issue of the San Francisco Chronicle ran the following story:  

"Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco, one of the oldest and largest brewing organizations on the Pacific coast, has purchased the entire plant of the Vernon Brewing Company of Los Angeles, it was announced yesterday.

Acquisition of the Vernon plant is the initial move by Rainier in its plans to increase distribution in Southern California, Joseph Goldie, president, states. The Vernon brewery is less than 10 years old and is equipped with the most modern brewery equipment obtainable.

The plant occupies approximately an acre of ground and in addition Rainier has acquired an acre of vacant land adjoining, which it plans to use in enlarging the capacity of the brewery as soon as materials and equipment become available.

Rainier has already begun brewing in the Vernon plant, but no deliveries of beer will be made from the new plant for some time."

The statement of "...enlarging of the capacity of the brewery as soon as materials and equipment become available" refers to the war time shortages of essential materials. However, by the time materials and equipment did become available, Rainier was struggling and no expansion of the plant occurred.

Newspaper illustration Aug. 1942
newspaper illustration Aug. 1942

This artist's rendition makes the new brewery look rather grand, but the newspaper photo (below) shows that it was a fairly small plant.

Newspaper image of Rainier's Los Angeles plant
Does anyone have a good copy of this newspaper photo?

Rainier Club Extra Dry Beer can, c.1947 - image
Rainier Club Extra Dry
Beer can, ca.1947

The post war era was not as good for Rainier as for some of their competitors, and they began losing market share. In May of '47 they re-formulated their mainstay, Rainier Club Extra Pale Beer and called it Extra Dry. The claim was that they "Fermented out the solids" which was marketing speak for - "here's a beer made by replacing expensive malt with cheaper adjuncts." The canned Rainier Club Extra Dry Beer is show here (at left).

Apparently the public was not impressed with "Dry" beer, and by late '48 the product was dropped and Extra Pale was back. Also axed was the company's brewmaster! In February of '49 the new brewmaster introduced Rainier Beer - with a more colorful label that also featured a prominent image of Mt. Rainier, and a return to the angled logo, shown on can (right) and labels (below).

Rainier Beer can, c.1949 - image
Rainier Beer can,
ca.19
49

Rainier Beer label, c.1949 - image
Rainier Beer label, c.1949

Rainier Krausen beer label, c.1951 - image
Rainier Krausen beer label, c.1951

Rainier Old Time Krausen Beer ad, c.1951 - imageIn May of '51 another product appeared - Rainier Old Time Kuäusen Beer - shown in the ad (right) and label (above), but it was too little, too late. The introduction of new brands and more colorful packaging did nothing to slow the loss of market share to Lucky Lager , as well as to the penetration of eastern brewers. That, combined with some questionable business practices, led to the demise of the Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco.

In early July of 1953, the Rainier Brewing Co. was purchased by Emil G. Sick, who then sold the San Francisco plant to the Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. of MN, retaining sole rights to the Rainier brand. In a matter of one month Rainier Beer was again available in California, but it was now brewed in its birthplace of Seattle.

The Los Angeles plant was also sold but was never again used as a brewery.

 

Breweriana from Rainier of SF

Rainier Beer & Ale coaster from Honolulu, c.1937 - image
Rainier Beer coaster, Honolulu, ca.1937
(available for purchase - COASTERS)

Rainier Old Stock Ale aluminum sign, c.1938 - image
aluminum sign, ca.193
8

Rainier Beer coaster, SF, c.1941 - image
Rainier Beer coaster, SF, ca.1941

Rainier 14" waiter,  back-bar figurine, c.1941 - image
Rainier waiter, 16" back-bar figurine, ca.1940

Rainier Krausen Beer, back-bar figurine, c.1951 - image
Rainier back-bar figurine, ca.1951

Polar Bear back-bar figurine, c.1949
Polar Bear back-bar figurine, ca.1949

 

The Rainier Brand in Seattle
(1933-1999)

Emil Sick was responsible for returning the venerable brand back to the place of its birth, but it was a struggle that lasted 20 years and cost him over a million dollars.

With the end of Prohibition this Canadian brewer sought opportunities in the U.S. market. He began with the 1933 acquisition of three breweries in Montana. First he formed a partnership with the owners of the Montana Brewing Co. and the American Brewing & Malting Co., two Great Falls firms dating from the 1890s. They turned the Montana Brg. plant into a malt house, and the American plant into the primary - thus forming Great Falls Breweries, Inc. They remained a part of the Sick empire until September of 1949 when Sick returned control to the Jensen and Johnson partners.

Next he partnered with the owners of the old Garden City Brewery in Missoula. The new company was established as the Missoula Brewing Co. The brewery remained a Sick satellite for 16 years. Then, at the same time he relinquished his interest in his Great Falls holdings, he sold his shares back to the Steinbrenner family. The Missoula Brg. Co. was then more commonly referred to as the Highland Brewing Co.

Sick then joined forces with an old friend, Harry Goetz, and re-opened the old Henco Brewery in Spokane. Demand soon exceeded the plants capacity and in December of 1936 they bought the old Galland-Burke Brewery, establishing Spokane Breweries, Inc. While Rainier was never brewed in Montana, it was produced in Spokane until Sick closed the plant in 1962.


Century Brewery Association, Inc.
(1933-1935)

painting of Century Brewery c.1935 - image
painting of Century Brewery for 1935 calendar
 

Century's Rheinlander Beer label - image
Beer label ca.1934

 

 

Seattle Brewing & Malting Company
(1935-1944)

Rainier Brewery c.1939 - photo
Rainier Brewery ca.1939

On May 1st of 1935, Emil Sick and Louis Hemrich of San Francisco agreed to a $2M merger agreement and formed Seattle Brewing & Malting. This allowed Sick to brew and market Rainier Beer in Washington and Alaska under a royalty arrangement.

Sick's Select paneled beer glass ca.1940
Sick's Select, paneled beer glass,
used from Aug. 1939 to Nov. 1941

Sick's Select and Rainier sides of beer glass
Beer glass with both Sick's Select and Rainier logos,
used from Nov. 1941 to Dec. 1943.


 

 

Sicks' Seattle Brewing & Malting Company
(1944-1957)

Rainier Brewery letterhead c.1945 - image
Rainier Brewery letterhead ca.1945

 

Sicks' Select paneled glass ca.1949
 Sicks' Select paneled glass, ca.1949 

Sicks' Select back-bar display, c.1945
Back -bar display, ca.1945

                  
Drawing of Sicks' Brewery, c.1953
pen & ink drawing, ca.1953
 

Sicks' Rainier Brewing Company
(1957-1970)

Sicks' Rainier Brewing Co. letterhead, c.1963
Rainier Brewery letterhead ca.1963

 

 

Rainier Brewing Company
(1970-1999)

photo of Rainier brewery, c.1990
                                                                       Rainier Brewery ca.1990                      Photo by Dale Sleeman

 

Article by

 

Work in Progress tag


Rainier Beer Collectibles - For Sale

Rainier Beer coaster from Honolulu, c.1937

Rainier coaster from Honolulu ca.1937. Go to: MISC. COASTERS

Rainier Beer tray - saucy gal ca.1910

Pre-Prohibition beer tray - Go to: TRAYS

Sicks' Rainier footed beer glass  Rainier/Sick's Select beer glass, ca.1942  Sick's Select paneled beer glass ca.1940 

Post-Prohibition beer glasses from Seattle - Go to: GLASSES

 Rainier etched glass

Pre-Prohibition, Rainier Pale Beer glass ca.1910. Go to: Etched Glasses

Rainier diamond draft tap ca.1953

Various tap handles - Go to: TAPS

 

A book on the history of the Rainier  brand is underway ......
so there may not be  many changes to this page.

 

Occasionally I'm asked if Rainier is still being brewed. The answer is yes and no! Of course there is no longer beer flowing from the Seattle plant, however the Pabst Brewing Company still owns and markets the brand. Currently the Miller Brewing Company has been contracted by Pabst to produce Rainier Beer in their Irwindale, CA. So yes, you can still get a Rainier Beer! But you have to contact Pabst to find out if it's sold in your area - e-mail: products@Pabst.com or call: (800) 947-2278



But for those of you nostalgic for the classic Rainier commercial of the motorcycle..

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • Thanks to Bob Kay for example labels and information gleaned from his publication, US Beer Labels, Vol. 1 - The Western States. For this, or other volumes, go to - BobKayBeerLabels.com
     
  • And to Jeff Henry for the 1949 & 1951 Rainier labels.

 

For any comments, additions, or corrections -
or for brewery collectibles you wish to sell - please
contact me:

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