American Brewing & Crystal Ice beer label

American Brewing & Crystal Ice Co. (1901-1916)

Having sold his Henco Brewery in March of 1900, Reinhard Martin was primed to purchase another brewery, and he organized a group of Spokane investors to do just that. In early 1901, he learned of an opportunity in Baker City, Ore. where the long time owner of the Pacific Brewery was planning to retire. Martin then traveled to Baker City hoping to make a deal. Contrary to accepted history¹, the deal was never consummated. Instead, Martin decided they would finance the construction of a new brewery in Baker City, and found a suitable location at 3rd & Dewey Ave.

On March 3rd of 1901 the Spokesman-Review reported that articles of incorporation were filed by the American Brewing & Crystal Ice company of Washington and Oregon. The incorporaters and trustees were Reinhard Martin, Ernest Sieber, Charles Bodeau and John Hess, all of Spokane, and Robert Scheffels of Wilbur. The principal place of business was designated as Spokane. 

The construction cost was set at $60,000 for a three story plant designed for a 10,000 barrel/year output, including an ice plant, which is to be completed first, and have a ten ton capacity. Construction was to get underway by early April with brewing expected to commence by August.

American Brg. & Crystal Ice plant in Baker City, Ore.

As usual there were delays and on Sept. 28th the brewery announced that brewing had just commence and that beer would not be ready for sale until early December. However, the brewery donated beer and ice to the Sumpter Day Street Fair on Sept. 4th! It would appear that Martin arranged for beer to be shipped to the new brewery from one of the Spokane Brewing & Malting's plants. American's bottling line would have already been installed and this would have been a good opportunity for a test run.

Double Select beer label Baker City Ore.Beer bottle from Backer City AB&CIcoThe plant's bottling works was state-of-the-art, and handled the newest crown cap finished bottles shown here, and would have had a label like this applied to the side opposite the embossing.

Like most breweries of this era, American only bottled about 33% of its output. The majority was sold in saloons on draught (draft). The brewery only produced two kinds of beer for bottling, a pale Pilsen or Pilsner style, and a darker Munich style. They likely would have produced a seasonal Bock on draught as well.

After four years of successful operation, an October '05 newspaper story by the East Oregonian stated that the management of the Brewery has found it necessary to upgrade the plant in order to take care of the growing trade. The plans are to build a new racking plant for keg beer, to add a new fermentation tank, and a new storage tank, all of which will give the brewery an increased capacity of 1,000 barrels a month over the current output. The expansion plan was overseen by vice-president and general manager, Ernest Siber.

From the brewery's inception Charles Bodeau was their secretary-treasurer, but around 1907 Ernest Siber departed and Bodeau took on the job as general manager as well.

In spite of the efforts of the Anti-Saloon League, Baker City voters rejected the 1909 Local Option Bill, which would have allowed the closure of the city's saloons, and by extension - shut down the Brewery. But the reprieve was short lived. In the November 1909 general election Oregon voters gave the "drys" a victory by choosing state-wide Prohibition. This law was to go into effect on Jan. 1, 1916, which allowed producers of alcoholic beverages to sell their stock and terminate production.

However, Bodeau chose to continue brewing and selling beer for all of 1915 in order to squeeze out the last possible dollar from this venture. In a last ditch effort to unload his remaining stock he ran ads all through December encouraging buyers to stock up before the approaching deadline. Unfortunately, on January 1st he still had 400 gallons of beer left in storage tanks.

AB&CI last chance ad

The plan going forward was to re-configure the plant for the production of a non-alcoholic beer, a.k.a. Near Beer. But first, to bottle and sell the remaining stock to buyers in "wet" states, like California. Unfortunately that was not to be.  On Jan. 13 the Coos Bay Times reported:

"Manager Charles Bodeau of the American Brewing company, decided today not to ship 400 barrels of beer now on hand out of state. The bottling works at the brewery burned last Sunday, and while possible to ship in barrels, in competition with breweries of "wet" states, Mr. Bodeau can see no profit. "I'll just wait until a revenue officer comes along," he said, "and let him pour it in the sewer and charge it up as a loss."
American's president, Reinhard Martin, had chosen to go ahead with the plans to produce near-beer in Baker City, just as he decided to do at his Imperial Beverage company that he established in Spokane.

American Brewing & Crystal Ice introduced their near-beer calling it Ceres, and used the figure of the Greek goddess of agriculture on the label.

Ceres near-beer label Baker City

their near-beer wasn't popular enough, and the ice plant not large enough to keep the business going. So in 1917 the company closed down, and in 1919 the property was sold.

 

BREWERIANA

Complimentary print from brewery
Complimentary print given by the brewery.



Ameriican Brg. & C.I. boot brush
Boot brush - another brewery promotional piece


1913 postcard with Amer. Brg. & Crystal Ice Packard truck
1913 Postcard with brewery's Packard truck


 

FOOTNOTE:

¹ In July of 1902, Henry Rust sold his property to a group of local merchants who built a mercantile block on this Main St. property.



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American Brg. & Crystal Ice qt. bottle

American Brg. & CI quart bottle. Go to: BOTTLES

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
 

  • To brewery historian, Karen Johnson, of the Tumwater Foundation for correcting the misconception that Rust's Pacific Brewery was the genesis for American Brewing & Crystal Ice.

  • And to Tim Hoffman for the print of the "rabbit's funeral" by Fitz W. Guerin.
     

 

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