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.
But there was one San Francisco bottler in the early 1890s that chose profits over ethics.
While it's said that immitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Fredericksburg was not flattered and took legal action. the April 1894 issue of Pacific Wine and Spirit Review reported that the company had secured a perpetual injunction against W. Werdner, John Kruger and others, restraining them from using "Fredericksruhe" labels for beer, which were made to imitate the well-known "Fredericksburg."
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's San Jose Bottling Co., and then later, C. Maurer & Sons.
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, Nevada; Kalamath Falls, Ore. (below);
Postel & Schnerr, and later
C. Schnerr & Co., both in Sacramento, Cal. (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 Brewery of San Jose; the Hofburg Brewing Co. of West Berkeley; the Oakland Brewery, and Brooklyn Brewery, both of Oakland; the John Wieland Brewery, Pacific Brewery, Chicago Brewery, Milwaukee Brewery, United States 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 remaining three in the Syndicate lasted until Prohibition
the Fredericksburg Brewing Co., John Wieland Brewery, and the
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.
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 new company purchased the Fredericksburg brewery and malthouse, and in April of 1933, commenced operation as Pacific Brewing & Malting of San Jose - with Fredericksburg Beer as their flagship brand.
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.
Figural cap lifter with Presto-O-Lite key, Patd. 1911
Fredericksburg Brewing Co. rolled edge tin sign
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