Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Co.

On March 2, 1883, Edward Francis Sweeney arrived from San Francisco with plans to start a brewing business in Seattle. Three mobths later he was joined by his partner, William Johnson Rule. It took a number of months but by the following September they had established a small, steam beer brewery south of Seattle, in what would become Georgetown. Sweeney had gained brewing experience in his home town of San Francisco at his uncle's Hibernia Brewery. Prior to that, Sweeney had apprenticed at the Fredericksburg Brewery of San Jose. (see Sweeney's biography). 

However, Rule & Sweeney's Puget Sound brewery had some tough, local competition from the long established Seattle Brewery, and the new Eagle Brewery, as well as, a number of San Francisco imports.


Puget Sound Brewery (1883-1888)

The partnership of Rule & Sweeney lasted less than a year. On March 1, 1884, the Daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported:

"The Puget Sound Brewery, built last summer near the race track by Messrs. Rule & Sweeney, two young men from California, is now the property of E. F. Sweeney, Mr. W. J. Rule having retired from the firm."

With Rule's departure, Sweeney became the majority shareholder, and the firm was renamed E. F. Sweeney & Co., operating as the Puget Sound Brewery. By 1888 the plant was more commonly known as the Sweeney Brewery, so they dropped the name Puget Sound.

Puget Sound Brewery ad c.1885 - image

Claussen-Sweeney Brewery (1888-1893)

On November 1, 1888, a new corporation was formed with the plant's brewmaster, Hans J. Claussen, joining Sweeney as a partner to establish the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company. The new firm was capitalized at $80,000 with Edward Sweeney as president, and Hans Claussen as secretary-treasurer. (See Claussen's biography).

The two men had worked together briefly in 1882, at the Fredericksburg Brewery in San Jose. In 1888, Claussen moved to Seattle to become Sweeney's brewmaster.

Claussen-Sweeney Brewery ca.1895

Late in 1889, an article appeared in Seattle Illustrated touting the newly formed "Clausen [sic] & Sweeney Brewing Co." and its product:

Claussen-Sweeney qt. beer bottle - image"About one year ago the above company was organized with Mr. Edward F. Sweeney president, and Mr. A. T. Clausen [sic] secretary and treasurer, both gentlemen in the time given evidenced to the people of Seattle their expertise and success in having now established a brewing company rivaling any in the east as far as excellence of its production is concerned.

Extensive improvements and enlargements are being made and the output will in short time be more than treble its present capacity. Corliss engines, ammonia refrigerators and the most complete brewing facilities are used. Over $140,000 have been invested in the very short time that they have been established, and it will not be long when this favorite coast brewery will be as well know in the east as locally."

Since 1875, brewers were not allowed to bottle their product on site, so when this rule was rescinded (effective Jan. 1, 1890), Sweeney and Claussen pre-emptively incorporated the Washington Ice & Bottling Co. in Sept. of 1889. Their retail ice plant and beer bottling works was located on the Grant St. Bridge, just north of the Bay View Brewery.

Claussen-Sweeney's Washington Bottling Works, c.1890
Claussen & Sweeney's Washington Ice & Bottling Co. ca.1890

Clussen-Sweeney beer bottle, slug plate - imageThe close-up shown here (left) is of a slug-plate for a half-pint beer bottle from the brewery's own bottling works. The green, quart bottle (above) is believed to have been manufactured in Germany - as were matching bottles from both the Bay View Brewery and the Victoria Brewing Co. of Victoria, B.C. 

Claussen Sweeney beer label, c.1900 - imageIn May of 1891, Hans Claussen decided to sell his interest in the brewing company to George F. Gund, in order to pursue other interests. Nearly ten years later, in March of 1901, Hans formed the Claussen Brewing Association. His Tannhaeuser Brewery was located at 3455 21st. Ave West, in Seattle. He chose the same style of label (at left) that he and Sweeney had adopted. (see his label for Tannhaeuser Beer)

In January of 1893, Sweeney's brewery joined Albert Braun's Brewing Assn. and Hemrich's Bay View Brewing Co. to form a new corporation - the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. (SBMCo). Andrew Hemrich became president; Albert Braun, vice-president; Fred Kirschner, treasurer; and Edward Sweeny, secretary.

By the end of 1893, the Claussen-Sweeny plant (as it was still called) was brewing a million gallons of beer a year, and it was said to be some of the best beer brewed on the West Coast. This plant was now the core facility for the newly formed brewing association.

By the turn of the century the Temperance movement had gained strength, and the brewers attempted to distance themselves from hard liquor by touting beer as a beverage of moderation (as seen in the ad below). However, the ploy ultimately failed since beer was deemed equally responsible for anti-social behavior.

Claussen-Sweeney ad, c.1890 - imageThe following excerpt was taken from a Temperance newspaper published by the Anti-Saloon League:

"What the Brewers Brew....
They brew crime of every sort. Sweep away the breweries and the distilleries, and you will secure municipal reform, banish the most prolific causes of poverty, insanity and crime, and clean the cities of most of their moral rottenness."

This view that brewers were responsible for society's ills must have also resonated with Sweeney's wife. In January 1906, E. F. Sweeney bowed to the moral imperative of Temperance (and the urgings of his wife) selling his holdings in SBMCo to the Hemrich brothers. The company was then restructured, with Andrew Hemrich remaining as president, and Louis assuming Sweeney's position of vice president and general manager.

The company's main plant was now referred to as the Sweeney Brewery, or the Georgetown plant by insiders. The company continued to enlarge the facility and to significantly increase its brewing capacity. However, with the imposition of Prohibition, all production ceased. The company relocated to San Francisco, dismantling and shipping much of the brewing equipment to their new Rainier Brewing Company.

There were plans to use the plant for commercial alcohol production, but ultimately it was only utilized for ice and cold storage. The brewery that, in 1915, was the sixth largest in the world and Washington's largest industrial complex would never be reopened.

Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., c.1914 - image


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