August Lang porcelain stopper

 Fredericksburg Bottling Co.

August Lang Brewing Association

Fredericksburg porcelain stopper

This is not only a history of two pre-prohibition breweries, but also a chronicle of a great beer bottling company that eventually got into the brewing business - with the take over the Red Lion Brewing Co., and formation of the Aug. Lang Brewing Assn.

While August Joseph Lang became the driving force behind his namesake brewing association, his success was through the partnership with his brothers in building one of the largest bottling plants in San Francisco. August, along with his brothers, Otto, Adolph, Leonhard, and Wilhelm are discussed in more detail in August's biography.

Lang Bros.

Philadelphia Beer bottle c.1882The bottling dynasty began with Otto and Adolph Lang's 1880 establishment of the Lang Bros. bottling works at 1406 Polk St. in San Francisco. They were fortunate to contract with John Wieland to bottle beer from his Philadelphia Brewery. The Lang Bros. were then doing business as (dba) the Philadelphia Bottling Co. (example bottle at right)

Finding the dates of the Lang's business activities in the 1880s is sketchy, since about all there is to go on are the City Directories. In 1884 they moved to 1318 Scott St., where they continued bottling, but didn't have an exclusive for "Philadelphia Beer." The directory also lists Jacob Denzler as an agent and bottler for the Wieland's Philadelphia Brewery.

In 1885, Leonhard is with another bottler, but in 1886 he's back with brothers, Otto and August, and they are now bottling beer for the Fredericksburg Brewery at their Scott St. works. The brewery's local agency also contracted with the Postel Brothers (Arnold & Rudolph) at 919 Dolores St., to bottle Fredericksburg beer, but the following year the Lang Bros. were the "sole bottlers of Fredericksburg's Export Lager Beer."

The following year Adolph left the family business to establish Lang & Hall, another San Francisco bottling works at 1818 Ellis St., and he continued with a number of ventures, the largest of which was the National Bottling Works for the Hansen's National Brewing Co., located at 524 Fulton St., also in S.F.

Fredericksburg Bottling Co.

Fredericksburg Bottling Co. label
Fredericksburg Bottling Co. label ca.1892

Fredericksburg Bottling article c.1899

As mentioned in the article above, the Lang Brothers' bottling works was dba the Fredericksburg Bottling Co. (FBCo), but not until 1892. In 1890, a minority interest in the company shifted to San Francisco Breweries, Ltd., when the syndicate purchased the Fredericksburg Brewery, as well as nine other area breweries. However, it wasn't until November of 1892 that FBCo was incorporated, with capital of $100,000 - with the majority of shares in the company was still owned by Lang Bros. The first year that Fredericksburg Bottling Company's name appears in the San Francisco City Directory is for the 1893 issue.

Fredericksburg Bottling Co. c.1905
Fredericksburg Bottling Co. ca.1905

As can be seen in the photo above, the plant was like an old world castle. The architecture was inspired by the same elements employed by their namesake brewery in San Jose. The brothers were quite proud of the structure and thought of it as one of the sights to see in San Francisco,  on par with the Cliff House and the City Hall. And they had postcards made to illustrate their point!

San Francisco postcard c.1900

For the twenty year period, from 1886 to 1906, Lang Bros. saw their business grow in size and importance as bottlers for the Fredericksburg Brewery, and as mentioned in the 1899 article above, they were bottling the Brewery's Export Lager, Extra Pale, Culmbacher, and Private Stock, in quarts, pints, and half-pints. The porcelain, or ceramic Hutter closure (called patent stoppers by the trade) is shown on the clear, half pint bottle (below). This stopper had the added advantage of being able to display the company's logo, as shown at the top of the page.

1900 ad for Fredericksburg bottled lager beer
1900 ad for Fredericksburg bottled Lager

Fredericksburg quart, pint & half-pint beer bottles
Fredericksburg Bottling Co. bottles

The San Francisco fire and earthquake on April 18, 1906, had a serious effect on the city's breweries and bottlers, with many plants severely damaged or lost entirely. By 1899, S. F. Breweries, Ltd. had liquidated four of its ten breweries, and with the '06 earthquake, three more were lost - including the Lang Bros. plant on Ellis St.

Another change was introduced in the aftermath of the earthquake. The Beer Bottlers Board of Trade was incorporated in June of 1906, and part of their charter was to bottle using only crown cap closures, and to use plain, labeled bottles. While the change was not immediate, 1906 was the beginning of the end for the embossed, blob top bottle, with the wire bail and ceramic stopper. The following year the bottlers decreed that from the June 2nd, 1907, only steam beer and porter would utilize the patent stopper. 

August Lang & Company

As stated in August Lang's biography, after the earthquake and fire of 1906, he bought out brothers, Otto and Leonhard, to form August Lang & Co. He then built a bigger and better bottling works at 18th and Alabama Streets, which covered one square block. While company was still the primary bottler for the Fredericksburg Brewery, it now added their own brand of beer to bottle and distribute. It was called Tivoli Lager and it was made for them by Fredericksburg. It first went on sale on November 7, 1908. 

Tivoli Lager beer ad Nov. 1908

As can be seen in the last line of ad (above), the company had a promotion that gave away a miniature tray, bottle and stein. The collectibles shown here were the three items offered.

Tivoli Lager tip tray
4¼" dia. miniature beer tray

Tivoli Lager mini beer bottle
5¼" tall, mini beer

Tivoli Lager mini stein
3½" tall, miniature stein depicting
 "Little Miss Riding Hood"

August Lang's new bottling works had the capacity to handle more than just the Fredericksburg Brewery account, and their own Tivoli Beer line. The company also acted as agents for Cooks Spring Mineral Water, and beginning in 1906, they were bottling for a San Francisco brewer whose business was to play a part in the company's future.

Red Lion Brewery

In 1888, Jacob Stuber and Albert Weikert, established a small weiss beer brewery at the corner of Baker & Geary Sts., and operated as Stuber, Weikert & Co. After three years they expanded and called their plant the San Francisco Weiss Beer Brewery, but it didn't appear in the City Directory by that name until 1891. It was a modest brewery, yet it provided a steady income for its owners, brewing weiss beer for the German community.

Red Lion Brewery pint bottle, ca.1904In 1898, Weikert left the business and Stuber offered long time employee, Joseph Rohrer, an opportunity to buy into the company, becoming J. Stuber & Co. However, Rohrer left after only a few years, and in July of 1903, Charles W. Lentz became a principal in the company. He convinced Stuber to drop the weiss beer in favor of the more popular stout, porter and ale. The company then re-organized as the Red Lion Brewery.

The brewery survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, but Lentz left for other endeavors. While the brewery survived the disaster, their bottling works did not, and August Lang & Co. became their new bottler. The pint bottle shown here is pre-earthquake, ca.1904.

The 91 year old, Stuber struggled on as a sole proprietorship and was hoping to retire. In December of 1907, he sold controlling interest to Alfred Goscinsky, and Paul Hartman, but the new investors, for some reason, planned to drop the brewing of beer in favor of bottling for other brewers. The 1907 City Directory lists Gasinsky & Hartman, at Barker & Geary, under Beer Bottlers, and there's no listing for the Red Lion Brewery. Their plans to restore their bottling works must have failed since Red Lion brews were again bottled by Lang the following year, and there's no mention of a bottling works. 

The company of Gascinsky & Hartman lasted only one year and Stuber found himself taking the plant back in 1908, and again looking for a new buyer. He was successful in finding new investors in the persons of Morris Rotheschild, proprietor of the Hotel Nile, and Bernard Davidow, a real estate broker. In January of 1909, the new principals re-named the brewery the Red Lion Ale & Porter Brewing Co., and resumed brewing.

stein ca.1910 showing plant and crown top bottles

Apparently Rotheschild & Davidow were no better at keeping Stuber's enterprise in the black. August Lang & Co. had been bottling Red Lion products since 1906, and was still a major creditor. With the brewery facing bankruptcy, August Lang exchanged the debt for an interest in the brewery, just to keep it operating, and prevent a major loss to his company. By November of 1910, Aug. Lang & Co. had control of the Brewery, and a 20 year old, August "Guss" Lang, Jr. was the plant manager. Also, Jacob Stuber (now age 94) is assisting the young brewer in the production of their popular Red Lion Stout. Stuber is also rooming with Guss at the Lang family residence on Steiner St.

August Lang Brewing Association

At the beginning of 1911, Aug. Lang & Co. is still bottling their Tivoli Lager, Red Lion Ale, and Red Lion Porter, plus their best selling Red Lion Stout. In September of 1911, Lang assumed controlling interest in the Red Lion Brewery and re-organized it as the August Lang Brewing Association. Three months later, the Swiss brewer, Jacob Stuber, died at the age of 95.

Now August Lang, and his sons, Guss and Rudolph (Rudy) are charged with revitalizing their newly acquired brewery. Given the overwhelming popularity of lager, the Langs chose to drop the ale, porter and stout. The plant was then refitted as a lager brewing plant which required fermentation at colder temperatures than the top fermenting ales. On May 6th of 1912, their first batch of lager beer was aged, bottled and distributed to retailers. With the introduction of Red Lion Lager they discontinued their competing, Tivoli Lager.

Red Lion Beer ad, June 1912


Red Lion Lager miniature bottle
5¼" tall, mini beer

The bottle shown above, is a miniature that was given out as a promotional item and as a souvenir of brewery tours. The full size bottles had crown caps instead of being cork finished like the miniatures.

The same month that Lang's Red Lion Lager went on sale, S. F. Breweries, Ltd. announced in local newspapers that "Fredericksburg Beer - is now bottled by the brewery." This would indicate that August Lang sold their interest in the bottling plant to Fredericksburg's parent company. Now the Langs could concentrate their efforts entirely on producing and marketing Red Lion Lager.

The Fredericksburg Bottling Co. remained in the City Directories up to, and including the 1918 edition. San Jose had voted the city dry and the brewery closed in September of that year.

The Aug. Lang Brewing Assn. now (May 1912) had a brewery, but no bottling, storage or distribution facilities.  Consequently, they established the Red Lion Beer Depot, located at the corner of Harrison & Mariposa Sts., which also housed their general offices. Advertisements similar to the one (below) were published throughout 1912. The last ad to appear was in November of that year, with none in 1913.

Red Lion Beer Depot ad, ca.1912

The City Directory for 1913 listed the Aug. Lang Brewing Assn. at the Harrison & Mariposa Sts., along with the Red Lion Depot, rather than at the brewery's Baker & Geary Sts. location. This would indicate that the brewery had closed in late 1912, but that the bottling works was still in operation, however - not for long. The 1914 City Directory listed it as the Red Lion Beer Co., and the following year it became the Red Lion Beer Agency, but at 612 Alabama St., which was the address for Oakland Brewing & Malting's S.F. agent.

The move into brewing did not meet expectations, and after 30 years in the bottling business, August Lang contemplated his future. The need for bottlers was shrinking as more and more breweries installed their own bottling lines, and the Prohibition movement was making serious inroads, threatening the entire brewing industry. So, in late 1913, he made a fortunate choice in opening Lang & Co. - a real estate & insurance office at 525 Calif. St., San Francisco. This was the beginning of a successful, family business that continues to this day.

Aug. Lang & Fredericksburg Bottling Breweriana

Aug. Lang tip tray Fredericksburg Bottled Beer
4¼" diameter tip tray, marked
"Aug. Lang  San Francisco"

Tivoli Select Lager beer stein - Hunter
Tivoli-A-Select Lager, ¼L stein
made in Germany by J.W. Remy

Fredericksburg Bottling print, ca.1905
print, ca.1895-1905


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  • Special thanks to August Lang's great-grandson, Duke Lang, for the great images, and family biography - Auld Lang Syne.

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