General Brewing Co., SF ltrhd - image 

History of the Lucky Lager Breweries (1933-1985)

San Francisco, CA (1933-1978)
Vancouver, WA
Azusa, CA  (1949-1966)
Salt Lake City, UT (1957-1967)

The first Lucky Lager brewery was established by the General Brewing Corporation of San Francisco on 31 August, 1933. Their business office was located at 369 Pine St. in downtown San Francisco. This was also the office of Walter George Filer, one of the founders and first Chairman of the Board of Directors. The Articles of Incorporation list three individuals who were officers of Consolidated Beverages, Inc., and they, plus the other three original incorporators, remained as company Directors well into the '50s.

The plant was being built in the Bayview neighborhood of So. San Francisco, near Hunter's Point, at 2601 Newhall Street.

Lucky Lager Brewery c.1934
Lucky Lager Brewery, ca.1934

Construction was completed in early March of '34, and brewing commenced. On June 4th, after three months of aging (or lagering), the first draught beer was ready for consumption on draught (draft). The bottling line was not ready by then, so the first Lucky Lager in bottles did not hit the market until the 6th of July, 1934.

Given time for aging, the May 10th label shown here would have been on a bottle sold in August - the second month of packaged sales.Lucky Lager beer label May 1934 - image

Early in '34, and actually when the company was first established, General Brewing Corp. was controlled by Coast Breweries, Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. Yet the Canadian owners did not install their own management team, and let the local share holders run the company. However, as major owners of the brand, Coast Breweries introduced Lucky Lager in British Columbia in Dec. of 1934.

General Brewing Corp's first officers were: Paul C. von Gontard, pres.; Eugene S. Selvage, sec-treas.; and Julius Kerber, brewmaster. Kerber was a graduate of three brewery colleges in Germany and a resident of the U.S. since 1900. For six and one-half years he was head brewmaster and production supervisor for the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co.  During Prohibition he was president and brewmaster of the Northwest Brewing Co. of Edmonton, Alberta.

The company's president, Baron Paul von Gontard, was the grandson of Adolphus Busch, and was no doubt given the title of president to add prestige to to the company's masthead, since he wasn't a stockholder (however he was a stockholder in Coast Breweries, Ltd.). His Anheuser-Busch connection was touted, and greatly helped promote the new enterprise. In fact Budweiser published a letter in the major Bay Area newspapers stating that while Paul von Gontard was related to the Busch family, there was no connection between the General Brewing Corp. and Anheuser-Busch - as had been rumored, nor was von Gontard a representative, or an employee of A-B. What he was was a big game hunter, polo player, and bon vivant!

However, von Gontard only held the title of president for a little more than a year. By late '35 he had been replaced by their brewmaster, Kerber. Von Gontard relocated to Albuquerque, NM in 1937. In May of that year he raised money to purchase the struggling start-up, Southwestern Brewery Co., and with the help of brewmaster, Max Leischner, opened the plant as the Rio Grande Brewing Co. By May of '39, the company was bankrupt. Apparently the Baron was more of a socialite than a businessman.

Julius Kerber's tenure as president and general manager was also brief. In January of 1936, after less than a year in the leadership position, he unexpectedly died.  The company's secretary/treasurer, Eugene S. Selvage, now became president of the company. He would occupy this position for twenty five years.

On the 7th of Jan., 1949, General Brewing Corporation's Board of Directors voted to change the name of the company to the Lucky Lager Brewing Co.

After WWII, Lucky Lager became the best selling beer in California, so the company decided to build a plant in southern California. They found a suitable site in the small town of Azusa, and by May of '49 the new plant commenced brewing.

Lucky Lager of Vancouver

Interstate Brewing Co. Vancouver, WA ltrhd - image

Lucky Lager of Vancouver, WA (1939-1985)

Another brewery belonging to the Lucky Lager group was the Star Brewery Co. of Vancouver, WA. It had operated prior to Prohibition, but was late in getting started upon Repeal in April of '33. Their first offering was full strength "Hop Gold" beer on 5 Dec. 1933.

Early in '34, Coast Breweries, Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. entered the U.S. beer market by purchasing a major interest in both the General Brewing Corp. of San Francisco, and the Star Brewery. Both of these breweries were allowed to operate independently and the Vancouver plant chose to reintroduce Hop Gold - a popular brand prior to Prohibition. However, the Canadians added "Silver Springs" to the line-up, a brand from its Victoria plant in B.C. I'm sure the Silver Springs Brewing Co. of Port Orchard, WA was not pleased with this move.

In early 1939, the company reorganized as the Interstate Brewery Co., and at this point became General Brewing Company's Northern Branch with distribution in WA, OR, ID, MT, and Alaska, relieving the San Francisco branch of shipping Lucky Lager north. On 3 Sept. 1939, after three months of ageing, the first batch of Lucky Lager went on sale, along with it's Bankers Ale (see letterhead above). The brewery also continued producing the plant's flag ship, Hop Gold Beer.

However, their Bankers Ale wasn't warmly received and was discontinued at the end of 1941, but 18 years later it was to be re-introduced. Hop Gold didn't fare well either. It didn't even survive to the end of '40.

In Oct. 1950 the plant was re-named the Lucky Lager Brewing Co. in keeping with the corporate name change. It would become the longest running plant to brew Lucky Lager, closing in 1985.

For a more in depth look at this Vancouver brewing company, and its predecessors, see: Star Brewery.


Lucky Lager neon sign

Lucky Lager of Azusa (1949-1966)

Lucky Lager plant in Azusa, CaBy the late '40s, Lucky Lager was leading the state in sales. They had surpassed the former top selling Acme Beer in part due to the poor reputation earned by Acme due to "skunky" beer sent to the troops during the war in the Pacific.

Rather than shipping increasing amounts of beer to the growing population of Southern California, the company chose to build a plant there. They found a 37 acre walnut orchard on the outskirts of Azusa, 25 mi. east of Los Angeles, that proved a suitable site. Construction was completed in May of '49, and by August the first Lucky Lager brewed in So. California was on sale.

The Azusa plant would serve the Southern Division, handling sales to Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. 

Lucky Lager's Azusa plant ca.1960
Lucky Lager's Azusa plant ca.1960


Lucky Lager of Salt Lake City, UT

Lucky Lager Brewery, Salt Lake City
Lucky Lager Brewery, Salt Lake City ca.1957



Thre styles of early Lucky Lager beer glasses.
early Lucky Lager glasses


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  • Thanks to Jeff Henry for the General Brewing & Interstate Brewing letterheads.


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