Salem Brewery Ass'n.
Sicks' Brewing Company (1943-1953)
The July 1878 Salem Business Directory stated:
Bill head for Mrs. Beck's Capital Brewery & Ice Works, ca.1901 - brewery close-up
Seraphin Beck died in early 1900, at which time
the partnership of Klinger & Beck was dissolved and the property sold at public
auction. Beck's widow, Margaret retained the property with a $29,000 bid.
She operated the Capital Brewery & Ice Works (see above) as a sole
proprietor until selling out on June 5, 1903, for the sum of $75,000.
Salem Brewery Association
Upon assuming control of the brewery placed these ads in the Capital Journal:
"As it takes some time to place our product in the market, and wishing to get started in business and in touch with the people of Salem and vicinity, we made arrangements to handle the Olympia and Bellingham brews, both so well and favorably known to the people of the Pacific Coast. Our prices will be the same as that of the local breweries, and the service we will endeavor to make satisfactory."
Leopold Schmidt invested heavily in equipment upgrades and increased the plants capacity. To supervise this new branch operation, Schmidt sent one of his most trusted associates, Frank M. Kenney, who had been Olympia's secretary. Kenney became the brewery president, with Frank Deckebach, vice-president. In late 1903 the plant improvements were completed.
Newspaper ad, 17 Oct. 1903
In 1906 the brewery's secretary was William
Schuldt, but with the startup of the
Brewing Company in 1907, Schuldt was sent to San Francisco to oversee that
operation as secretary/manager. Accompanying Schult was a young graduate of the
Wahl-Henius Brewing Institute,
J.P. Rettenmayer, who had been
with the firm for only four months. Kenney and Deckebach continued to manage the
plant until state-wide Prohibition closed the brewery in 1915.
Construction was started on a new brewhouse in 1910, followed by a
lagering (cellar) building, modern cooker, kettle and tanks. They also
added a larger bottling works.
etched glass, ca. 1905
1st tray - the "Green Salem"
etched glass, ca.1907
Their flagship brand remained Salem Beer, but in March of 1913, they introduced a new brand called Salamander Braü with a Germanic style label (right). This alludes to the drinking ritual of German university students called "rubbing the salamander." Drinkers of the day would have understood the reference, but here's an explanation from SCI Master Steinologist, John McGregor:
The German saying below "Salamander" in the ad above translates to: "Hops and Malt, may God preserve them." The saying below the image of the brewery translates to: "Good health and a happy disposition are better than much money and possessions."
It should be noted that the image of the brewery takes a bit of artistic license with reality. The back three rows of buildings were not part of the brewery - if they actually existed at all.
Unfortunately the Salamander brand didn't have a chance to gain a following since the voters of Salem voted in Prohibition measures that would soon cripple the Brewery.
About this time, Leopold's nephew, Paul Louis Schmidt (son of Leopold's younger brother Louis) became involved in the family business. He earned his Master Brewer's certificate at the Wahl-Henius Brewing Institute of Chicago in 1910. In October of 1913, he went to Salem, and soon assumed duties as brewer and superintendent of the brewery. His assistant brewmaster was Marcel Gehres, who also received his training in 1910 - from the same institute.
From the time brewery commenced production, the business was threatened by the era's crusade against alcoholic beverages. The primary adversaries were the Women's Christian Temperance Union and The Anti-Saloon League, both of which were gaining influence with lawmakers, and ultimately they triumphed.
The State Legislature had passed a "local option" bill that gave each municipality the right to limit saloon operations within their city limits. Unfortunately, the City of Salem adopted the "local option" and voted to go "Dry." Yet the brewery was not required to close, as beer could still be sold outside the city limits. However, on December 1, 1913, further restrictions were adopted by the city. The Association then moved its offices to Portland where warehouses were established, but in November of 1914, state-wide Prohibition was approved. The Salem Brewery Ass'n. ceased brewery operations on 31 May 1915, four and a half years before national Prohibition.
When Oregon's Prohibition was approved, Frank Deckebach and Kola Neis took steps to keep the plant running. They partitioned the ice works and cold storage facilities from the brewery to convert it to a creamery. The new operation was called the Marion Creamery & Produce Company. The rest of the plant was given over to the production of an altogether different kind of libation.
Northwest Fruit Products Company
After Repeal in April of 1933, the Salem Brewery Association re-incorporated, but no longer as a holding of the Olympia Brewing Company. However, it was purchased by a member of the Schmidt family. Leopold's second son, Frank T. Schmidt, along with Kola Neis and other local investors, raised the capital to start the brewery up again. Neis was president, with Schmidt as manager and head brewmaster. He earned his Master Brewer certification on 31 March, 1905, but chose to hire another brewmaster for the daily operations so that he might devote his time to the business end of the company.
The effects of the Depression were still being felt, and this was still a period of economic adversity, but the company managed to hang on as a regional brewer. In addition to his flagship Salem Beer (below), Frank produced a Schmidt's Salem Beer. Three variations of this label are known: the brown bear (below), a black bear, and a white bear - probably to differentiate three different styles of beer. However, he must not have marketed the Schmidt brand heavily since only a couple of old bottles are known to exist with these labels (one black bear & one white bear), nor are there any promotional items known that show the bear motif.
This scarcity may also due to the fact that the brand was not
widely distributed, and was no doubt gone by 1937. It was that year that Frank
Schmidt lost control of his brewery and returned to Tumwater. There he worked
in the Bottling Shop of his family's Olympia Brewery until his death in 1948. "When you opened a bottle it foamed over the top. The
cause was a damaged tank lining, we first patched then replaced it.
Because of that problem, sales had suffered markedly."
"When you opened a bottle it foamed over the top. The cause was a damaged tank lining, we first patched then replaced it. Because of that problem, sales had suffered markedly."
Even when problems are corrected, bad reputations are difficult to live down, and lost patrons rarely return.
After Schmidt's departure the new management attempted to generate additional business with some new products. In 1937 the steinie bottle was introduced and with it a new, more modern style label was adopted (below).
This half gallon version was introduced in 1942, to promote saving of the metal caps due to war time shortages.
In 1938 they
introduced both the Polar Brew and Victory Club brands of beer.
Six months following the
outbreak of WWII they added Victory Beer, but kept the Victory Club brand as
They also marketed a Yankee Beer for a short while. Another brand from this period was Balco Beer but rather than a Salem brand it was a contract brew for a market chain. They also made Columbia Club for a Portland beer distributor.
Supporting your local businesses apparently wasn't a concept at this time - as 82% of the beer consumed in Oregon was from out-of-state. Consequently, new management and a few new brands was not enough to gain market share on the imports, and the brewery remained in financial difficulties.
In August of 1938, San Francisco interests took over the
management of the brewery. This was the firm of Bauer & Schweitzer, a major
supplier for breweries, who were a majority creditor/investor in the brewery.
But their new president, Louis Lachman, was no more successful in getting the
business back on firm financial footing. Lachman was a hop broker, and no
doubt another creditor. In January of 1940, George Stackman announced the
withdrawal of the San Francisco backers and he assumed control of the firm.
Salem was also one of the few brewers who contracted to brew
Brown Derby for the Safeway market chain before WWII. They both canned and
bottled Brown Derby. See example of can in close-up (below) and with
other cans further below.
Another opportunity to increase Salem's production came in '42 from the Silver Springs Brewing Co. of Port Orchard, WA. Since Silver Springs didn't have a canning line they contracted with Salem to produce and can their Oldstyle Pale Export. This product was already in the Portland market, but only in bottles. An example of this rare can can be seen in the close-up (above) and again below. The arrangement was short lived since the Salem Brewery was soon to have new management.
The brewery struggled on, with the added burden of increased war time restrictions and rationing. Finally, in October 1943, the brewery was sold.
Salem Brewery Ass'n. ball tap knob
The new Salem branch was completely renovated, and repainted in silver and blue. Additionally, production improvements, in the form of new storage tanks, doubled its previous capacity, and a new bottling plant enabled filling 2000 cases per day. The modernized brewery then commenced production of the Sicks' Select brand of beer. This brand was also being produced for the Seattle market in the old Horluck Brewery, purchased by Sick in 1939, and renamed the Century Brewery.
Emil Sick and his father, managed their brewing empire out of Lethbridge, Alberta, and with the promise of Repeal, moved into the U.S. market. They first bought breweries in Great Falls and Missoula, Montana, then moved on to Washington state with Spokane, and Seattle. Now they had a presence in Oregon.
Floyd W. Shepard, of Lethbridge, received an offer from Emil to come to the U.S. and join them, which he did in November 1933. Floyd was then made co-manager of SeaBrew, and with the 1939 acquisition of the Horluck Brewery, manager of that plant as well.
With the 1943 purchase of the Oregon plant, Shepard moved his family to Salem and relieved Rene Besse as manager of the Sicks' Brewing Company. He occupied this position until December of 1951 when the company's board of directors promoted him to executive vice president of the firm. He was placed in charge of sales, with offices to be located in Portland.
Brewmaster, John A. Meyers was also involved in the initial phases of the Salem plant. Originally from Minneapolis, he moved to Canada as a boy. He later joined the Edmonton Brewery and worked there until 1942. That year he studied brewing at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, which was followed followed by a six month stint as asst. brewmaster at SeaBrew prior to assuming the duties of brewmaster in Salem.
In 1949, Steve A. Tabacchi replaced John A. Meyers as Salem's brewmaster. A native of Lethbridge, Steve had family connections with the Sicks' which enabled him to gain a position at SeaBrew when he emigrated in 1934. After completing the brewmaster course at the Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago in 1938, Steve returned to Seabrew as an assistant brewmaster, and nine years later was elected president of the Northwestern District of the Master Brewers Association of America.
Steve Tabacchi's assistant, William Weiss, also transferred from SeaBrew's Century plant. William was the youngest son of Hans H. Weiss, Seabrew's brewmaster at the main plant.
The graphics on the label above had been used since April of 1944, and in 1949 Emil Sick decided to give the label a new look. He hired Walter Landor of San Francisco, who came up with the design shown on the label below. It was introduced in July of '49.
This was Landor's first work with a beer label and it earned him a design award in '49. The following year Landor re-designed the famous, red "R" on the Rainier label. Landor went on to work on other brewer's labels and in '57 he he updated Lucky Lager's distinctive red "X" logo with stylized hop leaves.
In July of '51, Brew 66 was launched, and production commenced at both
the Century Brewery and the Salem brewery.
In July of '51, Brew 66 was launched, and production commenced at both
the Century Brewery and the Salem brewery.
On 22 July, 1953, the
Rainier Brewing Co. of SF was purchased by Emil Sick,
who then sold the plant to the Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. of MN,
retaining sole rights to the Rainier brand. He had been trying
acquire rights to the brand since his 1935 licensing agreement with
Rainier CEO, Louis Hemrich.
With the closing of the plant, Steve Tabacchi then established a Sicks' distributorship, marketing Brew 66, Rainier Beer, and the soon to be discontinued, Sicks' Select.
He was able to utilize the brewery buildings for his office and warehouse, however, in September 1955, a little more than two years after brewing was terminated, the four story Salem landmark was razed.
Sicks' Select and Brew 66 Breweriana
Sick's Select glass c.1940 - Go To: GLASSES
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