A Brewing Icon
The history of beer rarely surfaces in conversation when sharing a night out with friends. The contents of this bottle, a part of the Sitka History Museum’s collection, came to being in Seattle, Washington at the Bay View Brewery. Here we find its story.
In 1883 business partners, Andrew Hemrich and John Kopp, moved to the state of Washington from Montana and established a “steam beer” brewing operation in downtown Seattle. Making steam beer involves brewing lager yeast at warmer fermentation temperatures, giving it a fuller, richer taste. In their first year of business they produced 2,658 barrels of lager beer. The green bottle with its unique embossing became widely known in the United States, and the beer immensely popular.
Andrew’s father, John, joined the firm in 1884, followed by Andrew’s brother-in-law, Frederick Kirschner. Together, John and Frederick purchased Kopp’s share and changed the name to Bay View Brewing Company in 1885, with Hemrich and Co. as the firm name. The three men built a new plant, causing the production of lager beer to greatly increase. They were the first to bottle lager beer on the Puget Sound.
During 1893, the year of an economic depression, Bay View joined with the breweries of Albert Braun and Claussen-Sweeney as most of the other breweries in Washington closed down. This merger formed the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company. The brand name chosen for the corporation’s flagship beer was “Rainier.” Although they named the beer for the iconic mountain visible from the brewery, the beer became so popular that urban legend had the mountain named after the beer.
Bay View Brewery shifted its operation down to San Francisco in August of 1913, in anticipation of statewide prohibition in 1916. They enjoyed their brewing business there for a few years until the National Prohibition Act took effect on January 20, 1920.
Hemrich sold his plant to Bruce Montague and Manley Hershman, in hopes that they would put it to good use. It became known as Bay View Milling Co. When prohibition ended in 1933, a man named Emil Sick bought and reopened the Bay View Brewery as the Century Brewing Association. Over the next couple of years, Emil would reclaim the rights to Rainier Beer.
By: Elle J. Gray, Collections Intern
Date: February 2015