Today’s beer blog extends a gesture of comraderie to rain-soaked Seattle, whose football team this year made it to the big game for the first time ever. Specifically we raise a glass to underappreciated Rainier lager:
You can read an interesting early history of the Rainier brand here. Production was started in 1873 by the Hemrich family, who in 1887 produced the first lager on the Puget Sound. In 1903 their plant consolidated with two other brewing companies to form the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, which has an interesting history of its own:
[I]n less that ten years this firm would grow to be the world’s sixth largest brewery and the largest on the west coast (as can be seen in the 1913 letterhead below). For a time, before Washington State introduced prohibition in 1916, the Georgetown brewery was the largest industrial establishment in the state of Washington.
In 1904, Georgetown incorporated — a “company town” safeguarding the business interests of its brewery. Company superintendent John Mueller was soon elected both mayor and fire chief. The number of taverns and roadhouses doubled, and by 1905 it required 25 horse teams to daily fill the Seattle appetite for Rainier Beer, the flagship label of the brewery. Production by then had reached 300,000 barrels per annum. The company now employed more than 300 men, and there was room to build worker homes beside the Duwamish River that then still curved through Georgetown.
The brand was licensed following prohibition and passed from family interests to the Strohs megalith and most recently to Pabst, which produces the other Seattle stalwart Olympia, and sadly its iconic freeway-side brewery with the giant red ‘R’ was lost when the plant closed in 2000 (more here). Fittingly, the plant now roasts coffee.
Here in Pittsburgh we don’t get many chances to try Seattle’s storied beer. Opinions vary among the
pinky-lifters refined tastes at Beer Advocate, no doubt boosted by nostalgia, but who needs them when you can score a review like this:
When state Fish and Wildlife agents recently found a black bear passed out on the lawn of Baker Lake Resort, there were some clues scattered nearby — dozens of empty cans of Rainier Beer.
The bear apparently got into campers’ coolers and used his claws and teeth to puncture the cans.
…Fish and Wildlife enforcement Sgt. Bill Heinck said the bear did try one can of Busch, but ignored the rest.
“He didn’t like that (Busch) and consumed, as near as we can tell, about 36 cans of Rainier.”
A wildlife agent tried to chase the bear from the campground, but the animal just climbed a tree to sleep it off for four hours. Agents finally herded the bear away, but it returned the next morning.
Agents then used a large, humane trap to capture it for relocation, baiting the trap with the usual: doughnuts, honey and, in this case, two open cans of Rainier. That did the trick.
More recent Seattle startups include the Redhook brewery, which I have found brews some quality stuff. No word yet on what bears think of it.