Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Hemrich

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Today is the birthday of Louis Hemrich (May 15, 1873-September 26, 1941). He was born in Wisconsin, and was the brother of Alvin M. Hemrich. Alvin bought the old Slorah Brewery in 1897 and operated it as the Alvin Hemrich Brewing Co. for six months, after which two of his brothers — Julius and Louis — joined him in the business and it became known as the Hemrich Brothers Brewing Co.

Louis-Hemrich

Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Louis Hemrich was born to John and Katherine Anna (Koeppel) Hemrich on May 15, 1873, although some records say May 20, 1872.

His father and brothers began operating breweries in Seattle in 1878. Louis began his career as a bookkeeper for Bay View Brewing in Seattle. By 1900 he was partnered with his brothers Senator Andrew Hemrich and Alvin Hemrich in owning and running the Hemrich Brother’s Brewing Co. and the brewing operations it controlled. It was successful enough to send his wife on a trip to Europe in 1902, and join her on trips to Europe and Hong Kong in 1907 and 1908. In 1914 he was President of the Brewers’ Association of the Northwest, and active in lobbying against prohibition of alcohol in Washington. When it passed, the breweries moved to California and British Columbia.

Louis was president of the family brewing company from 1910 until about 3 years before his death.
He married Lizzie Hanna on May 10, 1897 in Seattle, WA, and was widowed in Oct. of 1918. It appears they did not have children. He married Mrs. Maude Etta Engel before Dec. 1923.

Louis-Hemrich-cartoon

And here’s a fuller account of Hemrich from “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of the City of Seattle and County of King, Washington,” published in 1903:

A Biographical record of the representative men of Seattle and King county would be incomplete and unsatisfactory without a personal and somewhat detailed mention of those whose lives are interwoven so closely with the industrial activities of this section. In the subject of this review, who is secretary and treasurer of the Hemrich Brothers Brewing Company, we find a young man of that progressive, alert and discriminating type through which has been brought about the magnificent commercial and material development of the Pacific northwest, and it is with satisfaction that we here note the more salient points in his honorable and useful career.

Louis Hemrich was born in the town of Alma, Buffalo county, Wisconsin, on the 20th of May, 1872, a son of John and Catherine (Koeppel) Hemrich, the former of whom was born in Baden, Germany, and the latter in Bavaria. They came to America and resided in Wisconsin for a number of years, removing thence to Seattle when the subject of this sketch was a lad of about fourteen years, his rudimentary educational training having been secured in the public schools of his native state, while he continued his studies thereafter in the public schools of Seattle, where he prepared himself for college. At the age of eighteen years he matriculated in the University of Washington, where he completed a commercial course. After leaving school Mr. Hemrich took a position as bookkeeper for the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, where he remained for a period of three years and was then elected secretary and treasurer of the company, in which capacity he rendered most effective service for the ensuing two years. He then resigned this office and forthwith became associated with his brothers in the organization of the Hemrich Brothers Brewing Co., which was duly incorporated under the laws of the state. They erected a fine plant, where is produced a lager of the most excellent order, the purity, fine flavor and general attractiveness of the product giving it a high reputation, while the business is conducted upon the highest principles of honor and fidelity, so that its rapid expansion in scope and importance came as a natural sequel.

As a business man Mr. Hemrich has shown marked acumen and mature judgment, and his progressive ideas and his confidence in the future of his home city have been signalized by the investments which he has made in local realty and by the enterprise he has shown in the improving of his various properties. In 1901 he erected in the village of Ballard, a suburb of Seattle, a fine brick business block, located at the corner of First Avenue and Charles Street, and he has also erected a number of substantial business buildings in the city of Seattle, together with a number of dwellings. He is the owner of valuable timber lands in the state and has well selected realty in other towns and cities aside from those already mentioned. He has recently accumulated a tract of land on Beacon Hill, and this will be platted for residence purposed and is destined to become one of the most desirable sections of the city. Mr. Hemrich erected his own beautiful residence, one of the finest in the city, in 1901, the same being located on the southwest corner of Belmont Avenue and Republican Street. It is substantial and commodious, of effective architectural design, having the most modern equipments and accessories and is a home which would do credit to any metropolitan community.

While Mr. Hemrich takes an abiding interest in all that concerns the advancement and material upbuilding of his home city and state, he has never taken an active part in political affairs, maintaining an independent attitude in this regard and giving his support to men and measures. Fraternally he is a popular member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and he is most highly esteemed in both business and social circles. On the 20th of May, 1897, in the city of Seattle, Mr. Hemrich was united in marriage to Miss Eliza Hanna, daughter of Nicholas and Mary Hanna, who were numbered among the early settlers of this city, where Mrs. Hemrich was born and reared and where she has been prominent in the best social life.”

Hemrich-tray

To that, Gary Flynn on his great Brewery Gems continued his story:

Less than a year after the article was published, Elizabeth, his wife of 10 years suddenly died. And on 2 May, 1910, his brother, Andrew, president of Seattle Brewing & Malting – succumbed to an illness and passed away. Louis then assumed his brother’s position as president of the company and continued to oversee its phenomenal growth. By 1914 the brewery was the largest west of the Mississippi and 6th largest in the world. Additionally, it was the largest industrial enterprise in the state of Washington. But this too was to pass.

Unfortunately, statewide prohibition was approved by Washingtonians in late 1914. Breweries were given until the end of 1915 to liquidate their stock and terminate the production of alcoholic beverages. Some plants continued operating through production of near-beer and/or soft drinks. But Louis charted a new course for the House of Hemrich.

Rainier Beer had been marketed in California since the early 1890s, and had a strong customer base there. So, convinced that the whole nation would not make the same mistake as Washington state, the Hemrichs chose to build a new brewery in San Francisco.

The plan was was announced in March of 1915, and by October the plant was in operation. The Rainier Brewing Co. was new in name only. Louis Hemrich was president and the other officers, and many of the workers, were all from Seattle.

Success continued in California, but again Prohibition dealt a crippling blow to the enterprise. Beginning in 1920 the brewery was forced to adopt the production of malt beverages and soft drinks in order to keep the plant running.

Now Louis looked to Canada for a way to keep the House of Hemrich solvent. They purchased the old Imperial Brewery in Kamloops, B.C., and established the Rainier Brewing Company Ltd., Inc. in 1922. The hope was that Prohibition would not last, but by 1927 – with no hope of Repel any time soon – The Hemrich family tired of the Canadian venture and sold to a group of investors. This group became Coast Breweries, Ltd. in 1928, and retained rights to the Rainier brand in Canada.

In 1931, Louis, along with Joseph Goldie, formed an investment group who purchased the Georgetown plant in Seattle and the San Francisco plant from the estate of his brother Andrew Hemrich. When Prohibition finally ended, and the plant re-opened, Louis Hemrich was CEO, and Jos. Goldie, president. At this time they entered into negotiations with Emil Sick, who had leased the old Bay View plant, for the rights to market Rainier Beer in Washington and Alaska.

On July 4th, 1935 the merger of the Rainier Brewing Co. of San Francisco with the Century Brewing Association of Seattle was made public. The new corporation was named the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., and had Louis Hemrich as chairman of the board of directors, with Emil Sick, president.

In July 1938, Louis Hemrich retired from active involvement, but remained on the Rainier Brewing Co. board of directors. A little over three years later, on 26 September 1941, Louis succumbed after battling a three month illness. He was survived by his spouse, Etta Maude, and two daughters.

Seattle_-_Hemrich_Bro's_Brewing_Co_-_1900
Hemrich Brothers Brewing around 1900.

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