Today is the birthday of Jacob Paul Rettenmayer (June 29, 1881-February 24, 1937). He was born in Ellwanger, Württenberg, Germany, and came to the U.S. when he was 20, in 1901. He settled on the West Coast, and bounced back and forth between California and Washington, working at various breweries. He eventually settled in San Francisco, helping to start Acme Brewery, becoming its first brewmaster and president. His little brother Franz, or Frank, Rettenmayer became brewmaster a few years later, and JP opened a second Acme brewery in Los Angeles. Just before, and during, prohibition he diversified into several other businesses.
This biography was written by Rettenmayer himself later in his life, as reprinted on Gary Flynn’s Brewery Gems:
“Served apprenticeship as Brewer and Maltster at the plants of Minneapolis Brewing Company, Minneapolis Minnesota, under Mr. Armin L. Neubert who was then Master Brewer and superintendent of that company. Upon the completion of my apprenticeship I worked in that plant for six months as a journeyman, and then went to Los Angeles where I found employment with the Los Angeles Brewing Company. I worked in various departments of that plant for six months and then secured employment at the plant of Maier and Zobelein. I was employed by that firm from 1903 to 1905 when I left to attend Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago. The course I took was the first six months duration and the first course given in the new Institute building. I was the honor graduate with a record of 99 in thirteen studies. Upon the completion of my course I returned to Maier and Zobelein in Los Angeles, remaining there until July 1, 1906.
Upon obtaining my citizen papers in Los Angeles I went to Tacoma, Washington where I was employed by the Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. for a period of six weeks. Mr. Peter G. Schmidt, now President of the Olympia Brewing Company, invited me to go to Salem and I was affiliated with Salem Brewery Association for a period of four months. In the meantime the late Leopold M. Schmidt returned from Europe and he asked me to go to San Francisco to become associated with him in the Acme Brewing Company. Upon the organization of that company I became vice-president and a year later was elected to the presidency. I served in that capacity, as well as Master Brewer, from 1907 to 1917, when the Acme Brewing Company merged with five other breweries under the name California Brewing Association. I was elected President and General Manager of the consolidated enterprise and served until the advent of prohibition. Before the formation of California Brewing Association I was instrumental in organizing the Cereal Products Refining Corporation and planned and developed the syrup and compressed yeast business to the manufacture of which a part of the plant of California Brewing Association was converted.
In the latter part of 1924 I turned in my resignation as president and General Manager of California Brewing Association and its affiliated enterprises to engage in other activities. In the Fall of 1934 Mr. Armin K. Neubert prevailed upon me to become associated with Salinas Brewing & Ice Company and on the first of December, 1934 I assumed the position of General Manager of the enterprise. In October of 1935, in cooperation with Armin K. Neubert, Mr. Wm. Voss, and others associated with us, we acquired the interests of Mr. Armin L. Neubert. Upon the consummation of the deal Mr. Armin L. Neubert resigned as president of Salinas Brewing and I succeeded him in that capacity.”
Rettenmayer appears to have been quite active in the U.S. Brewers Association and digests are filled with his committee reports and other mentions.
J.P. is somewhere in the two halves of this photograph taken on September 30, 1915, at the German House in San Francisco during the 27th annual convention of the Master Brewers Association.
This is his obituary from the San Francisco Examiner February 25, 1937, detailing his rather unusual passing.