Acme, The Once and Future Beer
While cleaning out my garage (read: shifting around boxes that I haven’t opened in 10 years and three moves), I came across this rather awesome bottle cap jammed in a truss:
While the font seemed relative fresh, it had a cork and foil liner, so I figured it was not that new.
I did a little historical digging (big surprise, I know) and it looks like my bottle cap dates from the mid to late 1930s, right after Prohibition ended.
(Note to historical hunters — bottle caps are called “crowns”. You’d think Bert would have taught us this important fact. (And sorry if you’re going all Ernie on this post.))
Acme was a transplant brewery from Seattle. Not many breweries made it through the 1906 earthquake and fire, and millions of dollars of beer were shipped from Seattle and bottled here. Within a year, the Olympia brewery converted the bottling plant into a full brewery, and Acme was born. (Brewery Gems has lots on Acme Brewing in SF from the first half of the 20th century.)
(April 11, 1907, via SFPL’s Chronicle archive)
Acme was located at the foot of Telegraph hill, on 1401 Sansome (between Greenwich & Lombard).
In the 1920s, Several breweries merged to form the California Brewing Association (including several in the Mission) but only Sansome St and the National Brewery at Fulton and Webster were kept open. (Sansome St was sold off in 1929). They survived Prohibition by making Acme Light “near beer” with 0.5% alcohol (along with vinegar and syrup) but ramped back up after the 1933 Repeal.
Side note: Acme sure had it going on when it came to fonts. Some 1933 shots:
(1933, Repeal, via North Coast Brewing)
(1933, delivery truck, via SFPL)
Acme started advertising “real” beer before Prohibition officially ended and got a significant leg up on the competition. It served them well in the beginning:
via Brewery Gems:
After Repeal Acme Breweries built a new bottling plant adjacent to the old National site at Fulton & Webster. The new plant was described by architects and designers as “one of the worlds most beautiful industrial buildings.”
The Fulton plant had a rather nice view of City Hall (via North Coast Brewing)
Alas, Acme’s streamlined plant wasn’t built until 1941, so my 30s-era bottle cap came from more humble origins on Webster between Fulton and Grove.
After the war, Acme Brewing struggled to compete against the national breweries but didn’t make it. The SF plant was sold in 1954 to an East Coast company attempting to go national, but the site was closed in 1958, and our sleek building was torn down in 1968 (SFPL):
The Acme brand survived however, and has popped up as a contract beer every decade for the past 40 years. Today, Fort Bragg’s North Coast Brewing (e.g. Red Seal, Brother Thelonius) owns the rights and makes an Acme IPA and Pale Ale (which I am certain taste far better than what was once under my 75 year old bottle cap).
They also have an Acme museum. Hooray! Drink Acme, the once and future beer!
I am going to thoroughly confuse future owners of my house by jamming new Acme bottle caps beside the old one in that same truss.