Reno Brewing Company (site)

“Reno need no longer send east for lager,” rejoiced one of the local papers upon the opening of the Reno Brewing Company in 1903. Located on the corner of E. 4th and Spokane Streets, the new company joined a number of existing breweries in Reno including the Buffalo Brewing Company, Riter’s Elite Steam Beer, and the Wieland Brewing Company.

The new business was founded by a trio of men in their thirties. Master brewer Jacob Hook had immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1886, while John Maurer and Peter Dohr were second-generation Germans originally from Wisconsin who moved to Reno from Montana. Their raw materials–corn, malt, and hops–were brought into town by rail, and an electricity-powered ice plant on the premises chilled the barrels in a vast refrigerator room.

By 1907 the successful company boasted a new five-story brick "annex" and produced three varieties of beer: Sierra Beer, Malt Rose, and Royal Lager. It was soon the largest brewery in the state, shipping its product from the nearby railroad tracks and delivering locally in the company’s signature trucks.

As the tee-totaling temperance movement gained momentum, the company began to promote its beer as a healthy, even medically beneficial, beverage. Unlike many of the state’s other breweries, which shut down permanently during Prohibition, the Reno Brewing Company sailed through by cleverly redirecting its equipment to manufacture near-beer, soda water, seltzers, tonics, and fruit-flavored soft drinks.

In the 1930s, the brewery began to produce a beer called One Sound State, a reference to Nevada’s campaign to entice prospective residents with its favorable tax climate. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, demand for the company’s beer soared higher than ever, and in 1940, the company constructed a new bottling plant next door, which still stands today. A 380-foot well provided direct access to the water used in production.

The beer business soon changed, however, as a few national brands like Anheuser Busch began to dominate the industry, squeezing out smaller producers. After entering into an ill-advised financial arrangement with eccentric local millionaire LeVere Redfield, the Reno Brewing Company was forced to stop brewing in 1957. The company’s assets were sold, and the building was acquired by Joseph Hobson of the Frontier Land & Cattle Co. The building was demolished in 1959, reportedly to make way for a projected casino that was never built.

Images

Artist's depiction, 1910

Artist's depiction, 1910

A painting of the Reno Brewing Company, ca. 1910, looking southwest across Fourth Street, depicts an early three-story section on the building's east side, which was constructed of wood with a brick veneer. The four-story section to the right (the building's west side) was constructed completely of brick and was the only section of the building retained in a later expansion. Image courtesy of Nevada State Museum, Carson City View File Details Page

Early deliveries

Early deliveries

Workers stand with one of the company's earliest delivery trucks. Advertisements stated, "An order to phone 581 will bring you promptly a case of pints or quarts, as you desire." Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Reno Brewing Co., 1917

Reno Brewing Co., 1917

An advertisement in the Nevada Newsletter and Advertiser shows the all-brick structure that replaced the earlier brick-veneered wooden frame. Behind the offices on the building's east side was the barrel washing room. The center part of the structure was used for beer storage. The tallest section on the west side housed, from top to bottom, the grinding mill and cold water tank; grain storage and the malt hopper; the mash tub; the beer kettle and rice cooker; and the beer cooler and malt conveyer. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

"Clearer eyes and rosier cheeks"

"Clearer eyes and rosier cheeks"

A March 1917 advertisement in the Nevada Newsletter and Advertiser touted the purported health benefits of the Reno Brewing Company's Sierra and Royal Beers. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

New Style Lager

New Style Lager

During Prohibition, the Reno Brewing Company produced New Style Lager, advertised as "yeast in liquid form" and advertised here in the 1932 edition of the University of Nevada, Reno yearbook, Artemisia. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Lou Allard, 1930s

Lou Allard, 1930s

Lou Allard began working as a delivery man for the Reno Brewing Company in the mid-1930s and later moved into sales. He met his future wife, Dorothy Radcliffe, at the brewery, where she worked in accounting. Image courtesy of Lou Allard View File Details Page

"Buy Better Beer"

"Buy Better Beer"

Reno Brewing Company employees stand outside the brewery building, under one of the company's best-known slogans from the 1930s. Image courtesy of Lou Allard View File Details Page

"Rough It The Smooth Way!"

"Rough It The Smooth Way!"

Students ham it up in an advertisement for Sierra Beer, published in the 1942 Artemisia, the yearbook of the University of Nevada, Reno. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

New bottling plant

New bottling plant

With the construction of the Reno Brewing Company's new adjacent bottling plant building in 1940 (in the foreground), the company was able to further expand production, which continued in the older building. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Final cooking process, 1950s

Final cooking process, 1950s

Here, the brewmaster is shown overseeing the final cooking process, which was very carefully controlled by the brewmaster as it was the final step in the many hours of blending, filtering, and temperature control. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Monitoring temperature, 1950s

Monitoring temperature, 1950s

The final cooking of blended and filtered ingredients was accomplished with steam, and the temperature was closely checked, as shown in this photograph from the 1950s. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Sierra Beer

Sierra Beer

An undated photo, ca. 1940s, shows the Reno Brewing Company's main building and bottling plant in their prime. Note the Richfield gasoline station in the foreground. View File Details Page

Street Address:

990 East 4th Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Alicia Barber, “Reno Brewing Company (site),” Reno Historical, accessed May 1, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/83.

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