Thursday, November 4, 2010

General Brewing Corporation

I've been bicycling through the intersection of NW 14th and Johnson pretty regularly for the last few months, but now that the leaves are off the trees, I finally noticed this old sign painted on the top of the building at 13th and Kearney: General Brewing Corporation. Were there Brewery Blocks in this part of the Pearl before Bridgeport?

A little googling led me to this article about Lucky Lager, which was the star brand of General Brewing. At one time it was the best-selling beer on the west coast. The Lucky Labrador has been dabbling in lagers, they should definitely jump on that name (oops -- guess not: commenters point out that Labatt's still sells Lucky Lager). [Update: I took a better picture of the sign from across the street: you can see lower down some faded block letters that read "LUCKY LAGER", especially if you click on it to see it full-size.]

General Brewing was founded in San Francisco in 1933. I can't find any mention of them brewing in Portland, though they bought Vancouver's Star Brewery in 1939. They changed their name to Lucky Lager Brewing Co. in 1949, so this sign probably went up sometime between 1939 and 1949. Since they didn't brew here, maybe that building was a warehouse or sales office for them, or maybe the sign is just an advertisement.

That article on Star is an interesting read: we always think of Henry Weinhard when we think of old-timey Portland-area beer, but it looks like the Star plant was a pretty good-sized operation itself. I like the 1890 ad for Star that boasts that it's "brewed exclusively from Oregon Barley and Oregon Hops"-- even then the 'Couve had an inferiority complex.

Kind of cool that the General Brewing sign survived to see the beer renaissance in its neighborhood. I hope it can be preserved into the future.

[Later: I just stumbled on this blog Portland Building Ads that has a much better picture of the General Brewing Sign.]


  1. Wasn't Lucky Lager the beer that had puzzles on the underside of the bottle cap? I remember those from childhood (sitting on Dad's lap while had had the beer, and I got the puzzle).

  2. Tracy: Yep, they had rebus puzzles, that's what I read on Wikipedia (or maybe in the BreweryGems article).

    That may have been sort of a common thing, though. Pearl stubbies in Texas had the same thing, at least in the 90's.

  3. Luck Lager is still brewed in Canada by Labatts.

    It is a Vancouver Island favorite, no more stubbies though.

  4. Thanks, Wallace. Thought it sounded familiar. Maybe I've even seen it at John's?

  5. I remember Lucky Lager well...not fondly. Many a drunken teenage party was supplied with the cheap watery nasty beverage of Lucky Lager. Parties with bargain bin thrifty Tony's frozen Pizzas, boxes of days old Hostess pastries and Big Bucket of greasy KFC!

    Do we really need to maintain any memory or icons for that swill?

    I'm having mental images of a Giant Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull statue outside of run down playground where dirty little trailer trash children play and bums urinate on themselves while sitting on a park bench. Gang-bangers and hoodlums sell drugs to the elementary school kids while hiding behind a dead tree.

    Ah yea... Cheap beer and Malt Liquor paint some scary memories in my mind.

  6. Ah, c'mon, Doc. Where's your nostalgia for the days when a man could send one of his five young children over to the brewery with a buffalo nickel to bring him back a tin pail full of fresh local beer?

  7. Nice post as usual Bill. I'm very much interested in local beer history. Check out this video I ran across. It mentions Lucky Larger about a minute into it after the Blitz to ad from 1960. Kind of funny really!