Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Brewsday - Acme California Ales


What we consider our cornerstone post, Tuesday Brewsday, is back. I'm sure your taste buds are as anxious as mine are to find out what wonderful fermented beverage we bring to you next. This week we head up the California coast to Fort Bragg, CA all the way in Mendocino County just north of San Francisco. There we find the North Coast Brewing Company quietly nestled near the Pacific Ocean. 

Now you may be asking yourself, "Why is he talking about North Coast Brewing when it's an Acme beer?" Well, I'd say, great question! North Coast Brewing Company makes the beer but the name harks back to another notable brewing company from the San Francisco Bay Area.

You see, Acme Brewing Company did exist from 1906-1954 during a time in which almost every American city had a local production brewery. Acme had humble beginnings as a branch of the Washington-state based Olympia Brewing Company (OBC) after the Great Earthquake of 1906 destroyed almost all of San Francisco and left it with next to no operating breweries. Immediately after the quake there were $1 million dollar orders for large shipments of beer to the Bay Area to supply their growing need. OBC looked to fill the void.

Olympia had already established the Olympia Beer Company in SF as a bottler and distributor for California, Nevada and Arizona so they needed a name other than Olympia to start their new SF-based business. Eventually they moved their bottling enterprise elsewhere to allow the erection of a proper brewery on the site of the former bottling company. The Acme Brewing Company was established officially on April 11th, 1907, some one-hundred and three years ago. 

While in full operation the Acme Brewing Company brewed five beers: Acme Beer, Acme Lager, Acme Bock, Old Bohemian, and Franciscaner Beer. During prohibition they brewed Light Acme a near-beer with less than half of 1% alcohol. After prohibition Acme, rather intelligently, crafted a new series of ads directed at a completely untapped market - women. 

Acme lived on for a couple more decades renaming some of their beers and even releasing additional ones. However, the infamous "Lager Wars" of the 1950's and 60's caused Acme to be sold to Liebmann Breweries of NY in 1954. They continued to brew beers under the Acme name until 1958, then again the brand was sold and brewed from 1959-1968 by Grace Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA for Bohemian Distributing Company in Los Angeles. 

Twice more the company was sold off, only this time the original brand logo and recipe were resurrected and distributed at varies times throughout the late-70's and mid-80's. 

Enter the North Coast Brewing Company. 

They purchased the rights to the Acme Brewery name in 1996 and have been brewing under its name ever since. They continue to brew under its name to remember one of California state's great breweries of yesteryear. They currently brew two beers under the Acme brand: Acme California Pale Ale, and Acme California IPA

The North Coast website describes their Acme California Pale Ale as an "easy-drinking Pale Ale that revives the name of one of the early icons of California brewing. Clean-tasting and pleasantly malty, Acme Pale is brewed with Yakima Valley hops, American two-row malt and British specialty malts for depth." If you're a fan of New Belgium's well-know Fat Tire Amber Ale then you'd definitely be a fan of this Pale Ale. 

Meanwhile they describe their Acme California IPA as "profoundly hoppy, finished with over a pound of fresh whole hops per barrel. The result of this generous hopping is a beer that is deliciously dry, and eminently drinkable in spite of its apparent strength."

For those curious, the original Acme brewery is now the Center for African and African American Art and Culture. Inside the old corporate office and tasting room you can find a 1935 secco mural displaying the cultivation of hops and the production of beer by muralist Jose Moya del Pino who also has work at the Coit Tower in San Francisco. 


  1. A pale ale and an IPA? Looks like I gotta try em both!!!