El Rey Beer

Budweiser may be “The King of Beers” but the original “King of BEER” was El Rey (translated from Spanish to mean the king) which is shown on your Vintage Beer Shirt this month.

The El Rey Brewing company was located in San Francisco, CA, a hot brewing city in the early 1900s. It opened for business in March 1933 after several set backs including an earthquake and a fire. It was located at the same location as the once popular Eagle Brewing Co (est. 1899).

El Rey saw an opportunity for success when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, raising the legal alcohol limit of near beer to 3.2%, a limit thought to be too low to cause intoxication. However, within six months, the brewery was having financial trouble, so “Big George” Niotta stepped up to the plate and purchased El Rey six months prior to the repeal of Prohibition.

El Rey soon increased its alcohol limit to 4% and outperformed and outsold many of the other California beers that had resurfaced post prohibition, including the large and famous Grace Brothers Brewing Company. Together, the Eagle and El Rey breweries put out “one of the most colorful groups of low profile cone tops”, making the value of an El Rey can close to $1500 today.

In 1938 the brewery was renamed to Albion and then filed for bankruptcy in 1941. However, Grace Brothers signed a contract to continue to produce the El Rey brand as a flat top from 1958 through the mid 1960s.