Hamm's Building

Also known as: Rainier Brewery (1916-'53), Hamm's Brewery (1954-'76), New Hamm's Building (2018- )
1550 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA

13 story brewery built in 1916 converted to office building in 2018


Seattle beer baron Emil Sick built this 13 story brewing and malting facility in 1916. Prohibition had begun in Washington State on January 1st of that year. Sick packed up his operation and headed south assuming that the "noble experiment" would never spread nationwide. The Volstead Act proved him wrong four years later.

The Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco survived Prohibition by making near beer and soft drinks. A sign painted on the side of the brewery at his time advertised a concoction called Rainier Lime Rickey, one of a number of mixers used to render the foul flavor of bathtub gin and bootleg liquor palatable. Production of real beer resumed in 1933.

The Bryant street brewery was sold to the Theodore Hamm Brewing Company in 1953. Hamm's replaced the roof top Rainier billboard that loomed over the Seal's Stadium press box with what has been called, "the greatest sign in San Francisco history." A 13 foot tall, 18 foot in diameter, lighted goblet of beer. The Chronicle reported, "5,000 lightbulbs and 6,300 feet of tubing that were synchronized to simulate the golden glass filling up to a foamy white froth. A steam machine emitted white smoke from the top." The sign survived until 1976 when Hamm's abandoned the operation.

The old building was gutted of its machinery and gradually felled into decline. It housed rehearsal studios for punk rock bands called "the vats" in the late '70s and early '80s and still later, a parking garage. It was finally rescued with a nearly complete makeover as an office building in 2018. The interior was entirely redone and the exterior was given new facing but the building retains its original shape.

Update Log 

  • April 25, 2019: Added by Richard Doody


  • Richard Doody