Aztec Brewing Company
In 1921, San Diego businessmen Edward P. Baker and Herbert Jaffe, and brewing engineer William H. Strouse opened Cerveceria Azteca, SA, in Mexicali, the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California, since Prohibition disallowed the manufacture, sale, or transporting of alcohol in the United States. During the Prohibition years, Americans were traveling to Tijuana and nearby Baja California towns for legal alcohol consumption. Baker was an investor in the original Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel resort in Tijuana, and Jaffe owned a distillery in Tijuana.
Aztec’s flagship brew was Famous A.B.C. Beer, a pale lager. A.B.C. Beer won a gold medal at the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 in Seville, Spain. This led to the inclusion of the word “Famous” in the name.
With the end of Prohibition in 1933, a new brewery was built in San Diego and the entire operation moved to the new location soon afterward. The new brewery was located at 2301 Main St. in the Barrio Logan neighborhood.
It had a 100,000 barrel per year capacity and a refrigerated cellar with a capacity of 4,000 barrels. It had one of the largest bottling plants of its kind at the time with a system that could wash, rinse, sterilize and fill 100 bottles per minute.
Aztec Brewing operations grew quickly. Within three months, it went from seventeenth place to third place in sales west of the Rocky Mountains. A.B.C. Beer’s primary markets were San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and parts of Arizona. However, the beer was also distributed to New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Hawaii. Aztec began producing beer in cans in 1936. The early cone-top cans are highly sought after by collectors today.
A unique and culturally relevant tasting room was created where visitors could try the brewery’s product. The room became known as the Rathskeller. The decoration and murals painted on walls of the Rathskeller have become significant to Logan Heights and the community surrounding Chicano Park.
In 1948, Aztec Brewing was purchased by the Maier Brewing Company of Los Angeles and brewed there until 1957 when Maier shut down.
In 2008, John Webster discovered the brand and began bringing it back to life. He secured the U. S. trademark rights and with his partner Claudia Faulk, set about bringing back the brand as a modern craft brewery. The revival of Aztec Brewing Company opened its current location on August 29, 2011, in the Vista Business Park, Vista California.