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Celebrating 100 years of Aztec Brewing

As the Vista brewery turns 10, its historic namesake hits the century mark

A vintage can from the original, 1921 Aztec Brewing Company, part of a collection kept by John Critchfield
A vintage can from the original, 1921 Aztec Brewing Company, part of a collection kept by John Critchfield

North County’s Aztec Brewing Company will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year — no small milestone. But it will also spend the year celebrating something bigger: the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Aztec Brewing brand.

Place

Aztec Brewing Company

2330 La Mirada Drive #300, Vista

According to a history maintained by the Chicano Park Museum, the original Aztec Brewing Company opened for business in 1921. Given this was during the U.S. Prohibition, San Diegans Edward Baker and Herbert Jaffe launched the brewery in Mexicali, where A.B.C. (as they often advertised the brand) became known for its gold medal winning pale lager.

After Prohibition’s repeal at the end of 1933, Baker and Jaffe moved A.B.C. to San Diego, establishing an ornate beer hall in Logan Heights dubbed the Rathskeller. Decades before the murals of Chicano Park added color to the neighborhood, the Rathskeller’s walls featured murals by Spanish artist Jose Moya del Pino, meticulously depicting traditional Aztec and Mayan imagery.

Though the Rathskeller building was demolished in 1990 (coincidentally about the time San Diego’s modern brewery was getting started), many of its murals were preserved and now displayed at the Logan Heights Library.

As Tristan Faulk-Webster, co-owner of the modern Aztec Brewing, explains, “In the late 40s, a brewery from back east, the Altes Brewing Company, acquired the Aztec brand. They retired it by the 1950s.”

A retro bottle label for the modern Aztec Brewing's latest IPA release

The brand would lie dormant for half a century. In the mid-2000s, Faulk-Webster started homebrewing with his father, John Webster. A shared interest in beer initially led them to discover a different historical beer brand, that of California’s first lager producer: the Boca Brewing Company, which made beer from 1876-1893, not far from Lake Tahoe.

“We acquired that brand, and we still own it” says Faulk-Webster, noting he, his father, and mother Claudia Faulk briefly considered reviving it. “But,” he adds with a laugh, “none of us wanted to move to northern California.”

Instead the family returned to San Diego and started researching historical brands closer to home. In doing so, the Faulk-Webster family managed to track down grandchildren of Baker and Jaffe, and with their blessing, set about reviving the long-abandoned brand.

Beginning in February, the new Aztec Brewing will celebrate the brand’s hundred-year history by issuing re-creations of the old brand’s brews, including a stout and pale ale. “Our brewmaster, Paul Naylor, worked together with White Labs to track down the types of ingredients used in that time,” says Faulk-Webster. “The exact recipes are unfortunately lost to time, but we’ve done our best to reproduce as best we can.”

Meanwhile, Faulk-Webster tracked down a collector named John Critchfield, who has assembled a small museum’s worth of old Aztec Brewing memorabilia, ranging from neon signs to unopened bottles of beer. Beer labels for Aztec beers released throughout the year will be based on the original A.B.C.’s century old designs.

The retro vibe will extend beyond the beers, too, once fans are legally allowed to return to brewery venues. Aztec plans to furnish its tasting room with prints depicting the Rathskeller and old Aztec’s designs and provide an era-appropriate soundtrack. “Over the last seven years or so, we’ve become a live music venue,” explains Faulk-Webster, “Once we can host music again, we’ll be hosting live acts performing music from the 1920s.”

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A vintage can from the original, 1921 Aztec Brewing Company, part of a collection kept by John Critchfield
A vintage can from the original, 1921 Aztec Brewing Company, part of a collection kept by John Critchfield

North County’s Aztec Brewing Company will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year — no small milestone. But it will also spend the year celebrating something bigger: the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Aztec Brewing brand.

Place

Aztec Brewing Company

2330 La Mirada Drive #300, Vista

According to a history maintained by the Chicano Park Museum, the original Aztec Brewing Company opened for business in 1921. Given this was during the U.S. Prohibition, San Diegans Edward Baker and Herbert Jaffe launched the brewery in Mexicali, where A.B.C. (as they often advertised the brand) became known for its gold medal winning pale lager.

After Prohibition’s repeal at the end of 1933, Baker and Jaffe moved A.B.C. to San Diego, establishing an ornate beer hall in Logan Heights dubbed the Rathskeller. Decades before the murals of Chicano Park added color to the neighborhood, the Rathskeller’s walls featured murals by Spanish artist Jose Moya del Pino, meticulously depicting traditional Aztec and Mayan imagery.

Though the Rathskeller building was demolished in 1990 (coincidentally about the time San Diego’s modern brewery was getting started), many of its murals were preserved and now displayed at the Logan Heights Library.

As Tristan Faulk-Webster, co-owner of the modern Aztec Brewing, explains, “In the late 40s, a brewery from back east, the Altes Brewing Company, acquired the Aztec brand. They retired it by the 1950s.”

A retro bottle label for the modern Aztec Brewing's latest IPA release

The brand would lie dormant for half a century. In the mid-2000s, Faulk-Webster started homebrewing with his father, John Webster. A shared interest in beer initially led them to discover a different historical beer brand, that of California’s first lager producer: the Boca Brewing Company, which made beer from 1876-1893, not far from Lake Tahoe.

“We acquired that brand, and we still own it” says Faulk-Webster, noting he, his father, and mother Claudia Faulk briefly considered reviving it. “But,” he adds with a laugh, “none of us wanted to move to northern California.”

Instead the family returned to San Diego and started researching historical brands closer to home. In doing so, the Faulk-Webster family managed to track down grandchildren of Baker and Jaffe, and with their blessing, set about reviving the long-abandoned brand.

Beginning in February, the new Aztec Brewing will celebrate the brand’s hundred-year history by issuing re-creations of the old brand’s brews, including a stout and pale ale. “Our brewmaster, Paul Naylor, worked together with White Labs to track down the types of ingredients used in that time,” says Faulk-Webster. “The exact recipes are unfortunately lost to time, but we’ve done our best to reproduce as best we can.”

Meanwhile, Faulk-Webster tracked down a collector named John Critchfield, who has assembled a small museum’s worth of old Aztec Brewing memorabilia, ranging from neon signs to unopened bottles of beer. Beer labels for Aztec beers released throughout the year will be based on the original A.B.C.’s century old designs.

The retro vibe will extend beyond the beers, too, once fans are legally allowed to return to brewery venues. Aztec plans to furnish its tasting room with prints depicting the Rathskeller and old Aztec’s designs and provide an era-appropriate soundtrack. “Over the last seven years or so, we’ve become a live music venue,” explains Faulk-Webster, “Once we can host music again, we’ll be hosting live acts performing music from the 1920s.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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