Eastside Beer Strike

Strike at the Pabst Brewery on North Main St, Lincoln Heights, 1954
Photo courtesy of LAPL

It’s called The Brewery for a reason, it used to be home to Pabst Beer. A beer reviled by people with good taste everywhere and now has surprisingly made a comeback with the Los Angeles bar crowd. How? Why? There is no answer that will stop my eyes from rolling, so keep on drinking the swill fellas, I’ll be enjoying my Craftsman brew!

Oh, did I mention that The Brewery is in Lincoln Heights?

The photo caption reads:

“A lone picket parades across the entrance of the Pabst Brewing Co. plant at 1920 North Main street as workers went on a strike in wage dispute. More than 1100 men were idled when picket lines were set up around this brewery and another in Van Nuys by AFL International Union of Operating Engineers. Photograph dated September 27, 1954.”

25 thoughts on “Eastside Beer Strike

  1. Awesome story DR – it’s a shame many of us are too young to have tried the real ‘Eastside’ lager.

    PBR is total crap, though and I will never, ever understand why people like it.

    I wish craftsman were easier to get – The York in HP (sidestepping the political issues around here for a sec) usually has Craftsman cask ale, which is a real treat.

  2. I tried to drink Pabst once. I was at this BBQ joint in Echo Park which was just a bad idea since I don’t eat meat and if I did why would I go to Echo Park to eat BBQ by a place owned by someone in Santa Monica, ok anyways, it was really disgusting. I’m not a connoisseur of beer or any alcohol really. Does it get me drunk? Yes, ok good then I’ll drink it. And even I with my low alcoholic beverage standards I can not stand Pabst. I don’t get it. It doesn’t even make you drunk. It just makes you pee, it doesn’t taste good, its a completely pointless useless thing.

  3. Dope… i grew up blocks away from that place… the owner of that whole Brewery is an ASSWHOLE!

  4. I think the idea got around because of the movie Blue Velvet, wherein Dennis Hopper’s character is constantly making references to Pabst Blue Ribbon as his drink of choice.

    I remember back in the early 90s, in San Francisco, the El Rio bar at the southern end of the Mission had Pabst and advertised this fact on their newspaper ads. I don’t think I ever went there. Maybe I did. Memory is foggy.

    I remember Pabst being an okay cheap beer, but really hard to find. My preference of cheap beer was Henry Weinhard’s lager. It cost around 30 cents a bottle at the time, approximately the cost of soda pop, and cheaper than the much reviled Budweiser and Miller GD. (Unfairly hated IMHO. They’re just hated because they’re popular and sweet like an orange Hi-C from McDonalds. Drink them real cold so the flavors stay in the beer and not on your tongue, and the brew releases all its fine alcohol into your belly.)

    Back then, the bigger microbrews like Sierra Nevada and Anchor cost around a dollar a bottle in a six pack, Red Hook, when you could get it, was over a dollar a bottle. The imports from Europe like Spaten were around $4 a bottle, so the cost differential was pretty big.

    Nowadays, the only drinking I do is from the little plastic cups on the tops of store brand NyQuil bottles, so it’s all moot anyway.

  5. PBR is an absolute drinkin’ low point. can’t stand the shit. even burgie was better……that place was also home to “brew 102,” no? vaguely remember that stuff…..one of the bands i was in once played an all-day gig at the brewery back when another band, cal-transvestites, used to be based outta there. good gig. haven’t been there since…..

  6. jimmy tumors, as someone who remembers well the Eastside/Pabst brewery (and drank both when I could, btw Eastside old tap lager in longnecks was very good imo), and who also worked in various Breweries, Millers, Budweiser, and Maier’s, where Brew 102 was produced, I might consider myself somewhat of a semi expert on the various brews.
    Maier’s, originally “Philadelphia Brewing” was one of the oldest breweries in LA and was so important to the city (known as the producer of “workingman’s beer”) that the Santa Ana Frwy was built around it.
    When I worked there in the late sixties for a few months it was like working in an old museum. Old machinery, old workers who had been there for decades, an old building where the sight of huge beer bellied rats scurrying around was not uncommon and in fact the workers for fun would use the rats for target practice.
    There were legendary guys who could kill at rat at 15 or 20 yards away with a beer can thrown like a Koufax fastball.
    In those days the breweries gave everyone a seven-minute break every hour and the lunchrooms had coolers full of beer for the workers to enjoy. Some old-timers with giant beer bellies could knock down 2 tall cans of beer in those seven minutes!
    Running alongside the lunchroom at Maier’s was a conveyor belt taking the beer to the pasteurize room where it was heated up, but we would snatch beers off the line before it could get to that room and man was that great beer, 36 degrees cold and a delight to drink that way.

  7. Hey folks,
    regardless of the labor dispute with the (PBR) Pabts Blue Ribbon brewry… the “brew 102” facility was located south of the 101 fry adjacent to what is now the Metro gateway plaza! Just a history tid-bit!

  8. Ah, the Brewry! I remember living nearby for about 6 months in 1955, until we moved to Echo Park. My uncles would pick up kegs there for Sunday picnics and Weddings. They said it was cheap, I found out why when I was old enough to drink.

    In college during the 60’s I remember it as Maier Brewry, the home of Brew 102 and a variety of incredible cheap beers. They came in handy when all I had was $5.00 in my pocket and a thirst to get a buzz on. The brewry served a purpose. I hope the workers won the strike.

  9. does anyone have anything to say about the winery in LH? i’ve been wanting to go there but im not sure if its even good.

  10. I started drinking beer sometime around 1973 or 74. that was before the microbreweries really started as a phenomenon, and I tended to drink wine more than beer because I didn’t really like it then. My beer of choice back then was Pabst, because it was nearly flavorless rather than having an intense bad flavor like most other american beers of the time. When I discovered imports and microbrews, I very quickly bbecame a beer snob. And I found it actually not that different economically. In the mid-1980s, I could get two bottles of a german dopple-bock at 10% alcohol with great flavor at the same price that my friends would get a six pack of the cheap stuff at 3 1/2 % alcohol… The same punch per buck, good flavor, and less pressure on the bladder… As I’ve gotten older, I don’t feel the desire to get drunk as often (a mild buzz is enough) so I am sticking with the good stuff. PBR has no taste and is for those who have no taste.

  11. My dad worked at “Pabst East Side” back then. It was great for my dad since we lived in Echo Park, it was five minutes away. When I was little they went on strike (all the Breweries, Shlitz, 102, Busch, and Pabst – Miller did not have a brewery out here then) and we lived on a giant pot of beans with pigs feet with tortillas for a week.

  12. Mr.Bonkers- Really enjoyed your post!! I like that first hand info from someone who lived there. As far as what I like to drink personally, I remember in the 60’s my Dad went to some old store on Main St. in downtown LA and he bought a 7 gallon crock and some ingredients to make the beer at home. He even bought the little hand operated bottle cap machine. My dad myself and my younger brother would work in the garage till the beer was ready, I’ve never tasted beer like that since those days, and I have sampled many brews, being a former bartender, and eating all over Souther California restaurants, and visiting “micro-breweries”. That old store on Main St had some kits to make Rootbeer at home also.

  13. According to my research a few yards from this same brewery is where the Zoot Suit Riots escalated as the servicemen rushed out of their sponsored taxis and beat many Zooter down, influencing (many years later) the classic Luis Valdez line: “Vamos a dejar caer un play”

  14. who remembers Olympia beer?

    I had some a few weeks back at the Standard Hotel of all places. It was their ‘beer special’ at $4 a can, which is a deal in light of $7 for any other beer.

  15. Olympia? Weinhards? You wanna talk about some cheap beer? How about 36 pack of Natural Light for less than $10! That’s what my friends and I used to drink until my friends from Portland introduced us to microbrewed beer. My life has not been the same since!

    I think you can find Craftsman beer at The Brewery/Barbara’s Bar, home of the rudest/weirdest bartenders. So unlike the bartenders at Bordello’s Downtown, amazing those folks are, should win an award or something!

    My favorite beer at the moment is Telegraph from Santa Barbara:

  16. Thanks to all of you who shared your stories and memories. I’m surprised you can recall all those details after all that beer drinking! Just kidding, of course! Keep ’em coming!

  17. for a brief while we used to drink shaeffer, lovingly referred to as “shitfer” because of the taste, when the punks were plenty and the cash was not. stuff was wretched, but you could get a case of it for the same price you’d pay for a six of, say, budweiser. like apio, though, as i’ve gotten older, i’m not as interested in getting totalled anymore, and prefer to drink something that ain’t gonna make me wish i hadn’t….

  18. Two of my friends, Alan and Kenny’s pop worked at that Pabst plant as well as one out in the Valley somewhere……after he retired he would drive out to the Valley location because former employees could get a case of Busch for 4 bucks or something like that…..
    When he would see us spending 3 times that for a case of Budweiser he would say, “what’s wrong with you idiots, drink this, it’s the same thing!”

    I remember Brew 102 as well…..when I was little my Dad would send me to the Alamo market in El Sereno w/a note asking them to please sell me a six-pack for him……I think I was 5 or 6 at the time……same method worked for his smokes.

  19. I think Keystone is exactly the same beer as Coors Light, too. Same exact beer. If you buy Coors Light, you’re paying extra for the cool looking cans, silver and black. Go Raiders! I’m surprised Al Davis hasn’t sued them.

  20. I am indifferent to Pabst since I discovered Simpler Times from Trader Joe’s: it’s cheap and PRETTY GOOD!

    I also really love Craftsman. I first tried Telegraph while in Santa Barbara and I like it too….but everything I’ve had from Craftsman has been superb.

    Ay, now I want me a good brew and me with no money.

  21. Fishbowls of “Hamm’s” at the Yankee Bar on 7th and San Julian,case after case of “Meister Brau”, “Erlanger”, and “Schaeffer” beers are some of the cheapest ever made!!”Natural Light” is way up there also!! What ever happened to “Near Beer”? I remember my dad drinking Olympia in the 60’s, I was a kid but it tasted good to me.

  22. Discussing the differences between various mass marketed light lagers (which represent more than 90% of all beer produced and consumed) is a fairly pointless endeavor, akin to debating which shade of off-white is the best or worst. These beers are all made using the virtually same ingredients and utilizing the same process. About the only thing separating them is marketing. It’s a very similar situation with cola drinks. That I am constantly coming across these debates (this brand sucks, this one is a little better) in my reading and researching all things beer illustrates the complete and absolute penetration of the marketing and consumer conditioning upon the relatively unsuspecting public. It’s an industrialized, standardized process with little to no variation. It’s become a commodity, like flour, sugar, or carrots. The only reason people are debating is because of the extreme branding that has occurred since the middle of the 20th century. Branding, pricing and availability are about the only things separating PBR from “Natty Light” from Keystone from Tecate. It’s another unfortunate example of how the populace have been tricked into squabbling over the crumbs, not even realizing that there’s a very select few who are splitting up the other 99% of the pie amongst themselves. And you don’t get any!

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