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The Beer Life at the Old Bauer & Schweitzer Malting Company

Welcome to The Landmarks, where Curbed takes a look at one of the many San Francisco landmarks, listed either locally or on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmarks will be chosen at random, but do drop us a line if you'd like to see a certain landmark highlighted

San Francisco's always been a beer town - back in 1871, there were 21 breweries in the city. 11 of those were in North Beach, including the Bauer & Schweitzer Malting Company at 455 Francisco Street. When it was made Local Landmark #129 in 1981, it was one of the last remaining barrel malting factories in the country. Converted to luxury condos known as the North Beach Malt House about 15 years ago, the building still retains a bunch of features from its brewery past.

Now a mostly residential area, the malt house hearkens back to the neighborhood's earlier industrial life. The site had been continuously occupied by brewers and maltsters (awesome job title) since the Lyon Brewery was located on the block in 1867.

According to the landmark listing:

In 1884, the Lyon Brewery was replaced by the Empire Malt House, operated by John Bauer and Joseph Schweitzer. In 1906, the Empire Malt House was renovated for Bauer and Schweitzer with equipment based on French designs from the 1860's. Following these renovations, the building was almost totally destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Reconstruction using reinforced concrete was completed in 1908.

The malt house was a complicated operation - equipment was designed to clean and size the barley, and then sort it through conveyors and storage elevators. They still used a super labor intensive method with small-batch rotating drums for germinating the barley what had pretty much didn't exist anymore. When it closed in 1981, Bauer & Schweitzer was one of only three in the country that still did it that way. Up until then, the factory still used its original 1901 Galland-Henning equipment. Apparently it was notorious for producing the highest quality malt. Bauer & Schweitzer supplied malt to all the major breweries in the area, including Anchor Brewery and even supplied grain to Sierra Nevada when it first started up.

When it closed in 1981, the factory was used as a film set for movies and TV, most notably as the studio for Don Johnson's Nash Bridges. In the late 1990s, the whole property was renovated into condos. While the original tower building and two grain silos remain, the hops warehouse, drum room, malt floors, four silos, and storage buildings were demo'd for three new condo buildings designed by MBH Architects. The tower building was also converted to 23 condos and a penthouse. The landscaped courtyard still has two of the silos, which have been cleaned up and opened as landscape features. Canvas murals from the 1930s hand painted by French artist William du Pont depicting the beer-making process that once hung inside the house's tasting room now hang in the lobby. All the units are fetching a pretty penny these days.

· Local Landmark #129 [SF Planning]
· North Beach Malt House [MBH Architects]
· Old building, new brew / Historic malt house bubbles back to life as luxury address [SF Gate]
· Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. [Ken Grossman via Google Books]
· On the Market: North Beach's Malt House Condos [Curbed SF]