With only a forty-year history of serving Mohave, La Paz, and Yuma counties in western Arizona, family owned, and operated, Romer Beverage Company based in Kingman is a relative newcomer. But the company is rooted in a rich tradition of brewing and distributing beer in the Grand Canyon State.
Much like Henry Wickenburg, a prospector with a talent for spotting gold, Herman and Martin Fenster were ambitious entrepreneurs that saw untold riches in the repeal of Prohibition. So, in 1933 they leased a 34,000 square foot building in Phoenix, borrowed $125,000 from the bank, friends, and family, and launched the Arizona Brewing Company.
It was a modern, state of the art facility with a bottling plant, the largest between Texas and Los Angeles. The brothers also invested in the people needed to make their company with an envisioned 30,000 barrel per year production a success. That was made evident when they hired a brew master that had learned his craft in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, famous for pilsner beer.
In August of that year, they began advertising in papers throughout the state including the Mohave Miner and Phoenix Gazette. But for reasons unknown, within a few years the brothers decided to sell the entire operation, including distribution network, to E.P. Baker, the vice president of San Diego’s Aztec Brewing Company, for a tidy profit.
Baker had been instrumental in relocating the Aztec Brewing Company of Mexicali, Mexico to San Diego in 1932. And he was credited with making it the fifth largest brewing company in California by the late 1930s.
With support from investors Baker spent $100,000 on upgrades to increase brewing capacity as well as storage, and to expand the delivery fleet. By 1940 the Arizona Brewing Company was rolling out beer under five different brands.
Apache Beer was the company’s top seller. It had been introduced as a premium beer that replaced two original brands, Sunbru and Arizona Brew, in late 1936. Initially it was sold only on draft, but after it was made available in bottles, it skyrocketed in popularity and was soon the number one selling beer in Arizona. Then distribution was expanded to include west Texas, southern California, and New Mexico.
Advertising campaigns were distinctive, but today they would be viewed as offensive. The initial advertisements and posters featured a Native American wearing a war bonnet and riding a horse with a stunning western landscape as a backdrop. The slogan “Apache: Chief of Them All” capped the prints.
The brewery also capitalized on the growing tourism industry in Arizona. The company sponsored a five-minute radio show, The Apache Travel Chief. In each program the spokesman dubbed the chief talked about a scenic wonder, an historic site, or a festival somewhere in Arizona.
In 1936 the company’s marketing manager, B.J. Russell, was quoted in an interview. “Because he saw our Indian, a man won’t immediately go out and buy a case of our beer. But seeing that Indian does leave a lasting impression that eventually brings results. Every time a person sees one of our trucks, one of our signs, a newspaper advertisement or anything carrying our Indian head design, he is going to remember the Indian representative.”