I was off visiting metal fabrication shops down in India Basin when I came across Albion Castle, once home of the Albion Ale and Porter Brewery. Now a private residence, the stately stone tower is well set back from Innes street, the picturesque structure tucked away amid the neighborhood patchwork of ramshackle buildings, industrial workshops, and newly hatched stucco loft buildings. The surrounding gated grounds are lush and overgrown, just as you’d expect at such a fairytale structure.
The weathered brass plaque at the enclosing gate notes an establishment date of 1870 – back in the days before the India Basin boatyard functioned as a Naval base, then later fell to the fate of becoming a US SuperFund site.
I’d never heard of the brewery, which apparently was shut down during the prohibition years and never renewed production. The site also housed a drinking water bottling company fed by the underground aquifers of the area, which apparently continued bottling through the early 1990s, despite the controversy of the heavy metal contaminants of the area.
Over the years following the prohibition closing of the brewery, the property fell to ruin, and was later bought by a sculptor who renovated the grounds for his residence and studio, and it has remained private property since. The tower structure was established as a historic landmark in 1974. See here for more pictures of the tower, and here for more history on the shipyard area.
In the 1970s, a (now-defunct) micro-brewery called New Albion Brewery opened in Sonoma, but apparently there wasn’t any connection to the India Basin operation. Lack of namesake connection aside, I was pleased to know of another once-famous micro-brewery emanating from San Francisco – and with local favorite Anchor Steam Brewery just a ways up on Potrero Hill, there seems to be some regional brew-meister historical continuity, and I’ll toast to that.