Hamm’s Heinous History Herein

[Photo by Carla Leshne]

VatRat1 reminds us of Hamm’s beer and it’s SF past:

The Hamm’s brewery in San Francisco opened in 1954 at 1550 Bryant Street, close to the Seals baseball stadium. The brewery closed in 1972. In the early 1980′s, the beer vats were rented out to punk rock bands, and it was a used as music studios until the building was renovated and turned into offices.

Don’t believe him? Well check out this amazing article from foundsf.org, detailing the Austin thrash band Millions of Dead Cops (MDC)  moving into the abandoned San Francisco factory in the early ’80s and repurposing the actual beer vats as living, practice, and punk show spaces.

Dave, lead singer of MDC, described the tanks as being 40′x 10′x 10′, able to house half a dozen to twelve people each, with ten or twelve vats on each of the four floors. At any given time 30 or 35 vats would be in use. Soon people started living inside the building’s hollow walls on little ledges, sometimes fixing them up quite nicely. With the bands’ energetic activity the space became a crash pad and a scene landmark for visiting out-of-town punks and punk bands, the site of after-concert parties and band practice sessions.

The article seems to indicate that the Falstaff Brewery, a couple of blocks away from the Hamm’s building, was the actual site of this crash pad. Still pretty amazing.

More at foundsf.org. Be sure to check out that awesome video, too.

19 Responses to “Hamm’s Heinous History Herein”

  1. redseca2 says:

    I visited that building back in the day. The vats were coated with a black rubber like lining and you entered through a Captain Nemo like round hatch on the corridor wall. Sort of non-existent lighting. I looked at a couple floors only by flashlight and they didn’t bother with things like windows. A real slasher movie feel to the place with load noises coming from…somewhere.

    There were a many floors of them and the Owner dude really didn’t know what to do with the building but he would be happy to sell you a full floor for $50,0000.

  2. That’s awesome! A much better use for the space than brewing the watery swill that is Hamm’s beer.

  3. Anus Presley says:

    What VatRat posted is from Wikipedia
    Search “the Vats S.F. Punk”….the real story is way more sordid than what you’ve cobbled together here. Way. Read the stories on Tribe and shit. Long live the Vats.

    Oh and beer-hate trolls are pathetic, Doktor whatevs…there is a difference between sipping your trendy ales at Toronado and scraping together enough for a 12er of the cheapest shit you can get, yuppie little snob.

  4. kwk says:

    MDC, Dolores Park, 1983:


    Of course you were there, right?

    • You mean the free show with The Dead Kennedys? Actually, I was — in fact, I think I still have a flier around here somewhere. Brings back memories.

    • Anus Presley says:

      2 bands I couldn’t stand – PreacherPunk is terrible, especially when one of em became a junkie anyway…..don’t preach at me. At least Bogie’s in that video.

  5. kwk says:

    Ty again without the html, you have to cut/paste:


  6. Sharif says:

    Much of this was also covered in the book ” Gimme Something Better” a history of Bay Area Punk by Jack Boulware. Some pretty good story about the “Vats”

  7. Old School says:

    Love this fond memories of the Vats stayed there for a long time back in the day.

  8. Kieran says:

    I lived there in 1981 – 83. Looking for Flapjack.

  9. Rev Dr. DK says:

    Ah, the Vats. My “Band” practiced there for about 2 years. All my musical equipment smelled like stale beer for a very long time after. Thank Krampus we had a double door system on our 3rd floor Vat. Opened it up to enter 1 night and a spent .38 bullet fell to the floor. I guess someone didn’t love our music as much as we did. Many fine hours spent there. Urban decay, a bit fucking creepy and some strange denizens. One wonders what crimes occurred there. Would have been a good place for a murder. I’m sure more than 1 OD took place. Still, I’m glad for the time I spent there. FLEXIBLE GREAT HUSBAND & BLACK HUMOR FOREVER !

  10. Robert Bolman says:

    I lived at the Vats for the full three years of its existence. I was the first to jackhammer a door into the place and I was one of the last to get kicked out. It was a very strange place and it went through an interesting trajectory. It started out being occupied by old hippies because one of the first tenants was a petition writer for the California Marijuana Initiative. After that the punks drove out the hippies. It became a speed mecca with all kind of crazy shit going on. A popular dominatrix friend rented the entire tip floor and started having big SMBD parties. I could go on and on.

  11. This is an interview we filmed of George Michalski as the VATS are referenced by interviewer Jeff Tunches who was the lead singer of the band “Pissed Youth” I am a friend of his.


  12. Chris Schoenstein says:

    The “Rat Music for Rat People” compilation album, put out by Go!Records in 1982, was a good compilation of bands that frequented the Vats. The copy I had came with a poster inside, cool black and white pic of the Hamm’s Building from this period. Like an idiot, I got rid of it a long time ago….

  13. ChukCragg says:

    Pretty sure I know where that .38 came from..
    Spent a number of days or nights there sliding around the tile hallways in puke and beer. Shooting range in the Sluglords vat, making a steel door into a cheesegrater. Guess what happens when you fire a ’44 Mauser down the hall? Hey Wild Bill- what the fuck?