A few weeks ago , the Alcohol and Drugs History Society site had a story about Old Style beer. Old Style Beer was the most famous product of Heileman Brewing Company, the nation’s sixth largest brewer in 1980. Heileman was a victim of the late twentieth century beer wars which saw regional and second tier breweries fall under the advertising onslaught of Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Pabst owns the brand now and the virtual brewer has decided to change the recipe. Pabst is returning to krausening as its’ carbonation method. The process involves adding a small amount of wort that is still fermenting to a already fermented beer. This is an older method of adding carbon dioxide to beer.
Until recently a 24 pack of Old Style cost $13; now it cost $19. Various bars in Nebraska have Old Style on tap; a pitcher used to cost $5.75 now it is $7.25. Many of the nostalgia laden beers that Pabst markets, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Style, and Schlitz, get much of their appeal from the low price. Some drinkers have called Old Style, “Old Bile”.
Pabst made these changes in response to declining sales. Most of the brands Pabst manages were regional or second tier breweries from the 1950s to the 1980s or whenever they ceased independent production. The drinkers of these cheap beers with a long history are far removed from people willing to pay $40 for a three course dinner with beer pairings. That is available today at the Beer Table in Brooklyn New York. (I gave a talk there in the fall) The charming, small bar/restaurant has three beers on tap; two are Italian and one is Belgian. In many ways drinkers of standard American lager and drinkers of craft beer occupy two completely separate worlds. I am not sure what would ever connect them.