Historically, when a brand died, it was truly dead. This adage, however, was proved untrue when Pabst Blue Ribbon became a favorite of the young anti-establishment consumers. Pabst changed what was once a tried and true rule in the beer industry. You might even say that Pabst was the incubator for the retro trends we are seeing and continue to see. While the industry enjoys the benefits and growth of crafts, retro beers like Pabst, are sliding under the radar, albeit some retro brands are more successful than others.
What is the definition of a retro beer? One definition is as simple as saying it is a beer that your parents drank! Or, depending upon your age, maybe a beer your grandparents drank! Several years ago the on-line news Thrillist, named 23 retro beers your parents drank. Some of these included: Narragansett, Rheingold, Ballantine, Schaefer, National Bohemian, Dixie, Jax, Falstaff, Iron City, Stroh’s, Schlitz, Schmidt, Hamm’s, Grain Belt, Old Style, Lone Star, Pearl, Olympia, Rainier, Brown Derby, Acme and Lucky Lager. Shiner was also named, but some others were left out, including Drewry’s and Grain Belt.
Last week, Pabst, owners of many of the above brands, announced that it was bringing back Stroh’s Bohemian Style beer to the Detroit area. Stroh’s, like many of the other retro beers who are making a comeback, appears to be resurrecting an old line extension.
There seems to be no one definitive strategy that works across the board, as each brand has a different approach. Pabst is just Pabst. And Lone Star is just Lone Star. Both brands are doing quite well without line extensions or flavors. Rainier is another beer with one brand doing well, although a new Pale Ale in a retro style bottle is out. These are examples of simple business models which hold on to their traditions and regional appeals.
Then you have the brands that are playing not only on the retro wave, but also on the craft wave, none more so than Narragansett. They are producing a myriad of flavors including Light, IPA, and Hefeweisen, in addition to their flagship beer, Narragansett Lager… all with great success. Stevens Point is another brewer that has also been successful producing multiple lines. Iron City has both focused on their retro core brands, while also adding flavors along the craft lines.
Yet other brands, even with support and dollars invested, cannot seem to get the traction their owners had envisioned. Look at Schlitz and, although localized, Drewry’s in Indiana.
Rumors and stories abound about where more retro brands will be reintroduced, including Jax in New Orleans and Olympia in Washington, both great old beers that have a long heritage. The demise of many of these breweries and brands vary, but it always boils down to two things: money, or lack thereof, and/or questionable management decisions.
Whatever the reason, the demise of these once viable brands has now been reborn to new consumers and a new generation that may has yet to come to appreciate their heritage. Let’s hope all can be successful.
“You hear about all the fourth quarter comebacks a guy has, and I think it means a guy screwed up in the first three-quarters.” – Payton Manning.
Beer Fodder; http://bit.ly/1hy9W0U