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Schlitz goes back to 1960s formula

http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Business...

Has anyone tried the new bottled Schlitz? How does it compare to other low-end beers? I know the stuff in cans is pretty terrible.

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  1. I have been making the argument for years that a contract brewer could make a very nice living by buying up the indicia and recipes for dormant regional beers and recreating them using good ingredients. A group has done this with Narragansett here in New England, and it's a perfectly respectable beer.

    32 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      I think this could be a tough row to hoe, depending on how one went about it. A couple years ago someone reintroduced Rheingold in NY. I'm not sure how that worked out.

      If you're selling to those that remember these beers, then you have a limited audience, and one that will gradually die off. And if you're running a small outfit, then you're probably going to have to price the product pretty high, which is not so nostalgic. Pabst can steer around that one, since they sell a good bit of beer compared to a small contract brewer.

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        I'm old enough to remember the OLD Schlitz and don't recall it being anything special. When the Rheingold came back it was rather disappointing also.

        1. re: Eric in NJ

          Well, technically, my original theory that it should be done in rotating limited editions, and there was a lot more to it, but that's too complicated to get into.

          See, I'm not old enough to remember any of the old regional beers, because I only hit legal drinking age at the dawn of the '90s, and I did that in west Texas, where I once asked a bar waitress what imports they had and she said "Michelob." But I have an amateur historian's fondness for these brands (I own breweriana of beers that stopped being produced before I was born), and while I don't expect that any of them would be knock-my-socks-off fabulous, I'm happy to have them in the bar fridge as beers to go with dinner to to have while I'm watching the Sox play. I'm not always looking for The Greatest Beer Ever, you know?

          Jim: actually, a six of Gansett runs $5.99 at my liquor store of choice. A perfectly good beer with a lot of local cred at a popular price: what's not to like?

          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            dead on, BFP
            actually got a 12 pack for 10 dollars the other day. cold summer beer for 90 cents a bottle? brilliant!
            grew up on gansett and was mortified when it went into the tank, couldnt be more pleased its back and i dont have to be ashamed that i drink it.

      2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        Well, Pabst already owns something like 75 brand names (they only market about half of them currently)- mostly by buying the Heileman and Stroh collections when the latter went belly-up, and they really aren't doing too well with them. If the brands they own were selling at the same percentages that they were in the 1960's, Pabst would be bigger than A-B (17 brands of the top 22 brewers in 1966 are controlled by Pabst now).

        Indeed, the two examples above (Rheingold and Narragansett) were bought (or leased) from Pabst.

        And, the results so far of "resurrected" brands from craft brewers hasn't been much more impressive- Frank Jones, Pickwick Ale, Heurich, Lemp, Champagne Velvet, Kessler...

        The beers themselves often became budget brands once in the hands of new owners after the old brewery folded and it's hard to get a premium price for what was previously a cheap beer. As others have noted, the previous drinkers are getting older and disappearing and, often, the memory of the beer isn't as strong as the memory of the lost jobs in a local area- Pabst itself, is quite hated in the Milwaukee area for the way it treated it's employees and retirees when they closed that brewery.

        1. re: JessKidden

          In Minneapolis, we had the opposite experience. August Schell bought back the Grain Belt Premium brand, ostensibly making like it used to be made in the good old days, and it's wildly popular. They're treating is for what it is, a boilermaker beer, a toss one back after getting off work beer, a picnic on a hot summer day beer. And the local interest is really high among the hipsters who might otherwise have ordered a PBR or the jocks who could have had a Mich Lite.

          1. re: Loren3

            Exactly. Those are the same people who are drinking Gansett, Genesee (which has transitioned back into being a decent inexpensive beer after being legendary as cheap swill for frat boys back when I was in college) and Yuengling, and they're drinking it the same way. It's kind of anti-snobbery, but unlike the twits in the trucker caps who were all drinking PBR a couple years ago, it's actually drinkable beer!

          2. re: JessKidden

            But does anyone remember what circa 1960s Schlitz tasted like? I don't want something that tastes fantastic, I'm just interested in a decent drinkable beer that doesn't taste skunky (i.e., today's Schlitz in a can).

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              Schlitz was a pretty good beer, one of the better ones of its type at the time. The recipe change was utter disaster for the company and completely changed the character of the beer.

              I'm pretty skeptical that Pabst (and Miller, who actually does the brewing) is actually selling anything resembling the original brew, given that they make a similar claim for one of their other legacy brands, Ballantine Ale. That one is another one where they claimed to follow the original recipe, but one taste of the current version (which is not even top fermented as the original was) reveals the truth. Too bad, because unlike Schlitz (which was an American Lager much like all of the others), Ballantine's Ale was truly distinctive especially for the time...and would probably sell very well now if they truly followed the original formula (which they do not, and likely won't).

              1. re: The Professor

                Does Pabst really claim *anything* about the current Ballantine XXX Ale? Seems to be one of their "forgotten" brands - no individual website, no promotion at all (granted, any "promotion" is new for the current incarnation of Pabst) Heck, on their recently updated website http://www.pabst.com/portfolio/defaul... they no longer even LIST it- but do list both Ballantine Beer and Falstaff, under Pearl (huh?), even tho' those beers have been dropped.

                It's sort of interesting, too, that looking at their list of current products, it's one that they've owned longest- Heffenreffer being the only one that's been in their (meaning Pabst's owner-the "Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust"- formerly S+P) line-up longer- having dropped Lucky (and all the other old General collection of brands) and Falstaff, and sold/leased Narragansett.

                A year or so ago, in an interview in an industry magazine, Pabst CEO Katecki *did* mention Ballantine http://www.beverageworld.com/index.ph... (getting a few facts wrong- "the first India Pale Ale"- uh, Kevin...) but I thought *maybe* something would happen and was surprised and disappointed that they went with Schlitz - not that I don't think I'd have been disappoint with whatever they might do to Ballantine Ale- short of letting a craft brewery do it. I've always pushed Fritz Maytag, since he's mentioned the brand so much over the years. Maybe Anchor needs a "mid-line" beer?

                Had not heard that the Miller-brewed BA is bottom fermented, but I wouldn't be surprised given that it's was a common procedure for the few "macro" ales left (like Chesterfield, McSorley's and the also-no-longer-on-Pabst's list Rainier Ale) but the hop profile is what really annoys and disappoints me when, once every 6-12 months or so, I try one. Last time was just a few months ago, when Pabst changed the graphics on the cardboard case- dropping "America's Largest Selling Ale" (which it hasn't been in decades) for the phrase "Dry Hopped Flavor". Even *that* seems an odd terminology (why not just "Dry Hopped"?) and, of course, isn't particularly "original" since most accounts note that it wasn't dry hopped, but had distilled hop oils added to the ale for it's (once) amazing nose and hop bite.

                I take it, Professor, as one of the notable Ballantine boosters on the 'net, you've come across the article from a few years back that traces the Falstaff/Pabst changes in the recipe for Ballantine Ale as it bounced from brewery to brewery (up to the Pabst's Allentown era- pre-Miller's contract) here- http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi...
                (A few errors in that, too, but the interviews with the brewers are interesting...).

                At this point, I'd take the Narragansett era Ballantine Ale (it's the one I drank the most)- and the return of a long aged, fully hopped Ballantine IPA would be nice, too...

                1. re: JessKidden

                  Pabst did claim that they were using the "original formula" for the XXX...it was in some promo material from the company a couple of years ago. It was certainly not, however, with the kind of fanfare that the Schlitz thing seems to be getting. In any case, the absence of the hop oil finish exposed their claim right off the bat.

                  I agree with you about the Narragansett era Ballantine...I also enjoyed a lot of it during that period and it held up well even with fresh memories at the time of the original Newark product. For a time after Newark closed back in the early 70's, the products were definitely very well and faithfully maintained, and both the XXX Ale and the IPA were virtually indistiguishable from the Newark brewed products...there was even another product introduced, the Brewer's Gold Ale which fell somewhere between the XXX and the IPA in overall character. I knew, however, that trouble was brewing when the IPA packaging changed from the green/gold foil label to the corny wood-grained motif adopted in the 80's. That seems to be when the flavor profile started really changing as well.

                  Perhaps Pabst will wake up and smell the wort... I keep hoping that at least the XXX gets a remake to more resemble its original profile...just a bit more hop bitterness and the re-introduction of the hop oil aromatics would certainly go a long way in doing it even if the original yeast strain didn't return.

                  A revival of the IPA in its classic form, though, is probably simply too much to hope for. What amazed me about the handling of that particular product by Ballantine's successors was that it was dumbed down then killed off right at the time when they could have marketed it as something truly special.

                  Given how brands are bought and sold, perhaps eventually the Ballantine monicker will one day land with a company that actually cares about the really unique history of the brands, which Pabst obviously does not. The IPA is legendary (especially among old farts like me) and even though if it were revived according to it's original formula and processes it would probably be a fairly pricey product (I remember that in 1970, a six pack of Ballantine IPA cost more than triple the price of the average beer of the day), I think it could do well especially given how the American beer palate has become less suspicious of actual flavor.
                  And I know for a fact that the original product _can_ be replicated, because after a fair amount of research I've succeeded in reproducing it pretty faithfully and repeatably at home.
                  But I have to tell you...as essential as it is to the character of the beer, that year long aging is a real bitch!

                  1. re: The Professor

                    I was really an XXX fan - and recall that when it went to RI that it was lousy for a little while then it got some of its unique flavor back. To me it might have been 6 months or so - hard for me to say !! It may have been that it was a change for me from returnable btls to NR. I vaguely recall that I started buying other brands for a while then at some point came back to it !! in the 70;s - I used to get it by the case with sales under $10 up to 83-84 in Jersey (Plainfield area !) They had those liquor store sale flyers - independents that had a buyers co-op. Ive noticed slight to medium changes several times in the last 20 years , but still like it for the price ( i have an in for wholesale - so its under $20 a case - $22 retail. A buck or more a beer should be special !!

                  2. re: JessKidden

                    My fil's go to beer for everyday drinking is Balantine Ale - he tells me that the first two taste like crap, but once you get past two, they taste good. ;-) I have one once in a while, and not too bad when its ice cold, but once they get warm, yikes.

                    Would love to see some version of Ballantine IPA being made. Surprised they haven't tried to make a comeback with that one considering the interest by many older beer geeks.

                    1. re: LStaff

                      Well, as I mentioned in that post from '08, the then-CEO of Pabst did mention reviving the Ballantine Ales in that sidebar of the cover article in Beverage World - no longer online apparently. Since then, the Kotecki left the company and, of course, Pabst itself has been sold to the Metropoulos family.

                      Pabst did "revive/reformulate" Schlitz, Old Style, McSorley's and Primo after that article was published but skipped over Ballantine. The Metropoulos' so far has seemed to concentrate more on promotion (celebrity tie-ins, etc) than beer.

                      I've long said that I'd rather they sell the brand or, at least, give the contract to a craft brewery rather than MillerCoors. I think, tho', at this point any revived Ballantine India Pale Ale would be anticlimatic in the current craft beer world of extreme abv and ibu's IPA's and DIPA's but I'd like to see a nice hoppy, fragrant light-bodied golden ale like Ballantine XXX Ale again. I had hopes that either Victory's Headwaters or Summer Love would meet that requirement.

                  3. re: The Professor

                    Hi
                    Hope not breaking rules - saw your favorites and had a few questions about your Hungarian experiences. Your favorite dish? what was that like? My grandfather made what we called dedeya (phonetic) - like ravioli with lekvar inside, fried.
                    Also looking for "lutzi" pecsenye info. In New Brunswick, got rye sandwiches with pecenye, saeurkraut - my favorite from a now closed church booth. Sounds as if you are from the same area and may have more info. Not sure if I could find this link again, so any would appreciate an e-mail to:
                    wbjake (wbjake26@yahoo.com)

                    wbj

                    1. re: The Professor

                      So when's this new "old" Schlitz going to get distributed outside of the Minneapolis/Chicago market? I'm in DC and I know the local hipster crowd would be all over retro cheap beer.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Pabst is a company that definitely works on a shoestring budget and their production schedule is dependent on Miller (now MillerCoors) scheduling, one supposes. The "new" Schlitz in bottles, even tho' distributed in the Milwaukee area, was coming from Millers' NC brewery, IIRC.

                        Also, from what I've read, it's not exactly "cheap" by macro standards- it's being priced in the "super-premium" range of $6 a sixpack- a lot different from the pricing on the cans which had been turned into an economy beer by Stroh and, then, Pabst and is apparently still on the shelves in some regions.

                        1. re: JessKidden

                          $6 a six pack? WTF? I can get a 12 pack of Miller High Life for that much, and have money left over for limes and salt.

                  4. re: JessKidden

                    Oh dear...Champagne Velvet! I'd forgotten about that one. Mercifully.

                  5. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    I had some Narragansett beer 2 weeks ago in RI and it tasted awful, just like Listerene. It was not at all like the beer I used to drink years ago.

                    1. re: RichK

                      I remember NastyGansett from the old days, and I have not been pining for it since its demise. I haven't seen it in the stores here in Syracuse yet, but I'm not going out of my way looking for it either. It was known as the "Save the Bay Beer" for a reason.

                      (For those non-New Englanders out there: Save the Bay was an organization dedicated to the clean up of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The Narragansett Brewery did its part by bottling up all the crap that would have otherwise been dumped in the bay, and sold it as NastyGansett.)

                      What's next, the return of Haffenreffer Private Stock, aka "Green Death"?

                      1. re: al b. darned

                        Slightly OT: Al, your description of Gansett remind me of the Black Label commercials from when I was a kid. They always ended with a pastoral scene, and a soothing voice intoning, "...from the shores of Lake Cochituate". When I got a good look at the polluted mess that was Lake Cochituate in the late 60s/early 70s, I lost any desire to try Black Label!

                        Funny how the lake rebounded after the Carling brewery closed....

                        1. re: brandywiner

                          the ford plant just up the hill had something to do with that also. they used to dump a bunch of crap in back of the plant that ended up in cochituate, but of course, now were going back.

                    2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      There's nothing special about making "standard lager" recipes. How many recipes for Kraft Dinner can you rely on?

                      1. re: BeeRich

                        Not a very good comparison, methinks.
                        A Kraft Dinner is a prefab "kit" for making something resembling food. The craft of making beer is a delicate balance, no matter what style you're making, and a lot more goes into it.
                        Granted, "standard" American lager is not to everyones taste (except of course for the vast majority of American beer drinkers). I should add that it's not the first type of beer I myself reach for either. But making this style of beer takes arguably more skill than any other type of beer because unlike highly hopped so called "craft" beer, there is nothing to hide behind in terms of off flavors that could present themselves. You can hide a multitude of sins behind overpowering hop bitterness, spices, and fruity flavors.
                        Don't misunderstand me...I love the "craft" beers. But the reality is that brewing "standard" American beer takes as much (and probably more) craft than the products that go out of their way to identify themselves as such (and more and more it is wishful thinking than real craft). The best of the "craft" beers are wonderful and they do indeed make many standard lagers seem like soda pop by comparison. But a quality American lager (and there definitely are a few all malt ones that are terrific) can make some of the lesser quality micro products (and there are quite a few of those as well) seem like amateur night in Dixie. Just my opinion, of course...your own results may vary. Anyway...we all just drink what we like, and ignore the rest, don't we??

                        1. re: The Professor

                          "What is craft beer" is an interesting question. Industry analysts tend to lump together all the small breweries, and also Blue Moon, Leinenkugel's, etc. And you make the point that "craft" breweries aren't necessarily "craft", and you have to wonder if they're still "craft" as they grow to make hundreds of thousands, even millions (in the case of Boston Beer) of barrels. The Brewers Assn, which represents the small breweries, has its own definition of "craft", based on size of brewery, what kinds of beer they make, whether they're owned by a large brewery, etc.

                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                            Makes sense, in that they are defining craft as a measure of the scale of the operation. I guess I always just associated the word with the quality of the end result.
                            All a matter of perspective, I guess.
                            I love the rennaisance in brewing. On the rare occasions I run out of homebrew because of extended out of town gigs that sometimes keep me from brewing, I do try to support the better of the smaller breweries or give a test spin to something new that looks interesting...but I do confess to throughly enjoying a Michelob every now and again (especially since they reverted to the all malt formula). Speaking of which...Jim you'd probably know the answer to this: just when did A-B make the change back to all malt on Michelob? Somehow I missed that when it happened and I don't recall them making any particular ballyhoo about it. I know that after years of all-malt the went adjunct with it in the late 1950's. The current version is, I think, pretty respectable.

                            1. re: The Professor

                              I don't know the answer, but I'll bet Jess does! Seems that big brewers often produced premium, all-malt beers a few decades ago. Some popular imports changed to all-malt in recent years. I'm thinking Heineken and Beck's, for starters.

                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                A-B announced the return of an all-malt recipe for Michelob in early '07 http://www.anheuser-busch.com/press/m... -tho', as I recall it, it took awhile for it to hit all the markets. I was pretty disappointed when I first had it and thought "Uh, so they took out the rice and didn't replace it with an equal amount of malt?" <g>

                                I once had a great, fresh glass of Mich at an A-B brewery- great hop nose and flavor and had been searching for a lager like that for years after. Didn't get it until the craft brewers started making lagers. I wonder what the IBU's is for the "new/old" Michelob and how it compares to earlier versions.

                                As the PR says, the switch to the rice adjunct occurred when Michelob was first bottled (up until then, it had been all-malt since it's introduction in the 1890's) but I've never read or heard if that was just coincidence OR the recipe was changed because of the bottling and pasteurization.

                                Here's how A-B was describing the draught-only Michelob a few years before-
                                http://jesskidden.googlepages.com/mic...

                                There were a few "super-premiums" from the pre-craft brewers that remained all-malt. Hamm had one in Waldech, Pabst had Andecker, and in it's final death throws, Schlitz even came out with Erlanger. I picked up a little promo booklet put out by C. Schmidt's & Sons of Phila. in the late 1950's and they said that there were still "a few" all-malt US beers at the time.

                                1. re: JessKidden

                                  Great info, thanks...that fills in a few blanks for me. It's probabl;y a safe bet that the new "old" Michelob has less of the ho than originally. I'm told that A-B has been constantly tweaking their formulas, which are apparently not as sacred as the advertising hype has always suggested.

                                  I do remember Andecker, Erlanger, and Waldech. I remember particularly liking Erlanger. Another one that immediately comes to mind is actually another "brewery death throe" example, Rheingold's 1973 (or so) revival of the all malt Trommer's White Label (Rheingold had moved into the old Trommer's plant in West Orange, NJ...I guess the label was part of the deal).
                                  It was particularly good, but was only around for a year or two in that incarnation.

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    Yes, in the NYC-NJ metro area, Trommer's White Label was probably the longest lived all-malt beer ("It's all malt and hops!" was it's slogan) and was still being discussed long after it's demise. I have heard that it was briefly revived but I never saw it. (Possibly it was "draught only"? -which was somewhat common in that era for small production beers.)

                                    Tho, IIRC my NYC area brewery history, Liebmann (Rheingold) did buy the Orange brewery of Trommers, Piels wound up with the brand name and their Brooklyn brewery (they were still making Trommer White Label and Red Letter beers into the mid-60's). Piels eventually wound up a discount label of Schaefer's (after a stint in the Associated group of breweries, most of which wound up as part of Heileman) but don't know the journey of the rights to the "Trommers" brand name.

                          2. re: The Professor

                            I've spent many years doing just that, brewing professionally making standard lager. And it isn't purely American. It happens all around the world. And no, there is little craft to it. Building beers for seasons, that is a craft. Adding ingredients to a malt hopper is not a craft. Adding hops to a boil is not a craft.

                      2. Legacy, out of Reading, Pa, recently re-created the Reading Premium recipe from I believe the 50's. A light pilsner with a crisp finish. Pretty good stuff, especially compared to something like Coor's Lite.

                        1. I did not realize the bottles I've seen here in Florida were the new/old formula until that article. I bought a sixer last week and it's not great, it's not bad, it's just OK. Given the choice of that or standard BMC it is a step or 3 above the latter.

                          1. Maybe Erlanger will make a comeback as well.....

                            1. Woah, hold your horses everyone. I know this doesn't address the original post, but won't anyone else stand up for Schlitz? I like a fancy beer too, but here we are talking about canned beer in the cheaper-than-coors category, i.e. PBR, Schmidt, Beast, etc.

                              Of those beers, Schlitz is tops, and even dares to have its own flavor, so here's to "just the kiss of the hops," that's the 12 pack of cans i want in my fridge.

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: Mr. Scrapple

                                Pabst is becoming popular with the younguns' here in Chicago. They call it PBR and you can get it for as low as 2 bucks in a bar. In a longneck. Maybe it's the economy. I've had a couple out of curiosity and nostalgia and it's okay.

                                But SCHLITZ????
                                'Twas an old man's and teenager beer in my day.

                                1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                  Just goes to show the power of marketing and advertising. Some of those so called "old man" beers were mighty fine brews in their day. Certainly better than the lowly and oddly, top selling malt soda pop, Budweiser.
                                  Advertising and image....

                                  1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                    "But SCHLITZ????
                                    'Twas an old man's and teenager beer in my day."

                                    Still is -or, at least it appears they hope it will be.

                                    Take a look at the current website for the "reborn" Schlitz -
                                    http://www.schlitzgusto.com/advertisi... (you'll have to go through their age check page first) and you'll see that their main marketing is AIMED at "old men" who were "teenagers" during the decades they've decided to emphasize (1950's and 1960's).

                                    1. re: JessKidden

                                      Hey now! I'm NOT an old man! LOL!
                                      Now, please. You did NOT want to to drink the same beer as your dad. Besides, my sister had a friend who went to med school in Chicago and lived in Denver. He bootlegged Coors and sold it THEN (70's)for $5/6 pack of cans here. Paid for books that way! We thought it was cool. And SO exotic!

                                      THEN we graduated to MOOSEHEAD because it was an import alternative to Heineken. Even MORE exotic! Then I went away to college and drank RAINIER! Whoo!
                                      bwwaaahhhhhhaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!

                                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                        "Hey now! I'm NOT an old man! LOL! Now, please."

                                        Sorry you took offense <g> I didn't refer to you as an "old man"- only using your term to comment on the fact that Pabst's seems to be aiming at an older market segment (who are old enought to have been around in the 1950's-'60's to get nostalgic about it). A different segment than their Blue Ribbon brand and the "hipster" market.

                                        "You did NOT want to to drink the same beer as your dad."

                                        Well, maybe YOU didn't. My old man drank Ballantine's XXX Ale and, occasionally, their India Pale Ale. I gladly grabbed a longneck deposit bottle of "Bally" out of the fridge at home or from his cooler in his car at work...

                                        1. re: JessKidden

                                          Jess, your old man was evidently a man with excellent taste.

                                          A lot of younger folk don't want to believe that a brewery that was once the 3rd largest in the country made beers that outclass (by a very wide margin) a lot of so called "craft" product available today. I'll drink a toast to your old man next time I have a beer. Maybe I'll even have one or two of Pabst/Miller's fake Ballantine XXX.
                                          (what time is it? it must be 5 o'clock somewhere in the world now...)

                                          1. re: JessKidden

                                            Oh good GOD I must be decades older than you. Nobody ever heard of those when I grew up. Like I said, Heineken was THE IMPORT and then Beck's (which I forgot about til now). Draft beer didn't travel well back in them days!

                                            But craft beers and draft imports are expensive and we're in a garbage economy. So maybe a revival of cheaper to produce beers are part of that. There's a huge difference between two bucks a bottle and five bucks a draft if you're a 20 something out drinking all night.

                                            OLD STYLE (mentioned below) was one of the worst, except for maybe Hamm's or Old Milwaukee.

                                            Also, Miller (not genuine) made a good come back several years ago. So there's A niche, regardless.

                                            1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                              "Oh good GOD I must be decades older than you. Nobody ever heard of those when I grew up."

                                              Wow. While "heard of those" is not a particularly accurate way to determine one's age, if you're implying you're "decades older" than someone since you pre-date those Ballantine ales, well, I guess you are somewhat elderly, seeing as the brewery was founded in 1840 and those specific labels were being marketed by the late 1800's when the company was the 4th largest brewery in the US (1877).

                                              I'll raise a glass of IPA (I'll pick Victory's since Ballantine's is gone) and toast your long life this evening. <g>

                                              1. re: JessKidden

                                                Don't be snippy, sonny boy
                                                Now that my Alzheimer's has temporarily cleared, I think I remember it being around, probably just not popular in shot and a (cheap) beer tavern land when I was growing up. Or maybe it was because there was no electricity yet.

                                                I also recall, sometime in the (19)80's having a Bud in Canada and it being better than US Bud and wondering why.

                                            2. re: JessKidden

                                              You're right, Whosyerkitty, I *don't* want to drink the same beer as my Dad! My old man drank all the cheap stuff; Narragansett, Piels, Rhinegold, Black Label, etc. Because I thought it tasted so nasty I never drank when I was I was a teenager. When I joined the Navy I found out there was *good* beer in the world. (And a lot more swill like Buckhorn, Hamms, Grain Belt, etc, etc.)

                                              Sure, there were some good beers in the 60's and 70's, but all in all, I'm not nostalgic for beer from the "good old days."

                                              1. re: JessKidden

                                                Wasn't Ballantine a Falstaff product?

                                                1. re: TroyTempest

                                                  Only after Falstaff bought the Ballantine brands in 1972, when the P. Ballantine & Sons brewery in Newark, NJ shut down.

                                                  The eventual parent company of Falstaff, the S&P Corporation, which owned General/Lucky Lager, went on to buy up Pearl and then Pabst and by the 1990's folded all their brands under the "Pabst" umbrella. That's how Ballantine became a Pabst-owned brand.

                                                  1. re: JessKidden

                                                    re: "That's how Ballantine became a Pabst-owned brand."

                                                    And that's how Ballantine became a mere shadow of what it once was. Falstaff managed to keep something resembling the product's original character intact; Pabst basically castrated it . So sad...

                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                      I never had Ballantine in its glory days, but did buy Ballantine IPA from time to time back in the '80s when it was hard to find interesting beer in the East. It was decent then, considering its competition. Back then I would happen across Prior Double Dark, Fred Koch, stuff like that, occasionally, and was happy for that.

                                                      1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                        I definitely remember and enjoyed the Prior beers both before and after the brands were taken over by Schmidt's. I also liked the Black Horse Ale and the Porter that came out of the Koch brewery (a different product , also named Black Horse Ale, was made by the Champale brewery in southern NJ...despite the Champale connection, the Trenton version of Black Horse Ale was also not bad in it's day).

                                                        When you get right down to it, there were quite a few worthy brews back in those days 35-40-45 years ago. They were just a little harder to track down unless one had a forward thinking and progressive store close at hand. I guess I was lucky in that regard. Central NJ had a few stores that were known, even back then, for having a more eclectic selection of worthy regionals and unusual imports. And these places also regularly stocked the big brewery seasonals that were surprisingly common back then. Some of those were pretty decent, while others were merely standard run beers with caramel color added. But the good ones definitely stood out.
                                                        Our choices certainly didn't come close to approaching the massive selection we have in these heady days when so may folks have discovered that beer is really pretty easy to make, so they open a brewery...but still, having been a 'good beer' fan for close to half a century, I continue to maintain that the supposed "dark ages" weren't really _quite_ as dark as some folks would have us believe. There was actually a good number of superbly excellent beers to be had in the years prior to the micro boom that began in the 70's.

                                                        1. re: The Professor

                                                          Schmidt's, which has acquired the Prior and other Scheidt brands (like Valley Forge, Ram's Head) as well as their Norristown breweryin 1954, was still brewing 3 different Prior labels into the 1960's - Prior Light (in color) Beer, Prior Double Dark and the all-malt Prior Preferred. I've seen articles from the '50's which claimed it was the last bottled all-malt lager brewed in the US (I guess Trommers White Label was gone - the brand owned by Piels, and Michelob, Andeker and a few other all-malts were draught only at that time).

                                                          The importer, Atlantis, who first contracted with Scheidt for Prior in the '40's was, supposedly, an importer of Pilsner Urquell whose supply was cut off early in the War. Post-war, he also imported Amstel and Wuerzburger among others, as well as distributing Prior.

                                                          According to former C. Schmidt's brewer Bill Moeller, Prior Double Dark wasn't all-malt by the 80's when he was brewing it.

                                                          The Black Horse Ale brewed by Fred Koch and Champale (formerly the Metropolis Brewing Co. of NJ) in Trenton, NJ was the same beer (at least, originally) and even used the same label design up until the '80's.

                                                          The brand originated as an Canadian import from Dawes (based on ads, it was pretty prevalent in the US) but when Molson bought Dawes they neglected to register the brand and a US brewer, Diamond Spring Brewing Co. (Holihan's) in Lawrence, MA simply took it over.

                                                          They then arranged to have both Koch and Champale also brew the beer to cover the east coast distribution area. Not sure if it was a licensing deal or what, but after DS folded in the early '70's, it appears that Koch took ownership of the brand and continued the deal with Champale (who used the dba "Black Horse Ale Brewery of NJ" on their label) .

                                                          Genesee bought Koch in the mid-80's and continued Black Horse Ale for a few years but the Champale version disappeared after Heileman bought their brands a couple years later.

                                                          1. re: JessKidden

                                                            So is there such a thing as a "Beer Lineage" book out there that takes into account all known pre-80's beer brands and traces them back through their formula evolutions and changes of ownership to perhaps the end of prohibition? And if not, when are you going to write it Jess? I want something encyclopedic with a nice section in color that cleanly depicts labels along a date line as they change hands and change formulas and change names and go extinct.

                                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                              That would indeed be a VERY interesting book.

                                                      2. re: The Professor

                                                        But, see, that's the whole point- the company that owned Falstaff (after 1975) and the Ballantine brands - S&P (Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust) - was the same company that went by the name "Pabst Brewing Co." until the Metropoulos family bought it in '10.

                                                        At this point, "Ballantine" is actually the brand that that company has owned the longest, since Falstaff, Narragansett, Haffenreffer and the General-Lucky Lager brands are all gone to other owners or no longer made.

                                                        I didn't drink much Ballantine XXX Ale in the '90's (and those last batches of BIPA out of Milwaukee were pretty sad) but some of the Pabst-owned Ballantine Ale was still pretty nice- I remember a batch labeled (confusingly) "Falstaff Brewing Co., Detroit, MI" which apparently was brewed at Stroh breweries in Allentown PA and, rumored to possibly at the ex-Heileman La Crosse brewery. It was only after Pabst closed all their breweries (2001) and also moved most of their contract-brewing to Miller that the Ale lost all resemblance to what it once was.

                                                        Pabst has also done some contracting at The Lion, City (both Latrobe and Lacrosse), Cold Spring and Matt's - I wish they'd give one of them or just about any other brewery (particularly one set up for top fermentation) a chance at brewing Ballantine Ale. Or maybe the Metropoulos' need some cash and can sell the brand off to a company that cares.

                                                        1. re: JessKidden

                                                          Pabst still owns the Falstaff brand. From a 2009 e-mail from someone in the company:
                                                          "We stopped making Falstaff about 5 years ago; however, we do still own the brand, and we may reintroduce it sometime in the future."

                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                            > "Pabst still owns the Falstaff brand."

                                                            Which is why I wrote "...or no longer made" after I mentioned those four notable S&P-owned brands that predated the company's purchase of the Pearl, Pabst , Stroh and Heileman brands.

                                                            1. re: JessKidden

                                                              Jess,
                                                              I wasn't disagreeing with you. I just thought it interesting that they would consider reintroducing it at some point in the future.
                                                              I have somewhat of a soft spot for Falstaff. It was brewed in my hometown (Galveston, TX) and many of my parents' friends worked at the brewery. It was one of the first beers that i drank before i drank legally, even. I remember that i liked the taste of it back then, but of course i liked all beer.
                                                              And, pretty much every beer that i had until i was in college in the early 80's was the same style.