Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Goodbye, Old Friend

Today I mourn the loss of a dear friend. Old Style Lager was good to me, and I'll always love it. But my drinking buddy is leaving me.

[Thanks for the liver damage, pal. I'll never forget you.]

Me and Old Style spent many days together, many, many more nights, and more than a handful of early mornings. We traveled, we made friends, we even had an elicit relationship in high school. But now, my beloved beer is slipping away right in front of my eyes.

Okay, Old Style isn't dead, but it's undergoing some life-threatening changes. Parent company Pabst Brewing Company recently announced that they're changing Old Style's formula back to its original "fully krausened" recipe, which basically means they add fermenting beer to the already fermented brew.

[The New Style]

This is supposed to make it taste better (Old Style was brewed this way until the 90s, so technically my first taste was from this same recipe), but from what I can tell, it doesn't. It seems bitter and just, somehow, unsatisfying. Let me take a sip right now -- nope, that's not my Style.

[The Taste Test]

[Acceptance? Bargaining?]

[Anger. Depression.]


I'm sure I can get used to the taste. But the new price? That's going to be a problem. Just because the new Old Style has the same price point as Budweiser doesn't mean it IS Budweiser. Don't they realize that Old Style drinkers aren't Bud drinkers? Nor do they want to be.

Merely a month ago you could get a case of Old Style for under $14. That's a little over 50 cents a can. Now a 12 PACK will run you 11 bucks. That math isn't hard -- it's almost a dollar a can. Can I pay twice as much to hang onto my pal?

I can, but I can't buy into the new marketing campaign, which, as I predict, will be the death of Old Style.

Pabst's main angle seems to focus on community. The new can reads, "In your neighborhood since 1902" and the new slogan is "Think Local. Drink Local." Somebody seems to have forgotten that Old Style's community consists of people who bond over their pride in drinking a cheap but tasty beer.

[My man would wear these.]

Worse, as part of the new campaign Pabst Brewing Company plans to hold Old Style block parties. I'm not sure I even get that. The last time I checked, the target 20-something market hunkered down in dive bars, rather than getting permits from the city to block off streets on which they don't own homes.

[My kind of block party.]

Instead, they should have taken a cue from Duffy's and held "Dad's Beer Nights." Back in college we drank Old Style tall boys for a dollar a piece on Tuesday nights. The trash cans would literally be overflowing with empty Old Styles, which won out every time over all of the other "dad's beers." If Pabst wants to sell some beer they should keep the price and focus on what every kid wants -- a beer nabbed from that basement fridge.


The other day I walked into a bar and asked if they had Old Style, to which the bartender replied, "No. They raised the price a bunch so we're not carrying it." That was a sad day because, as much as I'm disappointed in Old Style's misguided rebranding, I'm loyal to my brew. I'll probably make the leap, pay the extra cash, and get used to the taste. Hell, I don't even know HOW to buy other beer when I go to the store. But when bars and beer drinkers opt out of their Old Style love affair, and Old Style's market starts to dwindle, my beloved beer will be facing a terminal illness. And then I'll have to say goodbye forever. The saddest thing? In Pabst's attempt to make Old Style more marketable, its death will be their own fault.


  1. Here, here!! I fully concur with your take on the new marketing campaign. Celebration of life, indeed!

  2. I don't think anyone could have said it better. I think a celebration of life IS completely necessary, & I still have 2 cases of the "real" old stuff in my fridge. That's right. 2. No, wait, one and a half.

  3. Okay, the series of pics for your taste test/stages of grief had me laughing out loud. Thanks. I needed that today.

  4. i know nothing about beer as i'm more of a wine person ... but i just wanted to tell you, again, that i love you & i love your blog.

    i'm obsessed with your play-by-play of tasting the new brew. i nearly peed my pants!

  5. I have officially switched to High Life Light, as they were out of Old, Old Style Light at Baker's today. It was heartbreaking.

  6. Look man. I live on the east coast. There's no, what did you call it...Olde Style? here. PBR is still $13 a case here. Just learn to love it. I did.

    After a year or so, the last time I had Ye Olde Style (at your house, I believe) I didn't much care for it. Compared to my newfound love for PBR, of course.

    You'll grow on it.