Update: The Brookston Beer Bulletin reports that Pabst has brought back the Primo label (acquired from Stroh who dropped production in the 1990's). Initial production is by Keoki Brewing.

Pabst is relaunching Schlitz in its original formula.

In 1840, Jacob Best, Sr. relocated his brewery from Mettenheim Germany to Milwaukee, WI as the Empire Brewery. In 1850, his sons Charles and Lorenz left the business and founded the competing Plank Road Brewery (now Miller). Sons Jacob Best, Jr. and Phillip continued the business, but had a falling out. Steamship captain Frederick Pabst married Phillip's daughter Maria in 1862. He soon joined the business, and in 1865, Pabst and Emil Schandein bought out the brewery. They expanded the brewery through the 1890's, and Pabst led U.S. sales between 1895 and 1902. After Prohibition, Pabst continued to do well until the 1980's. Heileman was among perspective purchasers, but in 1985, Paul Kalmonovitz purchased the Pearl Brewing Co. (San Antonio, TX) as well as Pabst, Falstaff and General [Apps]. Olympia got bought up somewhere in there, as well.

After his death, Kalmanovitz's holding company S&P oversaw (or continued) the dismantling of the once great brewing empire, running its Omaha and Fort Wayne plants into the ground and disbursing its assets, as well as waging war against its own workers, past and present. Although the dispute over cancelled benefits for retired workers has been settled, (Solidarity, August/September 1998), you can see Tom O'Brien's web page for more information. CNN has an article on the closing of the Milwaukee plant.

Pabst bought Stroh's in 1999, acquiring many of the names they'd purchased with Heileman in 1996. Details in the Midwest Beer Notes. I don't think that they still own any plants, and I know Miller handles a lot of Pabst production. I wasn't sure what happened to all of the acquired labels, but it seems as if Pabst has picked up more than I expected. Still MIA, at least to me: Goebel.

There are some good articles about Pabst and Naragansett, as well as lots of other breweries, in the American Breweriana Journal.

Pabst labels tend to share distinctive bottle caps with a stein logo, featuring a rebus on the inside (when you can't figure out the rebus, you've had too much). For more rebus information/answers, see:

Pabst has a web page. So does the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee.


Ballantine Ale.

Founded by the Scottish brewer Peter Ballantine in Albany, NY in 1830. The beer moved to Newark, then Rhode Island, and finally Indiana as a Falstaff product. I imagine it was made in Texas, probably contract brewed now. Products included a light ale, an IPA [2] and ``Old Tankard Ale'' [Jackson-2], but I've only seen the regular beer recently.


Valentine Blatz opened his brewery in 1851, and married the widow of his ex-employer in 1852, acquiring Johann Braun's City Brewery. Although Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to go national, it was forced to close in 1959, and the label was sold to Pabst. Heileman purchased it in 1969 after Pabst's anti-trust problems [Apps]. Pabst got it back when the bought Stroh's.

Carling Black Label. [***],

Dry and a little sour. Actually, either my tastes have changed in the last four years, or Black Label is better out of deposit bottles than it is out of cans at twice the cost. In any case, Black Label is more watery than I would earlier have said, but it still wins points for managing to avoid active nastiness. Pabst acquired the U.S. rights with the purchase of Stroh's, who had them from Heileman. For earlier history, see The History of Carling Black Label in the USA.

Lone Star. WWW and WWW.

...and Lone Star Light. Came from Heileman through Stroh's. By the way, the web site clearly hasn't been updated since 1959, as it says that Texas is "...the only state in the Union that was once its own nation."


Ale, Black and Tan, Lager. I think these are the beers contract brewed for McSorley's Old Ale House.

National Bohemian

Another former Heileman brand. I don't generally have much useful experience with eastern brands.

Old Milwaukee. WWW.

From Stroh's. Light, Ice, NA too.

Old Style. WWW.

Heileman's house beer since 1902.


"It's the water"

Pabst Blue Ribbon. [*]. WWW.

Originally a nick-name, after winning a hotly-contested ribbon in an international competition (I think that litigation, or at least the threat thereof, was involved, see Apps [Apps]). Once one of the most popular beers in America, but it's not really all that good -- too much corn.

The Wieck Photo Database includes an ABC commemorative can picture.


Another Texas beer.


"The Beer Drinker's Beer"

Rainier Beer. WWW.

Heileman purchased Washington's Rainier Brewing Company in 1977. Current products include a beer and a (presumably more-alcoholic) ale, with the obligatory light and ice. Acquired with Stroh's.


Schaefer is almost certainly justified in their claims to be ``America's Oldest Lager Beer'' -- Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer have been making lager since 1848, after they purchased New York City's Sebastian Sommers Brewery [Robertson].

Unfortunately, Schaefer also distinguishes itself as one of America's most watery beers, but has a noticeably better aftertaste than Milwaukee's Best.

See Schaefer history at


``The beer that made Milwaukee famous.''
In 1849, August Krug established a brewery in Milwaukee. His bookkeeper, Joseph Schlitz, acquired both his brewery and his wife when Krug died in 1858. The brewery's market share increased steadily, and sales doubled when Schlitz entered the Chicago market immediately after the Chicage Fire in 1871. Schlitz was lost at sea in 1875, and four nephews ran the company until prohibition. In the 1960's, Schlitz was the second-largest brewer in the world. However, during the next decade, Schlitz was troubled by indictments for improper marketing, insufficient advertising, public resentment towards a change in their brewing recipe, and finally a 1981 strike that lead to the closure of their Milwaukee plant. Schlitz was still the nation's third-largest brewer when it was purchased by Stroh's in 1982 [Apps].


Also Light and Ice.

Special Export. WWW.

Heileman's premium beer. Herbert Lyon ( writes:

The premium beer is Special Export, Special Export was introduced around 1950. The original label was the standard Old Style Label with the words Special Export in red across the label. Initially, only one case was alloted to each bar per week. About 2-3 years later, the green bottle was introduced, and it is is still the signature for Special Export. It nicknamed "Green Death".

Old Style is excellent, but Special Export, now EX, is one step above that. Do not bother with the light version, of either, if you consider yourself a beer drinker.

I worked in the Brewery one summer while in college. All the free beer you could drink, with a 5 minute beer break each hour. Sadly, no longer true.


In, Ed Schaefer ( describes a history similar to many cheap beer labels:

My grandfather was on the board of directors of the company formed by the merger of Griesedick Brothers and the Great Western Brewery that brewed Stag in Belleville. They sold out to Carling in the '50s and since then were bought by Heileman. Unfortunately, all that remains is the label - the old brewery was torn down some years ago. 8-( Still some taverns with "Stag" signs - and one with a "Hyde Park" (their other big selling brand) sign last time I was there. As an aside, Adolphus Busch of A-B fame (infamy?) once operated a tavern and biergarten in Belleville.

I can't say that the current product is much like the Stag that I knew and loved in the '50s - I quit buying it when they closed the brewery and it had already been "toned down" for the mass market IMHO.


``America's Only Fire Brewed Beer.''
According to [Jackson], this contributes to a faint carmelization in the brewing process. Also, Stroh's Light.

Malt liquors include Champale, Colt 45 (from Heileman), Country Club, Haffenreffer, Schlitz, and St. Ide's.

Former Beers


Augsburger was most recently owned by Huber, then Stroh. The name is now licensed to Stevens Point.

Falstaff. [***]

``The Choicest Product of the Brewer's Art''
No longer among America's top-selling beers, Falstaff was bought by Kalmanovitz in 1975 and soon rolled into General Brewing.

See John Smallshaw's huge Falstaff fan site and Tim Tassler's Brewing in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the American Breweriana Journal.


Sold to Miller with the acquisition of Stroh's.



NA beer for Heileman.

Lucky Lager. [*]

Comes in 11 ounce non-refillable bottles from the General Brewing Co. [3]. Beer (generic) is the same sour/mediocre product with a different label. I think all of these have disappeared, but I'll double-check someday.

Olde English

Sold to Miller with the acquisition of Stroh's.

Rheingold. WWW

Currently licensed to the Rheingold Brewing Company and marketed primarily in trendy NYC neigborhoods.

Up to index, Back to Miller, Forward to Pittsburgh Brewing.
Thomas Insel /