An enjoyable encounter recently with Pabst Blue Ribbon – and that is not an oxymoron – tapped memories of beers from decades ago.
Memories of brands such as Ballantine and Schlitz and Schmidt’s of Philadelphia. Iconic names in eastern Pennsylvania, if not the nation’s Northeast and beyond. Here’s a list of some old-school beers that this baby boomer can recall.
Schaefer – Remember the catchy jingle: “Schaefer pleasure. ... The one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” This beer is still around today, and it’s owned by the Pabst Brewing Co.
Schmidt’s of Philadelphia – Served in an elegant-looking can. I close my eyes and still hear the melodic phrase “Schmidt’s of Philadelphia” rolling off the tongue of Phillies’ TV and radio announcer Bill Campbell.
Ballantine – Another jingle to remember: “And now it’s premium. It’s a very special brand of beer.” True story, possibly only embellished a bit over time. In the 1960s as a kid, I saw the Phillies’ Richie Allen mash a long home run into the mammoth 75-foot high Ballantine scoreboard in right-centerfield at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It was a majestic shot by Allen – maybe the strongest player of his era – but he struck out his next time at the plate and was booed mightily by the Philly fans.
National Bohemian – Best known in the Maryland region, National Bo was a fan favorite at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, home of the Orioles and Colts. A 100 percent true story: I remember sitting in the bleachers at Memorial Stadium, watching then-Oriole right-fielder Reggie Jackson gobble down Sugar Babies between pitches. Reggie kept the bag of candy in his back pocket, and by game’s end, several Sugar Babies’ wrappers littered right field. The year was 1976, Reggie’s interim season after playing for the Oakland A’s and signing a big free-agent contract with the Yankees.
Rolling Rock – A case of Rolling Rock ponies sold for $6 at The Rathskeller at Penn State, and they’d let you drink it there, too. They no longer make the Rock in Latrobe in western Pennsylvania, but it’s still very tasty.
Iron City – This Pittsburgh-based beer did not have a good reputation among eastern Pennsylvanians years ago at Penn State, but the price was right.
Piels – Another regional beer that was bought out a couple of times over the years. Pabst eventually got the rights and in 2015 stopped making Piels.
Colt 45 – Possibly the first quart of alcohol ever purchased by two-thirds of young male adults growing up in Pennsylvania. It’s still around, also owned by Pabst.
Stroh’s – Another beer that couldn’t survive against giants like Budweiser. But Stroh’s is trying to make a comeback.
Schlitz – For some reason, drinking this beer always gave me a headache. It had an adroit jingle, though: “When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer.”
Miller High Life and Miller Genuine Draft – The Miller High Life bottle has a gorgeous design and both are full of flavor. But they’re not easy to find these days.
Pabst Blue Ribbon – We’ll end with our beginning and PBR. Its taste used to go from awful (early in the evening) to tolerable (late at night). But the price was always affordable for college kids.
Maybe, just maybe, Pabst and some of these other old-school domestics are making a comeback – alternatives to the giants and, ironically, to the sometimes snooty craft offerings of the 21st century.