What Happened to My Father’s Beer?

schlitzI have a lot of great memories of growing up in Austin, where most of our backyard was occupied by a pool and a limestone patio with a Texas-sized barbeque pit. In the summertime, life revolved around the pool for us kids. When my parents hosted parties, the dads sat around the barbeque pit. The moms, who didn’t need to prove they were macho, sat inside the air-conditioned house because, if you’re outdoors in Texas in the summer and not swimming, then you’re sweating. This seating arrangement worked well for everybody. Inside, the moms drank coffee and chatted. Outside, and loosely supervised by the moms, we kids pretty much drank as many Cokes as we wanted and the dads pretty much drank as many beers as they wanted.

hammsThe other day, I was trying to remember what brands my dad and his friends drank. I remembered Schlitz because I learned the word “gusto” from their commercials, and in my head, I can still hear the beat of the Hamm’s drum during MLB commercial breaks and picture the black-and-white footage of the bear and the little Indian boy dancing to the drum beat. Political incorrectness hadn’t been invented yet.

But did my father actually drink those? I mean, wives and daughters weren’t exactly welcomed to hang out with the men. Boys, though, were a different story, so I emailed my younger brother. “Pearl was the go-to beer in the seventies for Dad’s group. They drank Jax and Falstaff, too.”

Jax BeerMy brother added that he used to sneak Dad’s surplus party beer from the unair-conditioned storage closet off the garage. “If you drank it fast and ran around in circles, you could get a buzz,” he reported.

But what ever happened to my father’s beers?

  • Pearl: Founded, 1886. Became part of Pabst in 1985. In 1999, production was transferred to Miller, today part of SABMiller. Still produced at Miller’s Ft. Worth, Texas brewery.
  • jaxJax: Founded, 1890. The tenth largest-selling beer at one point in the 1960s. Went bankrupt in the 1970s and bought by Pearl, who was later bought by Pabst. Jax is no longer brewed. Today, the original New Orleans building houses The Shops at Jax Brewery.
  • Falstaff: Begun in 1838 as Lemp Brewery. The third largest U.S. brewer in the 1960. License eventually bought by Pabst. Last Falstaff brewed in 2005.
  • Schlitz: Founded, 1849. Once the number one producer of beer in the U.S. Bought by Stroh in 1982, and Stroh was bought by Pabst in 1989. Pabst still produces two Schlitz products.
  • falstaffHamm’s: Founded, 1865. Between 1968 and 1999, Hamm’s changed owners four times, ending up in the Miller portfolio, today part of SABMiller. Three of Hamm’s beers are still produced by MillerCoors.
  • Pabst: Founded, 1844. Today hold licenses for over two dozen brands from defunct companies. It’s brewing is exclusively on a contract basis with other companies.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, formerly grand breweries steadily imploded. Those that hung on changed with the times and grew larger than anything ever seen before or after Prohibition. On the fringes, a new movement was emerging, but microbreweries like Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head were so micro that most folks, like my father in Texas, had only heard of them and certainly wouldn’t have paid the crazy prices they were asking for their strange beers.

 

Comments

  1. Interesting to hear about what Texans were drinking back then. I haven’t heard of most of these brands. Growing up around the same time in California, Pabst Blue Ribbon was the first beer my dad gave me a sip of. He would measure out some salt in the pam of his hand and drop it in before heading into the summer sun for Saturday gardening. I still don’t understand the salt part, but it was his ritual. As my dad moved up in his career, Henry Weinhard’s bottles with their 2-digit batch numbers replaced the red, white and blue cans in the fridge. When we would visit my uncle in Sparks, Nevada, Hamm’s was the regional choice. My uncle even named his dog after the beer.

    • Leslie Patiño says:

      Hi Steve, a dog named Hamm’s–that pretty funny. For years, Cuauhtémoc Brewery ran an advertising campaign in Mexico for Tecate “con su sal y su limón” (with its salt and its lime). I think it was supposedly more refreshing. It certainly makes a nice combination.

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