Let’s go back to a few we used to toss back

WHEN PEOPLE ask me to name my favorite beer, I usually say, “My next one. ”

But beer drinkers can be a nostalgic sort (you still know the words to the Schaefer jingle, right?), and sometimes I find my thoughts drifting back to beers of the past – beers that are gone but not forgotten.

We’ve got a lot of them in Philly, of course: Schmidt’s, Esslinger, Gretz, Ortlieb’s and so on.

A couple weeks ago, WIP sports talker Glen Macnow and I asked listeners of our weekly “Bar Talk” podcast what beers they’d like to see brought back from the dead. We got more than 50 replies, from those that are long gone (Valley Forge) to some that are still alive but hard to find (Molson Brador).

Some listeners pined for beers they never tasted. “Pabst Red, White & Blue,” said Tim Klady, recalling the Milwaukee brewery’s discount brand. “Just one case, so I can drink what my grandfather did. “

It’s not just those retro lagers from the 1950s that bring back memories. Modern craft beer – now entering its fourth decade – has its share of extinct brands: Bert Grant’s Scottish Ale, Arrowhead Red Feather, Red Bell Black Cherry Stout and so on.

Remember Gravity Brewing, the tiny operation that three ex-Penn students operated in a short-lived brew-on-premises spot on Spring Garden Street 20 years ago? Another listener, John Sabol, does; he’d like another taste of Gravity Pale Ale, which I recall as a particularly good brew made with malt extract.

Was it as good as, say, Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale, a beer that is readily available today? Maybe not, but that’s how it goes when you’re looking in the rearview mirror. Faded memories are often wistful.

My favorite beer will always be my next one, but here’s a sixpack whose absence makes the heart grow fonder:

  1. Prior Double Dark (circa 1939): Really old-timers remember this smooth, dark lager from Norristown’s Scheidt brewery. My generation remembers it from the early ’80s, when Schmidt’s had acquired the brand and had it pouring throughout Center City (45 cents a mug at Pop Edwards, on Market Street).
  2. Olde Frothingslosh (circa 1954): The pale stale ale with the foam on the bottom came in collectible cans decorated with a photo of the reigning Miss Frothingslosh, a corpulent beauty named Fatima Yechbergh, whose hobbies included arc welding. It was a gag beer from Pittsburgh, and I do mean gag.
  3. Pete’s Wicked Ale (circa 1986): Founder Pete Slosberg is one of the undisputed pioneers of craft beer, and the introduction of his flagship beer was a seminal event that revived America’s lost brown ale. Never mind that history – my enduring memory of this beer is from 2001, when Slosberg sold the brand and the new owners invited me to attend its relaunch with Miss August, Miss December and a bunch of other Bunnies at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
  4. Celis White (circa 1992): This once-popular wheat beer has had a fitful history in which it died and was reborn a half-dozen times. At one point, it was produced by Miller Brewing, and today the brand is in production in both Belgium and South Carolina. The version I’m remembering, though, is the cloudy, refreshing ale brewed in Austin, Texas, by the late Pierre Celis, the guy who revived Belgium’s classic style known as witbier.
  5. Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout (circa 1997): Hard to believe, but 15 years ago, raspberries were a thing. The Great American Beer Festival actually had an entire category for them. This rich, dark and coffee-like brew – made with a full ton of raspberries in the secondary fermentation – was a medalist at the World Beer Championships.
  6. Samuel Adams Scotch Ale (circa 1995): In August, Boston Beer will ask fans to select two extinct beers from its “brewer’s vault” to be returned to circulation in 2016. This smoky, malty ale – a style that is not particularly popular these days – is my pick for a return to the living dead.

What beer would you like to see brought back to life? Email me or comment online.


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