Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Finding a beer from long ago…

By William Brand
Thursday, November 30th, 2006 at 6:14 pm in Uncategorized.


Beer’s a funny thing. A brand can grow on you when you’re young and even if you later realize the stuff is swill, you still have fond memories.

For me it was National Bohemian, made in Baltimore in the 1950s. When I was almost old enough to drink legally, I National Bo was the beer on tap at a tavern in Anacostia, Washington, D.C. where I lived. I stuck to that brand until I moved to the Midwest. Today, I realize, it was basically colored water with a bit of alcohol. But I still have fond memories of eating Hoagies – that is, a Philly cheesesteak on a Hoagie bun – at a place near the Anacostia River and sipping a National Bo.

So when a reader called me from Walnut Creek, looking for Old Style, a beer originally made by G. Heilman, LaCrosse, WI., I understood. Old Style, like National Bo, is/was pretty bland stuff. But she said she wanted a six-pack to give to someone on his 40th birthday. Old Style was his beer of choice back in Chicago.

Unfortunately, G. Heilman hit hard times, was bought by Stroh, which folded and Miller bought the brand. It still makes it and it’s sold around Chicago.

I called Archer Liquors, a place I heard about in Chicago that ships craft beer made in the Midwest, Sprechter, Goose Island, 3 Floyds and lots of Belgians.

The guy who answered the phone didn’t even laugh. But, he said, “it’ll cost her more to ship it – about $10 – than the beer’s worth.” We both laughed. He understoood.

I called my reader who was thrilled. Some guy’s gonna’ be getting a sixer of Old Style, whether he likes it or not.

Actually, I’d love to have a 10-ounce glass of National Bo in front of me tonight and one of those Hoagies and be 19-years-old again. That too.

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  • Ed

    When I lived in DC, Natty Boh was the beer to be swilled when visiting Balmer bars. I got the impression when lived in Wisconsin that people didn’t think of Old Style as being as bad as what people thought of Natty Boh in the East. But there were plenty of other beers that were cheaper in price (and many thought quality): Leinenkugel, Huber, Point, Rhinelander, etc. My cheap beer of choice was Huber for $1.98 for an eight-pack (8!) in returnable bottles.

  • William Brand

    I remember Huber from the 70s. Among crappy American lagers, it was easily one of the best. It’s sad that the company, Joseph Huber, chose to sell it as el cheapo beer. In fact, I thought, it was decent for the day.

    Shock. Just checked the web and discovered Huber’s still alive and well. They’re in Monroe, WI. Wonder what their beer tastes like today? Anybody tried it? William Brand

  • Matt

    Huber was one of my cheap beers of choice in college in Minnesota during the ’90s. I thought it was swill then, but haven’t found a bottle since.

  • http://www.lcbartender.com Bob Skilnik

    Miller does not own the Old Style label. Pabst does. It is now brewed (once again) in
    La Crosse, WI in the original G. Heileman plant, now owned and operated as City Brewery.