Pabst goes back to the nostalgia well to push more Natty Boh

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Photo via National Bohemian

The Los Angeles-based Pabst Brewing Company announced yesterday that it is going to milk the National Bohemian cow until it is dry, i.e. it is releasing the first new Natty Boh beer in 30 years.

Crab Shack Shandy, as brand manager Chris “C-Mo” Molloy described it to The Sun, is “a golden-colored, light-bodied lager with prominent notes of orange peel and lemon zest.” But it is not beer mixed with lemonade, like other shandies, nor does it have crab spice in it a la Flying Dog’s Dead Rise.

“We wanted to make a brew that would fit perfectly with seafood and the fare that we eat during the summertime,” Molloy, a Reisterstown resident, told the paper. “It’s just a really flavorful, really round, not-too-sweet, sessionable [low-alcohol] beer.”

The “we” in reference to the people eating all that seafood would be Marylanders, the denizens of what the beer has faithfully called “the Land of Pleasant Living.”

And here is the part where I, as I have for many years, remind you that National Bohemian has not been made in the state of Maryland since the 1990s. Not only that, it is still being contract-brewed by the MillerCoors behemoth.

Yet we still dutifully drink it like it is Baltimore’s beer. We slap its logo of a winking, mustachioed man on all sorts of merchandise and still view the beer’s branding as some part of the civic iconography.

The reasons that loyalty has endured are a bit unclear, but there’s no doubt this whole exercise is rooted in nostalgia. As I’ve said before, it’s akin to another supposed staple from the Baltimore days of yore: the hon.

But this is also a larger corporate strategy for Pabst. In addition to the legendary Pabst Blue Ribbon, the company owns several other legacy crap beers with regional ties, including Lone Star, Stroh’s and Old Style.

“Each of these local legends has this rich history, but they also have a rich marketing tradition and a real brand identity to work with,” Eugene Kashper, chairman of Pabst, told MarketWatch last year, later adding, “For us, it’s just building on that and just layering on innovation.”

Innovation, it turns out, is a Los Angeles brewing company deciding it’s time to come up with a beer that pairs well with Maryland crabs. It’s not hard to picture some Don Draper-esque marketing guru walking through the process of its creation in their head: “What do Maryland residents love as much as Natty Boh? Crabs!” (At least it will be brewed in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which is only a mere 197 miles away.)

So even though this beer is itself an entirely new product, it plays to our memories of cracking crabs and drinking beer. Or even just the idea that this is a quintessential summer activity.

Indulging in nostalgia is a perfectly fine thing and it’s something we all do. But I can almost certainly guarantee there’s a perfectly fine Maryland-made beer that goes great with that summertime bushel.

Brandon Weigel

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  1. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a “regular” (aka shitty) beer. It might be on a really hot day, or after a few hop bombs have obliterated my palate, or sometimes with pizza. When I want a shitty beer I want it to be cheap. So that means I don’t want to contribute to the Bud/Miller/Coors advertising budget and I’m likely not going to buy a local craft breweries shitty pilsner for craft beer prices. Nine out of every ten beers I drink are craft beers. Of those 8 are made in MD and probably 7 are made in Baltimore. I just can’t bring myself to drop $12 on a sixer of mediocre pilsner. So even though I know Natty Boh isn’t really a Baltimore beer, it’s better than Natty Light and it quenches my thirst for cheap, cold clean drinking beer when I’m in the mood for it.

  2. Sometimes you need cheap, drinkable beer. Until Union, Heavy Seas or one of the other local breweries starts making 30 packs for $17.00… I might as well drink beer that has Maryland in it’s history if not it’s brewing origin. Boh may be brewed in MD once again but in the meantime I’ll help keep the brand afloat with my hard earned dollars.

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