Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pabst Americana - Lone Star

The next segment of our Pabst Americana series, dealing with the fates of the great regional brews our father's used to drink, takes us to San Antonio, Texas, the birthplace of Lone Star Beer.

While a beer marketed under the name "Lone Star" did not appear until 1940, the original Lone Star Brewery was established by Adolphus Busch (of Anhueser-Busch) in San Antonio in 1884. The brewery quickly outgrew its humble beginnings and commissioned a castle-like structure to be built on Jones Street. The large stone structure finished in 1904 was eventually abandoned and aquired in the 1970s to house the San Antonio Museum of Art. Following a $7.2 million restoration, the museum opened in the former brewery in 1981, and still operates from that location.

Although over fifty breweries once dotted the Texas landscape, only thirteen remained in 1890, and only six, including Lone Star, remained intact up until Prohibition. Once common sense prevailed and Prohibition ended, Lone Star was reincorporated under new owners, and a new brewery was contructed.

In 1940 a new recipe from a Munich native was developed, and was used to create a new beer, marketed under the name "Lone Star." The Lone Star beer was a hit, and by 1965 the brewery was producing in excess of 1 million barrels.

In the 1970's as Bud and Miller were expanding their reach and stepping up the competetion, many regional breweries failed, and many were bought up, consolidated and repackaged. Like Grain Belt, our first Pabst Americana feature, Lone Star was aquired by another regional in the mid-70's, in this case, Olympia Brewing of Washington.

Not long after Olympia's acquisition, Lone Star, again like Grain Belt, was acquired by Heileman Brewing of Wisconsin. As noted in the Grain Belt article, Heileman itself ran into financial difficulties in the 1980's and began to reorganize and sell off its breweries and intellectual properties. Heileman held on to Lone Star, and in 1996 the entire Heileman family of beer was acquired by Stroh's of Detroit for $290 million.

At the time, Stroh's was still trying to recover financially from its purchase of Schlitz, which strapped the company with $500 million in debt. They introduced new products, layed off workers, began exporting, and closed breweries, including the Lone Star Brewery in 1996. While Stroh's had gone to great length's to become financially viable in the 1990's, its exporting and lay-offs could not save it from the pressure of the larger brewers and the expansion of micros. In 1999, Stroh's was broken apart, with some brands aquired by Pabst, including Lone Star, and a few aquired by Miller.

To much fanfare, Pabst announced that it would not only resume brewing Lone Star, but would do so at the Pearl brewing facilities in Texas. Although the Pearl brewery was eventually closed due to its age and a projected cost of renovation, Lone Star is still brewed in Texas and owned by Pabst. Pabst currently contracts with third party breweries to produce Lone Star, including Miller's brewing facilities in Fort Worth (which once used to be Carling facilities).

As far as a success story, Lone Star is somewhere in the middle. It's still around, and it's still brewed in Texas (although not independently), and it tastes ok. It would be nice to see Lone Star reincorporated as an indie regional, but I don't see that happening, as Pabst's decision to sponsor Texas musicians seems to have been a savvy one, once again driving Lone Star's popularity.

Links of Interest:

Lone Star Beer

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1 comment:

kyle said...

Your timing on this post is terrible. We shouldn't be talking about Texas right now.