Can Old Milwaukee roar back from the dead?

I got some appalling news recently. This article stated that sales of Budweiser have fallen by nearly a third over the past five years, to 18 million barrels. Meanwhile, Bud Light held steady at 39 million barrels. It’s a goddamn shame: so many lost people thinking they’re living when they’re just going through the motions.

Even if you don’t like Budweiser, you would have to admit that it’s a uniquely American product along the lines of Chevys and Coca-Cola. In fact, I was just talking with an Irish friend who said on the Emerald Isle Budweiser is treated as a premium beer while people think Stella Artois is like sucking ass. So keep that in mind the next time you try to be classy by ordering a Stella. The Irish are laughing at you.

But back to the list: besides Budweiser, the other beers that have lost significant sales are (in descending order):

7. Milwaukee’s Best Light

6. Miller Genuine Draft

5. Old Milwaukee

4. Milwaukee’s Best

3. Bud Select

2. Michelob Light

1. Michelob

A quick scan of this list and you can understand why most of these brands have fallen like a stone. Milwaukee’s Best has always been rotgut and MGD is putrid. Bud Select, at 99 calories, has absolutely no reason to exist. Michelob Light and Michelob have a lingering stench of the early ‘90s, when these beers are what passed for classy. I wouldn’t mourn their passing. Good riddance.

But then there’s Old Milwaukee. Part of the Pabst family, Old Milwaukee has fallen victim to the larger ad budgets of MillerCoors and InBev, according to the article. It’s a quality beer, but it’s been squeezed out of the shelf space by craft beers, imports, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade (who drinks that fucking shit besides high schoolers?).

It turns out Pabst Brewing was purchased by Metropolous and Sons, and I guess they’re still getting their arms around the beverage business because Old Milwaukee has become like a ghost. In just about every liquor store I’ve gone into over the past couple of weeks, I’d ask the cashiers if they carried Old Milwaukee and was met with nothing but blank stares. So maybe it’s a distribution problem, I thought.

But then I stumbled onto the deal in the photo above. At first, I thought it was a misprint. After rebate, you could get a CASE (not a 12-pack, mind you) of Old Milwaukee for $6.99. I’m no mathematician, but that’s a little less than 30 cents a beer.

I know the promotion is supposed to make people think, “What a bargain!” My response was exactly the opposite: “How bad could this beer be?” It’s like spotting a prostitute’s adam’s apple in line at the free clinic. I wanted to run away screaming.

Anyway, it’s been a good ten years since I drank it, but I didn’t remember it being terrible. The store attendant told me he couldn’t move the stuff and was getting ready to send it back to the distributor, who said she’d lose her job if she didn’t ring up some sales.

I was almost out the door when I thought, “What’s $7? I’ll give it a whirl.” And whirl it I did.

The verdict?

Old Milwaukee fucking rocks! It’s way better than Hamm’s, Schlitz, or even the hipster sacred cow PBR. It’s smooth, with no weird aftertaste. In all, a solid Midwestern domestic beer.

Contentment turned to frustration. Metropolous and Sons obviously don’t know a goddamn thing about moving product. They have a great beer whose brand has totally dropped off the radar and is spoiling for a resurgence.

But I have to admit, it is hard out there for a pimp. Between the Miller Lite douches, Natty Light drinkers, Keith Stone and those stupid fucking commercials, and the craft beer snobs, how do you carve out a niche without cache?

It’s so simple. Lack of cache, total irrelevance, is probably the hippest thing among the skinny jeans set. They brought Puma back, they dragged PBR from the grave not because it was good but because no one else wanted it.

So here’s my advice, Mr. Metropolous. (The company sounds like a front for the arch villain in the next Batman.) Strike a sponsorship deal with Pitchfork next summer, declare victory, and go home.

Of course, then you have another problem. I won’t be able to stomach it anymore. But at least I can say I got there before the gold rush.

Let me know if you see any deals on Old Milwaukee or bars serving it and I will swoop in and buy you a round for your troubles.



3 Responses to “Can Old Milwaukee roar back from the dead?”

  1. Rod November 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    “It’s smooth, with no weird aftertaste.”

    You’re kidding, right? Being intentionally ironic to get your hipster card punched for another week without having to wear skinny jeans? Or are you just trying to create a situation where you can claim (by the date stamped on this post) that you liked Old Mil before it was cool?

    I grew up in a 3.2 state…meaning 18 year olds could drink beer if it had 3.2% alcohol or less. Very few brewers made “three two,” but Old Mil (or Old Swill as we called it) was one of the stalwarts. However, their strategy worked and when we college kids got to be 21, we tried a fancy beer or two (Michelob, Heineken because I’d seen a picture of Sting drinking it) but in the end, we mostly stuck with Old Swill—it was “our Old Swill” and it was $6.99 for a case (many, many years ago). In my life I’ve spent more Saturday and Sunday mornings suffering from that crap than I spent watching Bugs Bunny.

    It’s bad, bad beer. To paraphrase a great thinker I know, comparing Old Mil favorably to Hamms is like saying Bon Jovi rocks so much harder than Poison. Shit is shit.

    • Upton Henry November 14, 2011 at 3:57 am #

      It actually sounds like Old Milwaukee was partially responsible for the great times you had in college. Quarters, flip cup, and beer bongs weren’t designed with imported beer in mind anyway. I will say that anyone who decided to try Heineken because he saw Sting drinking one probably has some more serious issues to address. My advice: put on the Clash’s London Calling and drink some Old Milwaukee. It will help you reconnect to the younger version of yourself that may have gotten lost in the steady procession of IPAs and other craft beers.


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