Welcome to EatWisconsin, the blog formerly known as Undelicious. This blog will focus on the food, the people, the history, and restaurants in the State of Wisconsin. Though we will focus primarily on the State of Wisconsin, there will be occasional forays into other Cities.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Leinenkugels - Selling The Northwoods Image

Breweries are always trying to sell an image. Pabst still has the image of a working class beer, but it has recently become the beverage du jour of the hipster crowd in the Midwest. Bud Light in my opinion has the image of people who like to get drunk but hate the taste of beer. Coors Light and Budweiser have managed, whether intentional or not, to project the image of drunken wannabe jocks (anyone who has sat in the bleachers at Wrigley can attest to that). Microbreweries still like to project an image, but not as much as the big breweries. That is probably because they can stand on the great taste of their beers. There was a great article in today’s Journal about the Leinenkigel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin today. It kind of touched on this northwoods image that they have successfully created. When I am up in Minocqua, Wisconsin it almost seems like I have to buy Leinie’s (as the locals call it) to get the full Northwoods experience, though a nice 12 pack of Point Special works as well. It is rare that you enter a northwoods restaurant, bar, or supper club without seeing Leinenkugel’s on tap. and
The thing with Leinie’s is that they are actually producing really excellent brews that kind of fill the space between the microbreweries and the major brewers. I would put them in a category with the Boston Beer Company (brewers of Sam Adams). I think that Leinie’s, who has been owned by Miller since the 80s, has actually helped the microbrewery industry in Wisconsin. These beers act as a gateway beer. My parents, whose idea of a good beer in the past was Coors or Michelob, now like all kinds of microbrews because they got hooked on Leinie’s Red, Northwoods Lager, and Creamy Dark (my personal favorite). They have also managed to get Miller Lite-type drinkers to try their Honey Weiss, which despite tasting nothing like a Weiss beer, is pretty good and refreshing on a hot summer day. What gets lost in all of their beers is the fact that their flagship beer, Leinenkugel’s is actually really good as well. I would it up against Budweiser, MGD, High Life, or Coors any day.


  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger Steve Wasser said…

    Pabst is definitely making a hipster comeback in LA. There are a few places that, as a nod to the irony of serving lowbrow beer from a flyover state, have been serving it continuously for years. Now, other upscale clubs and trendy bars are starting to offer it...ironic fads are very trendy in LA: wearing a D&G T-shirt that has "Sparky's Garage", a dead dog purse, and of course, snobby bars that serve Pabst. See how funny that is? Think about how cool you look dressed in your Armani button down, holding a Pabst. Ahh, the humor LA comes up with.

  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger Jeff said…

    PBR had an interesting life here in Milwaukee. For years Miller and Pabst played second fiddle to Schlitz. Schlitz was top dog not only here but across the country. Then in the 70s, Miller and Bud stepped up the advertising and some bad financial decisions made by Schlitz led to their demise. By the early 80s Schlitz was gone and Pabst, Bud and Miller were on top. Then in the late 80s-early 90s Pabst had the same problems as Schlitz. It was actually kind of sad to watch. The City had become a Miller town, but you still could find PBR on tap in every bar. A bar I frequented (when I say frequented, I mean just about every day after work) during my summer job in college only had four taps, two of which were PBR. My friends and I always drank it because it tasted way better than Miller Genuine Draft or High Life and it was dirt cheap. Plus it was what all of the old timers at the bars we frequented drank.

    Pabst had the greatest brewery tour in the City. We would take the bus there in college and hit the 10 am tour. Then we would make nice with the bartenders in the tasting room and they would usually let us stick around and drink for free. In the mid-90s the trouble began. Financial mismanagement and essentially ceasing television ads led to the company eliminating retiree health care and pensions and laying off workers. After the pensions were cut, there was a huge backlash here. It was really sad to see that this beer that Milwaukeeans truly embraced had become a pariah. There was a “Shame on Pabst” campaign that was embraced by unions and beer drinkers. Bars had shame on Pabst parties where they drained kegs of Pabst into the drain or out on the streets. Some bars would sell you a glad at a discounted price and allowed you to dump it yourself (I could never get myself to dump a beer unless it was into my mouth). It was removed from about 90 percent of the bars. If you drank Pabst you were looked down upon. Pabst loyalists now embraced High Life and other Miller products. Soon after that the brewery shut down.

    Pabst became a virtual brewer, meaning that they had a corporate office but no brewery so they contract out for all brewing. In a strange twist their biggest competitor, Miller Brewing, is now brewing PBR in Milwaukee. I think the fact that Miller is brewing it has allowed it to become cool again in Milwaukee. Now that it has this hipster image, you can find it everywhere. My complaint, one shared with legions of old-school PBR drinkers, is that it doesn’t taste like it used to. It used to have this almost soapy taste that the hops imparted and that taste is very muted in the new PBR.


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