Sterling Beer’s new facility part of a growing trend of rebirth of pre-Prohibition beers

Sterling Beer’s new facility part of a growing trend of rebirth of pre-Prohibition beers

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By Adam T. Schick for Indiana On Tap

Lousiville’s Sterling Beer Co. announced that it will be building a new taphouse, tasting room and event space in the Highlands area of Louisville, KY, Louisville Business First’s Marty Finley reported this weekend. An investor company for the brand named Louisvlle Sterling, LLC has signed a deal to purchase two 1900-era buildings for renovation, but no final date for completion has been completed yet.

Sterling Beer, which partnered with Upland in 2014 to help brew the beer, for those not old enough to remember (that’s a joke) began brewing in Louisville in 1863 and brewed there for year until it moved production to Evansville, IN a little over a decade later. The brewery passed through ownership for a few years before going dormant in recent decades. Brothers Todd and Ken Jackson purchased the rights to the Sterling brand and helped revitalize its well-known pilsner, distributing throughtout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The growing popularity in Sterling Beer Co.’s pilsner (at one point it overtook Falls City as the best-selling beer in Louisville) is part of a growing trend in the craft beer world. The revitalization of pre-prohibition beers and breweries are great marketing strategies by modern day craft breweries. More than that, they are opportunities to build a bridge between craft beer’s past and present.


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We need look no further than Upland’s Champagne Velvet, their pre-prohibition pilsner. Recently, Upland’s manager of packaging, Jon McNabb, told me the story of how Champagne Velvet came to be again. 

See, Upland tracked down a man in Terre Haute, the former home of the beer, who had spent his life collecting Champagne Velvet memoribilia. They found in his collection an old copy of the beer’s recipe that was ¾ complete. Through some thorough detective work, Upland was able to trace back to the beer’s original German brewer, Anton Mayer, which helped them figure out the hops he used in the beer’s original recipe. Thus, the “beer with the million dollar flavor” was reborn. 

And it’s not just in Indiana. Over the New Year’s break, my friend Conor O’Rourke and I went to a Deer Tick concert in honor of Narragansett Beer’s 125th birthday in Providence, RI. Narragansett was founded in 1890 and was the #1 beer in New England through the 1970s. After moving hands a few times, Narragansett officially closed in 1981, and production of the beer was moved to Fort Wayne, IN, but many felt the beer’s quality began to suffer and sales declined rapidly. The brand was purchased in 2005 by a former juice executive and, with the help of former brewer Narragansett has once again become a go-to beer for New Englanders and is now the highest rated domestic premium lager on BeerAdvocate. 

For these beers, it’s about much more than building that bridge, says O’Rourke. 

“Before the 1960s, when all of these smaller localized beer labels started taking a dive, the beer you drank said a lot about where you are from. For Rhode Islanders (and New Englanders in general) Narragansett was the go to. When ‘Gansett came back, they weren’t just bringing back the name and the can, they were bringing back that cultural identity.”

These beers aren’t just parts of the craft beer industry; they’re parts of our history. They’re beers our grandparent’s grandparents drink, and beers that gave birth to what we drink and love so much now, and that is worth preserving. Craft beer has a way of circling around itself, like with the rebirth of pre-prohibition beers, or breweries like Indiana City making their home inside former breweries, and it’s exciting to know that as breweries like DeviateThree Floyds, and 18th Street continue to push the boundaries on what we think of beer, there exist at the same time breweries and brewery owners willing to keep us linked to our brewing past.




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