All good things come to an end. On the upside, so do most of the bad ones.

We’ve said goodbye, and then hello again, to many of the trappings of life in the last year-and-a-half — primping and parking woes, work clothes and smiling when you don’t really feel like it.

If bad beers were a big part of your social scene, though, better steel yourself for a pandemic-era hit with lasting hurt.

Eleven “economy” brands in Molson Coors’ voluminous portfolio are heading over the beer rainbow bridge, to live on only in legend and infamy. (I’m talking to you, Keystone Ice. Frat parties will never be the same.)

Budget labels the company decided to “sunset” also include Milwaukee’s Best Premium, Steel Reserve 211, Hamm’s Special Light and a handful of others that, honestly, I hadn’t known existed until I read the piece in Food & Wine magazine.

Among the beers going bye-bye, though, was a name that was not like the other ones. Seeing it made me nostalgic and a little sad.

Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, considered Oregon’s first craft beer — an inspiration and bellwether of what was to come for a city that’s rightfully earned the nickname “Beervana” — is going to that big recycling bin in the sky.

My introduction to craft beer came in the mid-1990s, in Portland, Ore., thanks in large part to Henry Weinhard’s.

The Private Reserve wasn’t my favorite Weinhard style, but unlike now, there’d been plenty to choose from back then. You could “sample” one (possibly more) on the house if you signed up for a free tour of the massive Weinhard brewing operation on Burnside Street.

Weinhard grew up and got his start in brewing in what is now southwest Germany and immigrated to the United States when he was in his early 20s, arriving in New York in 1851. A decade later, he’d traversed the country and established the roots of a Portland-based brewing empire that, by 1890, was the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

If you doubt Henry Weinhard’s coolness, consider this:

He offered to provide free beer if the city would agree to pump it through Skidmore Fountain, in celebration of the public feature’s dedication in 1887. The city turned him down, “due to the fear of rowdy horses,” according to Wikipedia.

Like so many other beloved “local” brands, Weinhard’s wound up in the hands of Big Beer, ultimately Molson Coors. The brewery was sold in 1999, its two-block footprint downtown eventually reborn as condos and commercial space.

Private Reserve continued to be brewed. The rise of seltzers, and a pandemic, though, proved the final straws. Molson Coors’ main reason for the purge was growing public demand for those hard fizzy drinks, which are booming globally.

I get that tastes, and times and cities, and even frat parties, evolve.

I just wish Henry Weinhard’s had gone out in a more dignified fashion, and with better company.


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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