Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

An updated Motown staple is making a comeback.

Once America’s manufacturing boomtown, the city of Detroit may have hit its rock-bottom over 30 years ago. If was the fourth largest American city in 1950 with a population of more than 1.8 million people. Today, there are officially slightly more than 688,000 residents.

But the mid-1980s was when Detroit’s refreshment of choice, Stroh’s Beer, stopped brewing in the Motor City.

Don’t get me wrong; Detroit is still in many ways a blighted, abandoned city where residents struggle from day to day.

It has weathered the closing of hundreds of auto plant manufacturing suppliers, and the city sought Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2013.

But as they say, “It’s not about how many times you were knocked down, it’s about how many times you get back up.”

Detroit, in this small way, is getting back up again.

Motown's Anheuser Busch Equivalent

In February 1999 Stroh’s was forced to sell its brewing operations to Pabst Brewing Co. You could still lament your lot in life, but it would be harder to wash it down with that fire-brewed Detroit staple, which was the equivalent of Anheuser Busch brands in St. Louis.

But a funny thing happened on the way to restoring innovative entrepreneurship to the Big D. With its grand old buildings and factories sitting lifeless, American investors saw future potential for profits. And as popular, self-sustaining businesses begin emerging around the city, the executives at Pabst Blue Ribbon Co. have decided it's time to bring part of its portfolio back to life.

See, when Pabst Brewing Co. acquired Stroh’s in 1999, it retained the rights to a large portfolio of successful regional beer brands that belonged to either Pabst or Stroh’s.

Pabst has continued to brew the traditional Stroh’s lager in Ohio. But with Detroit on the mend – at least in the eyes of the media – Pabst decided now would be the time to start brewing Stroh’s again back in the city.

Yet this wouldn’t just be any Stroh’s beer. Stroh’s falls under Pabst’s local legends division. This reboot will be an update on the Stroh’s that Detroiters came to love during its 160 years of American beermaking.

“There are these great iconic American brands that people are very, very passionate about, but there’s not been a ton of focus on these brands,” said Eric Phillips, a Stroh’s Brand Manager who works with Pabst. “This new product and what we are really excited about, is it’s going to be brewed in Detroit. It’s a Bohemian-style Pilsner and is derived from some of the same recipes that we used to brew back in the 1850s.

“Obviously, we’ve updated it for today’s palate. We’ve taken a familiar note like using Sterling hops, which is a hop variety, which Stroh’s throughout the years used, so we put that back into this beer. So there is a familiarity for those who tried the beer in its heyday. It’s just enough new and vibrant that we are really, really excited about it.

“From a taste profile of this new beer, it means it’s a German-style, firm lager. It uses Sterling hops, Saad hops and we have Magnum hops in there, which is a real nice floral spicy bouquet with a sort of spicy hot note to it. And then we silence that hot kick with a Vienna Malt, which is a good, bready kind of caramelly that balances everything very nicely.

“It gives a good, clean finish on the beer.”

Fresh from Corktown

The resurrected Stroh’s Bohemian-style Pilsner is being brewed at Brew Detroit, a $7 million, 68,000 square-feet brewery in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood. Detroit Brewing is not yet known for its own brands as it mostly serves as a brewery for modern craft beers.

And when you come right down to it, Stroh’s Bohemian Pilsner has been a craft brew since its inception in 1850. Try a traditional Stroh’s by finding a tap near you via its website – or find the new Pilsner across Detroit on Friday.