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‘Drink right from the source’: Old Style beer production returns to La Crosse

Old Style is one of many brands Pabst is moving from production in Milwaukee to a new contract with City Brewery

A white sign with the blue Old Style logo hangs from a brick building
An Old Style beer sign hangs outside a bar in downtown La Crosse, the city where the beer was invented in 1902. Hope Kirwan/WPR

Pabst Brewing Company announced this week that production of Old Style beer would return to La Crosse’s City Brewery in November.

It’s the historic location of G. Heileman’s Brewing Company, where Old Style was invented in 1902, originally under the name Old Times Lager.

Adam Powers, brand manager for Old Style, said the beer is one of several brands that Pabst is transitioning from a contract with MillerCoors in Milwaukee to City Brewery over the next three years. Old Style has been brewed in Milwaukee for the last two decades since being acquired by Pabst.

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“The nostalgia of Old Style in La Crosse, it’s ingrained into the history there,” Powers said. “We’re excited to be back. In November, we’ll actually start brewing again, and we’re going to drink right from the source.”

It’s not the first time the Old Style brand has returned to La Crosse in recent years. Pabst contracted City Brewery in 2016 to produce a limited-run Old Style Oktoberfest.

Powers said he envisions doing more unique takes on the brand in the future. But he said the company’s initial focus will be on perfecting production of the traditional lager and light versions of the beer.

He said nostalgia is one of the biggest drivers of Old Style’s brand.

“It’s always been in your dad’s fridge or your grandfather’s fridge or whatever it is,” Powers said. “Those stories are always coming up. But we see more and more young kids are drinking it, which is good to see.”

Powers said the brand has seen 10 percent year-over-year growth in the last three years. He said the beer remains popular in Chicago, due to its history as a sponsor of the Chicago Cubs from the 1950s to 2013. But Powers said he also thinks younger customers are turning to nostalgic brands thanks to the oversaturation of new products in the beer and alcohol industry.

“There’s seltzers, there’s ready to mix cocktails, there’s every flavor under the sun out there now. And I think it’s just like, ‘Hey, can we just have a classic, good-tasting beer for once?’” he said. “A lot of our brands at Pabst are definitely benefiting from that.”

Old Style plans to celebrate the homecoming with a pub crawl during La Crosse’s annual Oktoberfest celebration at the end of September ahead of a formal kick-off event in November.

The La Crosse Tribune reported that City Brewery recently acquired a permit to reface the brewery’s well-known “World’s Largest Six Pack,” a series of six massive holding tanks originally painted to look like Old Style beer cans that became a tourist attraction. In response to speculation about a return of the original artwork, Powers said the Six Pack could be returning to its original look this fall.