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Old Style Returns To La Crosse With New Beer

New Oktoberfest Beer Could Make Classic Brand More Competitive With Craft Beers

A member of La Crosse’s Oktoberfest USA drinks a new Old Style Oktoberfest. Hope Kirwan/WPR

Old Style beer is returning home to Wisconsin with a nostalgic new brew.

Old Style Oktoberfest is now made at City Brewing in La Crosse, where G. Heileman Brewing Co., first created Old Style in 1902. Heileman’s helped start La Crosse’s well-known Oktoberfest celebration in the 1960s.

The new Oktoberfest beer has a special significance for some Wisconsinites, said Greg Deuhs, master brewer at Old Style’s current label owner Pabst Brewing Co..

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“The Heileman Brewery here in La Crosse was their local brewery and people like to associate themselves with their local brewery just like the craft beer movement today,” Deuhs said.

Old Style won’t be the only classic beer making a comeback in the next few years, said Randy Hughes, brewmaster at City Brewing.

“When craft breweries came out, it was really a rebellion against ‘your dad’s everyday beer,’” Hughes said. “The somewhat ironic thing is that a lot of the craft brewers, now that they’ve educated their pallets and themselves about beer and brewing history, are coming back to some of these older labels with the history, the heritage, the tradition.”

But according to some beer industry experts, it’s the craft breweries influencing big beer companies to try new styles of beer.

“The beer drinker in America has changed their taste,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “They are less interested in standard lager and American-style light lager and more interested now in more flavorful beers.”

It’s a smart business move for companies like Pabst to branch out to new beer styles, said Matt Simpson, beer consultant and owner of the Beer Sommelier.

“They can sort of have their cake and eat it too by producing a traditional German-style beer that they can offer to the public as being quasi-craft,” Simpson said. “My opinion is it all has to do with the quality of what’s in the can they’re planning to present the public.”

Regardless of what the new Oktoberfest beer means for the beer industry, Old Style fans in La Crosse are overjoyed to see the classic brand return. Old Style Oktoberfest will be available in August and is the official beer of Oktoberfest 2016.

“This is a great day and I’m very proud to be here for the return of the Old Style shield to La Crosse,” Hughes said.