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Rainier Beer is Coming Home

I grew up around here, the son of a man who described himself as “A Rainier Man.” So this warms my heart just a little bit. Rainier Beer is coming home. Kind of. One thing is certain, before long people around Seattle will be able to buy a locally brewed bottle of Rainier Beer. Specifically, you’ll be able to buy Rainier Beer in a pounder—the iconic 16-ounce Rainier Beer bottle.

First of all, understand the players. Rainier Beer, the iconic beer brand that for decades was known as “Seattle’s beer,” is a subsidiary of Pabst Brewing Company. It’s been that way for years. The beer is brewed down in California at a brewery the size of a small city. THAT is about to change.

That's me, circa 1984, in one of my many Rainier Beer shirts.
That’s me, circa 1984, in one of my many Rainier Beer shirts.

Rainier will begin producing Rainier Pale Mountain Ale at Redhook’s brewery in Woodinville. And yes, they plan to package the beer in pounders. There’s a lot of detail to this story. A lot of it is boring business crap. That’s why I included the press release below. You can interpret it as you wish.

We’ll figure out what all this means later, but for now, Rainier Beer is coming home. Kind of.

The following press release was issued by Craft Brew Alliance today:

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CRAFT BREW ALLIANCE AND PABST BREWING COMPANY ANNOUNCE BREWING AGREEMENT

January 11, 2016

Pabst Subsidiary Rainier Brewing Company to Brew Rainier Pale Mountain Ale and Other Historic Beers at CBA’s Washington Brewery; Receives Option to Purchase Facility

Portland, Ore. and Seattle, Wash. (Jan. 11, 2016) – Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. (“CBA”) (Nasdaq: BREW), a leading craft brewing company, and Pabst Brewing Company (“PBC”), the largest American-owned brewer, announced today that they have entered into a brewing agreement that supports strategic growth objectives for both companies. PBC subsidiary Rainier Brewing Company (“Rainier”) will begin brewing Rainier Pale Mountain Ale, as well as other Rainier brands, at CBA’s brewery in Woodinville, Washington in the spring of 2016. As part of the agreement, PBC has been granted an option to purchase the Woodinville facility at any time during the next three years.

The agreement between CBA and Rainier provides benefits for both companies. As part of CBA’s strategy to continue evolving its national brewing footprint and drive financial profitability, the company is making significant investments to increase production capability and efficiency and support its growth in key markets. The expansion investments include increasing capacity in its largest and most efficient brewery in Portland to 750,000 barrels per year and building a new 100,000-barrel brewery in Hawaii. The agreement with Rainier enables it to maximize capacity in its Woodinville brewery while pursuing these expansion projects. For Rainier, the agreement marks a true homecoming with the return of brewing to its home state of Washington.

“This partnership with Rainier represents an important next step in our overall brewery optimization strategy, which is focused on leveraging the unique strengths and capabilities of each of our breweries to better balance production across our footprint and support our long-term growth,” said Scott Mennen, Chief Operating Officer, CBA. “Our partnership with Blues City in Memphis has enabled us to meet consumer demand for core brands such as Kona Big Wave Golden Ale and Redhook Long Hammer IPA, freeing capacity in our Portsmouth brewery to support exciting new strategic partnerships with Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Cisco Brewers. As we complete our Portland expansion and continue transitioning more volume to that brewery, we have been looking for an opportunity to best utilize our production team and capacity in Woodinville. With this brewing arrangement, we not only deliver positive impact to our bottom line, we support another beloved Northwest heritage brand, which benefits the industry and beer consumers overall.”

“We are thrilled to be returning to Rainier’s home state and to begin brewing at this wonderful Seattle facility within sight of Mount Rainier. We are excited to revive many historic Rainier beers from our archives – starting with Rainier Pale Mountain Ale, which will be offered in the iconic 16oz. Rainier ‘pounder’ glass bottle,” stated Greg Deuhs, PBC’s Master Brewer, who served as Director of Operations at CBA’s Woodinville facility from 2008-2012.

CBA’s Woodinville brewery, known as the Redhook Brewery, was built in 1994 and features a 200,000-barrel per year brewing and bottling operation. For more than 20 years, the Woodinville team has brewed a variety of Redhook and Widmer Brothers beers, as well as other brands for contract brewing partners. In 2015, CBA announced that Redhook will open a new brewpub in Capitol Hill in the heart of Seattle to celebrate the brand’s 35th anniversary in 2016. The new Seattle brewpub builds on Redhook’s legacy of transforming historic Seattle sites into innovative destinations for beer lovers.

Under the terms of the agreement, CBA will continue to operate the Woodinville brewery and adjacent Redhook Forecaster’s Pub.

Additional information about the agreement will be included in a current report on Form 8-K to be filed by CBA no later than Thursday, January 14, 2016.



2 comments

  1. I just hope it’s better than the swill sold under the Rainier name in the mid-1990s when I lived in Lynnwood. (Not that Oly was much better.) Do it right this time!

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Rainier Beer Coming Home

While we generally tend to focus on craft beer and not swill, we think this is worth a quick mention. The Rainier beer brand has apparently been sold again. This time to a local company. Since 1999, Rainier has been the property of Pabst Brewing Company, brewed under contract by MillerCoors. (MillerCoors is the joint venture launched in July 2008 between Coors Brewing Co. and Miller Brewing Co.)

According to a Business Wire press release, Seattle-based Claussen-Sweeney LLC has reached an agreement in terms to assume legal rights to the Rainier Beer brand. The agreement would return the venerable Rainier brand to the northwest.

Edward Sweeney, President of Claussen-Sweeney LLC, says, “The negotiations took more than six months to complete. Because Rainier was of limited value as a brand to Pabst, they were willing to negotiate. Things became considerably more complicated when MillerCoors’ contract to produce Rainier for Pabst came into play. It has always been our intention to end that relationship and brew Rainier ourselves in the Seattle area. The brand is otherwise of no value to us.”

In the agreement, Claussen-Sweeney LLC will pay Pabst Brewing Co. for the brand and will pay MillerCoors a settlement on behalf of Pabst to compensate for the loss of the contract.

“We are currently in negotiations to build a new Rainier Brewery south of downtown Seattle,” said Sweeney. “It has long been our goal to bring Rainier back to Seattle. Gaining control of the brand was a paramount first step.”

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UPDATE – April 2, 2009 – Adding this update to point out the date on which this article was originally published.



7 comments

  1. That’s the same company that started Rainier in like 1890. They are the old Seattle Malt Company that started the Georgetown Brewery around 1910. The prodigal son has returned!

  2. Right??!? That would have been terrific. I’d love to see some of those old, iconic NW brands come back to the region. I remember my dad would, on occasion, bring home a six-pack of Rainier or Blitz. Reminds me of my youth.

  3. It’s gonna come back. You know it will some day… Ranier is just at it’s life stage where it’s doing bullshit life-discovery crap.

    It’s not quite the backpacking around Europe thing… it’s more like the mid 30’s .commer freakout thing when you go to Thailand for 2 years and talk about how off the grid you are.

    I think Ranier will be gone for about 20 more years, and make a return similar to Rheingold, minus the hot chick bathing in beer.

    But yeah for now don’t joke about Ranier around Mookie, he will beershit the backseat of your BMW and not think twice about it.

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