Rainier Beer – Recollect, Relight & Other Alliterations

Gather round and let me tell you about a time when there was no India Pale Ale around here. Nor was there Imperial Stout, Smoked Porter, or Pale Ale. Others have talked about it, but I was there. For me, this is personal. After all, as my father told me when I was just 12 years old, “Son, there are two types of men in the world: Rainier men and Olympia men. We’re Rainier men.”

That is a true story. Probably explains a lot.

Before the birth of craft beer as we know it today, there was Rainier Beer. Around Seattle, it was the beer. In its heyday, Rainier Beer was ubiquitous around Seattle, even more than Manny’s Pale Ale is today. If you drank anything else, it was probably only for effect. You were probably a contrarian by nature. Keeping dutiful watch over its dominion from atop the brewery, the glowing Rainier R graced the city’s skyline for decades. A smaller version of the same R adorned the window of just about every tavern in Seattle.

Perhaps you have heard rumblings about the ongoing efforts to Restore the R. The Seattle Museum of History and Industry (MOHOI), along with Rainier Beer, invite you to help them relight the iconic Rainier R. The glorious red R once glowed splendidly alongside Interstate 5, crowning the building which is now “The Old Rainier Brewery.” Following a series of mergers, acquisitions and other non-beery, business-related escapades, the Rainier Brewery closed in June of 1999. Shortly thereafter, workers removed the venerable R from the brewery and transported it to its present home at MOHAI.

The museum is currently undergoing a remodel and will reopen at the end of December. When it does, they hope to have the R fully illuminated. You can help. Sure, maybe it is just a publicity stunt, but MOHAI and Pabst Brewing Company (which currently owns the Rainier brand) invite you to be part of history. Go to http://restorether.com and complete one of the challenges. The completion of each challenge illuminates another bulb. In all, 258 challenges must be completed to fully relight the R. The challenges are simple. For example, cook something in the shape of the Rainier R, stage a peaceful protest to relight the R, create a sculpture out of Rainier cans, or mow an R in your lawn.

Rainier Beer is what it is. On this blog, I generally focus on craft beer and Rainier Beer does not fit into that category. Still, it would be thoughtless of me to ignore Rainier Beer and its important place in the annals of Seattle beer history.

Here is something you probably do not know. In 1987, Rainier won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the category of Best American Light Lager. In 1990, 1998, and 2000, Rainier brought home gold medals for Best American-Style Lager. In 2003 and 2005, Rainier won silver medals in that same category.


  1. I was, as we say here “weened on vitamin R” In my box of memories are hundreds of small round keg top caps like the old milk bottle style. Each one has a note about where we had a keggar and who did what there. Good memories. I sometimes have a bottle for nostalgia sake!

  2. Rainier Ale, also know as “Green Death,” was a very good beer at one time, earning 4 stars from Michael Jackson. In my opinion it was the best American brew prior to the microbrews!

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