Old Style beer is returning to its roots of being brewed in La Crosse at the same time it is adding a chapter to history with a new brew, tapped as Old Style Oktoberfest, next month.
The new Old Style, first produced as a premium beer at G. Heileman Brewing Co. in La Crosse in 1902, will be the company’s first new blend in 15 years when it rolls off the production line Thursday at City Brewery.
The rollout will be a homecoming of another sort for Old Style, which was Heileman’s No. 1 beer for nearly a century and helped start Oktoberfest USA in La Crosse 56 years ago. Heileman, the city’s major brewer from 1858 until the mid-1990s, is the predecessor of City Brewery, which will be Old Style’s sole producer in a contract with brand owner Pabst Brewing Co.
It also will mark the return of Old Style as the official beer sponsor for Oktoberfest, a move with special significance for the Sept. 29-Oct. 2 celebration, said James Brennan, an Oktoberfest board member and member of the festival’s beer committee, which sealed the deal with Pabst.
“It means a great deal, with the long history of Old Style and Heileman and getting back to its roots,” Brennan said. “It’s a grand re-entrance, and a large sponsor helps a lot” with Oktoberfest.
Old Style’s new seasonal product, scheduled to take its place on store shelves in September, will be a classic Märzen-style brew, which the company describes as an ideal adult beverage for fall.
City Brewing Co., which also has plants in Latrobe, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn., will not add to its 500-worker payroll for the Old Style production at City Brewery in La Crosse at this point, said brewmaster Randy Hughes.
“It’s a small step in us hopefully doing more production for Pabst in the future,” Hughes said.
“It’s the first product out of La Crosse with the Heileman shield and name since mid-1999. That for me is enough to celebrate,” said Hughes, who began working at Heileman in May 1978 and became brewmaster in May 1995.
Another development for fans of Old Style and Old Style Light is that the company will debut a packaging makeover it says will return the brand to its classic roots. Social media demand helped spark that move, according to the company.
“The Midwest is and always will be the true home of Old Style,” said Dan McHugh, Pabst’s chief marketing officer. “Old Style’s fans are a loyal group and continue to be a large part of the brand’s legacy and what makes it such a staple.
“The packaging re-design and launch of Old Style’s Oktoberfest are the perfect way for us to both honor our past heritage and to celebrate with our fans the future of what is to come,” McHugh said.
Tentative plans call for a brief ceremony as the first case of Old Style Oktoberfest rolls off the production line Thursday morning at City Brewery before being delivered via carriage to Mayor Tim Kabat’s office.