Baltimore Sun reporter
8:42 AM EDT, August 27, 2012
From the Midnight Sun blog:
On Thursday afternoon the cramped Canton bar Nacho Mamas was log-jammed.
Inside the bar, which is decorated like a shrine to National Bohemian, there were more people than Mr. Boh logos on the walls. The waitresses had a hard time delivering their regular orders.
It wasnt a flash-mob. The crowd, evenly split between young and rickety old-timers, was there to toast the tapping of one the first keg of Natty Boh in 15 years.
Last week, Boh owner Pabst Brewing Company announced it would start selling the beer on draft, which since 1996 had only been available in in bottles or in its iconic gold-on-white cans.
To mark the return, it organized eight official keg tapping events throughout the region, starting Thursday here in Fells Point and ending in Columbia on February 16.
Judie Mitchell, a 54-year-old nurse who grew up in Highlandtown when a six-pack of Boh would set her parents back a little over two bucks, said she came to celebrate the beer as much as her childhood.
Every time I see Mr. Boh it reminds of the times that were. Its comforting to see this coming back, she said.
Boh, Baltimores beer of choice for centuries, had been locally owned until 1979, when it was sold off to the G. Heileman Brewing Company. In 1996, it even stopped being brewed locally. But throughout all that, its remained popular, and in the last five years, its enjoyed a revival, especially among young drinkers.
Pabst, under new management since last year, brought the beer back on draft to capitalize on that nostalgia and to expand its footprint in the region.
Initially, it had modest expectations for the product on draft. In October, it set an initial run of 300 kegs and pre-sold it to 80 locations in Maryland, said Rachel Warren, a Baltimore sales representative for Pabst.
But since then, the demand has overwhelmed them, Warren said. The company had to approve an shipment of 600 extra kegs this week just to satisfy the 80 locations it had pre-sold beer to.
(Mount Royal Tavern, which got three kegs Tuesday, was already down to one and a half by Thursday evening, said manager John Corun.)
We never thought wed need to do almost 1,000 kegs, Warren said. Hopefully 600 will be enough, but we have to play it by ear.
Warren acknowledged its hard to tell if theyll keep selling 900 kegs a month. Theres always enthusiasm at first so we have to see how it shakes out, she said.
Along with Mount Royal Tavern and Della Roses, Nacho Mamas has long been a Boh stronghold in the city. Owner Patrick McCusker has decorated his bar with all the Boh memorabilia hes been collecting for years.
The ceremonial tapping of the keg, which was actually hooked up to a kegerator, happened at 6 p.m. on the dot; the bells from a nearby church could almost be overheard over the crowd.
McCusker entered the bar, to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries and the cheers of the crowded bar, wearing a bulbous Mr. Boh head. One of his bartenders pulled the kegerator's lever, and the official first glass disappeared to the crowd.
Rusty Walters, a 25-year-old native who works in marketing, couldnt even step inside the bar when he got there. The crowd was starting to spill out into the street. He said he didnt start drinking the beer for the irony, or because it was because it was passed down through his family.
I dont know if it was my grandfathers first beer, he said. I started drinking in college because it was cheap.
But then it became a reminder of Baltimore. When he lived in Los Angeles, he and his friends used to have it shipped. Its not even about the taste, he said. Its about drinking Natty Boh. Its just Baltimore.
Ron Hartman, 64, on the other hand, said hed been drinking it since he was 21, when it was the beer of working-class families.
Back then this was a very poor neighborhood, he said. Now, he drinks it out of loyalty.
At one point, we had a lot of beer in this town; there was Gunther, Hamms, he said. Ths is the only that survived.
Even though its not brewed here anymore, its not owned by a local brewery, and this might have been described as a big, frothy promotional event for a beer magnate, Hartman doesnt care. Boh is part of the citys heritage.
Its us, he said.
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