Ballantine "India Pale Ale"... who remembers?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by diesel59, Mar 12, 2012.

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  1. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    If you "Profile" age is correct, Ballantine India Pale Ale was last brewed when you were about 6 years old - before S&P closed the Pabst Milwaukee brewery in 1996. Pabst still markets a beer under the "Ballantine XXX Ale" label, which was once the brewery's flagship and a very different beer than the subject of this thread, Ballantine India Pale Ale.

    Perhaps you're talking about the latter beer --- or a very old sixpack. :wink:

    (The current version of Ballantine XXX Ale, Pabst-owned, contract-brewed at Miller plants, is an insult to the original and even to the Falstaff version(s).)
  2. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,105) Mar 12, 2009 New York
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    Never got to try any of the classic Ballantine IPA, though I was old enough. Didn't know one person who drank any of the few better beers there were, and never had it recommended. Hate to sound regretful, my age group is so lucky in so many ways in terms of timing, especially concerning beer and music, but I do wish I could have tasted some of the few better ales around back then.
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  3. hammonton

    hammonton Initiate (12) Feb 7, 2009 New York

    I think it was 1966 in McGuire's on Broadway in Paterson, NJ – a bar abutting a single railroad track. There was a back lit cooler that looked like the “STERILIZER' that used to be ubiquitous in barber shops. In the STERILIZER I saw 7 oz bottles I was unfamiliar with. I asked the bartender. He said Ballantine India Pale Ale was ordered for a customer now dead. Being familiar with superhero succession schemes of the time I announced I would drink the ale. At first the taste was forbiddingly foreign but I came to realize it was grained like fine furniture. It quickly made Ishihara alternative images that hadn't been visible visible. The embossed three rings debossed your thumbprint when you grabbed the bottle.
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  4. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (8,307) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming

    Your first like and thanks for coming out of Lurkdomville.:wink:
  5. wingedeel

    wingedeel Zealot (552) Nov 17, 2005 Indiana

    I had a customer who worked for Falstaff Ft Wayne, and he used to bring me cases of the stuff. I recall really liking it, but then there wasnt much to choose from in Ft Wayne in the 80's. It also seems I had a couple of cases in the 74-75 time frame, but that could be just faulty memory.
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  6. ThePorterSorter

    ThePorterSorter Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2010 Oregon

    huh, yes I was referring to and didn't quite notice the differences in the naming. The hunt continues.
  7. Seanvino

    Seanvino Initiate (107) Jan 5, 2009 California

    I had the Falstaff Fort Wayne version a few times in the early 80's and quite enjoyed it. It was very bitter compared to anything else available at the time except maybe Rainier Ale. The Ballantine XXX was quite good at the time also.
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  8. kingofhop

    kingofhop Initiate (0) May 9, 2010 Oklahoma

    Never had the stuff. But judging by the love some of you old-timers had for it, kinda makes me wish I'd have made a trip up to Joisey back in the day.
  9. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    No need for the trip (not that you wouldn't have been welcomed...:wink: ) since Ballantine, in its heyday, was available coast to coast. For a time in the late 40's-early '50's it was the largest "single site" brewery in the US - when the other national companies were running multiple breweries. They even tied with AB briefly for the #2 spot after WWII, when Schlitz was #1.

    Although their Lager Beer was primarily an east coast-distributed product, the ales were shipped as far west as California, Nevada, Arizona and Alaska. Not sure about about OK (given the strange alcohol laws there) but both the XXX and India Pale Ales were available just south of you in Texas. Here's their Dallas distributor, Shepp's, warehouse circa 1950:

  10. beergurujr

    beergurujr Initiate (0) Oct 27, 2003 Illinois

    Jess, do you happen to know what the ABV, SRM, and IBU counts were for the IPA at the time this pic was taken?
  11. shawnohall

    shawnohall Aspirant (201) Nov 8, 2009 Texas

    Quick, to the Beercave!
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  12. shawnohall

    shawnohall Aspirant (201) Nov 8, 2009 Texas

    Interesting. Well then it must have been pretty potent stuff; especially for back in the day.
  13. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    As with ABV for most US beers in that era, the sources vary. Whitbread (via Ron Pattinson's Numbers book) found it to be 7.08% ABV in 1939. A brief mention in the July 29, 1955 New York Times (below), by food writer Jane Nickerson said it was 5.1% ABW (so, about 6.5% ABV).

    Most secondary sources put the IBU's around 60 for the Newark BIPA. I've never seen a SRM noted in any source - I'd say it was in the low/mid-teens from what I remember. Kinda in-between a HopDevil and Bigfoot.

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  14. bobv

    bobv Poo-Bah (4,349) Feb 3, 2009 Vermont
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    I remember working construction in a sewer plant on the Jersey Shore in the summer of '74. For lunch someone would go get sandwiches and beer. My job was ballin' that shiny black steel jackhammer (thanks Piggers!) so I stayed put, up in the tank. I was brought a quart bottle (Yes!) of Ballantine India Pale Ale and a sandwich for $5! Seriously!
  15. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Initiate (0) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    If it was a quart bottle, then it was the regular Ballantine XXX Ale... not Ballantine India Pale.
    I don't recall the IPA ever being available in quarts. (Jess...what say you?)
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  16. shawnohall

    shawnohall Aspirant (201) Nov 8, 2009 Texas

    The numbers sure tell a story. Ballantine IPA went from 7.8 ABV in the '60's to 6.2 in 1994; and in IBU from 60 to 37. The XXX Ale similarly dumbed down. Could that be why it went away, you think? Just like what happened to Schlitz. The dumbing down of a popular beer backfires.
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    It didn't help preserve what little market it had left (nor did price rises of almost 100% in the '80s), but the story of S&P/Falstaff/Pabst and the Ballantine brands is more complicated than that. The US market, pre-craft, was going in the opposite direction of beers like the Ballantine ales and S&P simply went along with the trend of "lightening" those beers rather than pick up the rise of "craft" styles. "Lighten-ing" also corresponded to S&P primary business model - severe cost cutting, milking every dollar out a brand while it was on its way down.

    Well, the story of Schlitz's crash is also more complicated than that :wink: , and "dumbing down" (in particular - lower IBU's of flagship, and, eventually, flagship beers replaced as best sellers by lower ABV "light" beers) didn't hurt AB and helped Miller and Coors rise to #2 and #3 by the end of the century, as all the other national brewers went out of business.
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  18. shawnohall

    shawnohall Aspirant (201) Nov 8, 2009 Texas

    Although there were other factors involved, it's seems that the fall of Schlitz seemed to correspond with the mid-70's formula change; or am I mistaken? So did the beer drinking public simply go along for the ride as beer makers cut costs by making their product more watery and less hoppy, or did a whole new generation decide that they wanted to drink girly beer?
  19. Flashy

    Flashy Devotee (492) Oct 22, 2003 Vermont

    No mention of the riddles on the inside of the caps? Somewhere around my families NJ lake cabin sits a jar full of them. This might have been the only good beer available on the east coast in the 70's- my dad drank it- don't confuse it with regular Ballentine Ale- which was probably the second best beer on the east coast in the 70's.
  20. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,657) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Yes, but that wasn't a "dumbing down" process, just dumb decision making.

    In those days there was no such thing as "less hoppy." There were hardly any hops at all! I'm sure Jess has a link to the story in his back pocket, but as I recall the marketing and advertising the new recipe was supposed to be "better." (closer to Budweiser, if I know the brewery marketing of the time)

    And the real craziness was, I don't think the beer drinking public of the day could really tell much of a change -- they just didn't like hearing that a change was made -- so they rebelled. Probably why so many these days want to panic when they think a recipe has changed -- innate fear of change!

    The funny thing, that most people don't remember, is that Schlitz went back to the old recipe not long after the fallout, but it was too late and the damage couldn't be repaired.
  21. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Remember seeing, but never drank it. My Grandpop drank Ballantine Ale, it was the sponsor of the Phillies in the early 60's.
  22. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Yeah, those were S&P Corp. - General/Falstaff/Pearl novelties. They called them "Tickler Caps / Crown Tickers", as noted below in the heading from an answer sheet circa 1981.

    Once S&P bought Pabst, some of the Pabst brands, and then the ex-Heileman/Stroh brands Pabst bought started using them, as well. The Lion also uses them, I guess because they were for a time a Pabst contract brewer (?).

    Oh, I'd say the other ales from Falstaff/Narragansett - Croft Ale, Pickwick Ale - as well as McSorley's from the Rheingold>Ortlieb/Schmidt era, and maybe even the 1970's version of Genesee 12 Horse Ale could give Ballantine XXX Ale a run for its money for #2 as far as US adjunct "golden ales" went. XXX had the advantage (for me, at least - it was pretty much my "house beer" of the 70's and early 80's) of a wider - if ever diminishing - distribution area and was relatively easy to find in deposit returnable/refillable bottles.
  23. Givemebeer

    Givemebeer Zealot (543) Apr 6, 2013 Vermont

  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,751) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Below is my understanding on why Schlitz market share declined: they incrementally messed with the quality of the beer:

    “By 1967 the company's president and chairman was August Uihlein's grandson, the polo-playing, 6-foot-4–inch-tall Harvard graduate Robert Uihlein Jr., then 51. Robert decided that if he could not sell more beer than Anheuser-Busch, he would at least make his company more profitable than his St Louis rival. The first step in Uihlein's plan to save money was a new brewing method Schlitz called "accelerated batch fermentation," or ABF. This cut the brewing time for Schlitz beers from 25 to 21 days, and then from 20 to 15 days, compared to the 32 to 40 days of storage – or "lagering" – used for Budweiser.

    The result was that Schlitz was now getting much more beer out of the same amount of plant, with all the boost in margins that meant. At the same time Uihlein instructed his brewers to begin cutting costs by using corn syrup to replace some of the malted barley used to make the beer, and by substituting cheaper hop pellets for fresh hops. The ingredient alterations were meant to be made incrementally, Uihlein's belief apparently being that drinkers would not notice each slight change to the product. Unfortunately, as commentators later pointed out, the steps from A to B and from B to C might have been tiny and unnoticeable, but the steps from A to M added up to a big leap.

    At first all seemed to be working. In 1973 Schlitz was able to boast that it had the most efficient breweries in the world, and it was carrying out a rapid expansion of its production capacity. Its profits-to-sales ratio and its utilisation of its plant – in terms of capacity against actual production – were both substantially above the industry average. Market share was growing faster than at either of the other big two American brewers, Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Rivals tried to trip Schlitz up by claiming that its ABF brewing method meant it was selling "green," or too-young beer. Schlitz responded by changing the meaning of ABF from "accelerated batch fermentation" to "accurate balanced fermentation."

    Uihlein had already been given a warning about what could happen if drinkers felt a brewer was messing about with beer quality, however. In 1964 Schlitz had acquired the Primo brewery in Hawaii. By 1971 Primo accounted for 70 per cent of all beer sold in Hawaii. Then Schlitz stopped full brewing at the Primo plant, instead shipping dehydrated wort from its brewery in Los Angeles for fermentation in Hawaii. Islanders said the taste of their favorite beer had been altered for the worse with the change, and Primo's market share dropped like a brick to just 20 percent in 1975. Schlitz started full brewing in Hawaii again that year, but sales of Primo never recovered to their previous high.

    Back on the mainland, Schlitz had attempted to respond to the growing success of Miller Lite, the first successful low-calorie beer, with the launch late in 1976 of Schlitz Light. But perhaps because drinkers were already suspicious about what went into ordinary Schlitz, Schlitz Light was a failure in an otherwise expanding sector.

    Meanwhile Schlitz was running into trouble with its mainstream brand, after an attempt to disguise to consumers what it was putting into its beer. Because it aged its beer less than other brewers, Schlitz had to add silica gel to the product to prevent a haze forming when it was chilled. In 1976 the company began to worry that the United States Food and Drug Administration would compel brewers to list all their ingredients on bottles and cans. Its use of silica gel would show up in harsh contrast to its rivals such as Anheuser-Busch, who aged their beers longer, allowing the protein to settle out naturally, and therefore did not need to use artificial anti-haze products. Anheuser-Busch was sure to point up Schlitz's use of an "unnatural" product in its beers and contrast this with the "all-natural" Budweiser.

    Schlitz decided to use another beer stabilizer instead, one that would be filtered out of the final product and thus would not have to be listed as among the ingredients. Unfortunately, what Schlitz's brewing technicians did not know was that the new anti-haze agent, called Chill-garde, would react in the bottles and cans with the foam stabiliser they also used, to cause protein to settle out. At its best this protein looked liked tiny white flakes floating in the beer and at its worst it looked like mucus, or "snot," as one observer bluntly called it.

    For months Schlitz kept quiet about the problem, with Uihlein arguing that the haze was not actually physically harmful to drinkers, and in any case not much of the beer would be kept at temperatures at which the haze would form. However, drinkers did complain, sales began to drop and Schlitz had to make a secret recall of 10 million bottles of beer, costing it $1.4 million.

    Around the same time Robert Uihlein was diagnosed with leukaemia, dying just a few weeks later. An accountant, Eugene Peters, became the company's CEO, and a geologist, Daniel McKeithan, who was the divorced husband of a big Schlitz shareholder, was appointed chairman.

    All Schlitz's problems with its image, caused by Robert Uihlein's tampering with the quality of the beer, were causing the company to start losing its second place in the American beer market to its Milwaukee rival, Miller. Even though Schlitz had increased its share of the U.S. beer market from 7 percent in 1950 to 14 percent in 1977, Budweiser and Miller had grown faster. Peters and McKeithan pushed Schlitz's marketing department to go for a new "high impact" advertising campaign featuring an aggressive-looking boxer who demanded, when asked to swap his Schlitz for another brand: "You want to take away my gusto?" Instead of amusing viewers, the ad put them off: Consumers found it "menacing," and it became known as the "drink Schlitz or I'll kill you" campaign.

    By the end of 1977 Schlitz was on the slide, with profits, market share and capacity utilization dropping. Peters resigned after only 11 months and was replaced by Frank Sellinger, the former brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch. Sellinger returned to traditional brewing methods and improved the product. But Schlitz was now operating in the red, and by 1980 its sales had been passed by another Milwaukee rival, Pabst, with a third Wisconsin brewer, Heileman, not far behind.”

    Above is from:

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  25. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,105) Mar 12, 2009 New York
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    Drink Schlitz or I'll kill you, I remember that one. They shoulda waited a few years and used Spuds McKenzie in a commercial with a guy pointing a gun, and the narrator could have said, "Drink Scdhlitz or I'll kill this dog." I bet that would have won some of their customers back.
  26. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,657) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    From renowned beer writer Greg Smith:

    Emphasis mine, but a lot of what was being done to the beer didn't make a lot of difference and innuendo spread like wildfire. Same thing happened when Pabst closed some of its breweries back in the mid 80s. I remember hearing all sorts of stories about the things disgruntled brewery workers were doing to the beer -- none of them confirmed in any way.
  27. shawnohall

    shawnohall Aspirant (201) Nov 8, 2009 Texas

    I'm drinking the 60's Formula Schlitz right now, and diggin' it. For whatever reason, they shouldn't have changed a successful product. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Alienating your core buyers is just brain-dead. Also, this is what happens when you let bean counters run the show. Cutting costs doesn't mean squat if the product is made damn near unfit for consumption. Ask Wendy's.
  28. texasdrugaddict

    texasdrugaddict Initiate (0) Oct 11, 2012 New Mexico

    Check out this Glass I picked up over the weekend.



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  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,751) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Let me be perfectly clear, I agree with this statement 100%

    But the new CEO of Schlitz, Robert Uihlein Jr, had a priority of maximizing profits vs. making quality beer. The overall result (over time) was declining market share and Schlitz Brewing Company going out of business (they sold out to Stroh).

  30. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,657) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    No doubt, but the marketing department dropped the ball on that whole thing too. As someone who was around at the time of the Schlitz debacle and tried the "new" beer to see what all the uproar was about, I didn't notice a big difference -- albeit, I wasn't as into beer as I am now, but I think most of the customer angst was due to the beer being brewed out of the town it made famous.

    Sound familiar? Funny thing is -- it was being brewed in the same Baldwinsville, NY brewery that A-B is now using to brew the top-selling Goose Island beers. Funny how things change, but remain the same.

    Oh, and that "60s Formula Schlitz?"
    Gotta wonder how close it really is. Then again, there wasn't a whole lotta flavor goin' on there to replicate anyway! :wink:
  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,531) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Yeah, the Baldwinsville facility was symptomatic of the more "complicated" aspect of Schlitz's collapse. It was opened in 1977 in the midst of Schlitz's problems and, at the time, was claimed to be the largest brewery ever built at one time (i.e., there were existing breweries with larger capacities, but they had been expanded over a number of years). And Schlitz had just opened other huge 5-6m. bbl breweries in Memphis and North Carolina within the previous decade.

    Those multi-million barrel capacity breweries (about 15m bbl./yr together - and Schlitz also had another 15m bbl. cap. with its other older breweries) were built to meet future expected growth so when sales started to fall, it put an extra strain on the financial health of the company. Ditto for Schlitz's outside purchases of non-brewing firms and foreign firms (inc. a Belgian brewery). The financial problems resulted in stockholder fights which "exposed" some of the changes in brewing processes and resulting problems to the public - and probably blew them out of proportion. For instance, supposedly the "lack of head" problem was confined to Milwaukee-brewed beer, and the infamous "Schlitz bits" beer came out of only two (IIRC) of the new facilities.

    When Anheuser Busch bought the Baldwinsville plant only 3 years after it opened, their announcement "twisted the knife" a bit, when they noted they would spend $100 million for "alterations" to allow the brewery to brew Budweiser "due to major differences between the Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz processes" :wink: - this for a brewery that cost Schlitz $150 million to construct only a few years earlier.
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  32. migwell

    migwell Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2012 Massachusetts

    Well, back to the Ballantine IPA for a minute. My go to beer in the '60's and 70's was the regular Ballantine Ale, quite delicious on tap, but every now and then we'd get together in somebody's kitchen with a few sixes of the IPA. Not smooth drinking like the regular ale, but damn strong, and the incredible hangover the next morning was enough to keep this one out of the regular rotation.

    I'd like to see something resembling the old-style Ballantine Ale back on the market, clear, crisp and pine flavored.
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  33. beerluvr

    beerluvr Meyvn (1,232) Jan 2, 2001 Canada (ON)

    Just came across this thread, Ballantine IPA was my introduction to bitter/hoppy ales in 1984. Though it wasn't brewed in Newark it still was an acquired taste for those first few bottles, but after that it became a favorite, relatively cheap too. I'm glad I drank as much of it as I did, not knowing it would disappear one day.
  34. azorie

    azorie Champion (877) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    calling JESS.....ah there he is on page 3

    wow OLD thread,lol:grinning:
  35. rdilauro

    rdilauro Defender (660) Mar 8, 2010 Connecticut

    I've been gone a while (another hip surgery), but as soon as I saw this topic, I went directly to the bottom to post without reading any of the posts already done.
    Ballantine ALE - Remember it well. Back in the Mid-60's that was my first taste to this thing they called India Pale Ale. Why? It was cheap, and there was a beer distributor that we could buy it at when we were 16.
    My first impression! Smells like dead horse, tastes like dead horse! Now mind you I had no idea and still have no idea what a dead horse smells and tastes like. But I remember I didn't like that IPA. But we kept on drinking it.
    I dont know if it was ahead of its time, but many of beer drinkers I was hanging out with back then didnt go for this sone. Thinking back, trying to remember the bouquet and taste, I wonder what rating I would give it here on Beer Advocate. After all, big IPA's are my favorites
  36. azorie

    azorie Champion (877) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    have good notes or better memory than mine or a time machine....:grinning: to post a review on an extinct older beer.
  37. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    My grand pop drank Ballantine it was also the main sponsor for the Phillies in the 60's.
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  38. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Even in hs we steered clear or Ballentine , if we were doing cheap we did Iron City for a $1 for a sixer of 16 oz bottles.
  39. chuckstout

    chuckstout Initiate (51) May 22, 2006 Ohio

    I am old enough to remember buying this in the returnable cases!

    THANAT0PSIS Champion (815) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    I'm only old enough to remember Martin Crane drinking it on Frasier. I'm not sure if I missed out or not.
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