Carling nostalgia

Discussion in 'US - Northeast' started by LarryV, Jan 6, 2019.

  1. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    Having grown up in Massachusetts, I can remember seeing the big Carling sign on route 9 whenever I headed out towards the Natick area. Got me wondering about whatever happened to it.


    Apparently, it was bought by Prime Computer around 1975, followed by Boston Scientific. Now MathWorks owns the property and has torn down the original brewery.

    I found this pretty cool 1956 video tour of Carling's Natick plant and found it to be an enjoyable retro look at the state of brewing back then. At the time, this was considered a state-of-the-art brewery.

    Hope you enjoy it!
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  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,287) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, it was still cranking out Black Label Beer, Tuborg and Red Cap Ale when I lived in the area in 1975 - looks like the brewery was closed in 1976, less than a year after Carling merged with National Brewing Co. to form Carling-National. The combined company wound up #10 in the US with 4.3M bbl. Late 50s-early 60s, Carling alone had reached #4.

    I recall reading back then that the brewery on the shore of Lake Cochituate was the "most beautifully-located brewery in the country" or some such claim but have never found the source again. (They used the lake water for cooling but the brewing process used the municipal water system, according to The Boston Globe).

    And, of course, it was the home to the largest bottle of beer in New England:
    Narragansett had been using Imperial Quart - [38.43 oz] - bottles for 'Gansett and Croft Ale since the late '50s, so these were about 1.5 oz larger :grin: .

    Even though New England was the last big market for ale (and Red Cap was usually said to be the #2 ale in the US behind Ballantine in that period) Carling's market share in Massachusetts never even hit double-digits in the 1962-1976 period - behind AB, Narragansett and Rheingold in the 60s and then by 1976, dominated by AB, Miller and Schlitz (combined ~70%).
    #2 jesskidden, Jan 6, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
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  3. jbertsch

    jbertsch Poo-Bah (1,554) Dec 14, 2008 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    I live on lake cochituate and had no idea Carling was here.
    #3 jbertsch, Jan 6, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  4. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    Thanks for the additions details, I love stuff like this!
  5. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    Carling Black Label commercial circa 1970

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  6. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,287) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Carling Black Label was one of the early attempts at an "international" brand (as noted on the rear label of an US can)
    and as such, was often brewed under license and bounced from brewery to brewery, especially after the Canadian parent co., "Carling-O'Keefe" was folded into Molson in the late 80s after being caught up in the Elders IXL debacle.

    So, in the US after they bought C-N it was a Heileman brand (then Stroh > Pabst) and in the UK it was brewed by Bass and now by Coors UK, where it is still one of the largest selling lagers. Former owner of Miller, SAB (now part of ABInBev), also brews a Carling Black Label for it's home market. At this point, it is unlikely there's much in common between all of them (if there ever was).
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  7. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    Thanks, interesting information. I didn't realize that the beer was still being produced. I have never had it before.
  8. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,287) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I guess it is - but Pabst's corporate website (noted for frequently being outdated and/or inaccurate) no long lists it as part of their portfolio - @Chaz would know best :wink:.

    Most of the distribution areas of Pabst's portfolio of beers have been shrunk to the brand's former/original primary market - Pearl & Lone Star in Texas, Schaefer and Ballantine Ale in the Northeast, Rainier and Olympia in the PNW, Stroh's and Old Style in the Midwest, etc.

    But Black Label was a national brand (breweries in WA, AZ, MD, MA, GA, MI, IL, OH over the years) and even the corporate headquarter offices in the US was moved from Cleveland to Baltimore...(I guess the Canadian parent pulled the strings). So, it didn't really have a single "original/home market" in the US.

    Checking the stats, I was surprised that in the 1950s when the brewery was build, Natick was only rated at around 600k bbl/yr. Kinda small for new construction by a company with a national market - although they also bought the Frankenmuth (MI) Brewing Co. the same year, and opened one in Georgia a couple years later.

    By the time they closed, they said their were brewing 700k bbl. in Natick - which supplied NE and part of New York - but needed to brew at least 900k bbl there to be profitable - and, in addition, the additional barrelage would have to be beers selling above CBL's "popular-price" - so, Tuborg and maybe a few others (likely Red Cap Ale was selling closer to premium and they tried to market their west coast Heidelberg brand in N.E. at one point).
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  9. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

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  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,287) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    According to one former Miller employee who used to post here on BA:
  11. dental

    dental Devotee (426) Apr 2, 2014 Massachusetts

    black label was the first beer i legally bought. a 40 ounce bottle in montreal when i was 19. i drank that bad boy right there on the street haha. i thought public drinking was ok in canada, but apparently it's only cool if you're in a park having a picnic??
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  12. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (452) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I've been in the area my whole life - still live not far from the old site now. My dad talks about coming home from work or something one day as they were taking the old brewing equipment out - this would have been '78, '79 or so. It had been closed for several years when they sold it all off, presumably for scrap. I wonder if there are any details about that.

    Most or least beautiful is partly in the eye of the beholder. Can't comment about back then (I was just born when it closed) but it's not exactly the most picturesque place now. Admittedly there were 10 percent or less of the breweries there are now, but I can't imagine there wasn't any place nicer than this.

    Odd that there was Carling till te mid 70s, then there wasn't another brewery in the area until Jack's Abby opened in 2011. Now all of a sudden Metrowest Massachusetts is a mini-hotbed, with Jacks / Springdale, Exhibit A, plus John Harvards and Beer Works brewpubs, Several in Marlboro, a couple in Hudson, Maynard, Waltham, and so on.
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  13. Chaz

    Chaz Poo-Bah (2,197) Feb 3, 2002 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    I’d been buying Black Label fairly regularly by the time I moved to Massachusetts in 1999, and it was the first* packaged beer I bought there. And sure enough, it was a 40 oz bottle - I’d never seen it packaged in that (more or less dedicated to malt liquor) format before, and it was a real hoot!
    As I’ve mentioned in past threads on the old (so-called) “Pabst” brands, the distribution and availability of the brands which are still being brewed is confusing. It strikes me as having no intent to connect brands to cities or regions in which there had historically been good sales figures. To this end, brands which never had much pull in a particular city before Pabst owned them can be found in the low-end retail selection next to non-Pabst brands with stronger local ties.

    “Corzman” (Charlie Smigel) has a crowdsourced availability page on his website dedicated to Carling’s Black Label, but it could use some updating. :wink:

    (*The other old fave I found there at the time -Meister Brau- even had point of sale materials - something I’d never seen in Minneapolis.)
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  14. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (2,527) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    When these old brands are reborn there's no telling if the resemblance is in name only. I would guess that if I owned the rights to the name, I could put whatever i wanted in the bottle regardless of whether it was true to the original product or not.

    I would hope that integrity would cause someone to stay pretty close to what the intended product was but no guarantee of that being the case. I'd try it if i could find it though, sometimes I just enjoy an unpretentious, traditional tasting beer.
  15. Manfrombelmonty

    Manfrombelmonty Disciple (359) Sep 12, 2010 Massachusetts

    One of the biggest, if not, the biggest sellers in the UK.

    Massive over there
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  16. Trull

    Trull Disciple (336) Dec 24, 2016 Massachusetts

    Carling was my wife’s go to Lager while visiting Ireland in June.
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  17. DeliveryMan

    DeliveryMan Initiate (0) Nov 23, 2020 Massachusetts

    In the late 80’s early 90’s we drank Black Label bar bottles in the returnable case. How do you post a pic.
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  18. pudgym29

    pudgym29 Initiate (149) Mar 14, 2009 Illinois

    The BeerAdvocate forum does not offer image hosting. Surf here (imgbox) and put the image on the page. You can drag and drop it from where you have saved it or click on the 'upload image' box and step thru to where it is.
    To share the image here, you will have to make another response. One of the results of your image uploading will be a result box in which the field is enclosed with square brackets "[" "]" - not angle brackets. Copy that field to your response box. That will insert the picture. Click on 'Preview' below and it should appear. :sunglasses:

    In the early 1990s, when a bunch of people I hung with via indoor soccer would assemble to watch a local basketball team's playoff games on television, a couple of the guys would go to a store and buy a six-pack of 12-oz. cans of Carling Black Label for 'luck' because the can had the right colors (and it was really really cheap). :rofl::beers:
    I hope many of you realize the Carling plant in suburban Baltimore is now where Guinness is brewing many beers, including Newcastle Brown Ale.
  19. jamvt

    jamvt Disciple (395) Aug 5, 2005 Massachusetts

    Newcastle is brewed at Lagunitas.
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  20. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,287) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Different "Ca____" company and different alcoholic beverage:
    Yup, says so right on the label, too.
    Newcastle Brown Ale is a Heineken-owned brand not Diageo. Before that move, much of the Newcastle Brown Ale exported to US came from a Heineken brewery in Holland.
  21. HopsDubosc

    HopsDubosc Initiate (164) Apr 24, 2015 Vermont

  22. pbrian

    pbrian Crusader (713) Feb 8, 2001 Connecticut

    oh man, we ripped through those bar bottles in college in the late 80’s. They sold them at the local packy for $5.99 a case and we had an old coke machine (where you pulled the bottles out of the window, I’ll find a pic) that we loaded up with them. Good thing that machine kept them ice cold, not the best beer!
  23. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (577) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Black Label was my maternal grandfather's go-to beer in the late 60's-early 70's. Drank a few in college for nostalgia's sake but not too impressed. Interestingly, my other grandfather worked for Miller around the time I was born...
  24. Stormfield

    Stormfield Aspirant (204) Feb 21, 2011 Massachusetts

    I remember drinking tons of this stuff with my buddy in his parents' garage in the early 90s. We were under-age and they didn't care as long as we stayed out in the garage. I STILL have a very specific memory of the headache I had one morning after a night of of crushing bottle after bottle. Back then I attributed the hangover to the cheapness of beer, when in fact it was caused by lack of hydration and over-consumption. But you couldn't tell my 19-year-old self such things.