Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beer Should Taste Fine - Not Merely Rhyme



It took Coco Chanel five tries to perfect her iconic fragrance. For the Los Angeles brewing colossus Maier Brewing, it took considerably more effort; 102 attempts to be exact, earning their new beer the rhythmic appellation Brew 102. After decades of brewing at the same location, owner Maier and a handful of marketing types decided the Maier Beer brand needed to be reconfigured for the post war consumer, although essentially it would remain the same beer with a new name. It was introduced ca. 1950 with the following verse.

“More than 100 beers did we brew,
Perfecting the finer Brew 102.
In the east and the west
Maier Beer is the best,
Wonderful, wonderful Brew 102.”

The new brew, inexpensive and targeted to the working class, was a success and sales skyrocketed. Increased profits enabled the brewery to replace the old brick structure with a modern, new plant. When the Hollywood Freeway was constructed through downtown in 1954, a large curve was engineered to accommodate the brewery. For Angelinos between the 1950s - 1970s, one of the cities’ most memorable landmarks was the brewery wall, mere feet from the freeway, and the iconic sign: “Home of Brew 102.” As kids we would regularly mock the name as we drove by.




But tastes change, and the large, national brewers’ brands were a noted improvement over Brew 102. Sales declined, and Brew 102 soon filled the niche for low income drinkers and desperate students with little cash. Regretfully, I was never able to sample this icon of my youth. The family moved north while I was still in high school, and production of Brew 102 halted in 1972.

Thanks to the internet, however, some comments from survivors of Brew 102 have left their impressions. The most common description appears to be “swill.” Another recalled that if it were served cold enough it sort of tasted like beer. A college student claimed that it didn’t really begin to taste like beer until the second half of a six-pack, and one fellow recalled that his alcoholic father would drink anything BUT Brew 102.

I have had some cheap and nasty beer in my day, but I suppose I should count myself fortunate that I was spared the Brew 102. It seems the brew was as bad as its verse. I wonder what Brew 103 might have tasted like - but the rhyming possibilities would have been a marketing nightmare.

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