Old Tankard Ale: The First Canned Craft Beer Returns

As it is American Craft Beer Week and I really have not done any articles to acknowledge it, I thought this might be a good time to talk about re-release of the first canned American craft beer.

A couple months ago I got an email asking if I would like to try a new beer that was being released nationally by the Pabst Brewing Company, Old Tankard Ale, an English Mild Ale. Now let there be no mistake, I am not a fan of Pabst Blue Ribbon in any way but when I read that the re-release of Old Tankard Ale was using a 1937 brewer’s log recipe I was intrigued as it was the number two nationwide seller in the 1930’s through the 1950’s. I wondered what was killing it back in the day.

Since Old Tankard Ale was the first craft beer brewed by Pabst, and Pabst was the first brewery to utilize Keglined Cans [in 1935], it was the first craft beer to be put in a can and be distributed nationwide.

When I opened and began pouring my first Old Tankard Ale, I was immediately surprised. My preconceived notions of what I was going to see and smell were blown away; if you had not told me it was a Pabst I never would have guessed it. There was a slight hop aroma with what I thought was sweet malt notes in the background. When I poured it I immediately wished I owned a real tankard as recommended. The color was beautiful and the head was thick; I was looking forward to trying it.

While an English Mild Ale might not be my first choice of session brews I would choose, this was pretty tasty; a lot better than what I think of PBR for sure. There was lots of body, caramel and even some background bitterness. But hey, free beer always tastes better plus they sent me quite a bit of it, so I decided that I would take it out and distribute some to some craft beer professionals, like professional brewers, homebrewers, tasting room beertenders and people I know that drink a lot of different beers. What would they think?

I did not watch everyone’s experience, but for the ones I did observe it is obvious that everyone loved the color. I watched as some brewers dissected the ingredients; the 2-Row malt and Cascade hops were the easiest to discern. The overall response was positive, with a couple of “eh” received. It is a good thing that it is a sessionable beer because it is not one of those beers that gets better as it warms up; I think it would be a nice winter session brew. Cheers!

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