As a cultural emblem, Rainier beer never left us. But as an actual easy-drinking mass-produced lager—essential to campfires, dive bars, and back porches the Northwest over—Rainier departed its home state in 2003, when a string of acquisitions relocated beer production to a plant in California. After a 13-year absence, locally brewed Ranyay will return to our taps and store shelves by Memorial Day. This new Rainier, brewed on contract at the Woodinville brewery that produces Redhook, isn’t exactly the familiar lowbrow lager of yore.
Brand new Rainier Pale Mountain Ale is still gently drinkable, with a 5.3 percent alcohol level and 28 out of 100 on the international bittering units scale. Rainier brand manager Michael Scott describes it as “more hoppy than our traditional lager, but not uber Northwest hoppy”—a deliberate middle ground for lager lovers and hop heads. Rainier Pale Mountain Ale is inspired by one of the company’s 1930s-era recipes and will revive the brand’s bygone oversize 16-ounce bottles, known affectionately as Sounder Pounders, complete with vintage labeling and Rainier logo Rs etched on the neck. This Rainier will be available in about half as many states as its classic sibling.
Hold the phone—a hoppier profile? Limited availability? Throwback inspiration? Yep, our new Washington-brewed Rainier is the company’s answer to craft beer. And since craft beer usually means local beer, Rainier’s parent company Pabst Brewing is purposely reuniting brands like Rainier with their home states to mine some heritage cred.
With apologies to fellow Pabst-owned brand Olympia, no beer boasts the Washington pedigree of Rainier: Its history predates our statehood. The neon R atop the old brewery still punctuates a drive down I-5. We still loved Rainier these past 13 years when it was a faux-local brand. Now we’ll see if Seattle’s beer drinkers can still love a Ranyay that’s legitimately local, but faux craft.