The last time most of America heard from Falstaff, some platinum canary was drinking it in Sheryl Crow's A Change Would Do You Good in 1996.
By then, Falstaff was already a shadow of its once-corpulent self. This is a brewery that rode out Prohibition in St. Louis by selling near-beer and ham. It's a brewery that flew out cases of beer to the governors of Missouri and Illinois at the end of prohibition. It's a brewery that, at its peak, had facilities in St. Louis, Omaha, Neb., New Orleans, Galveston and El Paso, Texas, and Fort Wayne, Ind., and pushed out more than 7 million barrels of beer in 1965. For perspective, that's a brewery roughly three times the size of Samuel Adams maker Boston Beer (SAM) today.So what happened? Its brewers' heads swelled right along with sales. The fat cans of Falstaff suddenly weren't good enough and in 1965, it bought Narragansett for $19 million in cash and stock. That didn't sit well with Rhode Island, which dragged Falstaff into a multiyear antitrust case that bled a great deal of the brewer's money into the courtrooms. Though the Supreme Court eventually ruled for Falstaff in 1973, the cost was so great that the company was sold to Paul Kalmanovitz just two years later. Kalmanovitz did what any good corporate raider does and started cutting jobs and closing facilities. Falstaff's St. Louis brewery was the first to fall, with the rest going down in succession until the Fort Wayne facility closed in 1990. Though Pabst kept the brand afloat by contracting out its brewing to other companies such as MolsonCoors (TAP), Falstaff's sales eventually sank so low that the label was discontinued altogether. It doesn't even show up on Pabst's portfolio site, where Champale is showcased with pride. Want Falstaff back? The Metropoulos family awaits your offer.
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