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Lucky Lager making a comeback — but not in Vancouver

Beer with Vancouver lineage will be brewed, available in California

By , Columbian Business Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Lucky Lager started in San Francisco in 1934, just a year after the end of Prohibition. Its Vancouver production began in 1950 and ended in 1985.
Lucky Lager started in San Francisco in 1934, just a year after the end of Prohibition. Its Vancouver production began in 1950 and ended in 1985. Photo Gallery

Lucky Lager beer is making a comeback, 34 years after it ceased production in downtown Vancouver.

Pabst Brewing Co., which owns the brand, announced this week that a revived Lucky Lager will be brewed by 21st Amendment Brewery which has San Francisco roots and a production facility across the Bay in San Leandro, Calif.

The revived iteration will be available initially just in the Bay Area, where it all began, and select points north and south.

Lucky Lager started in San Francisco in 1934, just a year after the end of Prohibition. Its Vancouver production began in 1950 and ended in 1985, but not before it created an iconic presence downtown with its giant sign atop a longtime brewery building.

“For most of the last century, Lucky Lager was the Bay Area’s beer of choice after a long day,” says a news release announcing its return. “Now, this Bay Area classic has been re-imagined as a premium lager to inspire a new generation working tirelessly to turn dreams into reality.”

Pabst clearly is banking on a latent demand for Lucky, or at least a nostalgic audience that clamors for something in addition to craft brews.

A design agency created Lucky Lager cans with a contemporary flair and historical nod. Different iterations of the can present “Lucky” in English, Chinese, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese, with more languages on the way. Promoters say this reflects the beer’s widespread appeal in the diverse San Francisco of yesteryear, which remains today.

How does the revived iteration taste?

This is how a news release describes it:

“A unique, unfiltered lager that pours with a pale straw color and a clean white head, Lucky Lager introduces itself with the aroma of sweet corn, toasted bread and light notes of citrus fruits from delicate hops. At 4.2 percent ABV, Lucky welcomes you with notes of light malt, floral earthy hops, and slight honey, with a creamy and satisfying carbonation. It finishes crisp with a pleasant linger, proving that being Lucky is refreshing.”

When it arrived in downtown Vancouver, Lucky took over a building with a venerable history.

In 1867, Anton Young, who purchased the Vancouver Brewery in 1859 from Henry Weinhard, moved the facility to a building at Sixth and Columbia streets. The building would remain a fixture in the beer industry for more than a century, featuring ownership changes and a shifting menu of beer production.

In 1950, General Brewing Co. acquired Interstate Brewery — the latest building occupant — and started producing the beer it had made popular in San Francisco, Lucky Lager. Another satellite Lucky location opened in Salt Lake City.

The city of Vancouver eventually purchased the Lucky building and its property, which remained vacant before being razed about a decade later. Eventually, three mixed-used towers were built on the site across from Esther Short Park — Vancouvercenter — and a fourth building is expected to be under construction this summer.

One last thing about that new can, designed by Hatch, a San Francisco creative agency. It features something that may inspire imitators among Portland and Vancouver brewmasters: a poem rhapsodizing about its city of origin.

It is by Ina Coolbrith (1841-1928), the first poet laureate of California:

“Fair on your hills, my City,

Fair as the Queen of old,

Supreme in her seven-hilled splendor-

You, from your Gate of Gold,

Facing the orient sunburst,

Swathed in the sunset gleams,

Throned in an ultimate glory,

City of mists and of dreams!”

Beer can designers of Vancouver and Portland, you have been thusly challenged.

Columbian Business Editor

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