Old Tankard Ale

Old Tankard Ale – Brewed by Pabst

Old Tankard Ale

By Bill Lau | Potable Pastime

Old Tankard Ale – Brewed by Pabst

5.8% ABV, 35 IBUs, 16 oz can; from a 1937 recipe, brewed with Nugget, Liberty, Willamette, & Cascade hops (references ESB in the description)

Pabst Brewing Company, Lacrosse, WI

Sooooo…to start at the beginning…the first beer I ever tasted was Pabst Blue Ribbon, back when Pabst was still headquartered in Milwaukee (and I was headquartered in West Allis out in the western suburbs). Pabst was the de rigueur hometown choice, and quite appropriate for losing one’s beerginity to. A few years down the road when I started learning about beer styles and trying things beyond the typical macro lagers, I learned of the then-long-defunct Old Tankard Ale. An American ale from before the mass consolidation of breweries and loss of variety, from well before any craft beer revolution. And, most certainly, a beer that predated my existence!

I wondered what Old Tankard had tasted like, and I guess I romanticized the ale a bit in my mind. Every so often it would float to my conscious mind, as it did recently. I always wished I could travel back in time to experience it, just once.

Well then.

{Cue Hugo Weaving voice.} Our review begins (as these reviews so often do) at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield, OH; walking through the beer department after enjoying some good craft ale in the beer & wine tasting area with my wife (helps one to better deal with the vicissitudes of JJ’s insane throngs of Saturday shoppers, tourists, and gawkers, you see), when I suddenly spotted a stack of Old Tankard Ale on prominent display. I did the requisite double-take, wondering if my recent pint of IPA had gone to my head and I was hallucinating, then snapped to and grabbed a 4-pack of 16 oz cans before the vision disappeared. I would get to taste this legend from before my time after all! Huzzah!

(Now can it possibly live up to my dreams and hopes? I’ll admit, I’m going in with somewhat restrained and uncertain expectations, but still glad to be able to try it.)

Appearance (5/5): Lovely amber hue, clear, capped by an unexpectedly thick head of pale beige foam, which it sustains quite nicely.

Aroma (8/10): Aroma of fresh wort with rich caramel malt notes; earthy, grassy/herbal & floral hops float just behind and combine for a fresh-out-of-the-fermenter effect. I get a little grapefruity citrus, too.

Palate (4/5): Medium bodied with a slight honeyed texture and very fine, restrained carbonation wave across the tongue. Leaves behind a creaminess on the palate. Smooth and luxurious.

Taste (8.5/10): Nice balance of hops and malt; there’s floral & grassy hops with touches of citrus and a resiny finish along with toasted and caramel malt notes. Nicely malty without being very sweet. Bitterness is definitely present and pleasant; not overwhelming, certainly balancing with a little extra. There’s a hint of yeast-induced butterscotch in the background, which gives an overall effect reminiscent of an English special bitter to me.

Overall (17/20): I’m impressed! I like this a lot! Well done, Pabst!

Disclosure: The author has received no reimbursement or compensation for this article. All opinions and remarks are those of the author alone.


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