Pabst brings Primo brand back
Nearly 10 years after running dry, a beer called Primo is back.
Just don't expect it to look or taste the same.
After its last pour in 1998, the brew's name is being revived by Primo Brewing & Malting Co., a division of Woodridge, Ill.-based beer giant Pabst Brewing Co.
Primo, which will hit the taps of between 30 and 40 Oahu bars and restaurants during the second week of December, is made from a different recipe than the beer Stroh Brewery Co. made in the 1980s and 90s.
"It was a good beer, but I'm not sure if it was an award-winning beer," said Primo spokesman Kyle Wortham.
Pabst, which has about 30 employees working on the Primo brew and one staffer at the Honolulu office, has been conducting market research here for the past 18 months to make sure the beer could be successful. Part of that included gathering feedback from locals such as surfer Keoni Watson.
"We are going to get this right," Wortham said. "We will do it slowly and make sure we don't rush anything."
He declined to discuss specific sales goals, but said Primo Brewing will gradually expand its reach throughout Oahu during the next year. Draft production is initially expected to reach 200 kegs a month.
The beer will be available in draft and bottles throughout the state by this spring as a premium lager priced similarly to beers offered by Kona Brewing Co., the state's largest brewer. Wortham would not release specific locations where Primo will be offered because sales deals are still being finalized.
Keoki Brewing Co., Hawaii's second-biggest beer maker, is expanding its Lihue facilities in part to help produce Primo, said Andy Baker, one of Keoki's managing partners. It is the first outside brewing contract for the company. The addition of three fermenters by next month will bring the brewery's production to half of Kona's, Baker said, without providing specifics.
"We are experiencing significant double-digit growth over last year," he said. "We should be able to almost double our capacity output from our current ability."
Kona expects to produce 65,000 barrels this year, a 45 percent increase from 2006, said Rich Tucciarone, vice president of brewery operations.
Mattson Davis, Kona's president and CEO, said the company does not plan to change its selling strategy with the addition of another local brew.
"Primo is a brand with an incredible amount of heritage," Davis said. "It's a brand that I honor very much, and I've often said that we would aspire to be something as successful as they were in their day."
Primo will be distributed by Paradise Beverage Co. The bottled beer, which will hit stores by April, will be produced in Irwindale, Calif.
Primo's logo, which depicts a warrior head, is almost a replica of the one used in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Wortham said.
Primo Beer was in production from 1898 until Prohibition by Honolulu Brewing & Malting Co. Renamed Hawaii Brewing Co., the company resumed making Primo in 1934 until closing in 1979.
Detroit-based Stroh Brewery Co., which has since been purchased by Pabst, acquired the Primo brand in 1982 and tried to improve the formula.
Falling sales led Stroh to stop brewing Primo in November 1998.