Primo beer: First in hearts and bellies
I was busy typing a nasty e-mail early this morning to a guy in Australia who has been bugging me relentlessly about finding a certain photo for a book on surfing that he's putting together, when God thumped me on the back of the head and turned off all the electric power to Kaneohe. God is like that sometimes.
So I went to Zippy's -- which has backup power -- and had a cup of coffee and an Apple Napple and read the newspaper until God turned the electricity back on. None of the other patrons knew that I had been responsible for the power outage, so that was good.
Once home again, humbled, power restored, I wrote a much nicer e-mail to the idio ... I mean, Australian, and then tried to remember what it was I had actually planned to write about in today's column. Gone. Kaput. It's like Emo Philips says, some mornings it's just not worth gnawing off the leather straps. I mean, you TRY to hit the ground running, be productive, get stuff done and ... oh, yeah, Primo beer.
That's what I was going to write about. Primo beer. Primo beer was Hawaii's favorite beer for about 50 years. Then they quit making it. Then a mainland company reintroduced it in the '80s, and then it stopped again. At least in Hawaii. Apparently, Stroh's brewery tried to market Primo in Oklahoma and Texas, which, on the surface, wouldn't seem like such a great idea. You don't hear many cowboys sitting around a dusty saloon in Waco saying, "You know what we need with these ribs? A good Hawaiian beer." And it turned out that marketing Primo in Oklahoma and Texas was pretty much as stupid as it seemed on the surface.
But people in Hawaii have always loved Primo and hoped it eventually would return. Well, the good news is that Primo is coming back. The bad news is that it's going to be made in China.
Just kidding. The new version of Primo, produced by Pabst, will first be available on tap at a few places around town and then in bottles from California. The main cloud on this silver lining is that the new version will be a "premium beer," which kind of goes against the whole ironic philosophy of Primo. One of the charming things about Primo in the early days was that a beer with a name that has come to mean "prime" or "first" was a cheap beer sold in funky brown squat bottles that looked like hand grenades. One of my favorite photos of my dear departed father is of him sitting in his Cal 20 sailboat in Hickam Harbor with the tiller in one hand and a Primo in the other. Back then a bottle of Primo cost about 12 cents. The whole aura of Primo beer was that it was the beer of the island working man, as well as the haole sailboat owner who was down with the island working man.
If the new Primo doesn't capture that essence (or come in the iconic squat little brown bottle), I doubt it will catch on again in Honolulu any more than it did in Waco. I would say something about how idiotic it is to market Primo as an "upscale" beer, but the good people of Kaneohe need their electricity.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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