Happened To...

An update on past news

Falling sales led Primo Beer
to stop serving cold ones in 1998

Question: What ever happened to Primo beer?

Answer: Its last batch of suds was brewed in 1998.

Honolulu Brewing & Malting Co., makers of Primo Beer, started production in 1898 until Prohibition. Renamed Hawaii Brewing Co., it resumed making Primo in 1934 until closing in 1979.

Detroit-based Stroh Brewery Co. acquired the Primo brand in 1982 and tried to improve on the beer formula. The company also gave the brew a new look, including a replica of the beer's 1904 label.

It also worked different angles trying to increase volume, including making the beer available in parts of California and on Cape Cod, Mass., as far back as 1986. Primo was even sold in Japan for a while. Other attempts were made in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

The company tried switching to green from brown bottles in 1985 and a long-neck bottle in 1986, which led to a sharp increase in sales in Hawaii, according to published reports. Sales fell back a few years later when the company had to switch back to brown bottles that kept the beer fresher, according to the reports.

The falling sales volume led Stroh to stop brewing Primo in November 1998.

Ever wonder what happened to a person, event or issue that has been in the news? We'll find out for you if you e-mail us at, call us at 529-4747 or write 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI 96813. "What Ever Happened to ..." runs Saturdays. This update was written by Gregg K. Kakesako.

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