Hansen: This isn't your dad's Storz beer - Omaha.com
Published Friday, August 30, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 11:06 am
Hansen: This isn't your dad's Storz beer

Photos: Storz Brewing Co. history, advertisements

***

I have a dirty little secret to whisper in your ear before you put the new Storz beer to your lips.

It is a number of interlocking secrets actually, a trio of related revelations as locally made Storz goes on sale in Omaha for the first time in 41 years today.

That Storz Triumph lager you just ordered, the one with the same brand name as the beer that Omaha chugged like water for decades, the one with the iconic labeling and the crisp taste and the smooth, full-bodied finish, yeah, that isn't the same Storz your granddaddy drank. Same brand name. Different taste.

If that secret saddens you, then this one may make you cry into your brand-new beer.

The new Storz lager being served on tap at restaurants and bars around the city is different from the original in part because the old recipe has disappeared.

That's right: Gone. Poof. Vanished like a cold one handed to the world's thirstiest man.

And this final secret may knock you off your barstool. Come closer, we don't want the old-timer at the end of the bar to hear this.

There's another reason that the new Storz is different from the old. It's because the old Storz lager, the one Omaha loved to death in the 1950s, it, well, wasn't very good.

Shhhhh!

Now, before Omahans start metaphorically (or, worse yet, literally) dumping beers over my head, please kindly let me explain.

The new Storz lager is an homage to the old one, a beer created to make you reminisce about days gone by when your father or his father would mow the yard and then crack a cold one.

It's a nod to our history, say both Storz family members and the new beer's brewer. It's a meaningful handshake to generations past. It just isn't identical.

“It's still a lawnmower beer,” says Brian Podwinski, the president and head brewer at Blue Blood Brewing Co., the brewer making the new Storz. “It's the same spirit. But we have no idea how close it is” to the original Storz.

Podwinski searched for the old recipe for weeks. He called Grain Belt, which bought Storz from the Storz family in 1966. But since that time Grain Belt itself has been owned by Heileman, then the Minnesota Brewing Co. and then Schell. Top officials have resigned, retired, gone to that great brewery in the sky.

We have no idea where the old recipe is, Grain Belt executives told Podwinski.

Tom Markel, one of Storz's new co-owners and a nephew of Monnie Storz Markel — Arthur Storz Sr.'s daughter — has also been hunting for the old recipe as he has amassed memorabilia for the small museum that will be a part of the Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery, set to open on the riverfront around Thanksgiving.

He has received an unopened can of Storz beer, circa 1960, from the timeless Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton. An elderly Omaha woman has promised to give him an unopened bottle of Storz beer — from 1933.

6 facts about Storz


The brewery, and the family that founded it, have a long history with Omaha. Did you know ...

A University of Nebraska-­Lincoln professor, an expert in water sciences, has promised Markel that he will analyze those beers, though it's unclear how much you can learn about the composition of an 80-year-old brew.

Even if Storz does locate the old recipe — either through science or through a grandmother discovering it in her attic — don't expect them to recreate it.

“Today's beer drinker is seeking a more robust, more flavorful experience,” Markel says.

The American beer drinker's taste buds have evolved since Storz reigned supreme as the best-­selling beer in Omaha a half-­century ago.

That 1960s beer drinker wanted a brew to be smooth, refreshing and, maybe most important, cheap. To make the cheap stuff, big breweries substituted corn and rice for malted barley.

It led to a watery taste. A thin taste. A taste that got even more watery and more thin during the 1970s as domestic light beers, like Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light, became the beverages of choice, partly because the big boys spent unholy amounts of money on advertising.

But even as the big breweries shoved smaller regional breweries like Storz out of existence — there were fewer than 100 American breweries by the 1980s — a revolution was brewing.

The revolution tastes delicious: American pale ales that mix a malted caramel sweetness with a blast of floral, citrusy hops; stout beers that look dark as night but go down smooth; double IPAs that breakdance on your taste buds; beers that are red, wheat, cream and smoked.

Today we know it as craft beer, and in the previous two decades it has risen from oblivion to become a $10.2 billion industry. American craft breweries, which are generally small and independent, now claim 11 percent of the beer industry's market share.

And those numbers seem destined to get much larger. On average, more than one craft brewery a day opened in the U.S. last year. Craft breweries — there are around 2,500 — make 142 styles of beer, says Julia Herz, director of the craft beer program for the Brewers Association.

“Light beer isn't going by the wayside,” Herz said. “But it no longer satisfies a certain part of the population. … Now it's different beers for different occasions.”

So it makes perfect sense that the Storz will use the old name but brew four new beers at first: the new-recipe lager, a pale ale, a wheat beer and an amber ale.

And it also makes perfect sense that when the new Storz lager was unveiled at a South Omaha festival in mid-August, the crowd drained 10 kegs in the span of three hours.

It even makes perfect sense that old men came to Tom Markel that day, their voices dripping with nostalgia.

“They said, 'Oh my Gosh, you hit it out of the park, it's exactly like the old Storz,' ” And I'm thinking, 'Are you already on your third drink?' ”

So yes, the beer may taste different. But there's something about returning to our past that tastes perfect.

Contact the writer: Matthew Hansen

matthew.hansen@owh.com    |   402-444-1064    |  

Matthew Hansen is a metro columnist who writes roughly three columns a week focusing on all things Omaha.

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