Lager of Love: One man’s unplanned quest to re-create Baltimore’s long-lost National Premium Beer
By Edward Ericson Jr. (Baltimore City Paper, 8/8/2012)
The Waldorf Astoria’s Art Deco lobby is seasonally attired in lighted wreaths, but the ballroom pumps disco and upbeat ’80s pop while a huge screen flashes ancient brand names. Shearson, Braniff, Handi-Wrap, and Meister Brau share the Jeopardy!-like grid with hardly-knowns like Lucky Whip, Kool Shake, and Nudit.
Groggy after a night of drinking with a couple of old lacrosse buddies from college, Tim Miller takes his place in the crowd of about 50, his friend Dickie Grieves beside him for moral support. It’s Dec. 8, 2010, and the Eastern Shore realtor—he’s never been to New York’s Waldorf before—is nervous.
“I’ve got no money,” Miller remembers, standing in the parking lot of the Fordham Brewery in Dover, Del., 19 months later. “My wife was like, ‘Are you kidding? You’re going to New York to spend money?’”
Miller didn’t know it then, but he was about to embark on the ride of his life. In less than two years’ time, he’s become a mini beer baron, brewer, reviver of an iconic Baltimore brand, and the last best hope of an aging cohort of high-end lager lovers. It’s been an unlikely trajectory for a guy who spent part of the previous night tossing back cheap PBRs and who, until a couple years ago, knew nothing about beer-making.
At 10 a.m. on that Wednesday morning, Miller was at a “buyer’s choice” auction of more than 100 dead trademarks. A longtime aficionado of retro advertising, he had paid a $3,600 deposit to secure his right to bid on three different brands, telling the auction organizers what he was interested in. One of them was National Premium Beer, a one-time Baltimore favorite which had not been brewed in nearly 15 years. He liked the label and figured anything he put in the bottle would sell.
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