Posted by: marcmwm | November 21, 2008

Beer O’ Clock — Minnesota

You guys do know that Grain Belt is “Premium.” It says right on the label.

Last summer during a fishing trip to Minnesota, I’d had my fill of Miller Lite and Busch Light. My taste buds were dead.

Then, I think after a round of golf, we stopped at the liquor store. There it was, yelling to me, “You know you want me, big boy. Let’s make this happen.”

So, I bought a case of Grain Belt. I told those guys, forget what you’ve heard. This stuff is good now, new brewery, back to the great tradition of the “Belt.”

They didn’t jump in until the last Busch Light was dead. When they finally did, the Belt lasted about 20 minutes.

It’s Premium.

Here’s a little history, from the Grain Belt site, on the why and what of “Premium:”

“When the war ended and servicemen came marching home, there was a new post-war optimism and Minneapolis Brewing Company, along with the rest of the industry, came back in full force. Tastes were changing, however. As home consumption of beer continued to increase, the preference of the American beer drinker was gearing more toward a lighter, smoother brew. In response, Grain Belt Premium was introduced in 1947 on a test-market basis.

Premium came in clear bottles, instead of amber, to show its pure, golden goodness, and in cap-sealed cans. It was priced a little higher than Golden Grain Belt but consumers found it well worth the price. While the industry fell into somewhat of a slump in the 1950s, Minneapolis Brewing Company continued to grow, thanks in large part to the introduction of Premium, which soon became a permanent fixture of the Grain Belt line.”

There you have it on the clear bottles. And the “pure, golden goodness.”

Grain Belt’s dark ages began in the ’70s.

G. Heileman Brewing Company of LaCrosse, Wis., bought it and nearly ran the brand into the ground. It was saved in 1991, when the Minnesota Brewing Company bough the brand and revived it.

The MBC struggled financially and then, in 2002, the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm stepped in with the idea of preserving its Minnesota “essence.”

Premium’s success has allowed Schell to expand. You see a lot of Schell products in the area.

I used to see Belt Premium at Benz, but I haven’t seen it since the flood. There are distributors in Calmar, Coralville and Waterloo. You might have to look around, but you’ll find it.

On Beeradvocate, the Belt gets a B-minus on 100 reviews.

But there is this from LordofTime25: “I would drink this often. One of the beers I keep on hand. Found that women who like a casual beer like this.”

Hey, ladies . . .


I bought four new beers this week.

Boulevard’s Saison (A-minus on 65 reviews at BA)

Chimay’s Grande Reserve (A on 1,069 reviews)

Hennepin (A-minus on 1,051)

Schlitz (B-plus on just 13 reviews)

I’m going to hit the Chimay tonight and I’ll let you know. I’ll probably give Schlitz a try, too. You guys talked me into it. I found it for about $6.50 a six at Benz.



  1. Schlitz is available in Iowa now? I knew you could get it in Milwaukee (where I got mine), but I hadn’t heard of it coming here yet.

  2. Doug, that was the first time I’d seen it at Benz. Had to have it. I’m actually excited to try it. It was my Grandpa Morehouse’s beer. He was a farmer in southwest Wisconsin who ate and drank whatever he wanted. Not great for longevity, but a full-on life. I remember many Packer games in the living room with Schlitz flowing freely.

  3. i remember the commercials: “Grain Belt’s diamond clear…been a long time a-brewin’.” i’m so old.

  4. Chimay’s Grande Reserve is amazing. I really enjoy all the Chimay products. I think you will really enjoy the Chimay Marc. If you get the chance Hy-Vee sometimes has Kwak, which is another solid Begium brew. Schiltz is available in Iowa, if you are ever in Des Moines you need to check out the High Life Lounge (right near Principal Park). They have Schlitz, Grain Belt, High Life, Hamm’s etc. Cool place and it’s also attached to El Bait Shop (meaning you can walk freely between the two), which has a great selection of American Micro Brews. They also randomly select $2 and $3 specials out of the “tap wall.” Started out tonight with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and my staple Newcastle Brown Ale. Go Hawks!

  5. Interesting post – love to see the old beer advertisements! “go for the gusto”!

  6. Marc – Used to live in Mason City and during the many trips to the Metrodome for Twins and Vikings I would stop in Owatonna to pickup a few cases of Grain Belt. I still have some in the garage cooling

  7. I was just done with 9th grade and my folks went to my father’s 25th reunion. We had 4 cases of GB and the labels came off from condensation which busted me hard.

    Great stuff!

  8. Had heard that Schell’s bought the GBP brand, but hadn’t occurred to me that GBP’s success might be helping Schell’s get their other beers better distribution. Many fond memories of slugging down a few in Minneapolis.

    Marc, whaddya think of the Schlitz. I drank quite a bit this summer, watching baseball. Try to keep a 6 around these days.

  9. I drank a bunch of Grain Belt in my youth. Hell, one of the taverns in my hometown had it on tap. Drank a lot of Falstaff, too, but my brew of choice back in the day was Schlitz.

    And I remember sitting at Twins games in the late 1960s drinking Schmidt’s and goofing on the label calling it a cereal beverage.

  10. Drinking a Schlitz right now (breaking curfew with a big game tomorrow) and HOT DAMN, that’s beer!!!

    Reid — You’re leaving me in the dust on that one. I remember Hamm’s commercials. I watched a lot of Chicago Blackhawks hockey on WGN when I was a kid and I seem to remember some beer was a big sponsor. I think it was Hamm’s.

    TC — I got started too late tonight. I’ll get into the Chimay on Sunday, kinda celebrate a season being over. I will check out the High Life Lounge. My favorite session (when I know I’m going to be drinking a lot of them) beer right now is Old Style.

    Scott — You’ll have to fill me in on the Brew Club.

    Stoli — I had a fridge earmarked for just such a thing in the garage, but my wife gave it away. Now that nature is helping, that’s a great idea. If you’re still in Iowa, Schell’s has six distributors, including Davenport. It seems to be kind of hard to find in CR right now.

    E — Been there, my man. Fortunately (or unfortanately), my parents kind of gave in. (Wow, this Schlitz reminds me of those first beers.)

    Jones — I can see why. I wonder how it went with those sausages in Milwaukee? I’ll bet good. Now that you mention it, I could see this being a terrific ballpark beer. I gotta get to Wrigley. Haven’t been there since ’94. My last two baseball games (Royals 2000, Pirates 2008) were tied to Iowa football trips. Drank about 10 Yuenglings at the Pirates game this fall.

    Dale — I’ll bet the Belt was big in your area, probably still is. For me, it was Dubuque Star and Picketts. Yes, my mom and dad were extras in “Take This Job and Shove It.” Pretty sure there’s a picture of my dad and Johnny Paycheck somewhere around the house.

  11. One of the best blogs I’ve ever read. How about the cases of Schmidt that could be purchased at the convenience store at the bottom of UNI hill? I believe you were at UNI in the late ’80’s…at least your pic looks very familiar to me.

    I can’t remember the price of the Schmidt case, but it was dirt cheap and the differing nature scenes on each bottle brought great discussion within the towers dorm rooms. As far as taste…I wasn’t much of a connoiseur in those days…and would probably opt now for one of the brands you mention above.

  12. Hey Dave,

    Yes, I remember those (UNI ’89) !!! Great call. I remember many bottles piled in 1108 Dancer Hall. One night, we got the munchies. Drank Schmidt and ate Oreos and sardines. I think my breath took the paint off the wall.

    I want to say those were $10.99 or so a case.

    The Hill breaks my heart now. It still holds some charm, but it’s not the Hill we knew and loved.

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