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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 21, 2008

Primo back in bottle and back in stores after 10 years

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The new bottle, above, incorporates elements of previous Primo designs. The brand dates back to 1898.

Primo Brewing & Malting Co.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Surfers Shane Dorian and Brad Gerlach tried out the bottled Primo with some munchies at one of the taste-testing sessions.

Primo Brewing & Malting Co.

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Primo beer, the popular made-in-Hawai'i lager that disappeared nearly a decade ago, is coming to a store near you.

Pabst Brewing Co., which began selling a draft version of the century-old beer in December at local restaurants and bars, said it will market Primo in bottles at supermarkets, restaurants and bars starting Monday.

The new bottle borrows themes from the blue iconic label of the 1960s and 1970s, and is a premium version of what was once the state's best-selling beer.

"There's no denying Primo's popularity back then and today," said Brendan Burchfiel, owner of The Shack restaurant in Hawai'i Kai.

"Primo's heritage is rich here in Hawai'i."

Known as a blue-collar beer, locally brewed Primo had been part of the island scene since 1898.

But the brand was discontinued in 1997 by then-owner Stroh Brewery Co.

Pabst, which later acquired Stroh, decided last year to bring back the brand as a premium lager to compete with the likes of Heineken.

Pabst said the bottled version is being produced at the company's Irwindale, Calif., brewery and distributed by Paradise Beverage Co.

The draft version is brewed locally by Keoki Brewing Co. of Kaua'i.

Burchfiel of The Shack said Primo is "among the top five" most popular draft beers his customers order.

Burchfiel, whose tavern has about 16 different brands on tap, said the new Primo has a much better taste than its predecessor.

"The old Primo had a malt taste that was a little bit harder to get down," said Burchfiel.

"Today's is much smoother and refreshing in comparison."

But it still has its blue-collar edge, customers say.

"I know what the City & County garbage collectors who work in my neighborhood are getting for Christmas this year," said Rusty Keaulana, a world-champion longboarder who was sponsored by Primo back in the 1990s.

"Maybe it'll even be Christmas in April this year for the crew."

The bottled version will be available Monday at select local stores, including Sue's Mini Mart, Ewa Pantry and Pali Bottle Shoppe.

Over the next several weeks, Primo will become available at larger retailers and supermarkets, including Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor and Fujioka's Wine Times, as well as bars and restaurants such as The Willows, Tiare's Sports Bar & Grill and T-Spot Hideaway.

In a related move, Pabst said it will donate a portion from the sales of each case of Primo to the nonprofit Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.

In 2007, the foundation awarded $145,000 in grants and scholarships, and plans to increase that total to more than $200,000 this year.

"We sincerely appreciate the commitment of Primo's kokua in raising funds and awareness for our foundation," said Patrick Dugan, the foundation's president.

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com.