|Manufacturer||Pabst Brewing Company|
National Bohemian Beer, colloquially "Natty Boh” and “National Boh,” is an American beer originally brewed in Baltimore, Maryland, but now owned by the Pabst Brewing Company. First brewed in 1885 by the National Brewing Company, whose other brands were National Premium and Colt 45 malt liquor, this Bohemian-style beer's slogan had long been "Oh boy. What a beer!"
Nearly 90 percent of National Bohemian sales are in Baltimore. The beer is currently brewed under contract at the MillerCoors brewing facilities in Eden, NC, Albany, GA, Trenton, OH and is also owned by Pabst Brewing Company.
For a time, National's president Jerold Hoffberger also owned the Baltimore Orioles; Natty Boh was served at Memorial Stadium and became the "official" beer of Baltimore in the late 1960s. The "Land of Pleasant Living" slogan reached its peak during the mid-late 1960s when National acquired a Chesapeake Bay skipjack (local sailing vessel) and named it the "Chesterpeake" after a pelican who appeared in their ads. The Chesterpeake traveled throughout the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay visiting various local festivals, regattas, yacht clubs, etc. and was also seen in television commercials.
After a 1975 merger with Canadian brewer Carling, the Baltimore brewery located at the intersection of O'Donnell and Conkling streets was closed in 1978 and production moved to the company's facility in nearby Halethorpe. Carling-National was itself bought out by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1979. Heileman added Tuborg to the list of beers brewed in Halethorpe.
In 1996, Heileman was sold to Stroh Brewery Company and, eventually, to Pabst Brewing Company. Brewing stopped at the Halethorpe facility by 2000. The facility was sold to a local interest. The Halethorpe brewing facility was demolished by 2006, while the original Baltimore brewing facility was redeveloped as the Brewers Hill complex by Obrecht Commercial Real Estate, Inc.
In May 2010, Pabst Brewing was sold to C. Dean Metropoulos, a private investor, for $250 million.
For over 15 years, the famous Baltimore beer was not available on draft, only bottles and cans, but in February 2011, local taverns in the Baltimore area celebrated the ability to serve National Bohemian from a keg. National Bohemian draft also became available at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the home season opener in 2011.
The company's mascot, the one-eyed, handlebar-mustachioed Mr. Boh, has been a recognizable icon since his introduction in 1936 by company president Arthur Deute. In an era when National Boh's main competition was another local brew Gunther Beer, whose slogan was "Gunther's got it," schoolchildren would ask: "What happened to Mr. Boh's other eye?" Answer: "Gunther's got it."
According to Dawson Farber, who was promoted to Vice-President of marketing in 1950, he has "no idea why he only has one eye," Farber confesses. "I don't think anybody does." It is hinted that it could be so because Mr. Boh's head is supposed to be viewed from the side. The image was debuted in the 1930s and through Farber's modern redesign it became a "potent brewery icon". By the end of National’s 1960’s to mid-1970’s run as one of Baltimore’s most prominent corporate “citizens,” Mr. Boh’s image largely gave way to the “National Bohemian” name itself against a rectangular background which dipped in the middle to form a “V.” Indeed some of Boh’s popularity began to wane in 1967 when the brewer temporarily shifted its advertising slogan from “The Land of Pleasant Living” to “Every Man Should Have a Beer He Can Call His Own.”
The mascot's image is licensed for a Maryland Lottery scratch off; by Smyth Jewelers; and is the official team mascot of the Baltimore Boh's professional soccer team. A Mr. Boh neon sign currently sits atop the former site of the National Brewery building in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood of Baltimore and is clearly visible from I-95 just north of the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Mr. Boh still appears on all cans, bottles, and packaging; and merchandise featuring him can still easily be found in shops in Maryland, including several in Fells Point. The National line also included "National Bohemian Dark" and "National Premium", available in can, bottle and draft versions. Both were discontinued following Heileman's sale to Stroh's in 1996; however, National Premium rights were purchased and the recipe re-bottled and distributed starting in 2012 by a couple located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. National Bohemian also produces an ice beer called "Boh Ice" having an alcohol content of 5.8%.
Mr. Boh has become an icon to the city of Baltimore. Stores have been built with products featuring the character such as shirts, hats, and memorabilia in Fells Point, Canton, and other locations. The citizens of Baltimore have fought to make Mr. Boh an unofficial spokesman for the city.
National Bohemian added Cap Puzzles, a series of pictograms, or rebus that create a common phrase, in 1944. The bottles with Cap Puzzles were used by United States spies to aid the allies in World War II. After the conclusion of the war Cap Puzzles remained and are now a staple of the product.
Community support and sponsorship
From the 1950s through the demise of the National Brewing Company in 1978, the brewery was involved in many athletic sponsorships. Early involvements included bowling and golf tournaments held in the Baltimore metro area. During the 1950s and 1960s, National Beer sponsored the PGA Eastern Open Invitational held at the Mt Pleasant Golf Course in Baltimore. Beginning in the late 1960s, National Beer began sponsoring the National Beer Brewers softball team, composed primarily of Baltimore Clippers hockey players. From 1968 to 1985, the brewery sponsored the National Brewers ice hockey team in the Chesapeake Hockey League. Though the brand lost a great deal of local market share in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (due mainly to the overwhelming media blitz of Anheuser-Busch) there has been a resurgence of interest in "Natty Boh" in recent years, particularly among younger beer drinkers.
National Bohemian has recently become the marquee sponsor of the minor league soccer team Baltimore Bohemians.
- "National Bohemian - History". nationalbohemian.com. National Brewing Co. 2017.
- Maza, Erik (26 January 2011). "National Bohemian beer to be served on draft again". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Welcome to Brewers Hill". brewershill.net. Obrecht Commercial Real Estate. 2014.
- "Pabst Brewing Sold: Natty Boh Future Unclear". Bohsandos.com. May 26, 2010. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
- Maza, Erik (February 3, 2011). "Nacho Mama's taps one of the first kegs of Natty Boh in 15 years". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
- Sandler, Gilbert (August 6, 1991). "A city's love affair with its beer". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
- Ybarra, Maggie (January 16–22, 2002). "A Beer to Call Your Own". Baltimore City Paper. Archived from the original on February 11, 2002.
- Wykoff, Scott (March 28, 2012). "Bringing Back National Premium Beer". WBAL (AM).
- "The National Brewers Ice Hockey Team". nationalbrewers.com.