Lion Brewery – Label Fun Gibbons Peter Pippin Porter

24 January 2010

LionGibbonsPeterPippinPorterLabel This label has been highly requested and I finally was able to find it.  I present for your viewing pleasure Gibbons Peter Pippin Porter.  Now I KNOW there has to be a great Peter Pippin story out there somewhere so please comment.

28 comments (click to read or post):

Lee Botschaner,  25 January, 2010 09:13  

Also there's gotta be someone out there who has HAD this. Jess Kidden? If anyone has, please comment. Was it just steg porter?

mybeerbuzz 25 January, 2010 09:39  

Peter Pippin....Thanks Lee....I'm very curious myself.

sam k 25 January, 2010 23:03  

Wish I had a clue! I'd like to know who (or what!) Peter Pippin was. Come on, you locals!

mybeerbuzz 26 January, 2010 07:43  

Will the real Pippin, please stand up...

JessKidden 26 January, 2010 08:24  

I never had the Gibbons PPP, tho' the labels were common in the breweriana circles. (Mine must be "misfiled" or I would have supplied a copy to the site). From what I've been told, it was, if not the same, very similar to Steg Porter - sweet, molasses-y and licorice-ish.

I did once buy a case of Gibbon 4 Star Ale, tho'. Being a "proto-hophead" in the early 1970's was tough- my "usual" was Ballantine XXX, but I was always looking out for other hoppy ales. Stuff like Genesee Cream Ale, Red Cap Ale, Tiger Head Ale, etc., were all pretty disappointing as far as hop profile went.

My first case of Lord Chesterfield Ale was a "hit", so when I found 4 Star I figured/hoped another local Eastern PA ale would be in the same mold.

It wasn't. Might just as well have been Gibbons Beer. I wound up "donating" most of it to a bunch of friends who were laying a long concrete sidewalk one hot summer day. The would have drank anything.

mybeerbuzz 26 January, 2010 08:47  

Maybe we can get Leo or Guy to jump in with some details on PIpin. Thanks Jess. Interesting to hear people were craving an even hoppier beer back then.

sam k 26 January, 2010 15:06  

Jess, chances are good that it WAS "just a Gibbons." At Jones, they made Stoney's, Esquire, Fort Pitt, and Old Shay. Only difference was the label.

Lee Botschaner,  26 January, 2010 16:53  

But Sam, were any of those billed as ales?

JessKidden 27 January, 2010 05:57  

The Old Shay was labeled "cream ale" when made by Jones in the 1970's - not familiar with the Ft. Pitt/American or the post-Jones family ownership era. Like "sam k" suggests, a lot of those sorts of secondary brands, even when labeled "ale", were either the same beer or, if not, so close that you wondered "Why bother?"

Most "ales", tho', even when brewed with the house lager yeast would usually be a little different- fermented warmer, a bit more malt/color, hops, higher abv, etc.

As far as the Esquire from the original Jones, the two time I recall having it (late 1970's + early 1980's), it was different from Stoney's. An article in Brewers Digest, 1978, (not the sort of publication that relies on advertising hype) on Jones said it was a "even hoppier premium beer" compared to Stoney's.

Back to the original subject- wasn't Peter Pippin a fairy tale character? Googling it turns up an English apple variety called "Peter's Pippin".

mybeerbuzz 27 January, 2010 07:51  

Thanks Jess. Interesting info. I'm sure subtle differences in fermenting temps made a difference that was noticeable, especially with fewer beers on the market. My google has been tied up with other things, but I'll have to check further on Mr. Pippin.

sam k 27 January, 2010 16:47  

Old Shay Golden Ale was acquired by Jones, along with Fort Pitt, in 1965 from the American brewery in Baltimore, where the brands resided briefly after the closing of the Pittsburgh brewery. They changed the name (but again, not the liquid inside) to Golden Cream Ale around 1980 when Genny Cream was on fire. At that time, it was offered in cans and NR green bottles for the first time. During my era of memory there (about 1970 on) Jones did not brew more than one recipe for their own brands. This was common practice among regionals at the time.

There were certainly people who would claim that they loved Esquire but couldn't stand Stoney's (or vice-versa), and the company didn't want anyone to think otherwise. In fact, when a 7oz pony bottle was first introduced in 1947, it was initially packaged for one year as "Stoney's Junior" in exactly the same type of bottle as Esquire used, and it was renamed Esquire in 1948. That alone leads me to believe it was never anything but Stoney's in a different package.

As Jones was built as a lager brewery, their cellars each had multiple tanks externally cooled to the same temperature, hence each tank was treated equally. Since they didn't sell nearly enough Old Shay Ale to occupy any one entire cellar at a time, fermentation temperature could not have been adjusted to alter a given batch.

As regards Brewer's Digest, you couldn't expect Jones to admit they was the same product, even to a trade journal. That could have potentially gotten into the public domain and been the unraveling of the curtain. There are many breweries today, both foreign and domestic, some quite well-known and much-loved, producing "amber" and "dark" beers that are no more than their regular product modified with Sinamar, but there is no way any of them would admit that to any publication, trade or commercial, otherwise the deception would be revealed.

Theory was, however, that pasteurization was modified for each size package, which would mean that the quart was handled differently than the pony, affecting the final product slightly, potentially accounting for minor variations. I always thought that Stoney's was best in the quart myself!

The first change in any house recipe at Jones was for Stoney's Light, a brand designed by light beer guru Joe Owades in the mid 80s. It was initially a much darker beer than Stoney's, and used a proportion of caramel malt. It was also the first beer brewed in Smithton at high gravity. It was a tasty and innovative product, but ultimately became a light-colored product due to the public's inability to accept a darker brew as a "light beer."

mybeerbuzz 27 January, 2010 17:24  

The beer-force is strong in you Sam. How do you know this level of detail for things that happend in the 60's? Impressive and thank you.

sam k 27 January, 2010 22:41  

MBB, I may not have broached this here before (but have elsewhere), but my Dad worked for Jones for 35 years beginning in 1949, and I grew up around that plant. It was a proud and strong brewery through the mid-80s, and its eventual decline started with its sale from the family to outside owners in the late 80s, after the untimely death of Bill Jones III.

I still cherish the memories I gathered there, and was intimately familiar with every brewmaster there from Joe Kalish Sr. (who learned the trade at the Moose brewery in Roscoe, PA and who succeeded Bill Farmer at Jones in the 1950s), through Bill Jones IV, Al Busch, and Greg King (yet another Jones descendant). Joe Sr.'s son Joe recently retired after a distinguished career as a second-generation brewmaster who worked for Jones, Schlitz, and Anheuser-Busch before becoming part of the micro revolution, eventually retiring from Growlers in Gaithersburg, MD just a couple of years ago.

My Dad said that Bill Jones, Jr. bought the Fort Pitt labels to add capacity in Smithton "to keep the men working," though they had no particular interest in resurrecting the original recipes at that time. The original Fort Pitt recipe was brought back to life in the 90s when that brand was repositioned as a super-premium, and was an excellent product, but having been sold as a budget brand for many years prior (Fort Pitt was sold as late as 1988 for $4.99 a case for 16oz returnables) it was a doomed experiment, as were many under the new ownership, including the exceptional Esquire Extra Dry, which was brewed to compete with Michelob Dry in that ultimately failed category.

So much unrealized potential! Had they only put that amount of cash and effort into the core brands! You now see why I'm so keenly interested in the success of The Lion...

Lee Botschaner,  28 January, 2010 09:11  

Great stuff, Sam K, thanks. Any time you want to write more, I love reading your insight.

It's a shame but by the time I had fort pitt about 2000 it was really one of the nastiest non light beers I've had, along with sterling from evansville, ind (curiously, falls city from the same brewery and same packaging bought at the same time at same place was quite good).

mybeerbuzz 28 January, 2010 09:15  

Thanks Sam. I know we talked briefly about it in a previous thread but I didn;t realize you were that involved. It must have been a very interesting time in local brewing...and yes I too am contantly interested in seeing Lion succeed.

JessKidden 28 January, 2010 09:58  

Yeah, great info by "sam k" - thanks. If it's one thing I've found while researching breweries (especially from the pre-craft era) is how often what little information is available is spotty, incomplete, incorrect and/or contradictory.

As I noted, I don't recall ever having the Ft. Pitt or the Old Shay and, like "sam k" I agree that most of those sorts of beers from smaller breweries were the same recipe and, if they weren't, were often so close you'd wonder why they weren't. (The fact that that BD article didn't say anything about those two beers implied to me that they were probably "Stoney's with another label".)

My comments on warm fermenting lagers was not to suggest that Old Shay was such a "bastard ale" - only an example of how so many "macro breweries" once "cheated" in making the products they labeled "ales".

The Stoney's-Esquire thing is a bit of a surprise- only because those two beers were the two I'd once had and coincidentally it was right after I'd read that Brewers Digest issue and had first heard of "Esquire"- I confess to believing both the article and a only vaguely remembered conversation about it at the Jones "hospitality" room. (I remember drinking both beers on tap, but can't recall if it was there or at a local Smithton bar after the brewery visit.)

In such cases back then, I always assumed that a small brewer might simply "dilute" one basic higher gravity recipe or add liquid hop extract or some "coloring agent" for darker beer to create "other" beers, post-fermentation- rather than brew unique recipes for their secondary labels.

Now that those two "sources" proved to have been deceptive, it makes it hard to write anything authoritative sometimes. I usually qualify most such claims with "I've always heard/read..." - guess I'll have to do it all the time, even when two sources "agree".

mybeerbuzz 28 January, 2010 10:23  

I suspect many of the memories and contradictions were tempered by the fact that maybe a few beers were being "tested" back in the day. As someone who knows how easy it is to alter a brew with grain, hops, temnperatures, boil times and a million other factors, I'm surprised to hear how non-experimental brewers seemed to be back then(ie. just adding coloring or making very simple alterations). I suspect it's probably a function of either not having the ingredients we have today OR not having the luxury to test or dump a batch that didn't work out. Any insight as to why there was such little experimentation?

Lee Botschaner,  28 January, 2010 13:38  

Mr. mybeerbuzz I'll take a crack at your question. I think the lack of experimentation was driven by demand. Mostly people wanted, especially after WW2, a lighter beer. The brewers focused on creating lighter and lighter beers as the public demanded. It's still that way today at the big 3. This really took off after the success of miller lite. Also, remember in most cases "small" breweries like Jones were MUCH bigger than the craft breweries of today, so they were brewing in bulk according to scale. It was not that easy just to whip up a batch of something experimental. Now many of them did brew different styles- as you know from the lion- such as porter, bock and ale (Neuweiler in the 50's made a stout, porter, bock, IPA, etc) but, again, the market for them was small. That is why we label the micro scene of today a "revolution," because many people turned on at the same time.

Jess Kidden, I remember reading in a breweriana magazine about a brewery in chicago perhaps actually getting busted because their ale and beer were the same product. Evidently, it was legal to put an ale into a container labeled "beer" but not a beer into a container labeled an "ale." I'll try to find that article at home...

mybeerbuzz 28 January, 2010 14:16  

Interesting. Thanks for the insight Lee. Neuweiler IPS...who would have thought. The IPA's seem like such a recent beer (i.e. last 15 years).

JessKidden 29 January, 2010 09:50  

re "Lee Botschaner" Ale vs. Beer labeling

Yeah, I've seen a number of similar "controversies" over the years about brewers getting in trouble over such things (same beer in different labels, etc). I think sometimes it is a matter of laws, especially state laws, as well as Federal regulations changing over the years.

Currently, the TTB says that ale is "Malt beverage fermented at a comparatively high temperature containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume possessing the characteristics generally attributed to and conforming to the trade understanding of “ale”."

That latter part is some of my favorite bureaucratic double-speak - I read it as "ale is whatever the brewing industry says it is". (Notice no mention of top-fermenting ale yeast being required, but "higher" fermentation temps are).

OTOH, a Fortune magazine article on Ballantine in the 1930's said that then "Federal Alcohol Administration" required that "ale" be over 5% abv. So, at some point, the Federal rules were changed on that, as has been the case with other labeling terms like "draft" beer.

mybeerbuzz 29 January, 2010 10:16  

So "ale" is whatever the industry says it is. I actually like that despite the legal double-speak. I like "comparatively high" also...compared to what? I suspect their real interest in labeling the same beer with two different names is the money they may be missing out on and not at all the publics interest.

sam k 29 January, 2010 12:38  

Well, back to the intended subject of this thread...it turns out that Peter Pippin is the principal character from a very early work of British childrens' fiction, "King Pippin."

Peter is the son of a poor laborer who goes out into the world at the age of six to make his own way. He ends up being sent to a private school by a wealthy woman who befriends him. At the school, he is crowned "Peter Pippin, King of the Good Boys."

Eventually he is sent to the West Indies to manage a plantation, weds the owner's daughter, inherits the plantation, and is eventually made governor of the island.

A good example for all of us, and all that dignity and goodness neatly packaged in a 12oz bottle, once-upon-a-time, right here in Wilkes-Barre!

More can be found at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/childrens_literature/v004/4.avery.pdf

mybeerbuzz 29 January, 2010 13:13  

I'd be proud of being governor, but to have my name on a Porter....well now we're talkin'! Thanks Sam...great info and I'll check out the link.

Professor Bartels,  30 January, 2010 09:46  

Didnt Peter Pipin pick a peck of pickles? Or something like that??

mybeerbuzz 30 January, 2010 10:06  

Ha....piper..pippin...whos counting

Anonymous,  21 August, 2011 13:56  

Back in 1973-1975 I had the opprutinty to cherish this red porter. We were playing in the woods and stumbled across a dilapated case near the creek. We stuck them in the creek and let them cool down. It was so red we didn't know if it was beer or wine and finally I tasted it. It was awesome I looked through all the local beer stores in pa and nj with no luck. This is the first I heard of it since then. Excellent beer on another site it is rated 9.5 out of ten and o would have to agree with that. Thanks for showing me the label... Fred

mybeerbuzz 21 August, 2011 14:26  

Thanks Fred....great beer story!

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