Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not so wicked anymore: Pete's Wicked Ale

What ever happend to Pete's Wicked Ale? The brand name still exisits, the beer is still relatively easy to find, but this is not the Pete's Wicked Ale that I knew and loved. For those who do not know the story of Pete's Brewing Company, and the significance it played in the craft beer movement, it is one worth telling. We all have heard of Samuel Adams, but did you know early on when craft beer was first taking off, Pete's Brewing Company was the second largest micro brewer in America, right behind The Boston Beer Company. Pete's Wicked Ale was available in 47 states by the early 90's and could be found everywhere in bottles or on draught. You walk into a bar, restaurant anywhere these days and you will find Samuel Adams. 20 years ago more often than not, a Pete's Wicked Ale tap would be found right next to the Sam Adams tap. How many Pete's Wicked Ale taps do you see these days? I only seem to see bottled Pete's in the supermarket and I don't see many takers. I can't recall another craft brew that had fallen so far from grace. This beer use to so popular, like Sam Adams, you had a hard time not finding it. Those days are over for Pete, and here is why.

Pete Slosberg was a pioneer in the U.S. craft beer industry. In the late 1970's he was hombrewing like many others who were tired of the bland choices on the market. Pete decided to turn his love for beer into a business in 1986 and founded Pete's Brewing Company in Palo Alto, CA. Pete did not have a brewery, and was one of the very first contract brewers who had an existing brewery brew his beer for him. Production started in Palo Alto at the Palo Alto Brewing Company when Pete's could only be found on the West Coast. By 1992 production had shifted to the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota a long standing regional brewer who had the capacity to brew Pete's beer. By 1995 Pete had grow so popular and demand for Pete's Wicked Ale production shifted again, this time to the Stroh Brewing Company in Saint Paul, MN. Things started to go down hill from there. Pete got too big, too popular, too fast, and ultimately the Wicked Ale was changed and reformuated, and we have what is now basically a label and not the Pete's Wicked Ale I loved.
The beer I enjoyed was from the early 1990's and it was an American Brown Ale by style. This beer once had vibrant, citric hop aromas and flavors, on a delicious, toasty, nutty, and chocolatey malt base. It was dry hopped with Cascades, giving it wonderful citrus hop aromas. It had a really great, malty palate. This was a classic example of American Brown Ale, a new subset of the style at the time, and Pete's Wicked Ale was just a fantastic beer. I use to drink this one on draught a lot, I would always have bottles of this beer in my fridge. In the early 90's it was one of my favorite beers. What passes for Pete's Wicked Ale now?

Pete's Not So Wicked Ale pours to a deep caramel/brown color with a soapy white head that fades, and a fairly lively carbonation. The nose that was once so vibrant with fragrant hop aromas, it lightly sweet malty, and faintly hoppy. The palate which one time had lots of robust chocolate malt flavors, is mildly sweet malty, with a thin body. Pete's Not So Wicked Ale which in its glory days finished with a long, dry, cirtic hop bite that lingered, now finishes with a light sweet maltiness, and just a trace of hop bitterness.

Pete, you have become a shell of a beer. I'm sorry but this beer just does not do it for me, it has become a middle of the road, bland, and boring beer. In all fairness, it is still well made, the flavors are mild, but it still has more flavor than a marco. This beer would actually suit the tastes of macro drinkers now, more than micro or craft brew drinkers. I suspect that is the wicked game Pete wants to play now. But for us old hardcore Pete's "I remember when he really was wicked" Ale fans, this beer has become a huge let down. I can't see myself drinking much of this beer ever again.

Slosberg sold the company back in 1998 to Gambrinus Company, owners of Spoezel Brewing (Shiner) and Bridgeport Brewing. So Pete has not been wicked for the last 12 years, and while he was once a pioneer in the craft beer world, he is largely forgotten and has become but a footnote. He took the money and ran, and that is sad, because Pete Slosberg like his Wicked Ale is but a memory for beer lovers. When he sold his company he lost all say in how his beer was brewed. One would think that Slosberg can not be happy with what his beer has become. It has made him wealthy, but I dare say he drinks about as much Wicked Ale as I do these days; none.


  1. So true! It really was the hoppiness that made this one stand out, and I once thought it might someday surpass Sam Adams in popularity. Jim Koch stuck with his business longer than Pete Slosberg did, and the results are obvious. Last time I drank this beer was a year ago or so, and it was not the beer I remembered so fondly at all.

    Pete's also put out a tasty raspberry and nutmeg infused Winterbrew, a decent Oktoberfest, and a number of other brews.

    Now that's all gone, and what a shame indeed.

    1. I miss that beer, it's really sad.

    2. I have an old poster of Pete's Wicked Mardi Gras ... trying to find out more about it

  2. It really is because make no mistake this WAS a great beer. Sadly every thing good I have to say about Pete's Wicked Ale is now in the past tense. I remember loving the Wicked Winter Brew, and of course the Gold Coast Lager.

  3. Yeah its to bad. I remember drinking often in the 90s. It was when I began home brewing and it was something to go by. So sad to see it go. Like so many great beers they get bought out by the fat cats in the industry and they become a beer if the past. 😞