The Green Death is dead. Rainier Ale has been discontinued. I learned this the hard way, by searching for retail sources on my last visit to San Francisco and retrieving a map that was completely blank. I emailed Pabst Brewing, which now owns the brand, and they sent back this heartbreaking response:
Otis – Thank you for taking the time to contact Pabst Brewing Company with your interest in Rainier Ale.
Regrettably, due to its poor sales performance, we have decided to discontinue Rainier Ale. We would like to thank you for your support over the years, but unfortunately sales simply were not enough to continue producing the product…
I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and thank you again for contacting Pabst Brewing Company.
Inconvenience? Read the Final Rainier Ale Thread on the 40 oz Malt Liquor Paradise BBS and you’ll see it’s much more than that. These bros are crying in their beer over the demise of what the thread’s originator feels is a near perfect quaff: “The flavor is amazing, the buzz is great, the % is perfect, it has that crisp ale taste with a finish only a fresh water stream from Mt Rainier could provide.”
Okay, maybe that’s a bit much. The folks who dubbed it the “Green Death” might argue that the stream was more likely from a leaky bathroom facility, judging by the effect. When I had a bit too much in my younger years I would indeed feel a bit devastated the next day… not so much a hangover as a feeling of hopelessness, signaling either that I was about to die or that I was already dead.
But since I moved east from San Francisco I have developed a finer appreciation for Rainier Ale, which I would seek out and generally find in colorful neighborhoods on my return trips and enjoy in moderation. The product actually mutated over the years and the most recent version was akin to a good German lager: light, but with a backbone. At either 7.3% or 6.9% ABV (the percentage shifted downward toward the end) it had the strength of an IPA but the drinkability of a session beer… which, like the “insane” mode of a Tesla S, was a sleek and dangerous combination.
The Pabst folks did throw me a bone, the promise of “a new beer called Rainier Pale Mountain Ale that you should see hitting the shelves soon!” It’s an American Pale Ale that clocks at 5.3% and early tasters on Beer Advocate give it mixed reviews. But at well over $10 for a six-pack of 12 oz bottles, it’s priced for a completely different market than Rainier Ale; part of the pleasure of the latter was feeling you were getting a good value as well as a buzz, since a 16 oz can was often priced as low as a dollar. (Of course, they were usually sold as singles.)
Rather than closing on a sad note, I will refer you to a fascinating article on SFGate.com about an experiment to brew a collaborative version of Green Death for San Francisco Strong Beer Week in 2013. Turns out Neal Casady (hero of Kerouac’s “On The Road”) was a fan of the original product, as was San Francisco Chronicle columnist Charles McCabe “who used to drink several in the mornings” before going to work. Now that there’s no competition, maybe these guys (Anchor and Speakeasy were mentioned among the collaborators) can be convinced to bring it back.