Rainier Beer shortage has Seattle taps dry and fans frothing

Paul Roberts, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

It hasn't always been easy for Seattle fans of Rainier Beer.

There were the traumas of the 1970s, when the quintessential Seattle company was sold to the first in a string of out-of-state beer conglomerates.

Then Rainier's landmark brewery near Boeing Field was closed in 1999, and the actual brewing of the beer was outsourced — eventually to a facility near Los Angeles owned by former rival Miller.

Even the iconic "R" was ripped from Seattle's skyline in 2000 and replaced with a replica more than a decade later.

But now, Seattle's Rainier faithful must confront the ultimate outrage: a partial outage of the pale lager that has idled local taps and laid bare the byzantine realities of the macro-brew industrial complex.

Yes, Seattle, we're out of draft Rainier. Though bottles and cans of Vitamin R remain as plentiful as starlings, kegs of Rainier have been unavailable since late March, according to proprietors and customers of sundry Seattle-area watering holes.


"We ran out two weeks ago," said Tylor Dows, co-owner of Touchdown's Sports Bar & Grill in Shoreline, where draft Rainier is, or was, the most popular of a dozen tap beers.

Likewise at Al's Tavern in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, where Rainier accounted for maybe 70% of tap sales and where manager Percy Weintraub had to pivot with extra cases of Rainier tallboy cans, which his regulars "blew through in, like, two days."

"We have no kegs at this time," confirmed Lindsi Taylor, spokesperson for Columbia Distributing, the largest distributor in the Pacific Northwest.

Substitutes have been suggested. At Al's, bartenders offered up Pabst Blue Ribbon draft, but that led at least one Rainier man to walk out after just two sips — and "he won't come back until there's Rainier here," cautioned fellow customer John Smith, who was in attendance Thursday afternoon.


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