Olde Frothingslosh

Olde Frothingslosh….                                                                        by:  Andrew Schroeder

Every holiday season in Pittsburgh from the mid ‘50s to the early ‘70s, there was a rush to the beer distributors to pick up a case of unique beer from the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Olde Frothingslosh was the most popular novelty beer in the area, being distributed not just throughout Pittsburgh, but outside the city and even to other nearby states. Well, today Olde Frothingslosh is making a comeback. Sir Reginald Frothingslosh is reappearing on shelves with a new version of the witty style that made it so beloved decades ago.

Each new iteration of the beer tells a fantastic fable about the creation of Olde Frothingslosh, about how it was commissioned by Henry VIII to be a beer “lighter, milder, more flexible than any advertised on television.” In actuality, the real story of Olde Frothingslosh is just as interesting as the long yarns the brand spins on its packaging.

Olde Frothingslosh was originally the brainchild not of a brewer but of a broadcaster: Rege Cordis of KDKA in the 1950s. Cordis was a popular radio DJ whose programs often featured Cordis inventing ridiculous products and even more ridiculous ad campaigns for said products; Olde Frothingslosh was one such product, and Cordis created the Olde Frothingslosh tale the brand still uses today. The ironic notion of a beer designed to be the lightest, airiest beer ever invented – so light that the beer itself floats on top of the foam, hence the “foam-on-the-bottom” slogan the brand still uses – was right in-step with the rising edgy humor of the day. The idea of such a strangely-marketed beer was so attractive to Cordis’s audience that Pittsburgh Brewing Company began to receive calls about where buyers could get Olde Frothingslosh. Sensing an opportunity, PBC joined forces with Cordis to make Olde Frothingslosh a reality.

From the beginning, the appeal of Olde Frothingslosh was in its marketing style. New and old versions of the beer feature old-fashioned cartoons of the brand’s mascot, Sir Reginald Frothingslosh. And the cans’ collectability was a big hit: each new release of Olde Frothingslosh featured multiple colors and labels, each in a turn-of-the-century British style. The tongue-in-cheek style of Olde Frothingslosh’s marketing was immensely popular.

And Pittsburgh Brewing Company never tired of coming up with new, unique ways to market its special novelty beer. Later releases of Olde Frothingslosh in the late 60s and early 70s featured Miss Olde Frothingslosh, also known as Fatima Yechburgh, a heavyset beauty queen (portrayed by Pittsburgh local Marsha Majors) meant to parody the contemporary popularity of Miss America pageants. The Miss Olde Frothingslosh campaigns contributed further to the brand’s send-up of marketing standards, which would normally dictate using a conventionally beautiful woman to sell products. Miss Olde Frothingslosh would do promotional tours and make special appearances at beer and collectors’ conventions. Pittsburgh Brewing Company even developed glamour calendars for their leading lady.

But save for two commemorative anniversary editions, Olde Frothingslosh has been conspicuously absent from Pittsburgh beer distributors since its last regular release in 1983. No Sir Reginald Frothingslosh, no Fatima Yechburgh, none of the humor or style that made the beer so popular in its heyday. But the dark days are coming to an end, and Sir Reggie’s mug is going to be seen around Pittsburgh more frequently. Olde Frothingslosh is back.

The current edition of Olde Frothingslosh still riffs on the olde-timey wit that gained the brand its popularity in the ‘50s, which is, per the brand’s tradition, evident in the packaging style. The cans come in three colors, each with two different sides. One side features the beer’s monocled and mustachioed logo; the other side has a classy bowtie and buttons. Stack the cans with opposing sides and you get a dapper gentleman that resembles Sir Reginald Frothingslosh himself. The cans’ cardboard cases also have cutout wax handlebar mustaches the drinker can wear. The marketing here is still very much part of the ironic, fun retro style.

But it’s not fair to call it faux-retro; it’s all part of the brand’s history. Odes to Olde Frothingslosh’s past adorn the cans and cases, phrases referencing the brand’s proprietary “Hippity” hops, patented flexibility (that allows it to fit glasses of any size or shape), and famous foam-at-the-bottom lightness – all features of the beer that date back to Rege Cordis’s faux ad in 1954. 2013’s Olde Frothingslosh does its history due service.

The style of Olde Frothingslosh may take cues from its 1950s origins, but the beer inside is its own new entity. Old Olde Frothingslosh was a Tech Golden Pilsner. New Olde Frothingslosh (stick with me here), on the other hand, is a medium-body lager with a slight, sharp bitterness that still feels smooth and clean – along with a mild citrusy aroma. The Olde Frothingslosh brand owes its popularity to its marketing, but make no mistake: discerning buyers shouldn’t be looking for Olde Frothingslosh only for its attractive packaging. No, Olde Frothingslosh actually has a beer inside the funny cans, and one that’s quite good too. These two aspects, humor and good taste, combine to make Olde Frothingslosh a genuinely good drinking experience, and an important piece of Pittsburgh lore to boot. It’s not clear as of now whether we’ll see more returns to glory alongside Olde Frothingslosh – like whether Miss Olde Frothingslosh will reappear – but for the time being, those familiar with Pittsburgh’s brewing history should be thankful to have Olde Frothingslosh back in their lives.