by Belinda Crowson
For the 90th birthday of Lethbridge Pil (now Old Style Pilsner), it would only be appropriate to skip the cake and a go straight for the beer–Pil, of course. So raise a glass to this Lethbridge tradition.
Lethbridge Pilsner (now Old Style Pilsner) turns 90 this year.
In 1926, two years after prohibition ended, the Lethbridge brewery released a new beer. According to its marketing, Lethbridge Pilsner was the “Pre-War Beer” that the brewery had been working on for a long time, and could only then be released. Advertising indicated that before the First World War the bestselling beers were made with a rice base. However, because of prohibition, either because recipes were lost or no one knew how to brew it, most breweries could no longer make rice-based beers. Sick’s Brewery–a progressive, modern brewery–had created this new, rice-based beer developed from its pre-war recipes. Fritz Sick, or so went the marketing, went back to his Alberta Pride recipe, tweaked it, and came up with Old Style Pilsner from the House of Lethbridge.
This new beer, it was promised, reflected changing tastes, and it appears to have been well received. By March 1927, the brewery called Pilsner in its advertising “The Fastest Selling Beer in the West.”
Those who know their Lethbridge Pil, also know a great deal of the mythos of the beer comes from the very label itself. How many people have spent time counting the rabbits?
The label was designed by Fritz Sick’s daughter, Louise, and highlights items important to the brewery and the West. People who know local history will recognize the Concord Stagecoach (the brewery used a stagecoach for advertising at many events), the Purple Label Airplane (the Jock Palmer plane often used to advertise the brewery), symbols of our area’s First Nations, monks brewing beer and, of course, the outline of the Lethbridge Brewery itself. The rabbits? Some say the rabbits are there simply because Louise liked rabbits, and to provide some whimsy to the label.
In many ways, Lethbridge Pilsner was a legacy of the end prohibition and, yes, it is an Alberta invention, despite many people associating it with Saskatchewan.
Learn more about Lethbridge’s land history and other Fun Facts about our city by visiting and liking the Lethbridge Historical Society Facebook page.
In this image: Brewery Gardens with the word “Pilsner” written.
Home page image: View of the floral arrangment spelling “Pilsner” in Brewery Gardens, and the stagecoach visible to the left.