For Baltimore, part of the appeal of National Bohemian is its familiarity – the beer is affordable, easy to drink and seemingly always available. Now, for the first time in more than 30 years, the brand is trying something new.
Available now until the end of summer, Crab Shack Shandy, National Bohemian’s new citrus-forward brew, is for sale in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and Washington on draft and in cans (six- and 12-packs), said brand manager Chris “C-Mo” Molloy.
Crab Shack Shandy is National Bohemian’s first new beer to launch in the current craft-beer era, when consumers have no shortage of new brews to try at bars and at home. The brand chose the shandy-style (typically beer mixed with lemonade, but not in this case) based on consumer research, Molloy said. It turns out customers were already mixing lemonade with the original, 4.5 percent ABV National Bohemian, he said.
“Natty Boh has been its own brand for so long and people are such fans of it, it just seemed right – with everything else going on in the beer business – to give people a variety,” Molloy said. “This is what we figure is a step in the right direction.”
At 4.2 percent ABV, National Bohemian’s shandy is a golden-colored, light-bodied lager with prominent notes of orange peel and lemon zest, Molloy said. It was not made with lemonade, nor does it contain crab spice, which people might expect from the crab displayed on the can, he said. The imagery speaks more to the setting where the brand envisions customers drinking the beer, according to Molloy.
“We wanted to make a brew that would fit perfectly with seafood and the fare that we eat during the summertime,” Molloy said. “It’s just a really flavorful, really round, not-too-sweet, sessionable beer.”
While National Bohemian is now owned by Los Angeles’ Pabst Brewing Company, the brand, its beer – colloquially known as Natty Boh – and its mustachioed, one-eyed mascot have been synonymous with Baltimore and Maryland for many decades. And the Crab Shack Shandy will aim to appeal to National Bohemian’s largest customer base – 85 percent of the brand’s sales come from Maryland, Molloy said.
On Monday, several Baltimore Sun staff members sampled the new beer.
The consensus? People won’t confuse this for the original Boh anytime soon. The six tasters involved were all surprised by how heavily the beer leaned on the upfront citrus flavors. Everyone mostly agreed it seemed well designed for outdoor settings like rooftop decks.
But it’s clear this new Boh has a potential to offend Boh purists.
Sure, it’s a timely, well-executed beer that one could imagine sipping on a boat. But in the Land of Pleasant Living – where some residents prove their devotion to Boh with tattoos – there’s a chance traditionalists won’t appreciate such a bold contrast to the beloved original. That being said, there’s a chance those same people wouldn’t enjoy any additions to the Natty Boh portfolio. Change, as they say, is hard.
But it was a risk worth taking, Molloy said, as National Bohemian tries to connect with younger drinkers who are constantly trying new beer styles.
“They’re a totally different generation,” he said. “They’re getting tons and tons of flavors and options.”
The suggested retail price for a six-pack of Crab Shack Shandy is $8.99. A 12-pack’s suggested retail price is $14.99.
National Bohemian was first brewed in Baltimore in 1885, and remained in the area until 1996 when then-owner Stroh Brewery Co. closed its brewery in Halethorpe. But no National Bohemian products are produced in Maryland, and that remains true with Crab Shack Shandy, which was brewed in Latrobe, Pa.
Part of Molloy’s job, the Reisterstown resident said, is to identify opportunities to eventually bring National Bohemian brewing back to the Baltimore-area.
“As someone who’s been born and raised here, that’s always been part of what I’m trying to work on,” Molloy said. There’s no timeline in place, but “we’re constantly looking for ways to partner with existing brewers and things like that in the area.”
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