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What Is Rainier Beer?

Article Highlights

  • Rainier Beer is one of the oldest breweries in the US, tracing its roots back to 1878
  • Brewed following “the Reinheitsgebot” or “the German Purity Law” with only 4 ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and malted barley
  • 4 main varieties: Rainier Lager, Ice Lager, Bearhead Red and rotating seasonal brews
  • Popularity shifted mainly towards Pacific Northwest while still holding onto smaller markets across North America
  • Controversy arose when former owner G Heileman Brewery Co ran an ad campaign with false information on Miller Lite

Hello beer connoisseurs! If you’d asked me two months ago about Rainier Beer, I would have shrugged my shoulders and kept on walking. But after doing some digging, I now know more about this beer than I ever expected!

Rainier Beer is one of the oldest breweries in the US, tracing its roots all the way back to 1878. Since then they’ve been producing high-quality beer across the country — becoming a proud symbol of the West Coast.

Though its reach has diminished since its heyday in the 1950s, Rainier Beer still holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans. Whether you’re sipping on a can or celebrating with friends, this light lager is bound to bring some extra flavor to your day.

Let’s take a closer look at this Pacific Northwest beer and learn what makes it stand out.

History of Rainier Beer

Rainier originated in Seattle, Washington in 1878 when German immigrants Franz and Louis Maldinger opened a brewery on Rainier Avenue (hence the name!).

When Prohibition arrived in 1920, they pivoted and started making non-alcoholic products — like ice cream, pudding, and even root beer.

When Prohibition no longer ruled the land (thank goodness!), they returned to producing their beloved beers.

Throughout their history, Rainier was bought and sold by several companies but eventually ended up at Pabst Brewing Company in 1999 — where it remains today.

Brewing Process

Rainier follows what most breweries call “the Reinheitsgebot” or “the German Purity Law” when brewing their recipes. This means that only 4 ingredients are used: water, hops, yeast and malted barley. No additional flavors are added — maintaining true craftsmanship with every sip!

The brewing process begins with malt that has been roasted for 24 hours until it looks like coffee beans. It’s then milled into grains which are combined with hot water for a few hours until a sugary liquid called “wort” is formed.

This wort is then boiled before adding hops to provide bitterness (as well as flavor or aroma). Finally, everything is fermented with yeast which transforms sugar into alcohol — creating that wonderful brew!

Types of Rainier Beers

Rainier offers several types of beers so there’s sure to be something for everyone:

  • Rainier Lager – A light American Lager with 3% ABV that’s easy to drink and never too heavy or sweet
  • Ice Lager – A smooth yet hoppy lager that clocks in at 5% ABV
  • Bearhead Red – An amber-hued lager with an orange hue packed full of tropical citrus flavors for 5% ABV

Additionally, there are rotating seasonal brews like Imperial IPA and Barrel-Aged Stout — but be sure to check availability as these tend to sell out quickly!

Popularity Of Rainier Beer

Long before Olympia Beer was born, Rainier was king of regional beers — having acquired/absorbed over 70 regional breweries across the US from 1945-1970s when it was owned by G Heileman Brewery Co (now known as Pabst).

But its popularity has since shifted mainly towards the Pacific Northwest due to its broad distribution within states like Washington and Oregon while still holding onto smaller markets across North America including Alaska and Hawaii!

Controversies Involving The Brand

As one might expect from such an old brand there have been some bumps along the way — most notably when former owner G Heileman Brewery Co ran an ad campaign claiming that Miller Lite contained formaldehyde as an ingredient which caused quite an uproar amongst both brewers & consumers alike as no such ingredient exists within Miller Lite!

Though Heileman later retracted their statement & apologized for any confusion caused by their campaign nothing much came out from this controversy so it’s safe to say that all’s well now between Miller & Rainier 🙂


In conclusion, Rainier beer can be described as a unique craft lager production following traditional German recipes across four main varieties & numerous rotating seasonal options throughout Pacific Northwest & beyond making for simple yet bold drinking experiences no matter your location!

With plenty of controversies along its path but ultimately remaining strong through decades this brand stands tall as one iconic regional staple leaving many wondering how long till fans conquer other regions to join its demand.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, homebrewer and beer taster. I’m also the editor of Beer100. I love travelling the world and trying out new handcraft beer and different beer styles. I’m not an expert in brewing beer, but I know a few things about beer, which I share on this blog. If you need help or have a question, please comment below.

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