Slosberg himself had served for years, since the brewing company emerged from Northern California in the mid-1980s, as a relentlessly sunny ambassador of beer made in small batches with traditional ingredients. He, for instance, starred in nationwide television ad campaigns, beginning in 1994, and devised a crystal-clear beer-style chart still popular today. It was no wonder, then, that the terms of the Gambrinus deal stipulated Slosberg stick around two years as a pitchman.

Watch a 1994 TV ad starring Pete Slosberg.

The deal, too, came as hundreds of smaller-scale breweries closed up shop or fled onto the balance sheets of better-endowed competitors. Between 1996 and 2000, as many as one-third of brewing operations producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually went out of business. Pete’s was a survivor, at least brand-wise (though Gambrinus would discontinue it in early 2011).

It was a symbolism most perfect that Slosberg and team, for all intents and purposes, exited in June 1998—just as the wave of closures slammed the book shut on a major chapter in American beer, that of the rapid rise of smaller-scale operations. The book, of course, would soon open again on similarly rapid growth, the sort the same operations experience today.

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Tom Acitelli is the author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution. Reach him on Twitter @tomacitelli.