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