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'Natty Boh' Drinkers Tap Into Nostalgia at Frisco Tap House in Columbia

A kickoff party at Frisco Tap House marks the release of National Bohemian Beer on draft for the first time in 15 years.

On Wednesday evening, patrons at Frisco Tap House tapped into a time machine.

Okay – technically, the bartenders did the tapping when they hooked up the keg of National Bohemian Beer (or "Natty Boh") to Frisco's impressive 50-tap system.

But this was the first time in 15 years that Natty Boh had been available on draft. Prior to February, Natty Boh was sold only in cans and bottles.

The release of Natty Boh in keg form officially kicked off with a string of "beer release" parties, the at Nacho Mama's in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood. The last release party took place at Frisco Tap House in Columbia.

Natty Boh traces its roots to Baltimore, where it was first brewed by the National Brewing Company in 1885, according to the company's official web site. Production of the beer has since moved to North Carolina. A series of sales eventually left National Brewing in the hands of Pabst Brewing Company, which was recently acquired by businessman C. Dean Metropoulos.

Still, the distinctive mascot – "Mr. Boh," a one-eyed mustachioed gentleman adopted after Prohibition – lights up the night in Brewer's Hill (a neighborhood in Baltimore) and is a regional icon.

In addition to its regional appeal and the strength of brand loyalty, Natty Boh is inexpensive, which adds to its popularity. And while it's often panned as a "cheap" beer, the brand has acquired some acclaim. Consider the 2010 World Beer Cup, where National Bohemian took home the silver (out of 75 entries) for the "American-Style Lager" category.

The return of Natty Boh on draft drew a crowd to Frisco Tap House (formerly Frisco Grille), which recently moved to a large, modern space on Dobbin Road in Columbia.

The party officially kicked off at 7 p.m., but pints were available before then and were sold for $2.95 each.

Not everyone chose to drink Natty Boh which is understandable, considering Frisco's extensive beer selection. But as bodies packed around the bar, busy bartenders returned time and again to the tap handle displaying the Natty Boh mascot.

And for those who weren't of drinking age when Natty Boh was produced in Maryland, its significance can still be sentimental.

As a student, one of my first achievements in my graduate school project was celebrated with an ice-cold can of Natty Boh. Later, regular happy hours in the area – some of which featured $1 bottles of Natty Boh – served as a way to keep in touch with friends.

As the years went by – and as many of the group purchased homes, scattered to different jobs, and discovered tastier beers – Natty Boh still appeared on the table.

Natty Boh might be a "cheap" beer, but that's part of its charm. It's a touchstone to the past--an icon with Maryland roots that's reminiscent of home.

At the keg-tapping party, patrons concluded that Natty Boh does not lose that charm when it's offered on draft.

By 8:15 p.m., a crowd remained, though the rate at which the beer flowed  had slowed. Owner Adam Carton said that Frisco Tap House had received two kegs of Natty Boh.

They were already on the second.

By 9:30 p.m., local blogger Amy Pickwick reported that roughly 25 pours remained. 

"They still expect to run out tonight," Pickwick said at the time.

Each keg holds approximately 124 pints, which means almost 250 servings of Natty Boh were sold.

There was no dramatic ceremony to mark the keg release. Instead, quick-footed bartenders distributed Natty Boh pint glasses. Some wore commemorative shirts. 

A hollowed out "Mr. Boh" head made the rounds, first behind the bar, and then to patrons, who posed with it for photos. The mood at Frisco was definitely festive.

Of course, it's not every day a person gets the taste of time travel.

marylandmojo February 17, 2011 at 08:35 PM
I certainly hope it's an improvement over the original, or there'll be headaches galore tomorrow morning for those who drank it today. My father-in-law used to buy it 50 years ago because it was cheap, and drinking more than a few meant a toilet-hugging epidsode the next morning. Don't know what was in it to cause that, but guaranteed projectile hurling if you drank more than 3 or 4, accompanied by headache.

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