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Bring Back Stewart’s Mountain Brew, the Beloved Budget Beer of the Adirondacks

If you grew up in southern Vermont or upstate New York, chances are you’ve been to a Stewart’s Shops convenience store. Not to be confused with Stewart’s Root Beer and restaurant chain, Stewart’s Shops is a regional gas station-convenience store hybrid akin to Wawa or Sheetz, with 350-plus locations across the Adirondacks and surrounding counties. It prides itself on offering locally sourced dairy, fresh eggs, homemade ice cream, and a slew of private label products at a bargain price. There are seasonal glazed donuts, Stewart’s own “X-treme Tea” energy drink, a line of Stewart’s sodas, and its own brand of light beer, Mountain Brew.

There are big regional beers like Schmidt and Lucky Lager, and then there’s the little guys like Mountain Brew — unknown to most, but dearly beloved by the ones who do. Whether or not these beers ever make it big-time — or even taste that great — they naturally become ingrained in the local population’s identity. So when Stewart’s Shops executives made the decision to discontinue Mountain Brew in 2020, whimpers of mourning echoed throughout the Adirondack Mountains.

It’s initially puzzling as to why Stewart’s would take away Mountain Brew. It had all the ingredients to become a mainstay, from its alpine-themed packaging and ultra-low price point to its crushable flavor profile. To find out why, we look back on the brief yet tender tale of Mountain Brew’s rise and demise.

The Best Deal in Beer

In 2010, Stewart’s Shops rolled out the original Mountain Brew Beer Ice. It arrived at 5.5 percent ABV in a nondescript can, sporting the equally nondescript slogan “A Very Cool Brew!” Circling the bottom of the can was a series of stick figure emojis, demonstrating a bunch of outdoor activities like snowboarding, swimming, and baseball. The beer itself was originally brewed by Rochester’s Genesee Brewery, and by many accounts, it was similar in flavor to most macro lagers like Coor’s, Bud, and the like. But the big draw for Mountain Brew Ice was its price: $2.99 per 6-pack.

If getting a sixer for late-‘70s prices in the 21st century sounds too good to be true, it wasn’t. Mountain Brew Ice was the cheapest option on the shelf by a long shot, and customers took notice.


With Mountain Brew Beer Ice off to a promising start, Stewart’s launched a lower-ABV version called Mountain Brew Light in 2013, and subsequently redesigned both cans’ packaging. Mountain Brew Beer Ice got a full-on modern makeover with deep blue color blocking, and a curvy, Coca-Cola-like typeface on a backdrop of snow-covered mountain peaks. Stewart’s then shortened the product’s name to simply “Mountain Brew Ice.” A year later, sales hit a fever pitch.

“Back in 2014, we peaked out at 17 cases per shop per week,” Stewart’s Shops president Gary Dake told the hosts of Upstate New York culture podcast “Two Buttons Deep Squadcast.” Around this time, Stewart’s shifted all Mountain Brew production over to City Brewing Company in Wisconsin.

Unfortunately for Stewart’s, the early to mid-2010s saw the nation’s collective palate begin to gravitate toward craft beer. Particularly in New York State, this era was marked by an explosion in craft brewery openings, with customers ready to pay top dollar for top-quality brews. Come 2016, Stewart’s franchises were only moving 10 cases per week on average, a rough 40 percent decrease in two years. To navigate the changing tides, Stewart’s decided to expand its beer portfolio yet again, but in a new direction.

Craft to Kaput

In July 2017, Stewart’s Shops tried to cash in on the craft craze with the release of High Cliff IPA, contract-brewed by Clifton Park’s Schmaltz Brewing Company. At 6.2 percent ABV and $8.99 per 6-pack of bottles, High Cliff was designed to be a relatively affordable, approachable option for newcomers to craft beer. However, the craft market had so many established players at that point that the beer failed to cultivate a big enough following to survive. About a year after its launch, Stewart’s pulled the plug on High Cliff.

At this point, hard seltzers had already started to creep in on fridge space, and their low-calorie appeal was proving to be a threat to Mountain Brew Light. The chain tragically discontinued that beer in 2018 as well, leaving Mountain Brew Ice as Stewart’s sole flagship brew. It puttered along for a couple more years, but then, the saga came to a close.

According to a Times Union article from September 2020, a Stewart’s spokesperson announced that in light of slowing Mountain Brew Ice sales the company would be doing away with the brand to free up more shelf real estate for craft beer and spiked seltzer. The discontinuation was confirmed by Dake on Twitter. “2020 has been a dreadful year in so many ways,” he wrote. “Sorry to add to the misery, but @StewartsShops is discontinuing Mountain Brew beer in the next few months.”

While Mountain Brew never achieved enough of a cult status to keep itself alive, it was, for many, the no-nonsense utility beer of the Adirondacks. So, if you ever find yourself stumbling into a Stewart’s to pick up a sixer of suds for the weekend, pour one out for Mountain Brew, the “very cool brew” that was, perhaps, too cool for this world.

*Image retrieved from Stewart’s Shops on Instagram

The article Bring Back Stewart’s Mountain Brew, the Beloved Budget Beer of the Adirondacks appeared first on VinePair.

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