Natty Boh Still Draws Beer Fans In Baltimore

National Bohemian hasn't been brewed in Baltimore for 30 years, but that hasn't kept Mr. Boh, the beer's iconic one-eyed mascot, from the hearts of Baltimoreans.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- National Bohemian hasn't been brewed in the heart of Baltimore for 30 years, but that hasn't kept Mr. Boh, the beer's iconic one-eyed mascot, from the hearts of Baltimoreans.

A fluorescent, 36-foot-tall likeness of the mustachioed man perched atop the former Brewers Hill brewery rewards the lucky passer-by with an occasional wink. Canton's Nacho Mama's adorns its walls with memorabilia from the brewery's heyday and, with a sombrero, transforms Mr. Boh into Senor Boh on its sign and menus. At Fell's Point's Natty Boh Gear, Boh-enthusiasts can don themselves -- as well as their homes, cars, dogs and golf bags -- in dozens of items sporting the familiar, grinning emblem.

And of course, Mr. Boh makes an appearance on the product that started it all: the beer.

"When you think Baltimore, you think crabs, you think Orioles, you think Ravens and you think Natty Boh," said Baltimore native Tim Richardson, vice president of Marriottsville-based Maroon PR.

First brewed in Canton in 1885, National Bohemian, affectionately nicknamed Natty Boh, is seen by many as the unofficial beer of Baltimore.

But Natty Boh hasn't been brewed in Charm City since 1978, when the then-National Brewing Co. moved production to its facility in Halethorpe. After a series of mergers and sales, Illinois-based Pabst Brewing Co. acquired the Natty Boh brand in 1999, and the beer is now produced in a number of states, but not Maryland, according to Sanjiv Gajiwala, marketing manager for Pabst.

"It annoys the hell out of me, really," said Bernard Lyons, bar manager for Bertha's Restaurant and Bar in Fell's Point. "It has nothing to do with Baltimore anymore. It's been taken over by yuppie developers," he said.

However, according to a number of locals, the beer -- and its one-eyed logo -- have everything to do with Baltimore, despite the brew's out-of-state manufacturing.

"A lot of locals drink it for the history of the beer," said Bob Simko, manager at Fell's Point's Max's on Broadway.

Scunny McCusker, owner of Nacho Mama's, agreed.

"The one-eyed man really brings out the Baltimore in everyone," he said. "It's made a great comeback," McCusker said. "We sell more Natty Boh than anything else."

However, Baltimore-native Todd Unger said this wasn't the case a few years ago.

"Natty Boh was always there, but it was really kind of on the back burner," he said.

Unger, president of Natty Boh Gear, began selling merchandise with the beer's cartoon emblem as an official licensee of the Pabst-owned logo in 2005. However, long before going into business with Pabst, Unger was producing Mr. Boh shirts under the radar.

"We were tailgating at a Baltimore Ravens' game and we made T-shirts that said 'Boh Knows Ravens Football' for our tailgating group," he said. "It got to where we were wearing them in the stadiums and people were just buying them right off our backs."

Unger said he contacted Pabst and pitched the idea -- a local man selling local products sporting the local logo.

"For Pabst, it really made one of their beers a regional product," Unger said. "Not only do we promote Baltimore and we promote what it means to the city, but it also helps promote the beer."

Richardson, who specializes in advertising, said the agreement between Pabst and Unger is "a win-win situation," since Pabst benefits with the product's increased visibility and Unger benefits with the beer's increased popularity.

"I think having Todd's store definitely helps with the popularity, but I think the swelling of Natty Boh popularity has always existed. I'm not even sure that it actually went away."

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