New National Premium logo

New National Premium logo (Courtesy of National Premium)

The new National Premium is expected to reach bars and liquor stores this April, "just in time for baseball," owner Tim Miller said Monday.

On Wednesday, Fordham Brewing Company in Delaware will start brewing the beer's first official batch - 50 barrels - since 1996. The whole process, including bottling, should be finished by the end of March, Miller said. Several 100-barrel runs are planned after that.

It has not been decided yet how many bars and liquor stores will get the beer, since Miller has not inked a deal with a distributor. But, he said the initial target is between 50 and 75 accounts in the greater Baltimore area.

Miller, an Easton real estate agent, bought the trademark to the beer two years ago to capitalize on the renewed popularity of nostalgia brands like National Bohemian, Schlitz and PBR.

The original National Premium, with a recipe dating to 1934, was popular in Baltimore in the 1950s and '60s and was seen as a pricer, more critically acclaimed alternative to National Bohemian. But Stroh Brewing Co., which bought the brand from G. Heileman Brewing Co., stopped making it in 1996.

In 1998, what was then Frederick Brewing Co. brought Premium back in cans with much fanfare, but the experiment didn't last long.

 Miller is the latest to try mounting a comeback. Though he faced considerable odds - namely, none of the Maryland microbreweries had the capacity to accomodate Premium - he's slowly overcome them.

In September, he got the beer's original formula and unveiled a new logo. And in December, he started test-brewing at Fordham.

On Monday, Miller also confirmed Fordham has now officially become the beer's contract-brewer.