(To readers of the Longmire book series, it’s no secret Walt has a preferred beverage. In a pinch, he’ll sip a Coors, in “Kindness Goes Unpunished”, he quaffs a Yuengling, but wherever he can get it, Walt Longmire quenches his thirst with a refreshing brew from the Pacific Northwest known as Rainier. -Ry)
You know, when I was cowboying in Montana and Wyoming in my twenties, Rainier Beer was everywhere, an affordable beer that wasn’t one of the big, mega-brews that I’ve always found kind of tasteless. You have to remember that this was long before the micro-brew craze where there’s a brewery in every town in America—my gosh, my favorite one these days is over in Ten Sleep!
I was writing the first draft of The Cold Dish and I thought it’d be funny for the protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire, to have a signature drink. Now Walt’s a working class, blue-collar kind of guy, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a shaken-not-stirred martini. Well, at that time it was looking like Rainier Beer might be going out of business and it had always held a special place in my heart. I also figured that Budweiser and Coors didn’t need my help, so I settled on Vitamin R as it’s sometimes known. Well, I’m not sure how much the books helped the brewery, but the TV show Longmire did to the point that for a few days they actually sold them out of beer. It’s gotten to the point where on the high plains there are a number of bars where all you have to do is say, “Gimmie a Longmire” and they serve you a Rainier…
Rainier is one of our big sponsors for Longmire Days and they generally show up with a tanker-truck full of beer and tons of swag—also the local distributors do up some of the most amazing posters.
People from other parts of the country sometimes ask me if it’s a real beer, and I guess they think it’s something the TV folks thought up. Other times I get emails from Europeans who are coming over from very beer-rich cultures and are sometimes a little over-excited about having their first Rainier. I generally keep a shop refrigerator full of the stuff and whenever tourists stop by at the ranch, I’ll pull a few cans out and sign them.
Readers sometimes ask me if I actually drink Rainier and my response is an enthusiastic, “Yep, it’s a damn-fine macro-brew!” It’s a nice, light beer that’s not too hoppy and pretty tasty. Generally, I’m working around the ranch and by the end of the day I’m thirsty and need something cold and refreshing—and guess what? Rainier pretty well fits the bill. How can they sell it so cheap?
I guess the highlight of the whole relationship was being named the Rainier Beer Person of the Year at this year’s R Festival up in Seattle. I was doing a library event in Puyallup and the Rainier people invited me to sign books and have me out on stage during the rock concert portion of the event. It was a somewhat younger clientele than I’m used to, but we had a great time and I might’ve even had a beer or two… There was even a Rainier Beer swag tent, so now everybody knows what they’re getting for Christmas around the ranch.