Bottle or draft? Imported or domestic? Forget politics; even in an election year, beer drinkers are more likely to debate issues like hoppy versus malty or ales versus lagers. But brewers have used politics and elections as a way to advertise their products.
I have some great examples of Wiedemann billboard advertisements asking you to vote for “Honest to Goodness Beer.” The three ads ran in March, April and May of 1960 during the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign. I have some other Wiedemann items promoting the presidential election of 1984. The Wiedemann brewery operated from 1870 until 1983 in Newport, KY. Today the brand is still brewed by Pittsburgh Brewing Co.
A number of beer celebrities have run for office. I have buttons from different election years promoting the likes of Henry Weinhard and the Hamm’s bear for president. These seemed like good candidates for the top office. I have a Stroh’s button, which shows a campaign for “Vote America.” This nonpartisan organization was similar to MTV’s “Rock the Vote” campaign. “Alex says Vote America” refers to Alex, the beer-drinking dog that Stroh used in the early 1980s to promote its beers.
A great chalk statue from the POC Brewery of Cleveland has an elephant on the right, a donkey on the left, and a bottle of POC in the middle. The slogan on the bottom of the statue reads, “POC, the choice of every party.” This piece came out during the 1952 presidential election. George Baley, president of the National Association of Breweriana (NABA), covered this item in his book, Back Bar Beer Figurines.
The Ortlieb brewery of Philadelphia put out a great advertising item during the 1964 election—a card with a wheel you could turn to one of the first 36 presidents. It stated the year in which they were inaugurated, their age, party affiliation, and the state where they were born. Beer has taught me so much over the years.
Some brands were named in honor of the system of government in the United States—labels like Senate, Senator’s Club, and Congress, to name a few. The Christian Heurich Brewing Co. of Washington, DC, brewed Senate. This brewery closed in 1956, and part of the land where it stood was eventually donated to the organization that built the Kennedy Center in our national capitol. Congress brand was brewed in upstate New York not far from the state capital in Albany. The Columbia Brewery of Shenandoah in central Pennsylvania produced the brand known as Senator’s Club.
Another brand tied to the top office is Billy Beer. This brand was named for and promoted by Billy Carter, the infamous brother of President Jimmy Carter. Other novelty beers issued are “Billary” and “Dolelightful.” These brands were offered for sale in cans and poked fun at President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole.
Beer Dave Gausepohl has collected breweriana since 1974 and has a personal collection of over 400,000 items. He has visited over 1,000 breweries and tasted well over 10,000 different brews from the world over.