Song and beer have gone together for thousands of years. Every one of us has surely found our inner “idol” after a few pints of liquid courage. The drinking ballads of the British Isles, the German Schnitzelbank, the jukebox in a local dive or honky tonk, or karaoke bars in Asia—few of these would thrive without the loosening effects of lager. Breweries know this, have used the opportunity to promote their brews.
At the turn of the century, many breweries issued songbooks for most major holidays, or collections of just great drinking songs for good times. In some examples, the entire family including children was depicted in these forms of advertising.
Just about every brewery with a German heritage issued a poster showing pictures of items named in the Schnitzelbank song, a German children’s ditty-turned-drinking song. Oxen Blas, Grosses Glas, Schnickel Fritz and Haufen Mist were just a few of the rhyming pairs in the Ist das nicht ein Schnitzelbank? Ja das ist ein Schnitzelbank song. Most breweries would issue these posters in time for the release of their bock beer or in time for an Oktoberfest celebration. Schnitzelbank is the German word for a carving bench, a tool used by the coopers who made the barrels for beer, among others.
The breweries with some of the best jingles released them as forty-fives in the sixties and seventies. Schaefer is the one jingle to sing, when you are singing more than one. The Hudepohl Brewery in Cincinnati issued a forty-five featuring “Rock-n-Roll with Hudepohl.” The flip side played “Bless My Soul, It’s Hudepohl.”
The Falls City brewery of Louisville, KY released a forty-five on the SUDS record label. This was a light-hearted way of getting their 1972 advertising into the hands of coming-of-age consumers. Today, brewers have You Tube and other internet avenues to reach this same consumer base.
Breweries also got into concert promotion. In 1982, Schlitz sponsored the US tour of the Who. A campaign known as Schlitz Rocks America was a way of getting new and younger drinkers to try Schlitz. Rolling Rock used to host the Town Fair in Latrobe, PA, a large rock concert held almost in the shadow of the brewery each summer. Newcastle sponsored Green Day’s last US tour. Budweiser, Miller and Coors all promote various bands of all levels and musical genres. These breweries sponsor tours, CD release parties, and other music promotions from campaigns like Bud True Music.
Beers have been advertised on items ranging from guitar-shaped neons, kazoos and harmonicas to guitar picks and drumsticks.
Many collectors can rattle off any number of songs that feature the word “beer” in some form or another in its lyrics. As long as we have country music we will never run out of songs that sing the praises of Pabst and other brands of beer. Tom T. Hall probably said it best when he wrote “I Like Beer.”
But, to dig deeply into our country’s connection with music and beer, it’s essential to know that the Star Spangled Banner is actually lyrics reworked into “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a British drinking song.