Everyone recognizes the old ploy to keep us in the pub when the publican places salty foods like peanuts, pretzels and popcorn at the bar. Even though these thirst-causing snacks keep us drinking, they will not keep us at the bar as long as a game will.
The best known of all drinking games has to be the infamous “Beer Frame” in bowling. This sport taught many tavern owners that games that can be played while drinking would keep their customers around for hours. Many small bars installed little bowling alleys, foosball tables, billiards, horseshoe pits, bocce courts, and even sand volleyball. All of these activities keep the beer flowing.
These games also helped to make the local tavern an extension of our homes. Many small pubs did not have the space for some of these activities so they installed dart boards, pinball machines and video games, and added dominos, chess, checkers and backgammon to the table top offerings.
Luckily for collectors, breweries quickly got on board. The beer advertising tie-ins with these activities were a natural fit. The items seem infinite—from score cards and boards to volleyball nets, pop-a-shot basketballs, horseshoe backboards, and even a Budweiser video game known as “Tapper.” One has to wonder why “Six Pac Man” was never issued.
Dart throwing lends itself to the flights on the dart, the dartboard, the chalkboard and erasers used in scoring. The background surface around the dartboard and even the line on the floor are all areas used to promote various brands of beer. Bingo cards and covers, dominos, and the case containing the backgammon game have not escaped beer logos. Various breweries have issued some really nice chess and checkers sets. Many a game of checkers was put together by simply using 12 each of two different bottle caps. Cue sticks, the rack, and billiard balls have all been used to advertise various brands. And who has not coveted the beer advertising pool table light for their home bar?
Many simple games that could be played right on the bar top, like cribbage, skol, and spinners, also promoted good times while drinking with your mates. Many coasters have been printed featuring puzzles and games like hang man, tic-tac-toe.
Spinners are great items that basically are a quick game of chance. A device–usually a round disc–is spun and whoever winds up with the pointer in their direction buys the next round. A bottle opener in the shape of a pointed hand used to be a very popular device used for this game. I have another great spinner, issued by the Louisville, KY-based Frank Fehr Brewery, that has six different horses on a small tray. A small dimple on the back of the tray allows it to spin. A start/finish line is chosen on the bar, the tray is spun, and they’re off.
Other unusual pieces included a Carling’s Black Label game that involved rolling a ball bearing into holes on a U.S. map marking the cities where Carling operated a brewery. I was never in this type of establishment, but I have a yo-yo that advertises Pabst Beer. As wi-fi creeps into bars, I guess online games will soon replace the likes of the televised trivia games and take us into another realm of entertainment while we kick back and enjoy a few pints of our favorite brew.
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.