Regional breweries used to dot the Rand McNally like Starbucks does today.
One of the greatest generations of this country has to be that of pre- and post-World War ll. This was our fathers' era. Television and super highways came on the scene. On the road, dad got to experience the wealth of regional breweries across America.
Today, as the European and US beer markets become more consolidated, are we destined to let our fathers’ beer go the way of Checker cabs, Studebaker, Oldsmobile and Nash?
Years ago, when dad traveled on business, sometimes the one saving grace of being away from his loved ones was the chance to delve into the locally brewed beers. When business would take the breadwinner to Omaha, he could order a Storz. Instantly, a mutual friendship was made. The Storz Brewery operated until 1972, turning out Storz Premium and Storz Triumph. Two hospitality rooms at the brewery, the Frontier Room and the Trophy Room, were used for after-tour samplings and numerous civic functions. About the last five years that Storz was in operation, it was owned by Grain Belt Breweries of Minneapolis, a strong regional throughout the upper Mississippi River valley.
This brewery still stands today and is an architectural wonder. The front facade has four different styles of architecture, each representing one of the four companies that merged in 1891 to form the Minneapolis Brewing Association. In 1963, Grain Belt took possession of a junkyard adjacent to the brewery and created a wonderful park that includes a large fountain as the centerpiece.
Animated Icons and Celebrity Voices
For most of us, the greatest character we know has to be our father. It did not take long for the advertising and marketing types to realize this. TV and radio created characters and images to appeal to these working men, and those images can let us know the beer today, even though the flavors of many of those grand old regionals are gone.
Grain Belt used animation, like many of the regional breweries, to advertise its beers. It created Stanley and Albert, two sign painters who appeared in numerous Grain Belt TV and print campaigns.
Another Twin Cities brewery was also famous for animation. To this day, the Hamm’s bear is considered an advertising icon. This black and white figure took an upper-Midwest regional brewery to national status almost overnight. Many a beer drinker can still sing the praises of the beer “from the land of sky blue waters.”
The Theodore Hamm Brewery operated in St. Paul from 1865 until 1975 when Olympia Brewing Co. of Tumwater, WA, bought it. Since 1975, the brand has had a checkered history. Hamm’s is now owned by Miller Brewing and is sold as a price beer.
Another very successful animated campaign ran in the tri-state area around New York City. ‘Bert and Harry Piel’ took a weak brand and propelled it near the top spot. Bert and Harry were somewhat bumbling, somewhat sarcastic, and above all, true pitchmen for Piels Beer. The pioneering radio pair of Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding supplied the voices for Bert and Harry, and the success of Piels helped boost their careers.
Also in the metro New York area, a brand with a strong following in post-war times was Rheingold, the “Extra Dry” beer. Many an argument could be overheard in the tavern over whom to choose as the winner of the “Miss Rheingold” contest held each year. The women in the running enjoyed a touch of celebrity throughout the tri-state area, and some of the winners of this contest went on to stardom.
In upstate New York, in the small berg of Utica, another pair of pitchmen was gaining popularity. Two talking mugs known as ‘Schultz and Dooley’ told the virtues of Utica Club beer. The stein with the likeness of a German kaiser was Schultz and the mug with the shamrock in the center was Dooley. A deciding factor in the success of this campaign was the choice of Jonathan Winters to be the voices of these talking heads.
In the Saint Louis area, comedian Jim Bakus did some great ads for Stag beer. The slogan, “Join Mr. Magoo in a Stag brew,” gave this regional brand a boost in Budweiser’s backyard. In Baltimore, the National Brewing Co. used animated characters to distinguish National Premium and National Bohemian brands, its two similar sounding brews. Mr. Pilsener sold National Premium and Mr. Boh sold “Natty Boh.”
Brewers chose animation for their beer ads for three reasons. Number one was that animation cost less than a full live production with human actors. Number two was the fact that the brewery retained ownership of the characters.
And lastly, we are a very visual society. These characters brought us more tangible ways to associate with the brews they represented. With the advent of color TV, not all homes had this new advanced version, so the animated ad campaigns had to work equally well in color or in black and white.