Michelob Over Time. Final Part.

This Thing Called Michelob …

For me, this story ends in 1980, as after that, Michelob entered a long period of sales decline for the hallmark or regular beer.

Light, Dark, Dry, AmberBock and other iterations there were, and finally the ultra successful Michelob Ultra, but we are partisans of old-style quality, which Michelob embodied at one time. And while it must be said in 2007 regular Michelob regained an all-malt formula, to my mind it was not as good as even when it was a malt-and-rice brew.

The pre-1961, all-malt brew vaunted choice Bohemian hops, as we saw earlier in period ads. A 1936 ad for Budweiser, in a Plattsburgh, NY newspaper, insisted it too benefited from an exquisite Bohemian bouquet:

 

 

Michelob and Budweiser were likely rather similar, therefore, to good pilsener beer from Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic. Assays of Budweiser I reported in earlier posts, dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s, bore this out in my view, especially lagering time and final gravity.

By 1980 though, what was Michelob, for its part, like? By my own memory, quite distant from Czech lager.

It was a decent beer, better than the North American norm, but not more. Michelob had a malty, characteristic taste but was rather light compared to good German or Czech lager.

Critics seemed largely to agree. Michael Jackson gave it 2.5 stars out of 5, fairly middling, in his 1982 The Pocket Guide to Beer. Between in other words “well-made” and “worthy of attention”. Not a ringing endorsement.

James D. Robertson gave it a respectful review in his 1978 The Great American Beer Book, lauding its “fine malt-hop taste”. He called it “excellent … and a worthy choice for the serious beer drinker”, finding the (unpasteurized) draft even better.

Michael A. Weiner in his 1977 The Taster’s Guide to Beer wrote it was “very smooth”, and “do not underestimate it”.

Fair enough, but I think to a degree it’s the times – the bar was simply different then, when imports were not always fresh and craft beer was just starting to emerge.

A California wine writer, Dan Berger – still active – did a review of Anheuser-Busch beers in the Desert Sun of Palm Springs in 1980 – in the presence no less of August Busch III.

He is interesting to read as someone with an experienced taster’s palate albeit avowing little expertise in beer.

He did find differences comparing Budweiser and Michelob to competitors such as Olympia and Coors. His language is not greatly detailed, but accords with Weiner’s and Robertson’s view that Anheuser-Busch made flawless, hence clean, but still enjoyable beverages.

Certainly he did not find all beers in the tasting the same, but used general terms to distinguish them. Anheuser-Busch made “clean” beer as noted, whereas another brewery’s product was “racy”, say.

I think Anheuser-Busch never should have changed the all-malt formula of Michelob. It could have been bottled in 1961, I believe, as all-malt, despite company assertions to the contrary.

As it was, established and newer imports arrived in the 1980s and 1990s, fresher than ever due to improved shipping and handling. The more characterful of these showed an adjunct Michelob to disadvantage, while the blander imports had the cachet simply of being imported.

Michelob was outpaced, too, by the craft palate that gained increasing acceptance. Indeed craft sought to restore the kind of 19th century standards Michelob Draught of 1896 exemplified to a “t”.

As Michelob Ultra has been an outsize success for Anheuser-Busch InBev, at least the name survives, which is a certain satisfaction. But it is the obverse surely of all that Michelob Draught of 1896 was intended to be.

Finally, craft brought beer full circle, returning it to its 19th century roots. Michelob has not come full circle, but it’s not too late. I hope one day Anheuser-Busch InBev will re-issue the beer as originally brewed in 1896.

 

Michelob Over Time. Part IX.

Michelob Advertising 1960s-’70s

Reviewing Michelob advertising in the 1960s and ’70s, certain themes emerge. Ad headlines often focused on the professional or upper business class, with some relaxation by the 1970s.

This reflected Michelob’s higher price. A 1975 ad for draft in Webster, NY had Michelob at $16.50 per quarter keg, $2.00 more than for Schlitz, itself $2.00 more than for Rochester, NY’s Genesee. In bottles Michelob was priced comparable to Canada’s Molson.

Headline of an early ’70s ad: “When it’s time to stop playing a round”. Tee, golfballs, and scorecard are seen in the background. Golfing was an upper echelon activity, like tennis. See sample ad in Jay Brook’s website, and his commentary.

Another: “In beer, going first class is Michelob”. So, if you flew first class and stayed in first class hotels – or aspired to – you were a Michelob prospect.

Another: “The premium is a little higher, but just consider the benefits”. This was allusive of the financial world, as a control block of shares earns a premium on realization. Michelob was a boardroom beer.

“Good taste runs in the family”. Less subtly: “You don’t usually find beer clicking glasses with martinis or scotch-on-the-rocks, but this is an exception”.

I mentioned earlier that contrary to its didactic 1930s ads, Michelob was now advising to leave beer technics to the brewers. Tagline: “Draw your own conclusions”. See sample ad at eBay.

But old habits die hard. An ad in Life magazine in 1966 could not resist listing some impressive-sounding ingredients:

 

 

20 or 30% more than … what exactly? It is not said. A footer reiterates the drink is of deluxe standard. If the reader didn’t know what to make of Hanna or Chevalier malt, they were still at the right party, if they had the brass.*

1970s ads could vary in tone. The “surprise people” group Jay Brooks discussed were less reliant on class pigeonholing.

Some ’70s ads featured everyman pastimes such as bowling (“Bowl them over”). Shooting pool or playing cards also figured. A TV commercial showed a group of friends at cards. Message: when Michelob is an evident treat for such group.

In a 1974 camping fishing commercial, Michelob again makes a welcome but unaccustomed appearance.

But scenes of young professionals were evergreen. This example (1977) showed stylish young achievers enjoying an orchestral “pops”.

A 1973 spot pictures a young couple on a shiny boat still in dock; they are having trouble with the sails. An old salt passing by with a gunny sack, maybe a merchant sailor, maybe “crew” for a yacht owner, stops to help.

He fixes the problem easily, and the couple crack a Michelob with him in grateful appreciation. In turn he appreciates the premium quality offered. The voiceover intones: Michelob  is for everyone. Simple but clever spots like this were less starchy than 1960s ads.

In the ’60s and ’70s Michelob advertised in magazines read predominantly by African-Americans, such as Ebony and Jet. An example in Ebony from 1965 was no doubt intended as symbolic. Two men are shown reviewing a sales report, August A. Busch, Jr. and a black sales executive with the company.

An ad in Jet in 1978, part of the new “Weekends” promotion, depicted couples relaxing with Michelob in a book-lined den:

 

 

From the 1950s through the ’80s however, black advocacy groups were dismayed with the progress of Anheuser-Busch on minority employment and expanding black participation in lucrative distributorships.

Occasionally boycotts were threatened and at least one was launched, by Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH.

PUSH led efforts to secure a better deal from corporate America. Finally a settlement was reached with Anheuser-Busch, as a 1983 Jet story reported.

Among its covenants: Anheuser-Busch engaged to spend $8,000,000 to advertise in minority-owned newspapers and other media.

In the latter 1970s “Weekends are made for Michelob” spots gained visibility. The campaign had origins in a narrower, “Holidays are for Michelob” series.

In the ’80s “Weekends” morphed into the edgier, rock-tinged “Nights are made for Michelob”. The initial campaign was successful, as Michelob sales kept growing through the ’70s.

Harvard Business Review, in a 2020 collection of advertising studies, considered the program went on too long and ended by confusing consumers. A writer notes that after 1980 sales of regular Michelob fell significantly over the next 18 years.

I think other factors were also at play. The ceaseless fashion for imported beers was one, think especially Corona, but beers from Canada, Holland, Germany and elsewhere also took a toll.

Beer writer Michael Jackson, in his 1990s The Simon & Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer, noted that Mexico’s Sol was a “sub-Yuppie” favourite. Sol competed with Corona, and remains hot to this day.

The rise of craft brewing had to diminish interest in Michelob, especially as there was an evident gap in palate impact between the two.

Michelob had fended off serious competition from now-domestic Lowenbrau and other super-premiums such as Erlanger, Andeker, and Augsburger in the ’70s. The 1980s posed challenges it never recovered from as a full-flavoured brand of traditional style.

The phoenix-like revival of Michelob Ultra in the last 20 years is a remarkable success and fascinating story. But to all intents and purposes that’s a different beer.

Note re images: the source of each image above is linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Michelob never quite gave up on the “ingredients” angle, as a 1983 ad showed in Ebony. The neat headline: “Night Harvest”.

 

 

Amsterdam Pure Pilsner

 

 

First class pilsner, from Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto.

In fact the best pils in the province, imo, and one of the best I’ve had anywhere. It is not “Czech” as such, not Helles or “German pils” as such, but seems to combine features of all, with a dose of craft authenticity.

An all-rounder pils, is another way to put it.

A similar beer from Amsterdam, Starke, came out in the spring but this seems the summer iteration, maybe a bit lighter.

Both appeared periodically in previous years and the return of either is always appreciated.

Nice malty body, slightly bready, no green flavours at all (dimethyl sulphide or similar). Spicy/flowery/flint-like hopping to balance the malt. Nice aftertaste with flowers and herbal garden notes.

There are other good pils in Ontario but none to my mind offers the multi-faceted experience of this one.

 

 

Michelob Over Time. Part VIII.

Michelob Hour of Excellence TV Spot

In a c. 1965 black-and-white TV spot, actor, director, and writer Hal Holbrook promoted the “Michelob Hour of Excellence”. The new hourglass-shape bottle is shown.

Holbrook, who passed away only recently, is remembered especially for his stage reenactment of Mark Twain.

The upload description states “1958” but it had to be later. The bottle was only introduced in 1961. In 1965 the newspaper North Countryman in Rousses Point, New York described the Michelob Hour of Excellence as “new”.

Using trans-Atlantic tones, Holbrook explained how a great American beer, now in bottles, would sponsor a series highlighting American excellence in one-hour programs. Theatre, sports, and music would be covered among other areas. The flying Wright Brothers were scheduled for one program.

In the North Countryman, this weighty production was advertised:

 

 

Holbrook’s introduction and The Hollow Crown production were highbrow or upmarket in tone. Contemporary Budweiser pitches by Ed McMahon, long-time sidekick of the Johnny Carson Show, are more everyman, by contrast.

This reflected the relative market positioning of the beers.

Witherill Hotel Bar, 1961

The Witherill Hotel in Plattsburgh, New York was built in 1868 and lasted a full 100 years, closing in 1968. Plattsburgh is in the “North Country”, not far from the Canadian border.

The hotel was owned for most of its existence by the Howell family. In 2015 Susan Howell Hamlin, a descendant of the owners, was interviewed by the local Press-Republican for a retrospective on the hotel.

Hamlin, who wrote a book about growing up in the hotel, discussed its history including the bar-restaurant Fife & Drum, which opened in the hotel on July 4, 1940.

Evocative photos accompanying the story show a dignified, 19th century pile. It was altered over the years but never lost its Victorian mien. Today such a building would likely be preserved but in 1970 it was torn down to make room for a branch of the State Bank of Albany.

A striking eBay listing shows the Fife &  Drum in its 1940s glory. Revolutionary War themes mingle with modern red leather banquettes, black Formica tables, and tile flooring.

For most of its career the hotel enjoyed a carriage and business, as well as high-end tourist trade. This emerged from numerous accounts including in Kelly Julian’s (2012) Plattsburgh, a history of the city. See discussion and photos at pp. 37-38.

In June 1961 the Fife & Drum advertised in the Press-Republican, mentioning draft Michelob and Lowenbrau:

 

 

The beers were consistent with the high standards that characterized the Witherill. The bar did not bill itself as a beer destination, as Brothers Hofbrau did in Phoenix in the same period. It did not vaunt beer expertise, as Hank’s Tavern did elsewhere in New York in its 1930s ads.

The Howells simply made sure to offer top quality in this amenity, as they did for the hotel in general.

Description of Last Parts

Through the 1960s and ’70s, assisted by its new bottle and perhaps its revised recipe, Michelob sales grew considerably, as I discussed earlier.

The marketing was now broader including Ebony and other magazine spreads, and standard TV commercials. Some commercials were themed “Weekends are Made for Michelob”.

I’ll consider these in the next part. After 1980, sales of regular Michelob started to drop as craft and imported beer became an increasing focus for beer fans.

Hence, I won’t consider 1980s promotions such as “The Night is Made for Michelob”, with its association to rock legend Eric Clapton and other performers.

In the final part (so two more coming), I’ll discuss opinions of Michelob by beer and wine writers, ca. 1980. They are particularly interesting in light both of early Michelob history, when it was all-malt and perfumed with Saaz hops, and the craft revolution that ensued since 1980, which revived interest in that level of quality.

Note re images: the source for each image above is linked above. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Pitches for the Brainy

Trusting the Stable Laws of Marketing

Constantly examining beer ads over the years, I noticed literary flourishes in some ads directed to a university audience.

An extended example, perhaps the best so far, was the Utica Club pastiche of Ernest Hemingway. See my Union College and the Time of Schaefer.

And recently, I noted that Champale, a malt beverage formulated to resemble wine, was pitched to Midwest students in 1952 as preferable to a heavier “Brown October brew”. The terms nut brown ale, October brown ale, and similar have long been used in poetry to suggest a bucolic, rural atmosphere.

At the time, Trenton in New Jersey, where Champale originated, was more urbanized than Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, where the students were studying, so there is some irony in this approach, i.e., to pose an urbane vs. rustic binary.

At bottom I think Champale tried to, um, make hay of the name similarity to “Champaign”.

Another college pitch appears in annals of The Paper, the student journal of what is now Concordia University in Montreal. The October 16, 1972 issue contained this ad:

 

 

A literal example of the October brew? Not really, as Labatt 50 has always been pretty pale. But the ad illustrates well the “know your audience” rule of marketing.

Mindful many Concordia readers were taking, or giving for that matter, literature classes, the copywriter drew on three poetic references to ale.

Author George Borrow’s formulation was neatly abbreviated by removing “of Englishmen”. By this device the line was made more inclusive of women.

Referring in print, too, to Englishmen in majority Francophone Quebec would not have been the best idea, especially at the time.

The fourth quotation was the most clever, a device to draw attention to the brand name. The quotation is from Robert Browning’s poem One Word More:

There they are, my fifty men and women.

The first three quotes expressly or by implication refer to men, but the fourth includes women. Women were in beer marketers’ sights since the mid-century, earlier in some cases.

I mentioned how Dr. Ernest Dichter, the renowned motivational psychologist, advised Falstaff Brewing in 1956 to craft spot ads for a female audience. In his words (hyperlink is mine):

Dizzy Dean and the games miss many of the women.

 

Browning’s words almost conjure a case or two of Labatt 50. Montreal grocery stores at the time stacked cases of beer in any available spot, feeding the fridge as needed. You would commonly see 24 or 48 or more “50” in their green and white cases.

For Labatt, “50” in One Word More worked both as poetic licence and allusion, but Browning meant it to designate the 50 poems of his collection, Men and Women.

One Word More was really an epilogue or, as the name suggests, afterword, but now is considered a 51st poem in the collection. It dedicated the book to his wife, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In the 1970s, that’s how ad minds worked. They knew their knitting, their onions, and, for what counted, their beer.

This is what a 12-pack of Labatt 50 looks like today, from the website of grocery chain IGA in Quebec:

As they say, plus ça change (the puns here!) – the packaging is almost unchanged from 50 years ago.

Do beer companies still market in college media? In some places, yes, although controversy continues on the propriety, and attempts are periodically made to ban the practice.

In 2013 a U.S. Federal Court of Appeals validated such advertising in Virginia on First Amendment grounds. In that case, many students at the colleges, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, were over 21.

The decision suggests the result may have differed for an American junior college, where most readers were 18 or under. As the lawyers say, each case must be viewed on its own merits.

I wonder if beer ads on campus today cite the greats of English Lit. Times change, and (sometimes) our literary reference points. Ad styles change too, but the fundamental rules don’t, like know your audience.

It was a rule Ernest Dichter lived by, to his clients’ benefit.

Marketers looking for poetic inspiration might pick up Hip Hops: Poems About Beer (2018), Christopher Keller (Ed.). Indeed this suggestion goes beyond the precincts of campus advertising, for which I hold no particular brief.

Note re images: the source of each image and quotation above is linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ye are About to Witness the Return of the Old-fashioned Irish pub

Note: the post below was originally put up in October, 2018. I am re-posting it, simply to reflect stylistic improvements, there is no change otherwise. Also, at time of writing, the Fulton History newspaper archive is down, so links to it will not work. Periodically it is down so site owner can perform maintenance. Look in again in a few days, likely Fulton will be back.

Irish Pub: Tradition, Mutation, Adaptability

I proposed a distinction between early Irish pubs in North America, founded by Hibernian arrivals or continued by their progeny, and a later, more Americanized version. A history of Chicago Irish pubs by Ilison Hantschel will assist to understand the immigrant wellsprings of the American Irish pub. This 1961 column by a Jewish writer, Harry Golden, spotlights early Irish bars on the Upper West side of Manhattan which had mostly disappeared, even by then.

The Mark II version may have been started by someone of no Irish background, or who purchased a pub from Irish-Americans, or maybe an Irish-American long assimilated.

A third stage emerged with the onset c.1990 of the Irish Pub Concept. Dublin architect and designer Mel McNally, in concert with Guinness/Diageo, were the principal movers. McNally, seen in this YouTube clip in 2011, gives a good overview of IPC and how thousands Irish pub interiors were shipped around the world.

(Diageo has no commercial ties today to IPC but evidently has a good relationship with it. McNally remains active in the venture some 40 years after first studying, as a student project, the design of pubs in his homeland).

A fourth stage of the Irish or Celtic pub that I would identify is the craft version, of which a number exists in Toronto. Indeed we have examples of pubs in all four categories. A good pub is down to the actual experience, regardless of category, something that cannot be defined in advance, indeed for any food or drinking place.

The categories are fluid to a degree, and proposed for convenience, but broadly hold, in my opinion. This is based not just on considerable reading and reflection but practical pub experience in Toronto, Montreal, New York, London, Paris, and elsewhere.

In New York in the 1960s the rise of Version II sometimes ruffled feathers. Consider this letter to the Irish-American weekly, the Advocate, published in 1967:

 

 

Condon was a regular letter-writer to the Advocate. He must have been about 60, I’d guess a retired transport or other worker. He mentions in one letter having worked on Manhattan subway construction in 1936.

He had definite views on Irish politics – staunchly nationalist – and on pubs and beer, evidently. He recalled how bottled Guinness (i.e., Foreign Extra Stout) was served in Manhattan in the 1930s.

The Advocate printed many articles on Irish history and culture. At least in the 1950s-1970s, the period covered by my review, the paper didn’t take a strong stance on unification. Nonetheless many of its readers were strongly nationalist, or at least demonstrated a resolute ethnic pride.

Condon’s letter is an illustration. You can’t blame him in one sense. Into the 1970s at least, a close connection with an ethnic pub entailed knowing the owner well, who was a key part of one’s social network. Condon felt more at home with an owner of his background, and expressed the sentiment in his letter.

Times change, and concepts of ethnicity and citizenship with them, so the letter has an old-fashioned ring.

The Advocate reported regularly on pubs in Ireland, the model for the bars Condon admired. Most of these articles were complimentary and often quite funny.

One describes customers’ surprise at an itinerant vendor who announces, “Gentlemen, ye are about to witness the return of the old-fashioned top”. He entrances them by jigging on a spinning top, appealing to their memories “as childer”.

In the process he unloads not a few toys on their gladdened souls. The writer remarks, the jar the next night foregone.

Another item describes singing styles in a “singing pub”. Not unexpectedly, the English come in for a good ribbing in the craic:

Tom Kelly blasted out his own version of ‘If I were a Blackbird’. It’s a good job that Tom isn’t a blackbird because if so it would be too bad for the Queen of England when he flew over her.

Some articles pointed out differences from American tavern customs for those planning first-time visits. Pat Greene noted dryly:

What I like most about the Irish pub is the uncertainty of it. First of all, though you know to the minute what the opening time will be, when it comes to the closing time you could find your calculations out as much as an hour or for that matter much more.

Not all the treatments were adoring/affectionate. A 1970 piece by a correspondent born and bred in Dublin offered a more nuanced, even dissenting, view. He deprecated the tendency to romanticize and elevate the Irish pub, at least beyond its just place in Irish culture.

Not just that, he offered the opinion that, in general, Irish pubs in New York were superior! No doubt this was expressed more safely than had he done so in an Irish bar, on either side of the sea.

A sample (the author refers to himself in the third person):

He does, however, try in an Irish fashion to refute the false notion – that Dublin pubs are full of playwrights, artists and the like – whose de­light in life is – to sell his bill of goods to the visitor, and I must admit – whatever the fash­ion – in this he is sincere. For the Dublin pub is indeed over­rated both as to clientele and the establishment itself. The clien­tele is invariably quite dull, un­less inebriated and the establish­ments – though perhaps semi-historic is not of the historic nature that a nation would seek to preserve. Yet the average visitor, es­pecially the Americans, seem far more interested in the Irish pubs than in the Irish culture.

Another thing notable in these pub reports, whether by Irish or American reporters, is the lack of interest in beer as such. To be sure, Guinness’ and sometimes other brewers’ doings were chronicled, for example in 1960 when Harp Lager was launched, or for Guinness strike in the early 1970s.

But apart from reciting regularly the founding year of Guinness, little interest in porter and stout as drinks was shown. Their origins, changes over the years, even strength, aroused no comment.

Guinness was respected as a known emblem of Ireland. Beyond that, nothing comparable to the attention given by international beer writing once it got going after 1975.

Harp lager, to be sure, was greeted in the Advocate with good interest, but for being something new from Ireland. Its Continental origins were noted but not considered incongruous in a stout and ale-drinking country. Smoothing matters along, the drink was trumpeted as Hibernian to the max:

 

Blarney, did they say?

Little was said in the Advocate of Irish whiskey except that sometimes in the pub you could get a “half-one”, I assume a small drink vs. a double. Today, no touristic description of Ireland is complete without an ink-laden charge into distilleries venerable and spanking new.

I think at bottom all this means, the Irish and their wiser counterparts overseas were, and are, pragmatic about the country. If building “authentic” pub interiors for the world gave jobs to Irish workers, and contributed to a benign image for Ireland, all the better.

If chilled lager ended pleasing the Irish equally or more to the traditional stout, bring it on.

All countries are like this at bottom really, at least capitalist ones, and the others don’t count. Tourism perhaps has had doubtful effects in Ireland but it is equally so in England, Scotland, Canada, California, Italy, and … where is it different? The advantages to those directly concerned are felt, clearly, to outweigh the costs.

Note re images: the images and quotation above are from the Fulton History newspaper archive, with source for each linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Michelob Over Time: Part VII.

Brothers Hofbrau, 1960

Continuing my Michelob series, which started with Part I, below is a striking advertisement/menu for Brothers Hofbrau in Phoenix, Arizona. It was placed in the Phoenix Jewish News in October 1960 (via Chronicling America).

 

 

Author and journalist Jon Talton recalled Phoenix’ Central Avenue of this period in a blogpost, with evocative photos. He notes the street was home to many restaurants and bars.

Today the block looks very different, glossy block towers rule.

By the tenor of the ad, it appears Hofbrau was the latest addition to a restaurant group in the city owned by the Brothers.

Draught Michelob was featured, the only draught mentioned, still all-malt in 1960 and considered perhaps America’s best beer. 55 bottled beers are also offered, all imported. The selection likely varied over time.

We saw recently how imported beer was gaining ground in this period, bettering the growth of domestic beer.

The menu is surprisingly diverse, a pot pourri of Jewish, Central European, Irish, and American cuisine.

Jewish deli with a difference, one might say.

Michelob does not feature, here, to highlight any Jewish connections to beer. Beer is not an element of Jewish foodways, and has no specific resonance in Jewish culture. There are many connections between Jews and brewing, as I have often discussed, but in other areas: science and business, notably.

The term Hofbrau evidently was used in just a general way, underpinning a focus on world beers.

In the schema I’ve discussed, the correct inference is American beer bar, or beer specialty house. For its time and in a different way Hank’s Tavern of 1930s Hudson Valley, New York was comparable.

The year, 1960, is quite early to offer 55 imported beers. The now-defunct Brickskeller in Georgetown, D.C., inaugurated in 1957, was more famously a postwar beer bar.

The Ghosts of D.C. site in 2012 reproduced a Brickskeller ad in the Washington Post from 1957. Three draught beers were offered, type not stated, and 46 bottled beers.

(In later decades Brickskeller sold only bottled beer, but in great number. It finally brought draft back: see in the Washington Post again, Fritz Hahn’s 2005 article).

Brickskeller also offered a diverse food selection, Continental European judging by its early ad. Brothers Hofbrau seems to have been a kind of Western equivalent.

Had the Brothers named their restaurant PhoenixBrau – not a bad name when you think about it – the analogy to a Brickskeller, or say, Tommy’s Joynt in San Francisco, becomes clearer.

All were of the same type, deracinated or American beer bar. Note how the Brickskeller ad of 1957 disavowed being a “Rathskeller”.

A quality beer at such places denoted a top example of the brewer’s art, meant for the true beer fan; gourmet beer here did not function (primarily) as cultural touchstone, status symbol, or tribal totem.

One wishes these early beer lists were available. The Brickskeller became in time an international beer destination. So did Tommy’s Joynt, in its way.

Perhaps because of its location, this did not happen with Brothers Hofbrau.

According to the site Malls of America, the Thomas Mall in Phoenix, built in 1963 at 44th St. and Thomas Road, featured a Brothers Hofbrau. A contributor to the Phoenix forum of the City-Data site wrote in 2008:

… [Thomas Mall’s] Brothers Hofbrau Deli, with its famously cranky staff [had] amazing round honey crisps and succulent, kraut-drenched hot dogs.

Beer was not mentioned; perhaps the writer was not a maven. This branch lasted until about 1985, according to these discussions.

It was common at the time for established mid-town restaurants to open in the malls then spreading across suburban America. They were following their customers, many of whom had departed the city centre.

Such a location for Brothers Hofbrau reinforces the inference of undifferentiated American beer bar.

As all early malls in Phoenix, Thomas Mall was torn down years ago, as explained in this page. It and Brothers Hofbrau are now of history.

Much American beer and restaurant history remains surprisingly occult, by which I mean, concealed, unknown. Here is a small corner, deconstructed at any rate, à la Beer et Seq.

 

 

 

 

From Milk to Milk Stout – Ernest Dichter. Part II.

Ernest Dichter and American Brewing

My Part I included remarks to the American brewing industry in 1962 by the motivational psychologist Dr. Ernest Dichter (1907-1991). They appeared in the New York-based advertising journal, Printers’ Ink.

He suggested brewers fund a study to explore reimagining their beer, which he typed as “somewhere in between soft drinks and hard liquor”. He thought Americans, especially a new generation if given the chance, would welcome a “heavier”, more “European” beer.

Dichter was an Austrian-born Jewish refugee of Hitlerism who had worked professionally in Vienna in the mid-1930s. He advised the dairy industry on milk promotion while still in the country.

By the 1960s he was internationally known for his path-breaking studies of consumer behaviour, which used insights of psychoanalytic theory and sociology.

He put his work in service of the business community to help promote sales and markets. As I will discuss, Dichter had advised individual breweries as a consultant.

Brewers Seeking new Directions

Most brewers reading Dichter in Printers’ Ink probably were bemused, given American brewing had been wedded to pale adjunct lager for almost 100 years. But some were thinking out of the box. One investigated dispensing non-alcohol beer by vending machine, and brewing fruit-flavoured beer.

Anheuser-Busch’s new, shaped bottle for Michelob was featured in the same issue. The item explained A-B hoped to parry import competition with a high-end taste. (To what extent that occurred, given the recipe was revised to include rice, 20% by some reports, is another question).

Earlier I discussed another 1960s brewer, Hamm’s of St. Paul, which sought to marry European and domestic brewing influences. See this ad of the period in Life magazine for Hamm’s Waldech:

Waldech. Possibly the third new taste you are looking for in beer.

Despite such tentative moves American brewing wouldn’t revise its basic conception of beer for another 30 years – and quite possibly it never has, in fact.

Understanding Dichter

A good popular explanation of Dichter’s methods, and why he is remembered today, apart the 2002 film mentioned in Part I, appears from an incisive interview of Dichter in 1970, by Pamela Rothon. It is preserved in the Hagley Digital Archives.

 

 

The clipping containing the article omitted the magazine title, so unfortunately this information is not available. The piece has good colour photos of the pipe-smoking Dichter, at work at his home base in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Not unexpectedly Dichter comes across, indeed by his own words, as a meticulous, driven personality. He spoke five languages, impressive in itself. Notable too was his almost unaccented English, which can be heard in the film.

Rothon stated Dichter had authored thousands of behavioural studies for both large and medium-size companies.

Early Brewery Connections

It seems unlikely Dichter would be interviewed by Printers’ Ink on brewing without prior connections to the industry.

Indeed he had been conducting attitudinal research for different brewers since the 1940s. The Hagley Business Archive lists 27 of his reports, for brewers such as Carling, Goetz, Mexicali, Regal-Amber, and Pabst.

A study from 1956 has been digitized, “A Progress Report of a Motivational Research Study on Falstaff’s Position in the Northern California Beer Market”.

Falstaff Brewing

Falstaff of St. Louis was a brewer of nation-wide scope in this period, with a dozen satellites. During Prohibition it had acquired the Falstaff name from the well-regarded Lemp Brewery in St. Louis, which closed in 1921.

Its fortunes revived after Prohibition due to this strategic purchase. One of its satellites c. 1960 was the ex-Wieland brewery in San Jose, CA, acquired in 1952. It was formerly Pacific Brewing & Malting, and dated back in different incarnations to the 1800s.

In an earlier post I quoted Joe Griesedieck, Sr. of the family that owned Falstaff, from an article he authored in 1963 on the brewing environment. Falstaff was then at the height of its success but facing challenges, some of which he discussed in his remarks.

The fall ended in the mid-1970s when corporate raider Paul Kalmanowitz absorbed Falstaff via his General Brewing in San Francisco.

Dichter’s 1956 Report to Falstaff

I’ll give examples of remarks in Dichter’s report I found of particular interest.

I should say first, he wrote nothing on beer formulation – there is no suggestion to change or improve the product much less refashion it on European lines. That was a deeper, more fundamental issue to be addressed, if at all, at industry level as Dichter recognized in 1962.

Indeed Dichter assumed the opposite case: Falstaff was and would remain a typical American beer, well-made but in practical terms indistinguishable from California competitors such as Lucky Lager and Burgermeister.

Therefore, Dichter examined other factors to improve Falstaff sales in California including its advertising style, tag lines, name and label characteristics, and weaker and stronger demographics. For example, blue collar and minority drinkers tended to favour the brand.

He wrote:

Let your ads talk to the people who are FALSTAFF drinkers – not yachtsmen – people in formal clothes, but down-to-earth people with whom the viewer can identify.

Dichter also suggested more ad spots to attract more women (“Dizzy Dean and the games miss many of the women”). Noting that an interviewee stated Falstaff chilled down particularly well – apparently not all beers did – he suggested an ad campaign based on the line:

“The beer which gets colder”.

When one thinks of the Coors Light “Made to Chill” campaign two years ago, which built on years of success with “cold” marketing, one can appreciate Dichter’s astuteness.

Dichter had doubts about the Falstaff name, noting it connoted ideas of enclosed spaces like the tavern and ale house, whereas the Californian ethos was to appreciate the open air, one way Californians defined themselves.

In a way that must have taken independence of mind to state to his client, he wrote:

WHO IS FALSTAFF?

Unlike Cholly Knick of Knickerbocker Beer or Burgie “The Little Fellow” of Burgermeister beer, FALSTAFF, connected so intimately with FALSTAFF beer, has no outstanding personality.

As a trade symbol he is amorphous, dead, lying in an Elizabethan grave when he could be lively, sparkling — the personification of FALSTAFF beer.

He made suggestions aimed, not at abandoning the name as such in California, but building an active persona for the firm trademark. He cautioned nonetheless:

However, we suggest that FALSTAFF should not be cast in the Shakespearean image, where he is an “epicurean rascal” and where he is associated with English beer, but rather in the role of a jovial, witty good fellow.

Build a new Sir John Falstaff image, “Rotound, jolly, fun loving!”

Dichter advised not to emphasize British associations, not because of any concern with ale vs. lager, but because Californians had a strong sense of their own identity, one based on the pioneering spirit and the outdoors.

An appeal based on foreign ways and styles would not motivate them, he thought.

His report suggests a similar mistrust by Californians even for the American East, of its habits, institutions, ways. Falstaff should not, therefore, expect ad campaigns successful thousands of miles away to have necessarily the same impact in California.

Last Thoughts

While the nation, and the beer business, have changed much since 1956, much has not changed. The brilliance and perceptiveness of Dichter’s work as a whole is evident from this report alone. His eminence to this day in the fields of behavioural psychology and consumer motivation is no surprise.

Note: the source of the images and quotations above is the Hagley Digital Archives as linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

From Milk to Milk Stout – Ernest Dichter. Part I.

Prescience in 1962

Printers’ Ink was a long-running American trade magazine on advertising. Started in the 1880s by New York-based George Rowell, it ended its days finally in 1972, retitled Marketing/Communications.

In 1962 it published a 25-page Special Report on American brewing. Even as it reflects its time, the reportage and analysis are sophisticated, with quality layout and artwork.

One is taken aback at certain moments. Fox Head Brewing in Wisconsin – its beers were entered in 1940s tastings by the Wine and Food Society of New York – planned to sell non-alcohol beer in vending machines. It was also designing a range of fruit-flavoured beers.

A man called Ernest Dichter, head of the Institute of Motivational Research, similarly thought American brewing needed to reimagine beer for an emerging generation (p. 47):

 

 

Only 13-15 years later, the venerable but tiny Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, and New Albion Brewing in Sonoma Valley, a ’70s start-up by an ex-Navy homebrewer, released the kind of beers Dichter foresaw would shake up the industry.

For a long time still mass market brewers didn’t want to know, the same posture that caught Dichter’s attention in 1962.

Anchor and New Albion didn’t shape-shift alone. It took many brewers, publicists, writers, and brewing consultants to create today’s brewing world, where full-flavoured styles abound.

It was largely young consumers who responded to their vision, drinking beers for the most part inspired by European originals – validating an outlier analyst in 1962.

Who was Ernest Dichter? His profile at Wikipedia states in part:

Ernest Dichter (14 August 1907 in Vienna – 21 November 1991 in Peekskill, New York) was an American psychologist and marketing expert known as the “father of motivational research.” Dichter pioneered the application of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts and techniques to business — in particular to the study of consumer behavior in the marketplace. Ideas he established were a significant influence on the practices of the advertising industry in the twentieth century.

He held a doctorate from the University of Vienna in psychology, and had done early work in Vienna on milk-buying habits of consumers. A Jewish refugee, he arrived in America in 1938, in the nick of time.

Dichter was profiled in a 2002 film on motivational research, The Century of Self by British filmmaker Kevin Adam Curtis. This clip on YouTube is most informative. Various experts including Dichter are interviewed.

In 2021 mass market brewers still exist, with ever-lighter beer as a staple. But full-flavoured beer is here to stay, in non-stop variety. Some is even made by the craft units of the selfsame large brewers.

Imports too grew considerably over the last 40 years. The Special Report has a section on them also, noting they bettered domestic beer in growth terms. Even in 1962 that was so, in other words.

Finally, one wonders if Dichter’s background in German Mitteleuropa, with its rich brewing tradition, helped shape the insights he conveyed to Printers Ink. I think it had to, Ja.

Part II concludes this look.

Note: source of excerpt above is linked in the text, via Google Books. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Michelob Over Time: Part VI

Restaurateur/Beer Historian in Upstate New York

Michelob in the days it had a pronounced European character bruited its connoisseur qualities. Then, as now for craft beer and some imports, not everyone could afford to buy such premium taste as often as they liked.

But taste appreciation cuts across social-economic lines, summed up in the old saying, I have Champagne taste but a beer budget (not meant literally in present context). Many find a way still to indulge a special taste.

The true beer fans comprised, and still do, the general category mentioned in my last Part, defined finally by their love for quality malt beverage, not their social, ethnic, or economic classification.

In 1961 as we saw earlier, only 300,000 bbl of Michelob were shipped, against 7,100,000 of Budweiser and 1,100,000 of Busch Bavarian.

That Michelob, draught-only, was thinly spread among bars, restaurants, and clubs, and their wholesale suppliers. Some wanted just a premium name, to increase the prestige of their brand.

Some catered to a particular ethnic market, Polish or German, say. Some catered to a market for which status, or tribal affiliation (arguably the college frats), had primary importance.

But some distributors and bar owners clearly took an extra interest in beer, in its composition, history, variety, and taste characteristics. Like-minded consumers responded commensurately.

This market can be identified by the drinks list, or sometimes the tone of advertising.

Hank’s Tavern between 1935 and 1940 in Cobleskill, New York placed news advertisements unusual for the time, in stressing, at length, the qualities and heritage of Michelob. A brewery might do that to a degree, but it was unusual to see prolonged narrative in retail advertising, especially of a historical nature.

Cobleskill is an old town about 45 miles west of Albany, NY, in Schoharie County. It is not a tourist haunt, stockbroker town, or site of an Ivy League university.

It has had a farming, dairy, and manufacturing base over the years, and was prosperous enough in the mid-1930s to support a local bar-restaurant-dance hall of good quality.

Hank’s was owned by Henry Cooke as a 1935 ad shows:*

 

 

Ads also show he was the first in town to obtain a license to sell liquor, vs. just beer, after Prohibition ended.

His ads mention two beers: Michelob and Ballantine Ale, the latter a nod to New York State’s ale heritage.

Cooke’s ads might discuss Michelob to varying lengths, but this one was the most elaborate I saw, from 1937 in the local paper, Cobleskill Index:

 

 

The part shown is not the whole ad: it stretched the full length of the page (a little faded in the scanning but certainly readable).

It states the beer is “pure malt”, and that years earlier the patriarch of Anheuser-Busch went to the town of Michelob, formerly in the Austrian Empire and by 1937 in Czechoslovakia, to bring back the yeast and formula for Michelob.

This is broadly correct, but for a more complete account, this page in Tombstone Brewery’s website is helpful. Tombstone, in Arizona, last summer issued a replica of Dreher Michelob, hence its assiduous research.

Now, one wonders if a disquisition on Michelob history bemused town residents of F.D.R.’s America more than enlightened them, but who knows?

Cooke had to be a beer enthusiast beyond the norm, or his bar manager was. Why else go to that trouble and expense?** The information imparted likely came from the Michelob distributor, but Cooke still had to be motivated to use it in advertising.

By the 1930s sophisticated distribution facilities existed in the state. As this story (1940) in Glens Falls, further upstate, noted, a distributor there had extensive refrigerated facilities to store and deliver beer in optimum condition.

This was especially important for a delicate product like Michelob. Its fine Saaz character could disappear with indifferent handling, in particular.

Michelob and Ballantine were carried by the Glens Falls distributor, so quite possibly he supplied Cooke. Glens Falls is just 80 miles away. His 10-truck fleet could easily traverse that distance.

Or if not from Glens Falls, a similar distributor in the state capitol of Albany likely supplied Cooke. The Glens Falls company, according to the 1940 story, was one of a number in the state with similar facilities.

Early beer writer James D. Robertson, in his 1978 The Great American Beer Book, wrote (p. 45):

The youthful beer drinkers of the late 1940s and 1950s would often travel to another town where Michelob was available.

Hank’s Tavern was such a place, clearly. If you lived in Champlain, New York and there was no Michelob, you might hop in the Ford with a friend for a 15-mile jaunt.

Finally, re-emphasizing my initial point, there was nothing obviously ethnic about Hank’s – it had no German-American character, for example.

It offered a daily special of spaghetti and meat balls, mentioned somewhat incongruously at the foot of the 1937 ad. But Cooke is not an Italian name. Spaghetti was good old American eating by the 1930s.

No, Cooke just wanted to carry the best lager and ale he could find, because he knew that would resonate with many regardless of their background. He catered to the beer lover, end of story.

The next part will cover another beer haunt, of different type and locale, but sharing the trait of appealing to the beer-aware market.

….

*Some ads stated it was across the city parking lot. A Google Street view shows the likely site. The double doors and window style of the red building suggest a restaurant or club at one time.

**Unless possibly the distributor or brewery paid for it.