Session #112: The Secondary Beer Economy — Bought the T-Shirt

This month Carla Jean Lauter asks us to consider all those businesses that aren’t breweries but that support or surround the brewing industry.

Her announcement of the topic opens with this eyebrow-raising statement:

Last year, the total economic impact of the beer brewing industry in the state of Maine was approaching the same scale as the lobster industry. Let that sink in for a second.

What leaps out at us from Ms. Lauter’s post is the omission of pubs and off licences (bottle shops) which are not (usually) breweries but are a considerable step up in terms of fundamental importance from some of the examples she gives, e.g. a firm that makes fancy bottle-openers.

And that’s one way of cutting this:

  1. Businesses that are essential to drinking beer.
  2. Those that can enhance the enjoyment of beer.
  3. Parasitic businesses that add little or nothing.

Tempting as it is to spend the entire post ripping into number three — all the press releases we get about beer-flavoured soaps — we’re going to focus on something we think belongs in that middle section, even if at first glance it might seem classically parasitic: T-shirts and hats and the like.

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GALLERY: Beer Ads From the New Elizabethan Era, 1951-1953

We’ve been collecting these beer advertisements from booklets and magazines published in the celebratory period from the 1951 Festival of Britain to the Coronation in 1953 and, though we’ve shared the odd one on Twitter before, thought we ought to collect them in one place.

A ten-sided pint glass on an inn-sign: "A health unto Her Majesty".
SOURCE: Illustrated magazine, Coronation souvenir issue, 13 June 1953.

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Boddington’s Pump Clips, 1963

Macro shot of Boddington's logo on old paper.

Here’s a little detail that caught our eye in the Boddington’s Brewery board minute books, from August 1963: an order for pump clips.

Advertising — Pump Clips.

It was decided to place an order with Nightingale Signs Ltd for 5000 Pump Clips, yellow barrel design, at 3 and 4 each, to be apportioned as follows:-

2500 Bitter Beer
1250 Best Mild
1250 Mild

We didn’t notice any earlier reference to pump clips in these documents, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any — we had half a day to read the lot and might have just missed them. And even if this is the first mention of pump clips, it might just be that no-one bothered to write it down before this point.

But, still, our gut feeling is that this was recorded precisely because it was the first time — it was something new for Boddington’s, and literally remarkable.

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Infantile?

Label for Partizan X ale w. crossed dinosaurs.
Art by Alec Doherty. SOURCE: Partizan Brewing Archive.

We’re working on an article about mild in the 21st century, research for which prompted this statement in an email from Andy Smith at Partizan:

The beer was originally simply called mild… We then decided to rebrand as X… This worked OK but not as well as we’d hoped. It was at this stage we put dinosaurs on the label and sales rocketed! I kid you not. It sells as well if not better now as our other dark beers. Dinosaurs! Now we spend our weekends hearing how cute the dinosaurs are (recently changed) and  answering the question what is X?

That’s funny, of course, but also made us think, ‘Huh. So craft beer drinkers are like children?’

We’ve observed before, as has almost everyone else who’s written a tedious think-piece on the subject, that craft beer in cans has been successful partly because they are tactile and colourful, bright and toy-like. Beavertown Brewery’s cartoon-laden designs in particular suggest material for an (admittedly slightly weird) animated series and also make them look like a bit like soft drinks. (Gamma Ray more so than this example we have at hand.)

Beavertown Smog Rocket design.
Art by Nick Dwyer. Source: Beavertown Brewery.

And sometimes, with fruit and residual sweetness and novelty flavourings and higher carbonation, the hippest beers can taste a bit like soft drinks too.

Of course we checked ourselves fairly promptly: one person’s infantile is, of course, another person’s fun, and we understand that you humans enjoy this emotion fun is good.

And even if it is infantile, is that a bad thing? One key reason people drink is to reduce the pressures of adult life and the pub is where grown-ups go to play.

This is a question we’re going to have in mind from now on, though, especially when we find ourselves considering the generation gap between real ale culture and craft beer. (Def 2.)

‘Saucy’ Beer Names

Saucy beer names — Dirty Tackle, Piddle Slasher, Old Slapper — are a bit of fun to some, off-putting to others, and either way are another battleground for debates over ‘political correctness’, censorship, good taste and sexism.

We’ve been keeping notes for years, now, trying to work out how they came to be so common in British brewing in particular.

(Though America also has them (Old Leghumper) as does Belgium (Mad Bitch) and they also seem to crop up elsewhere on occasion.)

To have saucy beer names, you need to have beer names — that is, other than in this format:

The 1966 Brewery Manual contains a reference list of trademarked brand names. It’s not comprehensive, Ron Pattinson tells us, but it’s still a good starting point: of the 650 or so provided none are outright filthy and only about ten provide anything for a bar-room wag to get a snigger out of with enough mugging and winking, e.g. Big Horn, Cock o’ the North, ‘I’ll take a Mild Maid please!’ (And it had apparently not even occurred to anyone that there was fun to be had with ‘Blonde’ — no beers are listed.)

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