Q&A: Who Started Branding Glassware, When, and Why?

I’m interested in the history of the branded beer glass in pubs. Any idea when it came about, who started it and why?’ Mark Dredge

Oof. This turned out to be too big a ques­tion for us. Mark orig­i­nal­ly asked back in Decem­ber and we’ve been try­ing, on and off, with some effort, to find a defin­i­tive answer since then.

We did­n’t get one.

In the hope that some­one out there knows, or might fan­cy doing some research them­selves, here’s what we have learned.

1. Britain

In his mono­graph Pub Beer Mugs and Glass­es (2007) Hugh Rock includes pho­tographs of a vast range of antique British beer drink­ing ves­sels. There are sev­er­al late Vic­to­ri­an earth­en­ware mugs bear­ing the names of pubs (to help pre­vent theft, pre­sum­ably); and a cou­ple of glass­es from around 1890 etched with what appear to be beer or brew­ery names. But the ear­li­est exam­ples of what we would recog­nise as mass-pro­duced brand­ed glass­ware, with colour logos, date from as late as the 1960s.

Print adver­tise­ments from the 1950s, even for heav­i­ly mar­ket­ed nation­al brands, show them in plain glass­es – sure­ly if there were print­ed glass­es with logos avail­able, they’d have used them for this, if not actu­al­ly in the pub?

Details from 1953 print ads for Whitbread Pale Ale and Double Diamond.

Andrew Camp­bel­l’s 1956 The Book of Beer has a very sub­stan­tial sec­tion on beer glass­es but he makes no men­tion of logo-brand­ed glass­ware.

We did find a 1960 ad for SKOL lager fea­tur­ing a glass with a logo, though, and this 1966 adver­tise­ment is the ear­li­est we’ve found from Wat­ney’s fea­tur­ing a brand­ed glass, on the far left:

Watney's 1966 ad with a line of beers next to their cans and bottles.

So we reck­on it’s safe to say that, even if there were odd exam­ples ear­li­er in the cen­tu­ry, this prac­tice real­ly got going under the rule of the Big Six (or Sev­en) – Guin­ness, Wat­ney’s, Whit­bread et al – in the 1960s when the mar­ket­ing of cer­tain bot­tled and keg beers real­ly stepped up, and they attempt­ed to dis­tin­guish oth­er­wise very sim­i­lar prod­ucts using cus­tom-designed glass­ware. (See also: pump-clips.)

2. The USA

But what about the US? There, exam­ples of brand­ed glass­ware can be found in adver­tise­ments for big brands much ear­li­er, e.g. this for Bud­weis­er from 1937:


Detail from 1937 Budweiser advertisement.


And US mag­a­zine Col­lec­tor’s Week­ly sug­gests that, actu­al­ly, the prac­tice may have tak­en off even before that:

Dur­ing the 1880s, as brew­eries expand­ed and pas­teur­iza­tion allowed them to send prod­ucts longer dis­tances, beer-glass adver­tis­ing became pop­u­lar. A few of these ear­ly adver­tis­ing glass­es used col­or-embossed logos, but most relied on an acid-etch­ing silkscreen process… Once alco­hol was legal­ized again in the 1930s, glass­ware designed for beer was often col­or­ful­ly paint­ed with a brewery’s name and com­pa­ny slo­gan, such as “Walter’s Beer tastes bet­ter” or “Arrow 77: It Hits the Spot.”

We emailed the Amer­i­can Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Brew­e­ri­ana Adver­tis­ing to see if any­one there might have more defin­i­tive infor­ma­tion. George Baley put the ques­tion to the Asso­ci­a­tion’s board whose respons­es includ­ed the fol­low­ing from Don­ald Roussin:

I do not know who was first but hav­ing gone thru every issue of Amer­i­can Brew­er and West­ern Brew­er on file in the Anheuser-Busch cor­po­rate library (the lat­ter of which goes back to the ear­ly 1870s) I don’t remem­ber see­ing a trade ad for glass­es until the late 1870s… The ear­li­est glass I know about is from Anheuser-Busch. It is a gob­let style, and is sim­ply embossed with ‘Anheuser-Busch’.  This glass is gen­er­al­ly dat­ed in col­lec­tor cir­cles as being pro­duced in the 1876–1880 peri­od.

3. Continental Europe

Which left us with anoth­er ques­tion: might Amer­i­can brew­ers of Ger­man ori­gin have got the idea from the Old Coun­try?

Here, unfor­tu­nate­ly, we drew almost a com­plete blank. Emails weren’t answered, col­lec­tors’ web­sites are gen­er­al­ly infor­ma­tion-light, lan­guage bar­ri­ers notwith­stand­ing. Most of the col­lec­tions of dec­o­rat­ed beer glass­es we could find online, how­ev­er, date the ear­li­est exam­ples of what we would recog­nise as brand­ed glass­ware to around 1900. This Aus­tri­an beer glass col­lec­tor’s web­site says (our very loose trans­la­tion):

Beer glass­es were first used as an adver­tis­ing medi­um from the turn of the cen­tu­ry. Until then, beer was not trans­port­ed far and was drunk only with­in the close vicin­i­ty of the brew­ery. Only when beer began to be stored and trans­port­ed did brew­eries begin apply­ing brand­ing to dis­tin­guish one beer from anoth­er.

4. Provisional Conclusions

Brand­ed beer glass­es are prob­a­bly an Amer­i­can inven­tion, and prob­a­bly date back to the 1870s and, until some­one con­vinces us oth­er­wise, we’re giv­ing Anheuser-Busch the cred­it.

Now prove us wrong.

20 thoughts on “Q&A: Who Started Branding Glassware, When, and Why?”

  1. Have you looked at Mar­tyn Cornell’s Beer Mem­o­ra­bil­ia from 2000, that might have some answers.

  2. The when is for his­to­ri­ans. The why is fair­ly obvi­ous I’d of guessed. It rein­forces brand­ing in the over­all cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. By rein­forc­ing brand­ing more peo­ple choose a brand and ask for that brand rather than just ask for lager or bit­ter.

  3. I do know that Walk­ers Brew­ery had just one word, their name ‘Walk­ers’, etched on their glass­es in the 1960s. I have at least one, a Baby­cham-shaped glass, which was­n’t pinched: the licensee, my uncle, gave it to my moth­er.

    1. That’s inter­est­ing and adds to the sense that, for British brew­eries, all these bright­ly coloured logos and mar­ket­ing gew­gaws were a bit frowned upon until rel­a­tive­ly late in the cen­tu­ry.

    1. They’re cer­tain­ly very into them now but we could­n’t find any evi­dence that they pio­neered the idea. Most vin­tage ads we could find showed plain glass­ware up until (guess­work because most aren’t well labelled) the 1920 or 30s. One Bel­gian glass col­lec­tor quot­ed online has two glass­es dat­ing back to ‘the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry’, which is pret­ty vague.

  4. If AB invent­ed the brand­ed glass­ware, would it be un-craft to brand one’s own glass­es then? Ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty and all that stuff.

    1. As it hap­pens, we had an email from the archivist at Guin­ness, Eibh­lin Col­gan, who says the first brand­ed glass­es were intro­duced in the 1950s but not dis­trib­uted wide­ly. They intro­duced the ‘Water­ford’ tankard with logo in 1964 (Ire­land) and 1965 (UK).

  5. It’s not as ear­ly as the Amer­i­can or Bel­gian exam­ples, but does­n’t John Mills drink from a brand­ed Carls­berg glass at the end of “Ice Cold in Alex”? I guess that would have been unusu­al to a British audi­ence when the film was released in 1958.

    1. Just checked – he does! Good spot. Cer­tain­ly in line with the idea that Con­ti­nen­tal brew­eries got there before us.

    1. You’d think so would­n’t you but, again, plain glass­es in ads up until (off top of my head) the 1960s, and no antique spec­i­mens turned up online or in books we looked at.

  6. There’s a big dif­fer­ence between stan­dard glass­es car­ry­ing brew­ers’ brand­ing, and glass­es with a dis­tinc­tive brand-spe­cif­ic design.

  7. Here’s some good ones from U.S. for cir­ca-1900. I like the Edel­weiss one at the bot­tom. http://www.ebay.com/sch/Pre-Prohibition-Beer-Collectibles/568/bn_2310385/i.html

    I think the old ones were bet­ter than today’s where the blotchy labels cov­er a lot of the glass and you can’t see the colour or move­ment of the fizz, etc. Takes half the enjoy­ment away. Odd­ly per­haps, I don’t mind Ger­man brand­ed glass­es, maybe because the beer often is so good. But oth­er­wise much pre­fer the plain sleeve or shak­er glass.


  8. I have a cou­ple of brand­ed tulip lager glass­es for Bar­clays Pil­sner (with Dr John­son on) which can­not be lat­er than 1963, when Courage stopped lager brew­ing at the South­wark brew­ery and put all its weight behind the new Harp brand, brewed at Alton. How­ev­er, it’s quite pos­si­ble these were made for the export and pas­sen­ger ship mar­ket: Bar­clays Pil­sner was a big “ships” brand.

    1. Some updates:

      Yes­ter­day we found, in a Whit­bread press clip­pings book at the Lon­don Met­ro­pol­i­tan Archive, a 1954 All­sop’s lager ad fea­tur­ing a brand­ed glass, for what that’s worth.

      And anoth­er flick through David Hugh­es’s A Bot­tle of Guin­ness, Please yields (on p.159) an 1894 ad for Robert Porter Bull Dog brand porter with what looks like engraved logo-bear­ing glass­ware. (But that’s pret­ty much in line with what we’d gleaned from Hugh Rock­’s book.)

  9. I’ve just found a GR marked half pint Cals­berg tankard in my col­lec­tion so must be pre 1953. Also gave my uncle Gra­ham a Gra­ham’s Gold­en Lager glass. It was rebrand­ed Skol in 1959, so pre then.

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