I don’t like beer all that much.
Oh, on a hot day after mowing the yard or playing a round of golf, a beer is pretty refreshing..but usually, one or, if it’s really hot outside, two is enough. I have lots of friends who really love beer and plenty of it but if I were to partake on their level I’d be spending most of my time in the toity or trying to conjure up a giant belch to rid myself of the uncomfortable effervescence attempting desperately to escape from my ample abdomen one way or another.
Funny, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to buy my first beer legally. It was at the Volga Pool Hall on my 18th birthday; a 15 cent tap. I remember thinking it didn’t taste any better than the illegal sips I’d tried up to then. It’s an acquired taste, I decided, but also felt a little betrayed by all the announcers on KELO TV; the only channel we got. Brewers picked up a big part of the tab for evening newscasts and KELO on-air personnel were required to do beer commercials LIVE. They did an amazing job making me want to try a beer so bad I could taste it. Sports director, Jim Burt, for example, would hold up a frosty glass of Hamms and tell us how crisp and clean cut it was: “Refreshingly yours from the land of sky blue waters.”
One of Keloland’s first weather men, Gene Piaat, spent at least two minutes during his weather segments touting the wonders of Grain Belt, “America’s Party Beer.”
Bill Rohn’s weekend sports was sponsored by Storz Beer, “light, dry and smooth.”
I don’t know when or why local TV personalities stopped being pitchmen for the breweries. Maybe it’s because they made it sound a bit too appealing to thirsty little kids like me watching at home.
I must have done a dozen stories about beer during my reporting days. I remember featuring a guy in Southwest Minnesota in 1976 who started collecting cans of Billy Beer..named after President Carter’s beer swilling little brother whose very public drinking binges were legendary and an embarrassment to the White House. I hear the beer wasn’t very good and the cans really aren’t worth much to collectors or on ebay.
In 1980, I did a story with a local distributor who had laid in stacks and stacks of beer named after J.R. Ewing, the character on the TV show, Dallas. J.R. was the subject of a summer-long TV cliffhanger in which the audience was left to wonder who had shot him in the final episode.
Anyway, Pearl Brewing Company in San Antonio decided to cash in on the “Who shot J.R.” phenomenon and blend up a beer for all the Dallas fans.
I wasn’t a fan but I bought a six pack anyway thinking it might someday be worth something. It isn’t.,.and, after 35 years, it still sits unopened on display in my basement. Maybe I should just pop open a few cans after I mow next spring..or do you suppose that some of the golden deliciousness might have disappeared in 3 decades?
One person who came real close to making me a beer convert, was Maureen Ogle..an author from Iowa who was in Sioux Falls promoting her latest book called “Ambitious Brew,” an ambitious project chronicling the history of American beer.
She’d done a lot of research and over a beer after our interview she explained to me how conventional wisdom has it that giant breweries, driven by corporate greed, have flooded the U.S. with inferior-tasting swill, and the only beer worth drinking is from scattered boutique microbrewers. Ogle doesn’t buy that and says companies like Miller and Anheuser-Busch are actually near-perfect embodiments of the American dream (in which “liberty nurtured ambition, and ambition fostered success”)—and if their beers became noticeably blander 50 years ago, it’s because consumers wanted it that way. She even compared beer to wine in that various varieties can and should be explored to best complement a meal. “So it’s not just good with pizza and hot dogs then?” I asked. “Heavens no.” She said.
After I started working at Keloland TV in 1974, I remember asking Jim Burt about those live Hamms Beer commercials. Of course I was curious about what happened to that freshly poured frosty glass. “It wasn’t very fresh after sitting under the hot lights for a half hour” he said. “I wasn’t all that tempted to take a sip but usually one or more of the cameramen would make sure it disappeared after the show. Cold or warm, it didn’t matter to them” he laughed.
Back then, consumption of alcohol on TV commercials was prohibited by the “Television Code”..a code that’s long since gone the way of the dinosaurs but, for some reason, still followed by the broadcast networks. That’s right, the networks which have raised the bar so high that just about anything can be shown or said in prime time programs, doesn’t want booze..be it beer or the hard stuff..to be consumed during the product’s commercial.
Years ago, actor Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame, did a very funny commercial for the most popular beer of his homeland, Australia poking fun at the look but don’t sip rule of American TV.
More recently, Neil Patrick Harris did a little humorous lampooning in a Heineken ad.
Well, all this talk of drinking beer has made me a might thirsty. I think there’s a can of Coors left over from Christmas in the fridge. Wait, it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning. Ah, what the heck..I’m retired.
I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. Cheers!