Hilarious take on innovations in can design.
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Who knew that the movie Smokey and the Bandit was about beer? I didn’t, and neither did Boing Boing author Maggie Koerth-Baker, who, for some reason, was curious enough about the movie to find out.
So last night, while attempting to explain the plot of Smokey and the Bandit to my husband, it occurred to me that I didn’t really understand the back story that spawned this, one of my favorite childhood films. Why did Bandit and Snowman (and Fred) have a long way to go and a short time to get there? There was beer in most parts of Georgia by the 1970s. And even if you were trying to get booze to a dry county, why start in Texas and only give yourself 28 hours?
Thanks to Wikipedia and the very helpful Stephan Zielinski, I discovered the awful truth—Smokey and the Bandit is centered around America’s brief love affair with Coors Banquet Beer.
All that work, for Coors? It’s true. Wikipedia explained that the beer wasn’t available East of Oklahoma at the time. But I didn’t get the full extent of what was really going on until I read a 1974 Time magazine article sent to me by Zielinski. If, like me, you didn’t begin drinking until the late 1990s, this is going to come as a shock, but, once upon a time, Coors was apparently the best American breweries had to offer.
She goes on to excerpt the article from Time, which mentions that Presidents Ford and Eisenhower, along with Paul Newman, loved the stuff. It turns out that there were real bandits, and since the unpasteurized Banquet Beer was only available in the west, near the Coors brewery in Colorado, those on the east coast who wanted it, and particularly those who wanted it in a dry county in Georgia, had to get it off a refrigerated truck. Coors Banquet Beer, coming long before the craft beer movement, was the first of its kind.
TripAdvisor has compiled and released a list of what they think are the top 10 brewery tours in America. I’m sure you will probably disagree with at least some, which are heavy on the industrial and very large craft brewery side of things.
Here’s the list:
- Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour, Saint Louis, Missouri
- Samuel Adams Brewery, Boston, Massachusetts
- Coors Brewery, Golden, Colorado
- Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
- Stone Brewery, Escondido, California
- Terrapin Brew Company, Athens, Georgia
- Harpoon Brewery / Mass Bay Brewing Co., Boston, Massachusetts
- New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado
- Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Missouri
It’s fair to think that seeing an Anheuser Busch or Coors brewery may not be great once you get to the tasting room, but I actually think it would be interesting. Maybe not top-three interesting, but probably somewhere on the list.
Coors is set to launch a beer called Batch 19, a beer brewed on a pre-prohibition recipe that may well be a bigger part of the beer than the taste.
Marino said Keith Villa, a master brewer at MillerCoors’ brewery in Golden, Colo., discovered the recipe six years ago when Villa helped rescue archival records from the brewery’s flooded basement. Villa was intrigued by the recipes that the company used before Prohibition and decided to make them. Batch 19 contains 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, compared with Miller Lite or Bud Lite’s 4 percent to 5 percent, and is made with two types of hops rarely used today — strisselspalt and hersbrucker.
They’re launching in a few test markets around the country, one of which happens to be DC, and one of the four locations in the city that will carry it, former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn’s “We, the Pizza”, is fortunately within a few blocks of my apartment (but isn’t even open yet). I’m absolutely going to track it down, if only because the $5-$7 it will cost me for a glass seems like a worthy investment, even if the beer is outright bad.
The idea of vintage beer is incredibly interesting, but will likely fail in comparison to today’s experimental, scientifically-understood microbrews. Colonial-era beer has been a personal fascination of mine, and homebrewing it seems like a worth-while experiment, but I’m skeptical that hundred year-old recipes will find a home in today’s market. If you’ve ever had something like Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch, you know how well ancient beers hold up — I’d much rather drink one of Dogfish’s other modern beers, but bought it just because Midas had an interesting story behind it.
I think vintage beer has a place in today’s craft beer market not as a literal translation of something that died out — whether because of prohibition or other reasons — but as a modern interpretation of an outdated idea. It’s like building an art-deco building with millennium-era construction techniques — an homage to the aesthetic, but not recycling the blueprints. Using something like strisselspalt or hersbrucker hops (which I hadn’t heard of until Batch 19), a brewer could pay tribute to the idea of a past recipe even by including them in an IPA.
In that way, a long-lost recipe doesn’t have to be lost again because it can’t find market share against today’s better beers; it can live on through them, and help brewers use the history of beer to move beyond the innovations of the past 20-30 years.
Flickr user Roadsidepictures has assembled a fantastic collection of “old” advertising, a lot of which contains vintage beer ads and package designs. It’s great to look back at some of this stuff, which makes you remember just how narrow beer choices have been for decades. Almost everything there is some type of light American lager, a history written by Pabst, Coors, and Budweiser.
I also couldn’t help but think that if I were starting a microbrewery today, I’d seriously consider reviving and old brand instead of trying to come up with a clever brewery name. I know Buckeye Beer in Ohio has worked to do just that, but the flagship product is unfortunately sub-par and tastes like it probably did in 1972.
Below are a few of my personal favorites, but you can check out all the beer-related photos right here.