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Nov 28, 2007 12:31 PM

Beer of the 1960's

Anyone know what beers were popular in the 1960's?

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  1. You can get an idea from the top ten brewers, 1960 & 1970, listed here

    Note that the top ten in 1960 had about the same market share that Anheuser-Busch has today- about 1/2. So that left a lot of strong regional beers making up the rest of the market. Today, the top 4 (A-B, Miller, Coors, Pabst) control about 80% of the market- with the two biggest "second tier" brewers (Yuengling & Boston/Sam Adams) having less than 1% of the market each.

    Also, at the the time imports had very little market share- the number I recall in the 1970's was around 2%- it's about 12.5% today- with InBev, Modelo (Corona), Heineken and Diageo (Guinness) all selling more beer in the US than all but the top 4 US brewers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JessKidden

      Beer choice and quality is much better now than in the 60s. The 60s could have very well been the low point. Even the regionals as I remember did not generally make a quality brew. But now with the advent of craft brews, microbrews, brewpubs and home brews I think most brewerys have stepped up their game (but not all).

      I'm old enough to know because I drank the stuff back then. :)

      1. re: Davydd

        Yeah, I agree, in the US we are living in a golden age of brewing and beer style availability. But that's not what the OP asked about.

        I have no problem discussing US brewing history (especially as I drink a Victory Hop Wallop, as I am doing now...<g>).

    2. Ballantine and Schaeffer's, NYC. In fact, my grandmother used to shampoo her hair with beer.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nickdanger

        "My grandmother used to shampoo her hair with beer."

        So *that's* what happened to all the local and regional breweries in the US! They weren't done in by competition from Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors- it was Breck and "Head and Shoulders"! <g> Altho', as I recall it, wasn't beer used more as a thickener-body enhancer than an actual shampoo/cleanser? I recall women using it as a setting agent, more or less a "liquid mousse"- dipping a comb in a glass of beer, combing the hair into a particular style and letting it dry- the beer stiffening the hair much as hair spray, gel or mousse is used today. (And, yeah, the scent of it drove the guys MAD with desire. If you ever wondered what grandpa saw it grandma, this should explain things to you....).

        Schaefer and Ballantine were both pretty much regional brands, limited to the northeast/east coast markets (tho' Ballantine XXX Ale was a nationally distributed product).

        Since the OP seems to be from the mid-West, MN in particular, in 1965 the brewers with the largest market share in that state were Grain Belt (28%), Schmidt (15%) and Hamm (27%). A-B, Schlitz and Pabst (the Big 3 of the time) each had only 2-3% of the market, as did Heileman (the mid-West powerhouse that would soon own two of the those three MN brewers). Hamm stayed independent until the late 70's, when it, too, was bought, in their case, by Pabst. (Figures from the FTC).

        1. re: nickdanger

          Man! Didntja ever go to a Mets game in the 60's? When an error was made there was a flashing light on the score board advert. and the announcer would boom out over the stadium,"AND THE BIG "E" LIGHTS UP ON THE REINGOLD SIGN! Reingold was the newyawk beer as surely as Schmidt's of Philadelphia was to Philly.
          Now a Ballentine Chuga Mug, that was a different matter!

        2. Brews were a bit more regional back then. A-B, Miller, Pabst were big nationwide but in Cincinnati where I went to college it was Hudepohl, Schoenling, and Wiedemann. In Indianapolis 110 miles away you could not get Hudepohl and Schoenling. Schlitz was big in Indianapolis and unavailable in Cincinnati. Coors was unavailable in both. When I arrived in Minneapolis in 1970 outstate was Grainbelt territory. The Cities was Hamms and Schmidts. You were hard pressed to find a Leinenkugels brewed just 100 miles away. That's my youthful impression.

          1. This may not be completely on topic but what the heck. Would it be safe to assume that beer outside of the US has become more consolidated since the 60s? And therefore beer drinking outside the US would have been much more interesting and exciting then than now?


            3 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              Well, the great beer nations all had different origins and beer cultures, so while one can't really generalize too much about their markets today, I think it's safe to say that all of them have suffered from "consolidation" in the last half century. Canada's "Big 3" is down to 2, Molson (having absorbed the old Carling O'Keefe) and Labatt and are both owned by foreign concerns. The upstart Sleeman's is also now foreign owned, Saporo having bought that "reborn" brewing company. Where once US beers had no market at all north of the border, now locally contracted version are among the best sellers. (The top 10 in Ontario include Bud and Bud Light (from Labatt) and Coors Light (from Molson).

              What used to be the Big Six of British brewing- Allied, Courage, Whitbread, Scottish and Newcastle, Bass, and Watneys- is all but gone- S&N the only locally owned one left. Locally made Budweiser is one of the best selling beers in the UK today, as is the UK-brewed version of Stella Artois.

              Germany's been losing breweries (something like half of all Bavarian breweries since the 50's are gone IIRC) and a quite a few are now owned by several giant conglomerates (several of which have also merged), both German and International InBev, for example, owns Spaten, Lowenbrau, Becks, St. Pauli Girl, Franziskaner, Diebels, etc. and last I heard has the largest share of the German market, tho' it's still a small percentage by US measures. But, the German market is still very local and no one brand/brewery really dominates the way A-B does in the US.

              As for beer itself, many local styles are slowly dying (if not dead) and "international light lager" increases it's dominance in most markets. Real ale, for instance, the US Anglophile beer drinkers holy grail, only accounts for 10% of UK sales. Berliner Weisse is brewed by only one company for the German market. Porter had all but died out in the UK and several of the British porters we get don't here aren't marketed in their home market (Samuel Smith's Porter used to be such an example).

              In some ways, the imports we get now give us in the US a warped view of others' beer markets- where once we got merely the big "lowest common denominator" beer (in some cases, not even a true local product- like the for export only "St. Pauli Girl") we now get many of the small regional styles (some which may not even be nationally distributed in their home country) and looking at the shelves here it doesn't really give one an idea of what beers are truey popular in another country. Pretty sure "pilsners" far and away accounts for most of the beer sold in Belgian, for example, despite all the great styles they brew. It's safe to say, that for many foreign brewers the US market is very important to their total sales (even if the "specialty" beer market is a tiny percentage of the US total market). The "rebirth" of beers like Samichlaus and Thomas Hardy's was dependent on the US sales -in Hardy's case, IIRC, it was driven by the US importer, Phoenix.

              1. re: JessKidden

                Interesting exposition. Since you are the maven, and alluded to this in a previous post, which foreign beers are "for export only"? I have wondered about the now ubiquitous Stella, for example, and will we ever see Amstel, not Amstel Light? Not that I have a burning desire for that brand, but I remember carrying an Amstel back from Aruba as a museum piece.

                1. re: nickdanger

                  There have been numerous imported beers that are noted to be "brewed to local tastes" or some other euphemism to suggest that the beer we get in the US isn't the same as in it's home country. For the most part (and for obvious marketing reasons) it's not often noted as such in advertising altho' there was an interview with a brewmaster recently who, refreshingly, admitted it "We couldn't very well market a "less than 4%" beer in America". (Damn, can't recall the beer now, possibly Smithwicks?) So, while I usually like to deal only in facts, I'll do a little rumor mongering, as well...

                  As noted in the Bass thread, Bass is a well-known example, as was Moosehead Lager (circa 1970-80) which didn't even exist in Canada at the time.

                  Mackeson Stout (when it was still from the UK) exported to the US was much higher in ABV than the old domestic version was.

                  A number of German brands have been rumored to have different recipes for export and local beers (the Reinheitsgebot, the story went, didn't apply to beers brewed for export, save in the state of Bavaria) and St. Pauli Girl (from the Beck's brewery) was pretty much created for the US market.

                  Then there's Guinness, of course, with it's 17 (or is it 19?) different stouts.

                  Heineken had a number of breweries in Holland (they've since closed the big Amsterdam one IIRC), one of which brewed almost exclusively for export to the US- at least, so it was said- and it was always "suspected" the beer was "lightened" for export. Heineken did contain rice for a time, altho' I think all the versions switched to an all malt recipe at the same time a few years back. (Altho' I've always said that the big difference was the use of the brown bottle in the home market - the same explanation for "Molson tastes different in Canada"- "Yeah, it's not lightstruck!")

                  Amstel was once available in the US, but the company was bought by Heineken in the 1960's. Both Heineken and the long-time US importer, Van Munching, were both very conservative companies and decided to withdraw the brand from the US market in order to not "cannabilize" it's own market. (Heineken was the #1 import in the US from Repeal until the rise of Corona in the 1980's). The same fear of "cannabilizing" the market came up when the "light/lite" beer craze hit, when every major US brand had a "Light" version, so Van Munching & Heineken decided on using the old "Amstel" brand for their light beer entry- and it worked for them, since "Amstel Light" had long been the only "light" beer in the Top 10 imports and few drinkers know it's a Heineken brand (which, despite it's long run as #1 and #2 import, has as many detractors as fans, it seems. Light struck beer will do that, I guess.) Note that the recent "Heineken Light" beer only came about after Heineken bought Van Munching and turned it into "Heineken USA" and HL has, supposedly, stolen sales from Amstel Light.

            2. In Baltimore and environs, the beer was National Bohemian, affectionately known as "Natty Boh." Its ads touted that it was "From the land of pleasant living" and also that it was "brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay." I remember really strange animated commercials featuring Lord Baltimore, as well as some dancing crabs and oysters. Ah, life was much simpler then.