“Beer Stuff"

Drinking beer is a pleasure actively pursued by millions.
The “beverage of moderation” has served a valuable
purpose in quenching thirst, steadying nerves, inspiring
song fests, building up courage, fortifying sides in an
argument, and reducing stress, to name a few. (True,
there are downsides such as losing driver’s licenses and
gaining waistlines, but this an article about the
POSITIVE aspects of our favorite drink).

However, while actual consumption of beer is the
foremost reason for its existence, the brewing industry
has contributed to American culture and nostalgia in
many more diverse ways through its advertising
strategies. I can think of no other single American
product that has so many varied and novel ways to get
a company’s name before the public.  

Madison Avenue jingles are the most evident example
(Schaefer …is the…one beer to have….when you’re
having more than one!, eg.) but many more practical
advertising ploys have been used over the years and
have generated a whole new cottage industry: the
searching for and collection of beer related items,
popularly known as “breweriana”.

In addition to the bottles, labels, caps and cans that
every beer drinker automatically obtains when he
purchases beer to be consumed at home, there are
scores of other items which have been used for over a
hundred years to promote brewery or brand name
recognition: serving trays, glassware, advertising signs ,
bottle and can openers, foam scrapers, match book
covers, articles of clothing and head gear, tip trays,
calendars, rulers, coasters and coaster holders, place
mats, switch plates, clocks, postcards, lamps, record
albums, sports team schedules, swizzle stick holders,
statuary, beer koozies, coins, wooden cases, tap
handles, and  salt and pepper shakers, all of which had
very practical household uses in addition to keeping the
brewer’s name in front of your eyes. Beer truck driver’s
uniform patches, toy trucks and model railroad cars
have also proudly displayed the name of a brewing
company. Perhaps Rogue Brewing Company outdoes
them all by distributing Rogue Ale condoms. Hopefully,
however, the practicality of this item is on a one time
only use basis and the brewery’s name is only viewed by
two people at a time.

Many breweriana collectors have beautiful collections
worth thousands and thousands of dollars and which
are worthy of display in museums of American
memorabilia. Magazines put out by collectors’
associations feature articles and beautiful pictorials
highlighting collectible items of breweriana and histories
of the breweries that issued them.

Businesses dealing exclusively in beer antiquity exist
both traditionally and on line. Any serious collector can
visit an on line breweriana website and find almost
anything he wants if he is willing to pay the price, but as
the title of this article suggests, the average beer guy is
more into beer “stuff”. By this I mean items of a beer
related nature that he just finds in his daily routine.
Grabbing some new coasters off a bar, finding a
Stegmaier stein at a garage sale, tripping over an old
Ballantine wooden case while inspecting a basement, or
even stuffing promotional literature into a bag while
attending a beer festival are wonderful ways to begin a
sizeable collection of beer “stuff” that anybody other
than a beer guy would think is merely junk. To be sure,
valuable items such as vintage trays and coasters can
also be found this way, and the pleasure of doing so is
greatly enhanced by the fact that little or nothing was
paid for them.

Over the years I have amassed thousands of coasters,
labels, caps and cans, and hundreds of openers, trays
and glasses for relatively very little outlay and which
have given me hours of pleasure organizing, sorting and
reminiscing about where I obtained them (always while
having a brew, of course).

Recently, another pleasure was giving almost a
thousand duplicate coasters away when I realized I had
to make room for more. Years ago I had a “beer tray
room” in which every square inch of wall space was
covered from floor to ceiling with trays that generated
reverberating acoustics when the TV was turned up
loud. Alas, when more kids came along and the house
had to be enlarged, the beer tray room had to go. But
every tray was stored away in anticipation of the day
when I have the time and wifely approval to begin
converting the finished basement into a “beer tray/beer
can/beer glass and beer “stuff” room. Hopefully, this will
happen before all my beer stuff goes the way of
yesterday’s coffee grounds.

My wife and kids, who share none of the joy I get from
my beer stuff, have jokingly assured me that it’ll all
follow the coffee grounds within fifteen minutes of
arriving home after my funeral. One man’s treasure is
another man’s junk and vice versa, so it would behoove
any reader who is also into “beer stuff” to follow the
obituaries and check out my garbage cans on the next
garbage day. And my pleasure would continue as I look
down (hopefully) from Beer Heaven and see the joy on
the face of a beer stuff collector who discovers a dozen
albums of beer labels, neatly alphabetized and sorted,
according to country!



From the Editor: As many of Dan's readers know he's a proud member
of the famed Mummers' Aqua String Band.  Watch Dan and the great band
in action at the Philadelphia New Year's Day parade- click
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