Monday, June 2, 2014

The Meanings Behind The Weird Symbols On Beer Labels

Mmm, beer.

From Mental Floss: "Breweries are some of the oldest companies in the world, and beer labels are full of little symbols and phrases that point to their storied histories. That, or they just load up the bottles and cans with weird crap so you have something to talk about as you're downing a cold one."

The famous red triangle was the first ever trademark in the UK, registered on New Year’s Day, 1876. In Great Britain's Intellectual Property Office, the Bass Triangle is filed under the registration code UK00000000001. It was selected because it was a clear, distinct, and unmistakable symbol—one that even blind drunks could identify from across the pub.

The original St. Pauli Girl was a cartoon of a buxom waitress drawn by a local artist, but a common connotation for the woman on the label is a little different. St. Pauli is the Red Light District of Hamburg (not Bremen, where the beer is bottled), and many associate the term "St. Pauli Girl" with "prostitute."

The five points of the blue star on bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale represent the five founding breweries of the city. The shadow inside the star is of Newcastle's skyline, including the Tyne Bridge. In its first year, the beer swept the 1928 International Brewery Awards and the gold medals from that event adorn the label to this day.

Like Newcastle Brown Ale, PBR includes some serious boasting of accolades earned decades (or centuries) ago. The cursive below the ribbon on PBR's label states: "This is the ORIGINAL Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Nature's choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as America's Best in 1893." This selection occurred at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the beer that won the honor was actually Pabst Best Select. (Though just how special the Blue Ribbon honor was is a matter of debate.) After the World's Fair, they changed the name of the beer to reflect the award.

Dos Equis was first brewed by Wilhelm Hasse in 1897, and was called "Siglo XX" to celebrate the arrival of the 20th century. This was eventually shortened to "XX," or "Dos Equis." Between the two x's on the label is the face of Aztec ruler Moctezuma II, who was killed in 1520 during the Spanish invasion of Mexico.

The key in the Beck's logo is a reverse image of the key in Bremen's coat of arms—Beck's was founded and is currently headquartered in the German city.

The tale of Miller High Life's "girl in the moon" is a bit of literal corporate mythology. Legend has it that in 1907, Miller advertising manager A.C. Paul got lost in the northern woods of Wisconsin and was struck by a vision of a girl perched upon a crescent moon. Some claim she was modeled after a specific member of the Miller family, but no concrete matches can be made.

"The Champagne of Beers" is thought to refer to the fact that it was launched a few days before New Year's Eve.

Ah, the mysterious "33." To be clear, no one is 100% sure what it means. However, plenty of folks have taken guesses:
• It took 33 steps to get from the brewmaster's office to the brewing floor in the Latrobe brewery.
• 33 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for drinking beer.
• 33 stands for 1933, the year prohibition ended (or the year the Pittsburgh Steelers were founded).
• The racehorse on the bottle wore 33.
• The water used for the original batches was taken from a stream marked "33" by the Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission.
• There are 33 words in Rolling Rock's pledge of quality, which is printed on every bottle: "Rolling Rock, from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you."

The man on National Bohemian beer is Mr. Boh (derived from the suds' nickname, "Natty Boh"). Mr. Boh was introduced in 1936, and no one knows why he only has one eye. Some say it's because he is in profile, while one of National Bohemian sales chiefs says it's because "It only took one eye to pick a good beer."

The harp, the national symbol of Ireland, was adopted by Benjamin Lee Guinness for his family's beer in 1862. He based the logo on a specific harp—Brian Boru's Harp, which is the oldest surviving Gaelic harp, and is preserved at Trinity College.

The eagle on bottles of Yuengling is an artifact from the beer's beginnings at the "Eagle Brewery," opened in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania by David Gottlob Jüngling. The German immigrant anglicized his name, and when his brewery burned down in 1831, he and his son opened a new brewery that featured their brand-spanking-new American names.

(More here)


  1. I love label trivia! And I love hooch, so it's a win-win! Although I might choose a wine because of a pretty label, I rarely choose beer that way. I may have to pay closer attention. :)

  2. Ahh Guiness, the thick black beer that gives you thick black shits, Sláinte!



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