The Meanings Behind the Symbols on 20 Beer Labels
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 youre downing your fifth cold one. Either way, lets decipher some.
The two lions fighting over a capital letter A on Amstel Light labels? Those are the lions from the Amsterdam city crest,which can be seen here.
The famous red triangle was the first ever trademark in the UK, registered on New Years Day, 1876. In Great Britains Intellectual Property Office, the Bass Triangle is filed under the registration codeUK. It was selected because it was a clear, distinct, and unmistakable symbolone that even blind drunks could identify from across the pub. Or, as James Joyce describes inUlysses:
During the past four minutes or thereabouts he had been staring hard at a certain amount of number one Bass bottled by Messrs Bass and Co at Burton-on-Trent which happened to be situated amongst a lot of others right opposite to where he was and which was certainly calculated to attract anyones remark on account of its scarlet appearance.
The key in the Becks logo is a reverse image of the key inBremens coat of armsBecks was founded and is currently headquartered in the German city.
What does that little tiny cursive bit say at the top of Budweisers label? Glad you asked:
This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive Beechwood Aging produces a taste, a smoothness, and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.
The larger text below reads: Brewed by our original all natural process using the Choicest Hops, Rice, and Best Barley Malt. Beer • Bier • Cerveza • Birra • Biere.
Until 1908, the text on Budweiser labels was inGerman. Since 1876, the seal in the center has displayed the names of four continents around the rhombusEurope, Australia, Asia, Africaand America rests beneath it. Sorry, Antarctica and the other, unspecified America.
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 xs on the label is the face of Aztec ruler Moctezuma II, who was killed in 1520 during the Spanish invasion of Mexico.
Heineken concedes that they dont know exactly what the red star on its labels means, but they have some guesses.According to them, it is either a symbol of European brewers in the Middle Ages who believed it to have mystical powers to protect their brew, or that the position of a star on the front door of the brewery indicated the stage of the brewing process, orthat four points of the star accounted for the elements earth, fire, water and wind and that the fifth point is the unknown, which is an element that brewers in the Middle Ages couldnt control.
Also, Alfred Heineken wanted the logo to lookfriendlier, so he changed the font and designed a smiling e by giving the letter a slight tilt.
The harp, the national symbol of Ireland, was adopted by Benjamin Lee Guinness for his familys beer in 1862. He based the logo on a specific harpBrian Borus Harp, which is the oldest surviving Gaelic harp, and is preserved at Trinity College.
The red sashes in the label pay homage to the single red sash in the flag and coat of arms of Strasbourg, the French city where Geronimus Hatt first brewed a version of the beer in 1664 (although, back then, Strasbourg was in the Holy Roman Empire).
The tale of Miller High Lifes 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 avisionof 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 Years Eve.
The Modelo Especial lions bear a striking resemblance to the lions featured on Mexico Cityscoat of arms. The shadowy building in the center looks to be a representation of Mexicos National Palace (although we arent sure. Feel free to drop in to the comments if you have a better guess).
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 its because he is in profile, while one of National Bohemian sales chiefssaysits because It only took one eye to pick a good beer.
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 Newcastles skyline, including the Tyne Bridge. In its first year, the beersweptthe 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 PBRs label states:
This is the ORIGINAL Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Natures choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as Americas Best in 1893.
This selection occurred at the Worlds 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 isa matter of debate.) After the Worlds Fair, they changed the name of the beer to reflect the award.
They also used to tie real blue ribbon around the bottles, which required overone million feetof silk a year. They stopped this practice in the 50s, when they just started printing an image of a ribbon on the labels (and cans).
Imprinted in the red seal on Pilsner Urquells logo is an image of the brewerysmain gate. The brewery was founded in 1839 in Plze, and construction on the gate began three years later.
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 brewmasters 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 Rocks 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 33 was to inform typesetters of the word count, but they accidentally left it in.
Morecorporate mythology, this time from south of the border. Sol was apparently created on a bright, sunny morning in 1899 at a brewery called El Salto de Agua (the water fall) outside of Mexico City. The suns rays sprung from the horizon and fanned over the brewing pot, and the brewmaster named the batch El Sol, for the sun, and its label represents this moment.
Stella can be (loosely) tracked to 1366, with the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven, Belgium. Den Hoorn means the horn, and this symbol is represented on the beers current labelsmaking it the perfect brew for Pynchon fans.
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.
Keen-eyed drinkers will notice that cans and bottles of Strohs used to say,Americas Only Fire-Brewed Beer, but now merely say, Americas Premium Brewed Beer. (As you can see in the above photo, which appears to have been taken in a wood-paneled basement. Appropriate, considering Strohs is exclusively consumed in wood-paneled basements.)
Apparently, after Strohs was acquired by Pabst, they had to ditch their old ways of heating kettles over an open flamefor cost reasons. The product is now produced mainly in Miller breweries, which dont have those specialty open-flame kettles.
The eagle on bottles of Yuengling is an artifact from the beers beginnings at the Eagle Brewery, opened in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania by David Gottlob Jngling. 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.
Happy National Tequila Day! While you could celebrate by having a few drinks, you could also skip the hangover by unlocking one of tequilas amazing abilities outside of the glass. Many spirits are useful for activities beyond sipping (vodka, for example, is a great stain and odor remover), but tequila holds some particularly magical powers. Here are just a few of them.
In 2008, a team of scientists in Mexico discovered that when the heated vapor from an 80-proof tequila blanco was combined with a silicon or stainless steel substrate, it resulted in the formation ofdiamond films. These films can be used in commercial applications, such as electrical insulators, or to create one big fake diamond. Who knew that spending $50 on a bottle of Don Julio was such a wise investment?
Keeping with the science theme: In 2011, researchers at Englands University of Oxford suggested that we may one day begassing upour cars with tequila. They identified agave, the plant from which tequila is produced, as a potential biofuel sourceand a particularly attractive one, as the plant itself is not consumed by humans and can thrive in desert climates.
Scientists have long promoted the potential benefits of theagave plantfor its ability to help dissolve fats and lower cholesterol. The bad news? These properties get a bit diluted when the plant is distilled into alcohol. Even more so when its whipped into a sugary margarita.
Take three or more shots of tequila and youre bound to pass out. A single shot can have the same effectjust not in that drunken stupor kind of way. Relaxation is one of the positiveside effectsof tequila drinking; a small amount (1 to 1.5 ounces) before bedtime can reportedly help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Too much of a good thing may not bring a welcome turn of events for your liver but your colon will thank you! Researchers at Mexicos University of Guadalajara haveidentifiedthe blue agave as a potentially helpful source for delivering drugs to the colon in order to treat colitis, IBS, Crohns disease and even cancer.
If Ernest Hemingway had known about the healing properties of tequila, his signature drink might have been a margarita instead of a daiquiri. In 2010, experiments conducted at Mexicos Polytechnic Institute of Guanajuatorevealedthat the agave plant (which is high in fructans, a fructose polymer) could stimulate the GLP-1 hormone, aiding in increased insulin production.
Plenty of liquids is a well-known remedy for getting oneself out from under the weather. But expanding that definition to include a kicked-up shot of tequila makes a day laid out on the couch sound much more appealing. In the 1930s,doctorsin Mexico recommended the following concoction to fight off a cold.
.5 ounce of agave nectar (to eliminate bacteria and soothe sore throats)
.5 ounce of fresh lime juice (for Vitamin C)
Though some people (includingtequila companies) swear by its healing powers, others say itshogwash.
Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis.Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the cant-miss events across the country.
As the graphic below explores, some states biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsinwhich holds the world record for largest music festival.
Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana.Oktoberfestand other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nations largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.
In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montanas biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famousdaredevil. And Washingtons biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokanes annual three-on-three basketball tournament.
Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.
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