Breweriana

Carta Blanca Pilsner glass, 1925?

Carta Blanca Pilsner glass, 1925?

Even if you’ve never heard the word, you can recognize breweriana faster than you can uncap a Sam Adams. In the broadest definition, breweriana includes almost any article with a brewery’s or a beer’s name on it. However, it’s the vintage stuff that really attracts breweriana collectors. (More photos at end of post. Click to enlarge them.)

Articles include beer cans, bottles, glasses, mugs, signs, coasters, trays, posters, labels, matchbook covers, openers, taps and more. You can find plenty of breweriana for sale on eBay and Amazon. It turns up at yard sales and flea markets, too.

Collector organizations include the American Breweriana Association (ABA) with nearly 3000 members and the smaller, but older, National Association Breweriana Advertising (NABA) and East Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA). All three organizations have annual conferences coming up in June and July.

I love beer history and last week, several things converged on my beer radar that got me thinking about breweriana: a book, a vintage ad and a magazine article.

First, Dave Thomas, a history buff and a former colleague of my husband at Coors, sent a copy of a book he wrote after he retired and started researching the history of brewing in Colorado. Of Mines and Beer is a fascinating book for lovers of beer history, full of data, photos, nineteenth-century newspaper snippets and more. For example, a May 11, 1900 ad for Ouray Beer, Ice & Coal Company states that they sell four brands of beer (meaning lager) plus ale and porter, coal from seven locations around Colorado, bar glassware, playing cards and root beer.

If you prefer beer history in quick, colorful doses, the best source I know of is the Art & Beer page of the Brookston Beer Bulletin. Jay Brooks started his Beer in Ads series with ad #1 in October, 2009. Last Friday’s Sapporo ad—the one that really caught my eye—was #1556.

Then I opened the May issue of All About Beer and found “Beer Treasures” by Eric J. Wallace, John Holl and Doug Hoverson. Currently available only in the magazine, the article focuses on five must-see places for breweriana aficionados:

  • Steins Unlimited, Pamplin, Virginia. Here George Adams, 75, exhibits more than 9,000 steins dating as far back as A.D. 1200. Adams doesn’t have a website or Facebook page, but he receives some 2000 visitors annually.
  • Pike Brewing Company, Seattle, Washington. Owner Charles Finkel has been adding to his extensive breweriana collection ever since opening in the Pike Place Market in 1989.
  • National Brewing Museum, Potosi, Wisconsin. Formerly the Potosi Brewing Company until it closed in 1972, the building reopened in 2008 with a museum and brewpub thanks to the American Breweriana Association.
  • Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy is best known for his brewery and beer and for his books Beer School and The Craft Beer Revolution. Fewer people are aware of a display in the brewery of nearly 80 bottles representing all the berweries in the history of New York City about which Hindy has been able to find information.
  • Schafly Bottleworks, St. Louis, Missouri. The brewery space where visitors gather for tours has breweriana from many of the 200 breweries that have existed in the city’s history.

So much beer history over a few days sent me off on a search around our house. Following his father and grandfather, my husband Hugo began his brewing career at Cervecería Cuauhtémoc in Monterrey, Mexico. As a young man, his grandfather Francisco Patiño  got a job at La Fragata, a Carta Blanca depot and bar which he eventually came to own.

The first two photos below are likely from the 1920’s. Although Prohibition was in full force 200 miles north, La Fragata was clearly thriving. The glass at the beginning of the post came from La Fragata’s bar. The Carta Blanca tray has been in our kitchen since 1980 and wooden box was filled with Cuauhtémoc beers for Christmas, 1984.

Now I’ll leave you to go hunt down all that breweriana tucked away at your house.

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