How common were Import Ales in the 1970s?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Warwick7, Aug 11, 2019.

  1. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    How common were Import Ales in the 1970s? ie Samuel Smith, Newcastle, Guinness and Leffe.
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  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Pretty sure Samuel Smith beers didn't hit the US until the late 1970s and Newcastle sometimes in the 1980s. Guinness had been imported since Repeal (well, before Prohibition, too) but in the 1970s it was mostly bottled Guinness Extra Stout from Ireland and some brewed under license from Canada (Labatt). Kegged Guinness Draught was still pretty rare and limited to a few metro areas. For instance, a 1979 New York magazine article on Guinness in the US noted half of all Guinness in the US was sold in NY and most of it was bottled Extra Stout - only 33 bars had Guinness Draught in NYC. Another interesting stat from that period - The New York metropolitan area contained about 8 percent of the U.S. population, and yet accounted for 30 percent of the total market for imported beers.

    Imports in general were a much smaller segment of the US market in the beginning of the 1970s but that decade saw the beginning of the spurt in growth but still only around 2.5% (close to 15% these days last time I check). Heineken in the mid-70s accounted for pretty close to half of all the imported beer sold in the US, with #2 being the Molson brands. On the official US government import stats, "Belgium" was not even included, but was lumped into a catch-all "Other Europe" category.

    EDIT - The best selling imported brands at the end of the '70s, in 1980 when they totaled "under 3% of the market". #1 Heineken was around 45% of the total.
    #2 jesskidden, Aug 11, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  3. woodchipper

    woodchipper Meyvn (1,067) Oct 25, 2005 Connecticut

    I distinctly remember a bar that has been open since 1776 (no BS) next town over from me always having John Courage on draft around when I graduated from high school in 1976 (no BS). They are still open, but the tap lines are more currently marketable beers.
  4. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    Amazing post thank you sir. I want to say Samuel Smith was 1978. I wanted to make this post as most of the time when you hear people tell stories about drinking in the 1970s its AAL. I am interested in finding out If anyone here drank anything else.
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  5. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,464) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland

    Back in the 1970's (when I was <10 years old), my father always said Lowenbrau was the sophisticated beer to drink (my dad didn't drink beer). In the 1980's I recall my one friends dad always had Guiness cases in his garage. I always thought that was interesting, because none of the other neighbor dads, drank anything but your typical BMC stuff but they were all Homer Simpson type guys. That 1 friend's dad was an eccentric scientist type a guy (chemical engineer). Super high IQ. No one else could really relate to him. But even then as a little boy, I was always intrigued the "exotic" beer he kept in the garage.
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  6. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    Great, that reminds me that English ales were the dominant style in this country for a long time and make me wonder what that would be like jf they still did. Im not sure when the guard changed exactly.

    I live in Maryland so I can appreciate your story, ill have to see if there anything like that in my area. I know theres a English style pub here.
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  7. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,372) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Sooooo... Was in the army from 73 to 76, stationed in Germany. When I got out and went to college, my beer drinking experience was pretty consistent with what @jesskidden posted. There were a few places in town that carried Bass, John Courage and Fullers ESB and the like, but most bars in town (was going to school in Santa Cruz California) were living large if they had Heineken on tap. One place in town carried Heineken, Anchor Steam and Carta Blanca on draft, and so we went there a lot. Bottles mostly consisted of dos equis, Molsons, Heineken, Beck's and the like. Don't ask me why, but for some reason San Miguel was a big deal where I lived (drank a lot of the sm dark).

    There were some specialty stores where you could find some other options (mostly German), but they were pretty far and few between.

    The 70's were largely an AAL wasteland, just as you heard. At the time, it's all we knew, so we didn't feel greatly deprived. On the other hand, it's another reason why I thank my lucky stars, as I sip on the moonraker simco strata dipa and moksa pastry stout I'm drinking today at my local.
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  8. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,098) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    It depended upon where in the US you lived then.

    @jesskidden was kind enough to enumerate a large number of US brewed “craft” beers that were available circa 1980:

    “…there were still beers like Ballantine XXX Ale, Ballantine India Pale Ale, Ballantine Brewer's Gold Ale, Ballantine Porter (aka Krueger Old Surrey Porter), McSorley’s Cream Ale, Lord Chesterfield Ale, Black Horse Ale (Trenton and Koch), Rainier Ale, Pickwick Ale, Croft Ale, Genesee 12 Horse Ale, Schaefer Cream Ale, Schoenling (Little King’s) Cream Ale , Carling Red Cap Ale, Pabst’s Old Tankard Ale, Liebotschaner Cream Ale, Gibbons Ale, Kodiak Cream Ale, Tiger Head Ale, Neuweiler Ale, 20th Century Ale, Utica Club Cream Ale, Utica Club Sparkling Ale, Yuengling Porter, Stegmaier Porter, Narragansett Porter, Narragansett Bavarian, Koch Jubilee Porter, Boarshead Stout, Koch Holiday Beer, Matt Holiday Beer, Augsburger, Augsburger Dark, Augsburger Bock, Prior Light and Prior Double Dark, Geyer Bros. Dark, Old Chicago Dark, Haffenreffer Private Stock Malt Liquor, Hudepohl Hofbrau Deutschlager, Schaefer Braunslager, Royal Amber, Esquire, Horlacher Perfection Beer, National Premium, Andeker, and many seasonal bocks and draught-only dark beers. (Give or take a year or three before/after the stated year of 1980).

  9. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Have never found the exact quantities of each brands' imports, but Löwenbräu and Heineken in the post-WWII era in the US were running neck and neck for many years. Total beer exports from Holland to the US in total passed Germany in total in 1972 (but Heineken made up a much larger percentage of all Holland beer shipped here than Löwenbräu's total was for Germany). By the mid-1970s, Miller had become the sole importer of Löwenbräu to the US and within the next few years, gradually all the Löwenbräu in the US was brewed under license (and with a different, non-all malt recipe) by Miller.

    In the 1970s? That's sure not what the official US import stats show. In 1970, UK beers totaled 3.7% of all US imports, by 1980 that had dropped to 2%.
  10. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (959) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Guinness and Bass Ale were the mainstays. Then came Watney's Red Barrell.
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  11. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    Great posts everyone I am glad to hear it. I am a working class dude who listens to Rock all day and at one time AAL seemed like the only way to fit in. Im glad that people were drinking good Ale when Led Zeppelin was touring.

    This thread made my weekend.

  12. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    No I meant that English Ale was Dominate before AAL took over. I want to round and say 1776 to 1900. Im not sure on the dates though.
  13. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,678) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    I was waiting for a reference to Red Barrel. It was on draught all over the place in Orange County.
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  14. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    Thank you for the list, I remember a discussion on Cheap Ale and Why BMC chose Lager instead and I learned that they were actually a lot of domestic Ales back then. I am personally asking about MD and the East Coast.
  15. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,678) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    English? Watney's Red Barrel, Ind Coope Burton IPA, loads of Mcewan's Scotch Ale variants, Guinness, Bass, Newcastle, Harp, Old Peculiar, maybe more. More on the shelves back then than I see now.
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  16. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Of course, with a discussion like this, imported beers that were "common" vs "available" or, especially, "sold in significant numbers" are all going to be different statistically.

    Are you referring to actual English ales imported from the UK or just US-brewed ales? Domestically-produced lager began outselling US-brewed ales pretty much by the 1860s. AAL came a bit later, but not by much - a decade or so.

    By 1877 only two of the top 10 US brewers brewed ale exclusively (NYC's Flanagan & Wallace and Newark's P. Ballantine & Sons) and two years later Ballantine began brewing lager, too. By the 1890s, the "Big 3" in the US were Pabst, Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz, most of their barrelage being adjunct lagers, and Ballantine, at #5, was brewing more lager than ale.
    #16 jesskidden, Aug 11, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  17. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (42) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    I meant English style Ale but both work. glad to know we got 100 years in.
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  18. cid71

    cid71 Initiate (105) Mar 2, 2009 New Jersey

    Here in jersey besides all that have been mentioned i remember st paulie girl too, or jess am I "misremembering" and that was the 80s
  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, San Miguel was a pretty big selling import - it pretty much alone made The Philippines the Ninth largest exporter of beer to the US, just slightly less than than #8 Ireland. For the year 1970 US Import totals by country looked like this (in barrels):

    1. Germany - 292k bbl.
    2. The Netherlands - 239k bbl
    3. Canada -133k bbl
    4. Norway - 40k bbl
    5. Denmark- 39k bbl
    6. UK - 33k bbl.
    7. Mexico – 28k bbl.
    8. Ireland – 20k bbl
    9. Philippines – 19.9k bbl
    10. Japan – 11k bbl

    US total beer sales at the start of the decade was 122.5 million barrels in 1970 - thus total imports of around 888,300 bbl. was less than 1% of the market.

    Yeah, St. Pauli Girl was in NJ by the mid-1970s, based on ads* anyway:
    * Always possible that "New" only refers to a new importer or distributor.

    The ad slogan on the right (and similar "Girl" ads) became infamous when feminist groups used it as example of sexism in advertising.

    It's a strange brand and I've never figured out the full story. Brewed at the Beck's brewery in Bremen, but in the US it was always imported by a different company until 2012. For instance, above by Carlton Sales Co., a subsidiary of the drug company, McKesson. At the time Beck's was being brought in by Dribeck Importers - founded in the 1960s by an ex-Miller marketing executive, Walter Driskell. Some sources claim it was a joint venture, Beck's eventually took over the rights, under the name Beck's North America, Inc.

    Up until recently, Beck's had been imported by owner AB-InBev and SPG was imported by Crown (now Constellation, importer and US owner of Corona), until AB-InBev took over the rights in 2012. Of course, AB-InBev now brews Beck's in the US, making St. Pauli Girl the largest German beer sold in the US (well, last I looked).

    SPG appears to have been created as an export-only brand and was being sold (in cans, no less) in several Caribbean countries in the early 1960s and hit the US, mostly Florida, Hawaii, NY, IL and, oddly, Missouri, by mid-decade. In the late '60s into the early '70s, in Florida at least, it was being advertised as being "The largest seller in Nassau and Bermuda".
  20. shadyside

    shadyside Zealot (597) Feb 27, 2011 Georgia

    I remember 4 being readily available, Molson's, Labatt's, Heineken and Lowenbrau. Guinness was also around occasionally.
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  21. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    In Georgia? Should have shopped at Pearson's- sure they were "the finest wine shop in Atlanta" but had an OK selection of imported beer, too :grin: (but neither of the Canadian brands you mention).

    Although, that Black Horse Ale from "Canada" is suspicious. By the 1960s, Black Horse Ale in the US was being brewed by Koch (NY), Diamond Spring (aka Holihan)(MA) or Metropolis (NJ).
  22. shadyside

    shadyside Zealot (597) Feb 27, 2011 Georgia

    I didn't live in Georgia. I lived in PA. Pennsylvania had liquor laws back then where you could only buy beer by the case/keg at beer distributors or six packs in a bar. Most bars had limited space and most distributors focused on what sold the most.
  23. officerbill

    officerbill Disciple (303) Feb 9, 2019 New York

    the only imports I can remember in mid 70's Orlando were Heineken and Lowenbrau. By the early 80's Lowenbrau had disappeared and Molson, LaBatts, St. Pauli, Beck's, Guinness, and Heineken dark were on the shelves. I think I also remember seeing Red Stripe. These were grocery/package shelves, there was more variety at the “tourist” stores near Disney.
  24. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (511) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    Late 70's in SE New England, Bass Ale and Guinness were on tap at the nicer bars and occasionally Newcastle in stores.
    Canadian Lager beers Molson and Moosehead were in demand buy the 18-30 group. The drinking age was 18 then.

    I can't recall having Leffe and Samuel Smith but I wasn't looking very hard back then.
  25. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Ha! Yeah, well, I happened to have that ad from some old Black Horse Ale research I was doing and "Georgia" rang a bell (I myself was surprised at the nice selection) - but looks like it fell flat. :slight_frown:

    On the other hand, I frequently shopped in PA in the 1970s for beer, so I'm familar with what the deal was re: case law, distributor vs bar, etc. I was mostly there buying local PA breweries' beer and some other out-of-state stuff that was shipped to PA and not NJ. Didn't buy many imports since NJ had a great import selection and case prices were steep.

    But here's the list of imports at the Pennslyvania distributor I used in Fairless Hills off of US Rt. 1 - a 10 minute drive from the Delaware, "snipped" from a ad dated around the same time I shopped there.:grin:
    I realize and remember that further inland and away from the major metro areas, the PA distributors' import selection was a lot less extensive (I shopped a few in Athens and Sayre region of the Twin Tiers). Heck, I owned a beer license in upstate NY just 25 miles from the Canadian border and didn't carry any Canadian beers 'cause no one'd buy em. :astonished:

    As I noted in a post above, "availability" of imports in the 1970s was one thing, "common/easily found" was quite another.
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  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,098) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    That list brought back some memories. I used to shop at the Brewers Outlet in Woodlyn, PA (Delaware County) and I purchased many a case of Krakus beer - an import from Poland which was fairly reasonably priced for an import (which was important to me at that timeframe).

    Cheers to Brewers Outlet!
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  27. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (959) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    In Richmond from early 1970 we were buying quite a lot of the Norwegian Ringnes. I would buy it now if available. But I missed out on that White Bread Ale!
  28. shadyside

    shadyside Zealot (597) Feb 27, 2011 Georgia

    I only knew what was "available" to me. I wasn't in the beer business, nor was it a time I actively sought out beers not readily available. In those years, I searched for the most inexpensive brews in the bars where I drank or at the neighborhood distributor.
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    :grin: Yeah, that's a popular misspelled import in ads - funny 'cause you'd think it be German or other foreign beers would suffer more. Well, there was also DINK N LACKER in that PA ad. Even the Canadian brands suffer from it - you'll see LABATTES or LA BATT are popular, as is MOLSEN. And then there's the ever popular NEW CASTLE.

    Some of my favorites were more recent, on a store website (damn, and I thought I grabbed a screen shot 'cause there were a few others) which advertised they carried:

    BASS L

    (Say 'em fast...)
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  30. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,678) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    Yeah, that and Tuborg, and possibly Carnegie Porter.
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  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Found it! Thought it was in Jersey City but it was Bayonne Buy Rite!
    The two others I'd forgotten are, of course, HEARTS and WHOLE GARDEN.

    I also like how they took away Guinness' second "N" and, must have thought "Ah, what the hell, let's give it to Peroni."

    Funny that they were so careful to use the trademark symbol, even on misspelled brands that obviously aren't trademarked. Owned by lawyers with dyslexia?

    (Some day I'll find the E. J. Korvettes (NJ department store) record department sale ad that advertising the new album from TED ZEPPELIN. Man, we found that hilarious in Chemistry class one day...)
    #31 jesskidden, Aug 12, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  32. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (247) Jun 4, 2005 California

    Not sure about the 70s (I was only a teenager), but in the early 80s I was drinking mostly imports. Off the top of my head, Heineken dark, Guinness, Whatneys Stingo and Tooth's Sheaf Stout (surprised Australia didn't make the top 10 list).
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  33. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,824) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    By the end of the decade in 1980 they* did - at #6, behind The Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Canada and the UK. By 1983, Foster's was the 8th largest selling import, but with only 3% of the category.

    * Technically, their region was listed as "Australia & Other Oceana" (so, including New Zealand and some South Pacific island nations?).
  34. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,627) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Hah! +1 for spotting that White Bread Ale. :wink:

    If it helps any, we may be living in the age of White Bread Ale now. :sunglasses:
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  35. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,311) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    I love seeing beer misspellings and other similar things too. I always take a picture, but those pics just get buried and lost. I also noticed the Hacker Pscharr above, and "Beck" but that could have been by design since it's Brauerei Beck & Co... or perhaps just a result of the small "S":

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  36. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,605) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    Interesting to see Carta Blanca on these lists. I would have never guessed. I remember the rise of Corona back in the 80's, but I think I always assumed Dos XX or maybe Sol was the largest Mexican beer prior. What was the general opinion of C.B. back then?
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  37. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,311) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader


    “This Heineken talk is making me thirsty.” *

    *said Costanza style
  38. meefmoff

    meefmoff Defender (647) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    George is anxious for the review!
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  39. SudsDoctor

    SudsDoctor Zealot (553) Nov 23, 2008 New York

    Glad to see confirmation that Ringnes was available in the states back when I was a kid. Up until I read your posts I thought it was my imagination or faulty memory that I vaguely remembered seeing it on the lunch or dinner table during visits with/by my Norwegian maternal grandparents (who'd been in the states since the 30s). Thanks.
  40. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,678) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    Tres Equis was popular back then.
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