No beer can discussion is complete without some reference to Billy Beer. When this beer hit the market in 1977, it was at the height of the beer can collecting fad and many assumed that in time this can would be worth a fortune. Rule number in collecting, it isn’t rare (or valuable) if everyone saved one.
In 1992, I had hoped to find some rare beer cans for my collection. So, I ran an ad in the local newspaper. My phone rang quite a bit and nearly all the calls asked if I wanted to buy some empty Billy Beer cans. Some callers were disappointed when I told them that they were probably worthless.
The nation loved Billy and his Billy Beer.
For those not familiar with the back story on Billy Beer, it begins with the 1976 presidential election. Georgia peanut farmer and former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter was the Democratic challenger. He was set to face Republican Gerald Ford who assumed the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned. While trying to get some background on the earnest Jimmy Carter, the press stumbled across his younger and irreverent brother, Billy. To say that Billy was a reporter’s dream was an understatement. In his own words, he said that his neck was red, his socks white and his beer blue ribbon. He was a cartoon character and the nation ate up his redneck persona. He was the Ying to his older brother’s Yang.
Enter Falls City Brewing
In 1977, failing Kentucky brewer, Falls City leaped at the chance to ride Billy’s popularity and produce Billy Beer. It was said that Billy was paid $50,000 and was given a choice of some sample recipes that would carry his moniker. He must have been buzzed at that sampling because what the beer had in promotional steam, it lacked in flavor. Even Billy Carter himself quipped that Billy Beer was so bad it caused him to stop drinking beer. Billy would attend promotional events for the beer and in a tipsy state, he would admit that he still drank Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This was one of the beers I subjected my father to drink just for the can. He asked to have it poured down the drain.