Ballantine’s three rings are an easily-recognizable symbol of the brewery and the rings represent purity, body, and flavor.
Ballantine Cuff Links
I once worked with a man who had been an employee at the Ballantine brewery in Newark during the 50’s. He worked in the lab, which essentially meant that he drank beer for a living. What a job!
Around that same time period, Ballantine’s owners Carl and Otto Badenhausen created a special beer as a holiday gift for distributors and retailers. I recall finding an article about a single bottle of this holiday brew surfacing and auctioning off for about $6,000. Apparently, there were only six known specimens at the time. I showed this article to my co-worker and he was in shock. He told me that he remembered pulling buckets of this beer off the bottling line “for testing” and that he had filled his own refrigerator with this particular beer.
One day, my co-worker surprised me with a gift. A single cuff link and some other Ballantine collectibles. Can’t seem to find any “links” to any values for Ballantine Cuff Links.
A little about the history of P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company. The brewery was founded in 1840 and at one time was the nation’s third largest brewer. The brewery was based in Newark, NJ until 1972 when Ballantine was sold to Falstaff Brewing. In 1985, Falstaff sold to Pabst Brewing. Pabst revived Ballantine Ale as part of their “craft beer” assets in 2014. Two months after the relaunch, Pabst sold the Ballantine name to Blue Ribbon Holdings Company for $700M. It seems that Blue Ribbon Holdings has lineage to Pabst and the move may just be moving money from one pocket to another.
Oh, for those that don’t know what a cuff link is, a cuff link is used as a fancy alternative to a button. A cuff link closes and secures a shirt’s cuff. It’s considered a men’s “jewelry” accessory.
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.
It was probably 1984 and while I was in St. Louis for a work-related convention, I had a little time to kill. While others might flock to the infamous arch or sights on the Mississippi River, I headed (where else?) to the Anheuser Busch brewery.
I recall the tour was great, clydesdales, wooden escalators, huge copper kettles and a tasting room. The tour guide whisked us from site to site and one particular stop snagged my interest. In the lobby, there was a huge glass display case filled with Budweiser beer cans. The guide told the crowd, “this is every Budweiser beer can ever made.” It was a really an impressive display but I zeroed in on what would be the “rare” cans. Not to be “that guy”, I asked the tour guide privately about Budweiser Malt Liquor. I knew the can existed (I actually owned one at the time). She looked perplexed and told me that she didn’t know and she would ask someone. A short time later a guy in a suit came out and asked me what I knew about this can.
I didn’t really know much other than Budweiser Malt Liquor was produced for a short period of time, from 1972 – 1974 and it was part of a small test market release. I’ve seen a red and a white version of this can in a reference book. The black one is more common and can still be purchased on-line for less than $10. I think I gave this guy a project.
I didn’t want to tell him that I thought Budweiser also made drab green/non-metallic cans for WWII. I’ve yet to see one of those.
In 1976, Schmidt’s released a series of beer cans commemorating our Bicentennial. I was taken by the artistry of the packaging and those particular cans began my interest in beer can collecting. To collect, I subjected my father to buying and drinking the worst beer. I would also spend hours walking along roadsides with friends that collected looking for old finds. Surprisingly, we found some pristine cans. I would also buy and trade cans along the way. Today, my collection sits in can totes in my attic.
I thought it would be interesting to post a photo here and there of some of my special cans.
This Krueger beer can was given to me by a friend just the other day. He is a contractor and while doing some demolition, he found this can in a wall cavity. A collector likes to see a can be opened from the bottom for ideal display. A 1957 builder unknowingly obliged by opening it from the bottom with what looks to be ten-penny nails.
In case you didn’t know, Krueger was the first brewer to put beer in cans. It was 1935 and canned beer was launched from their Newark, NJ brewery. Like today, canning made sense because it was easier to transport, chill and preserve.
Krueger brewed in Newark from 1858 until they were purchased by rival, Ballantine (my father’s brand) in 1961. They went through numerous ownerships and I was surprised to read that the Krueger Brewing name still lives on. They seem to contract brew at a couple of breweries. One of which is Buckhorn Brewing in Colorado. I think I have a Buckhorn can somewhere. Anyway, here’s a link to the brewery’s current incarnation: