This post doesn’t have a lot to do with “branding” per se, but it’s an opportunity for me to recollect and revisit, however briefly, a brand of cheap beer that I grew up with in Saint Louis, Missouri — Falstaff.
Falstaff was started in 1883 by the Lemp family and closely held by them until it’s sale in 1921 to the Griesedieck Beverage Company. It was one of two major breweries in Saint Louis . (Recollection #1 — I’ll warn you upfront about the sick humor that follows, but you can imagine the juvenile laughs we underage, male beer drinkers found in referring to our purchase and consumption of some “Greasy D–k” beer.)
Griesedieck/Falstaff was always overshadowed by the Anheuser Busch brewery which continually fought Schlitz Brewing (in Milwaukee) for #1 beer brand in the United States. However, Falstaff did have its moment in the sun in the mid-1960’s when it was the third largest brewery in America. (Recollection #2 — In the 1940’s there was a humorous joke going around describing Saint Louis as being “First in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League.” With two of the top three breweries in the United States located in Saint Louis, and the industry-leading Brown Shoe Company founded in 1875 also there, all that was needed to complete the joke was a lousy American League professional baseball team. The Saint Louis Browns met that requirement easily, having only 11 winning seasons over 51 seasons played).
Ultimately Falstaff was the victim of beer industry consolidation throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, but held on grudgingly and usually as a “low price” brand, not discontinuing production until 2005. (Recollection #3 — Falstaff’s “price brand” days were in full swing when I was coming out of high school and taking a razor blade and glue to my paper drivers license to masquerade as of legal drinking age 21, when I was in fact only 18. I remember one weekend when Falstaff was on special at the local liquor store for $2.49 per 24 can case. That works out to about a dime a can of beer, and even in 1963 that was a deal).
“Those were the days my friends. We thought they’d never end.” Mary Hopkin 1968