Ballantine’s Literary Ads: C. S. Forester

Between 1951 and 1953, P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company, or simply Ballentine Beer, created a series of ads with at least thirteen different writers. They asked each one “How would you put a glass of Ballantine Ale into words?” Each author wrote a page that included reference to their beer, and in most cases not subtly. One of them was C. S. Forester, who’s best known for his .

Today is the birthday of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (August 27, 1899–April 2, 1966), who wrote under the nom de plume Cecil Scott or “C. S.” Forester. He “was an English novelist known for writing tales of naval warfare such as the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars. Two of the Hornblower books, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours, were jointly awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1938. His other works include The African Queen (1935) and The General (1936).” His Ballantine ad ran in 1952.


His piece for Ballantine was done in the form of a letter reminiscing about first beers he’d tried doing his travels, including Ballantine the first time he came to New York City:

There’s always a first time for everything, and I still remember my first Ballantine Ale.

I had ordered my first “kleines hells” in Munich, my first Bock in Paris. As a rather bewildered young man in New York, I did a two-hour sight-seeing tour before being shipped to Hollywood, and in the half-hour before my train was to go, I had my first Ballantine Ale.

So my first recollection of Ballantine is linked with the Port of New York, the Empire State Building, and Grand Central Station. All of them were different from anything that had ever come into my experience — and all of them great.

Even then, I realized that the flavor of Ballantine Ale was unique. I thought it better than any brew I had met in Europe’s most famous beer gardens. I still do.


Beer In Ads #1715: Catch Yogi & The Yankees

Wednesday’s ad is for Ballantine beer, from 1964. I confess I’ve gotten caught up in baseball’s playoffs this year, despite the fact that the Giants didn’t make them. I don’t really care that much who gets to, and wins, the World Series (though I have a soft spot for my namesake Jays) but I’ve still enjoyed the games, and the various stories behind each team’s history. So this ad features former Yankee catcher, and later Mets’ coach, Yogi Berra. What might he say on Back to the Future Day? “The future ain’t what it used to be.”


Beer In Ads #1687: The New Washing Machine

Wednesday’s ad is for Ballantine Ale, from 1943. “How American it is … to want something better!” Look how happy the woman is that her smug man got her a machine so she can keep washing his clothes. Apparently during World War 2, many people put off spending money on new luxuries and even Ballantine was looking forward with great anticipation to the day when people could go crazy with their spending … like today.


Beer In Ads #1668: Genuine Golden Ale Flavor

Friday’s ad is for Ballantine Ale, from 1957. Wow, houses in the 1950s were very colorfully decorated. Look at the red flowers on white of the curtains compared to the multi-colored flowers on blue of the couch. The other oddity is who gives a soup party? That’s the only food on the table, not to mention next to the soup those look more like plates than bowls. A soup and beer tasting party? Maybe that was all the rage in 1957? But lastly, what’s with the creepy expression on the man in the tan jacket watching the woman in the blue dress ladle her soup as he pretends to be pouring his beer (but is really just holding the bottle at an angle)?


Beer In Ads #1633: Early American

Thursday’s ad is for Ballantine Ale, from 1940. A bottle of Ballentine Ale sits in front of a framed picture of a 100-year old ship to celebrate Ballantine’s 100th anniversary. In fact, the ship is coming out of the frame, as is a red flag/handkerchief/whatever, which is actually pretty cool. The subheading, “The Flavor of Ballantine’s Ale is a Century Old — A Century Great” seems odd. I know they don’t mean it this way, but it strikes me that they’re saying the flavor is old, 100 years old, which doesn’t seem like much of a compliment.


Beer In Ads #1605: A Very Special Glass Of Beer

Friday’s ad is another baseball-themed one for Ballantine Premium, from 1968. This one is “Go Phillies!” and shows the three broadcasters for the Philadelphia games. The only one I recognize is Ashburn, who also used to play for the Phils (but then I was an Orioles fan as a rebellious kid). This ad also features another generic illustration of baseball action. Just what the hell is that symbol on the uniform of the player sliding into home?


Beer In Ads #1580: Ballantine Beer Watches Your Belt-Line

Monday’s ad is for Ballantine Beer, from 1954. This must have been ad laying the groundwork for low-calorie diet beer, as light beer was known in those days. In fact, that’s why it flopped initially, because people didn’t like the idea of beer being called “diet,” though it seems to have worked fine for Coke. It’s funny how that brought red belt draws your attention to her waistline but then the dress below fans out so it maker figure look disproportionally hourglass, although I guess that was a thing once, wasn’t it. I also love the tagline captioning the photo. “Brewed to the American taste … to the American figure.” Hilarious.