Ballantine’s Literary Ads: Ellery Queen

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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 Ellery Queen, who’s best known for writing a series of mystery stories.

Ellery Queen is not actually one person, but two: Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. They “were American cousins from Brooklyn, New York who wrote, edited, and anthologized detective fiction under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen. The writers’ main fictional character, whom they also named Ellery Queen, is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, Richard Queen, a New York City police inspector, solve baffling murders.” Today is the birthday of Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905–September 3, 1982), and his co-writer, Manfred Bennington Lee, was born the same year (January 11, 1905–April 3, 1971).

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Their piece for Ballantine was done as if it was one of their cases, but it was less a mystery and more a simple contrast of two unrelated events that both took place the same year. It seems a bit forced, actually, and comes across like pure propaganda, even more so than the other ads in this series.

CASE OF THE CURIOUS COINCIDENCE

1840: Edgar A. Poe was preparing to give the world its first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” an all-time classic marked by three great qualities: Purity of conception, full-bodied plot, and a style and technique of matchless flavor.

1840: Peter Ballantine created his unique ale and sampled his first brew. Setting down his glass, he exclaimed, “Purity!” A second sip made him exclaim, “Body!” a third, “Flavor!”

Edgar Allen Poe’s Tale, Peter Ballantine’s Ale — American classics with the same three great qualities. Even the Ballantine Ale trade-mark carries out the coincidence of “threes.” For the triple overlapping rings made when Peter Ballantine set down his moist glass on the table top created his 3-ring trade-mark. To this day it sets the standard for Purity, Body and Flavor to connoisseurs of ale everywhere.

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Ballantine’s Literary Ads: J.B. Priestley

ballantine
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 J.B. Priestley, who’s best known novel was probably The Good Companions, though I think he’s more well-known in Great Britain than in the U.S. His ad ran in 1952.

Today is the birthday of John Boynton Priestley, better known as J.B. Priestley (September 13, 1894–August 14, 1984), who “was an English novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, social commentator, man of letters and broadcaster. Many of his plays are structured around a time slip, and he went on to develop a new theory of time, with different dimensions that link past, present and future.”

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His piece for Ballantine was done in the form of essentially listing all of the things he likes about the beer, point by point:

This is what I like, first of all, about Ballantine Ale: It’s a wonderful thirst-quencher. It passes smoothly over the palate, creating at once a fine feeling of refreshment.

At the same time, because it’s got body and flavor, it’s something a man can offer another man when the two of you begin to expand in talk, and perhaps boast a little.

Ballantine Ale is what I like to call “a clean drink.” You take another glass for the sheer pleasure of drinking it, and not because the first glass has failed to fulfill its promises and left you still feeling thirsty.

Finally, I like my Ballantine cold, but not too cold, please. Deep chilling, to my taste, tends to destroy the flavor. And the flavor’s worth keeping.

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Ballantine’s Literary Ads: James Hilton

ballantine
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 James Hilton, who’s best known for a few novels turned into films. His ad ran in 1952.

Today is the birthday of James Hilton (September 9, 1900–December 20, 1954), who “was an English novelist best remembered for several best-sellers, including Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. He also wrote Hollywood screenplays.”

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His piece for Ballantine was done in the form of his reminiscences about his first Ballantine Ale, and why he continues to recommend it or serve it to friends:

I first tasted Ballantine Ale on a mountain. We left a few bottles hidden in the first snow on the way up, and when we came down they were a treasure trove — deliciously iced and full of the flavor of fellowship and happy hours.

Since then I have enjoyed Ballantine Ale and offered it to friends on many far different occasions — lower in altitude but just as high in satisfaction. For Ballantine Ale is a good drink at all levels — and by a good drink, I mean that I’ve always found it thirst-quenching, smooth and comfortable, kind to the senses and nourishing to the memory.

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Ballantine’s Literary Ads: Henry Morton Robinson

ballantine
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 Henry Morton Robinson, who was reasonably well known in 1951, when his ad ran.

Today is the birthday of Henry Morton Robinson (September 7, 1898–January 13, 1961), who “was an American novelist, best known for A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake written with Joseph Campbell and his 1950 novel The Cardinal, which Time magazine reported was ‘The year’s most popular book, fiction or nonfiction.'”

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His piece for Ballantine was done in the form of his reminiscences about how Ballantine Ale has helped him relax over the years:

If Ballantine Ale didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent it.

The tensions generated by modern life begin to lessen for me whenever I pluck a dewy-cold bottle of Ballantine Ale from the refrigerator. Anticipation mounts as I snap off the cap with its familiar three rings. There’s a promissory gurgle in the neck of the green bottle, then a swirl of full-bodied amber ale into my tilted glass. I watch the creamy collar rise to the brim — and the ritual of pouring is complete.

A sip, a swallow, a draught — according to my mood. Deep speaks to deep, as thirst and tension vanish together. Relaxed, I savor the distinctive after-tang prized by everyone who has ever tasted this hefty brew.

I lift glass and bottle to gauge my remaining measure of enjoyment. I’m prolonging, not scanting, an experience that will be repeated when I open another bottle of Ballantine Ale to be my companion at lunch or dinner.

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Ballantine’s Literary Ads: C. S. Forester

ballantine
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 Horatio Hornblower novels.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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)?

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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.

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