Wednesday’s ad is for Ballantine, from 1948. In this ad, part of a series progressing from one, to two, to three rings, this one shows a sled pulled through the snow by a white horse. It’s obviously Christmastime and the couple appears to be delivering Ballantine, but it seems to be that each house they visit adds one more smoke ring from their chimney so that by the third home it’s the Ballantine logo in fireplace smoke rings.
Over in Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the Groundhog — a.k.a. the Brewhog — raised up his head this morning and looked around, and this year and saw his shadow. You know what that means? It’s six more weeks of drinking winter beers this year. Or something about a late spring, I can’t keep it straight. You can see a video of Punxsutawney Phil here. And there’s more information about Groundhog Day at the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
But this year, I suppose given how the year is going isn’t too surprising, not every groundhog agrees on what the future hold. For example, both Staten Island Chuck along with General Beau Lee in Georgia have predicted an early spring. And so did Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.
Although another Canadian groundhog, Balzac Billy, from Alberta, Canada, did see his shadow and so is predicting six more weeks of winter, as did Buckeye Chuck of Ohio and Essex Ed of Orange, New Jersey. And so did Big Al, a 14-foot, 1,000-pound alligator, from Texas, who is given KFC chicken each February 2. If he eats the chicken, it’s an early spring, if he passes, then it’s more winter. This year, he didn’t eat.
So it’s up in the air whether, I mean weather, we’ll have an early spring or more winter. I tend to go with the original, Punxsutawney Phil, but for no better reason then I’m from Pennsylvania. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
In Alaska, they celebrate Marmot Day.
Fingers crossed. And if you don’t have time to watch all of the deliciously wonderful Groundhog Day film today, here it is in a slightly shorter version just over three minutes.
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
— Calvin Coolidge
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale; ’twas Christmas told the merriest tale; a Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man’s heart through half the year.
— Sir Walter Scott
The original image, which I doctored, was the cover of a 1950 issue of Guinness Time, “a quarterly publication by the Guinness company [that] was distributed to all Guinness staff.” I found it at Bygone Bodiam, a very cool website covering old time Bodiam, a hop growing area in England. There are also a number of great nostalgic photographs of the local hops industry back in the day.
It’s day forty-two, and the last one, of my Christmas canter to today featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.
2016 was the forty-second year that Anchor has made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-second label is a “1,000 Mile Tree,” or “Pinus Solitarius.” This is what I was drinking yesterday, and also what I’ll be drinking today, as well. I’d like especially thank Anchor Brewery historian Dave Burkhart for his kind assistance in this project and for answering my questions about the progression of the beer. Have a Malty Christmas and a Hoppy New Beer.
Saturday’s holiday ad is for a Norwegian beer, from 1940. It was created by well-known Norwegian cartoonist, illustrator and ad-man Harald Damsleth. It depicts a young girl flying in a red boat filled with at least five kegs and two dragon’s heads at either end. The word “Julöl” is in the snow below, and the “J” is a broom. Maybe it’s from some Norwegian folktale I’m unfamiliar with, but it looks like it’s from an odd dream. Although the girls is smiling, and there are birds flitting about nearby, so it can’t be all bad.
While not widely known, St. Nicholas, among his many patronages includes brewers. He is a patron saint of brewers. The way we think of St. Nick in America begins with the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore in 1823. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery. Hoppy Christmas. Enjoy. For more detail on how this came about, and about the original poem, see below.
Twas the Beer Before Christmas:
A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas
‘Twas the beer before Christmas, when down in the brewery
Not a bottle was stirring, not a mouse dared to scurry;
The hoses were hung by the kettle with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would drink there;
The bottles, like children, nestled snug in their beds,
While visions of candi sugar fermented their heads;
The brewers, in hoodies, gave just the impression,
They’d all settled down for long winter’s session,
When outside by the tanks there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the brewery to see what was the matter.
Away to the rollup I flew like a flash,
Tore open the lock, the door flew up with a crash.
The moon on the breast of the newly-paved tarmack
Gave the lustre of stout looking velvety black,
When, what to my sobering eyes should appear,
But a miniature delivery wagon, and eight kegs of beer,
With a little old brewmaster, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than fermenting his brewers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
Now, Busch! Now, Rheingold!, now, Pabst and Carling!
On, Schlitz! on, Schmidt! on, Miller and Yuengling!
To the top of the jockey box! To the top of the cask!
Now drink away! drink away! drink away the whole flask!”
As dry hopping that before the wild bittering fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, toast a drink to the sky;
So up to the brewery-top the brewers they flew,
With the wagon full of Beers, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, glasses tinkling, I heard on the roof
The toasting and drinking of each little goof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out the fermenter St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in red, from his toes to his top,
And his coveralls were soiled with spent grain and hops;
A carton of Beers he had flung on his back,
And his rubber boots squeaked as he opened his pack.
His besotted eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were all rosy, like New Glarus cherry!
His droll little mouth was beseeching our pardon,
And the beard of his chin was as white as Hoegaarden;
The end of a zwickel he held tight in one hand,
While the other held Watermelon Wheat that was canned;
He had a beer belly, that bent two stumpy legs,
That shook when he laughed, like a half-emptied keg.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old brewer,
And I drank when I saw him, for what could be truer;
A wink of his eye as he poured generous heads,
Soon gave me to know he would join us instead;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And emptied the bottles; then sat with a smirk,
And raising his glass, he gave the first toast,
Then each brewer, in turn, drank to his own riposte;
Then he sprang to his wagon, to his brewers gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a hop torpedo missile.
But I heard his last toast, ere he drove out of here,
“Hoppy Christmas to all, and to all drink good beer.”
In late 2009 — a Saturday night — I read Porter and Alice, my two kids, Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. Whenever I read something I know to my children (which happens a lot, kids love repetition) the writer in me edits as I go. I change words as if it was my work, I flatter myself I’m improving it or correcting mistakes. A scatterbrained scheme was hatched as I again read them what’s probably the most famous Christmas poem.
First published in 1823, according to Wikipedia, “it is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.”
As I’ve written about before, St. Nick is also a Patron Saint of Brewers. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery.
As it happens, there are a lot of different versions of the poem, with incremental changes having been made over the years. I used, for no particular reason, an edition from Trans-Pacific Radio. Enjoy. Hoppy Christmas. You can also compare the two versions side by side, which also includes the brewers names I’ve used in previous years. The plan is to change those each year.
Feel free to share my version of the poem, with credit if you please, plus a link back here is always appreciated.
UPDATE: Georgia’s Sweetwater Brewing also did their own beer-themed version called Sweetwater’s Night Before Christmas. There’s also another beer-themed one I shared last year, Twas the Brewer’s Night Before Christmas. For many more parodies, check out the Canonical List of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Variations, which contains 849 different variations on the poem.
It’s day forty-one of my jolly jog to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.
2015 was the forty-first year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-first label was was a “California Christmas Tree,” or “Cedrus Deodara.”
Today is the birthday of Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, who is also currently the Poet Laureate of Great Britain. In 2009, she wrote a poem entitled “John Barleycorn” for a BBC2 program “The Culture Show,” which aired November 26, 2009. They describe it as “a lament for, and a celebration of, the Great British Pub, and was “filmed in various bars in Glasgow, including The Horseshoe Bar, The Vale and The State Bar.”
When it first came out, my friend, and British beer historian, Martyn Cornell, referred to it as “one of the best,” which is high praise indeed. He wrote about it in a piece entitled “The best ever poem in praise of the pub.” He also believes that each and every pub that is mentioned in the poem is a real one, which is pretty cool.
John Barleycorn, by Carol Ann Duffy
Although I knew they’d laid him low, thrashed him, hung him out to dry,
Had tortured him with water and with fire, then dashed his brains out on a stone,
I saw him in the Seven Stars, and in the Plough.
I saw him in the Crescent Moon and in the Beehive.
In the Barley Mow, my Green Man, newly born, alive, John Barleycorn.
I saw him seasonally, at harvest time, in the Wheatsheaf and the Load of Hay,
I saw him, heard his laughter in the Star and Garter and the Fountain and the Bell,
The Corn Dolly, the Woolpack and the Flowing Spring.
I saw him in the Rising Sun, the Moon and Sixpence and the Evening Star.
I saw him in the Rose and Crown, my Green Man, ancient, barely born, John Barleycorn.
He moved through Britain, bright and dark, like ale in glass.
I saw him run across the fields, towards the Gamekeeper, the Poacher and the Blacksmith’s Arms.
He knew the Ram, the Lamb, the Lion and the Swan,
White Hart, Blue Bull, Red Dragon, Fox and Hounds.
I saw him in the Three Goats’ Heads, the Black Bull and Dun Cow, Shoulder of Mutton, Griffin, Unicorn.
Green Man, beer-born, good health, long life, John Barleycorn.
I saw him festively, when people sang for victory, for love and New Year’s Eve,
In the Raven and the Bird in Hand, the Golden Eagle, the Kingfisher, the Dove.
I saw him grieve and mourn, a shadow at the bar, in the Falcon, the Marsh Harrier,
The Sparrowhawk, the Barn Owl, Cuckoo, Heron, Nightingale.
A pint of bitter in the Jenny Wren for my Green Man, alone, forlorn, John Barleycorn.
Britain’s soul, as the crow flies, so flew he.
I saw him in the Holly Bush, the Yew Tree, the Royal Oak, the Ivy Bush, the Linden.
I saw him in the Forester, the Woodman.
He history: I saw him in the Wellington, the Nelson, Marquis of Granby, Wicked Lady, Bishop’s Finger.
I saw him in the Ship, the Golden Fleece, the Flask
The Railway Inn, the Robin Hood and Little John.
My Green Man, legend-strong, reborn, John Barleycorn.
Scythed down, he crawled, knelt, stood.
I saw him in the Crow, Newt, Stag, all weathers, noon or night.
I saw him in the Feathers, Salutation, Navigation, Knot, the Bricklayer’s Arms, Hop Inn, the Maypole and the Regiment, the Horse and Groom, the Dog and Duck, the Flag.
And where he supped the past lived still.
And where he sipped the glass brimmed full.
He was in the King’s Head and Queen’s Arms. I saw him there:
Green Man, well-born, spellbound, charming one, John Barleycorn.
Even better, here’s Duffy reading her poem for the original BBC2 program, “The Culture Show,” in 2009:
It’s day forty of my fast festive flurry to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.
2014 was the fortieth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This fortieth label was was a “Giant Sequoia,” or “Sequoiadendron giganteum.”