Happy Burns Night

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Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:

Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.

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John Barleycorn

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Here’s an analysis of the poem, and below is a video of the Scottish St. Andrews Society of Greater St. Louis‘ Burns Night in 2011 and the recitation of John Barleycorn by an Allan Stewart.

And although it has little to do with Burns Night, I still love the version sung by the band Traffic, with frontman Steve Winwood, which appeared on their 1970 album John Barleycorn Must Die.

Beer In Ads #1421: Handsome Gift For The New Year


Wednesday’s holiday ad for Carlsberg, from who knows when. Admittedly it’s an ad for the Chinese New Year, but there’s a distinct lack of New Year’s Eve ads that I haven’t used before. This ad was for Singapore and “the Federation” which may help identify its age. Your “Handsome Gift for the New Year” is a free Carlsberg pint glass with every carton you buy.

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Beer In Ads #1420: The Pabst Ski Lodge


Tuesday’s holiday ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon, from 1946. IN a scene that looks like it’s after a long day skiing, a couple is relaxing back in the lodge, by the fireplace, as the man is serving mugs of Pabst. “Order it with Confidence … Serve it with Pride.” I’m not sure about the smile on him, it looks a little creepy to me. So maybe they’re not a couple after all, her smile seems a bit forced, so maybe this is a pickup attempt?

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Beer In Ads #1419: Seasons Greetings From Robbin Bain


Monday’s holiday ad for Rheingold Beer, from 1959, and features Miss Rheingold from that year, Robbin Bain. Sitting in a beautiful white dress, wrapping the last presents, in front of a fully decorated Christmas tree — that’s got to be at least an eight-footer! — and it certainly looks like a holiday party should be taking place any minute.

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Beer In Ads #1418: There’s Only One Favorite


Sunday’s holiday ad is for Miller High Life, from 1950. In the days after Christmas, with all of your presents laid out, having been played with or used, one apparently emerges as the favorite. Just like “The Highlander,” I guess “there can be only one.” This guy (I’m presuming it was a guy) did pretty well. He appears to have received a rifle (or rifle case), a thermos, bowling ball, fishing basket, along with a rod and reel, binoculars, camera, books, a barometer and a set of golf clubs. But the ad would have us believe it was the Miller High Life that emerged as the favorite beer.

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Beer In Ads #1417: Is This Something Special?


Saturday’s holiday ad is for Ballantine Ale, from 1954. “Is this something special? It certainly is … that’s Ballantine Ale.” There are three people at this tree-trimming party (note the three bottles of Ballantine) but only one person appears to be doing any work. The woman’s glass of beer sits unsipped on the silver tray, while the man on the left has started drinking his and the man on the right looks as if he’s just topped himself off. The woman is looking back at the the two dudes with an expression that says “you lazy chuckleheads.”

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Beer In Ads #1416: A Tradition … Good Taste


Friday’s holiday ad is for Blatz Pilsener Beer, from 1945. A woman in a red dress looks longingly up at a sprig of mistletoe, while a bottle of beer sits peacefully in the corner. I think she’s hoping for someone to walk by. Perhaps the beer is bait? Although it does seem to be just hanging in the air, so maybe it’s a magical bottle of beer.

Blatz-1945-mistletoe

Beer In Ads #1415: Hail To A Merry Christmas


Thursday’s holiday ad is for Ballantine Ale, from 1938. It’s an extremely odd Christmas ad, with all of the adults standing around the decorated tree, beer in one hand, and with the other, well, holding up the “ok” or Ballantine ring sign. They almost look like they’re part of a cult, don’t they? Merry Christmas. Hail Christmas.

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Hoppy Christmas

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From my IP address to yours. Have a very Malty Christmas and a Hoppy Holiday. Peace On Earth, Good Beer to Men (and Women).

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“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

holly

‘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.