What Is Beer?

pint question-mark
A provocative question to be sure, but not one I’ll even try to answer. Instead, take a look at how that question was answered 70 years ago by the the United Breweries Industrial Foundation in an ad they ran in the January 15, 1940 issue of Life Magazine. On page 69 of Life, they answer the question “what is beer?” eleven different ways.


At the bottom right, there’s also an address where you can send away for a booklet with the “facts.” I’d love to see a copy of that booklet. It’s interesting what they were probably trying to accomplish with the ad, shining a light on all of the positive aspects of beer and distancing themselves from the negative, no doubt with many people at that time still remembering the prohibition era criminal elements. That’s why they argue that brewers want “to clean-up or close-up the small minority of law-violating places which abuse the license to sell beer. The brewers want to protect your right to buy beer in decent, respectable surroundings.” It makes sense, of course, that the new post-prohibition brewing industry wants to get off on the right foot, reminding people what good there is in their continuing to be in business, especially while the prohibitionist organizations were still hard at work, despite being dealt the near-death blow of prohibition being over-turned less than a decade before.

Below are close-ups of the eleven answers proffered to the question “what is beer?”

Employment Manager


Tax Collector






Business Man






Police Chief






Average Citizen


I just love the fact that “Poet” is included. It makes me want to write more poetry. And how many of you know a brewer who looks, or dresses, like this one? But most of these are just hilarious, though undoubtedly true, they’re statements you rarely see stated in ads nowadays. Still, I’d really like to see more pro-beer ads today. I think we need them now more than ever.


  1. BikerAggie says

    Jay-The only brewer who dresses like the one in the ad is the one man that is glaringly absent, the black man. Of course I am talking about Garrett Oliver.

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