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Ballantine’s Literary Ads: John Steinbeck

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 John Steinbeck, who’s the “American author of 27 books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories.

Today is the birthday of John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968), who was “widely known for the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Red Pony (1937). The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939)[2] is considered Steinbeck’s masterpiece and part of the American literary canon. In the first 75 years after it was published, it sold 14 million copies.

The winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, he has been called ‘a giant of American letters.’ His works are widely read abroad and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature.

Most of Steinbeck’s work is set in southern and central California, particularly in the Salinas Valley and the California Coast Ranges region. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to downtrodden or everyman protagonists.”

His piece for Ballantine was done in the form of a few paragraphs of one of his novels about the desert, like “The Grapes of Wrath:”

The sun is straight overhead. There isn’t enough shade to fit under a dog. The threshing machine clanks in a cloud of choking yellow chaff-dust. You wear a bandana over your nose and mouth, but your throats aches and your lips are cracking. Your shirt is black with sweat, but inside you’re dry as the Los Angeles River. The water in the barrel tastes like chaff. It only makes you thirstier.

Let’s say the boss is a man of sense and humanity. When the machine stops for lunch, he comes bucking over the stubble in a jeep, and on the back seat is a wash boiler of crushed ice and bottles of Ballantine Ale. Such a boss will never lack for threshing hands.

Well, first, you take a big swallow to cut the crust, and suddenly you can taste again. The you let cold Ballantine Ale rill into your parched throat like a spring rain on the desert. Smooth malt and hops pull together against the heat and dust and weariness. That’s the biggest thirst I know, and the best antidote.

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