Growing up in the '80s, there were plenty of Halloween and Beer ad tie-ins. We were pretty spoiled in that regard, although it's been going on for many moons before Elvira showed up in a Coors Light ad. Above, you can see an example of such a thing from 1943, except without a beehive haircut and cleavage.
Today's ad features one of the oldest beer brands in the country, Ballantine Ale, which is deeply rooted in New Jersey. I wasn't around during it's heyday, but growing up, we had a few pieces of Ballantine paraphernalia in my house, so I was familiar with it, even as its popularity throughout the country waned.
In the house I lived most of my life in, we had an actual bar in our house, not one that you would buy at a furniture store or at a place that sells bars, but an actual bar complete with leather stools transported from a real bar in Newark.
It was permanently installed in our den, which was basically our play room. Yes, we played in a room that had a giant full wet bar. Once the huge family gatherings started to become a rarity because family moved away to various parts of the country, the bar room eventually evolved into my own personal play room and wrestling arena for the better pat of my childhood.
We didn't change anything in the bar so it pretty much stayed the same way since the late '70s. There were colored lights and lots of authentic liquor trays coasters, branded glasses and mugs, and lighted fixtures with various brands of beer and soda like Schaefer, Carlsberg, Heineken, 7Up, and others.
I can't really say I ever cared to sample anything until I got older. Maybe crème de menthe because it was green and looked somewhat more appetizing than say, Seagrams 7. The Frangelico bottle in the monk costume didn't look to shabby either, mostly because it reminded me of the figural shape of Mrs. Butterworth's, but I hadn't developed a taste for it yet.
Trust me, just because this thing was in my house didn't drive me to boozin' at an early age. If anything it removed the temptation that a lot of my other friends had. Why would I beg my sister or ask an older friend to go to a liquor store for me when I stared at these dusty bottles that no one ever drank every day of my life? Eventually, as I got a little older, there were a few times when I had to enlist some help, similar to the Goldslick Vodka fiasco in Superbad.
While clicking through eBay, and definitely not intentionally looking for Ballatine Ale memorabilia, I came across a vintage Halloween themed ad for this beer which is perfect for our column AD JERSEUM. Print ads are rarely this enticing anymore and finding one oozing with so much old school Halloween spirit makes it even more tremendous!
The ad is pure persuasive Halloween magic. The kickass bar didn't drive me to drink, but this ad makes it seem like the most fun and appealing activity that anyone could ever take part in. Whenever a product or company completely embraces holidays and makes them the basis of an entire ad campaign, that's gold in my book.
The ad recalls a time before I was born when parties with a slew of guests were a common practice and entertaining on a weekly basis was the thing to do. Finger foods were a hot commodity and quirky adult beverages were always on the menu.
Let me break this scene down for you. A spooky witch, A knight, and Mr. Pumpkinhead with the argyle shirt are all at a dinner party. It looks as if the witch is attempting to scare the letters in the word BOOO and those letters are shooting back sarcastically with one of those "shakin' in their boots" mocks back to her as if her attempts are not really scary at all, cause he knows the drill. Boo has been around the block many times with this witch. Cannot pull the wool over his eyes anymore...or the sheet.
The main focal point, of course, is the beer, which looks so damn appealing. It almost looks more like an ice cream soda with whip cream swirled on top than a plain old beer. And look how this brew is making these m'fers HAPPY. You can almost hear Pharrell Williams singing the background song of this ad.
The Knight is completely psychotic and will without a doubt KILL Mr. Pumpkinhead after the first round of hors de ouvers. Hopefully he'll let everyone grab a cocktail wiener on a toothpick before he chops this poor guys head off and puts it over his head to reenact the legend of Sleepy Hollow out front to the delight of the snobby drunk well-to-do folks who attended this soiree. I just realized, cocktail wieners were completely out of the question for this party, CORRECTION - Crab Puff pastries, my bad.
If you can read the very tiny verbiage, it describes talking with our hands as if it was an ancient thing, which is interesting. Jerseyans and New Yorkers are often described as people who talk with their hands, so this part of the ad works on two levels. Here, hand gestures are referred to as a "Handy." Stop smirking. This is serious beer business.
The handy mumbo jumbo doesn't make much sense to me, but I chalk that up to it's age. Maybe at one time it made perfect sense to readers. We don't really need to connect with this lingo, because apparently, all we need to know is that the "OK" hand signal means this Ballantine stuff is a superlative beer.
According to Wikipedia The new Ballantine is not the same exact brew as it once was because the original recipe from over 100 years ago has been lost to the ages. Presently, it's been said that the brew is reminiscent of it's original flavor. I've tried it actually found it enjoyable, and easy to drink. If you want to add a vintage flair to your Halloween party this year, give Ballantine a shot, look how happy it made the Knight and Mr. Pumpkinhead!
*Long after I wrote this, a coincidental thing about this beer happened. I was driving home last weekend from Weehawken, NJ on the NJ Turnpike with Miss Sexy Armpit and we saw a giant Ballantine billboard. It looks like this beer is attempting to make a comeback! I had no clue about that either because this post had been in the can for about a month before I even saw that billboard!
Facts about Ballatine from Wikipedia:
- Founded in Newark in 1840, the company stayed in the Ballantine family until the brewery close in 1972.
- Ballantine, based out of Newark, exists in name only nowadays. The brand is owned and marketed by Pabst while the actual brewing is outsourced to Miller.
- Ballatine was a longtime sponsor of the New York Yankees
- Martin Crane on Frasier was a fan of Ballatine beer