Drink beer, drink beer,
Oh come drink beer with me;
I don’t give a damn
For any old man,
Who won’t drink beer with me
Above is a song sung lustily from the back booths of taverns and bars all over America by college student today and reaching back into the 19th Century. Drinking beer and singing are like Siamese twins — not joined at the hip, but joined at the lip. This close identification was understood by many a brewery in vintage times. Illustrated here are a number of examples of the song books they issued to take advantage of the musical carousing.
The first item, “Drinking Songs for Auld Lang Syne,” is illustrated by a barbershop quartet, all in tuxedos, three of the gents wearing homberg hats. The notes are flying. This song book was issued by the Schmidt Brewing Company of St. Paul. Formerly located at 882 West Seventh Street in that city, it was founded in 1855 and its name changed when Jacob Schmidt, formerly the brewmaster at Hamm’s Brewing Co., took over. The brewery continued under that name until 1954, staying open during National Prohibition by making “near beer.”
The barbershop quartet motif was echoed the “Songs of Long Ago” issued for Bruck’s Jubilee Beer. Here the songsters are actually performing in a barbershop while the barbers and patrons look on. The chaps apparently are serenading with “Sweet Adeline,” that was, we are told, the 1903 Season’s Song Hit. This book originated from the Bruckmann Cumminsville Brewing Company of Cincinnati. Bruckmann operated two plants and featured a number of brands in addition to “Brucks.” They included “Big Ben Ale,” “Aristocrat Cereal Beverage,” “Jubilee Beer,” and “Dixie Beer.” The company also issued a song book that looked like a foaming mug of its brew.
The Star Beverage Company of Minster, Ohio, issued two song books, both entitled “Sing the Good Old Times.” The items advertised the brewery’s “Wood Shoe Lager Beer,” available, we learn, on draught and bottles. It is not clear why one shows the beer in the stein with a golden color while the other shows up amber. The brewery was founded in 1869 by one Frank Lange who ran it until 1882 when the Steinemann brothers bought and directed the plant until it became Star Brewery in 1890. Under that name it operated until National Prohibition in 1919. Surviving during America’s “dry period” by producing nonalcoholic beverages, it began making beer again in 1933, finally closing in 1954.
Milwaukee’s Blatz brewery, of which I have written extensively before, created a song book made to resemble a German beer stein, complete with pewter lid. These were created to carry the identification of particular restaurants and saloons carrying Blatz beer. The one advertised here was a Cleveland, Ohio, watering hole known as “Braustub’l,” located on the Lorain Road. Once the book was opened, Blatz’s ad made its appearance. This view allows us to read the songs and — goodness me — they are all in German. Although “O Tannenbaum” hardly seems like an appropriate drinking song, except perhaps at Christmas, I well recall intoning “A Du Lieber Augustin” and “Du, Du, Leigst Mir Im Hezen” at the Trails Inn Lodge in Milwaukee, with the owner, Mitzi, joining in.
“Everybody Sing!” was the title of the Duquesne Brewery Song book. It advertised Duquesne Pilsener as “The Finest Beer in Town.” That town was Pittsburgh where the brewery was a major merchandiser of beer from its founding in 1899 until dissolved in 1972. Using a wooden barrel as the motif for the song book might have been the idea of Henry Miller who had begun his business career selling furniture. It is said to be one of the first breweries in America to use refrigerated train cars to transport its beer to customer outside Pittsburgh. Opening the book reveals the motto “Songs you love to sing, beer you love to drink.” The index of songs reveals a fairly tepid roster of tunes including “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” and “Goodnight Ladies.” Inclusion of Franklin Roosevelt's theme, “Happy Days Are Here Again” suggests a post-Prohibition origin.
Even as far away as Los Angeles, the beer and singing tradition impelled the Eastside Brewery to issue a song book that featured beer songs in the repertory of Carl Ledel’s Tirolier & Bayern Orchestra, aka the “Alpine Troubadours.” Shown here front and back, the cover gives us two lyrics, one in German, the other in English. I remain puzzled by the motto at the top of the publication: “Put Eastside Inside - For the Gesundheit.” Is it implied that their beer can induce sneezing? Eastside Brewery owes its origins to a Bavarian immigrant and veteran brewmaster named George Zobelein who bought an existing Los Angeles brewery and began making a range of beers from light pilsners and dark hocks, all under the Eastside label. When purchased by Pabst the brand was retired after 1962.
Speaking of that Milwaukee brewery, the final song book is entitled “Pabst Blue Ribbon Stein Songs,” and shows a shapely woman holding a stein with the background of a red checked table cloth, just like those featured at the “Forstkeller,” the Pabst-owned German restaurant and bar immediately adjacent to the brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee. It was at the Forstkeller too that beer and song mingled in a way to gladden the heart and remain fixed in memory. This song book is definitely post-Prohibition, dating from about 1933.
It seems only fitting to end this tribute to singing, drinking and brewery song books by quoting another favorite of the bierstube crowd:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit