It’s fall 1976. The United States has just passed its bicentennial. Disco is sweeping the U.S. airwaves as the Bee Gees as well as KC and the Sunshine Band replace No. 1 summer anthems from Paul McCartney’s Wings and Elton John on the Billboard charts. Volleyball is a hot backyard game for barbecues. NASA successfully lands Viking 2 on Mars. And the U.S. glass container industry is telling Americans why beer tastes best in a glass bottle.
O-I Glass, back then known as Owens-Illinois, was (and still is) the world’s leading manufacturer of glass containers for food and beverage makers – including glass beer bottles for brewers. “The Good Taste of Beer” advertising campaign was led by the glass industry’s trade association, the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), and O-I played a primary role in sculpting the campaign.
The tv commercial talking about the merits of enjoying beer from a glass bottle featured ABC sportscaster Chris Schenkel. The ad is getting new life on YouTube and we recently tripped on it. Watching “The Good Taste of Beer” commercial in 2020 made us think about how remarkably the U.S. beer scene has changed since the 1970s.
U.S. Beer in the 1970s
Prohibition may have ended in 1933, but the impacts of America’s so-called “noble experiment” certainly lingered into the 1970s. The number of operating U.S. brewing facilities dwindled to less than 100 by 1978. That’s a whopping 4,000 fewer U.S. breweries than a century earlier (there were more than 4100 breweries operating in 1873).
In the mid-1970s, homebrewing wasn’t legal yet. President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 to federally legalize homebrewing in fall 1978; states would eventually follow to legalize the hobby over the next few decades. Legalizing homebrewing is important to the growth of U.S. breweries because it enabled amateur brewers to take their hobby pro.
As amateur homebrewers took their recipes and opened their own craft breweries, they’d put a new spin on classic beer styles from the traditional beer havens of Germany and Belgium. Craft brewers created new flavors and gave life to exciting twists on beer styles, like the American IPA, the American Pale Ale and the Amber Ale.
When “The Good Taste of Beer” commercial aired in 1976, only a few microbreweries existed. The most notable is Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco. Jack MacAuliffe’s New Albion Brewing would open in October ’76 in Sonoma, California. The groundwork for the U.S. craft beer movement was beginning.
“The Good Taste of Beer” Message Stands Test of Time
A lot has changed in the U.S. beer scene since “The Good Taste of Beer” commercial aired, but one thing remains the same: beer still tastes best out of a glass bottle. Glass beer bottles have an all-natural composition of limestone, silica sand and soda ash. Those materials make glass bottles tough and virtually inert. The glass bottle doesn’t interact with the beer inside, meaning you’ll enjoy it the way the brewer intended.
While cornhole may have replaced volleyball as the backyard party game of choice, Disco (thankfully) isn’t topping the charts, and there are thousands more U.S. breweries today, the commercial’s message stands the test of time: nothing quite replicates the experience of enjoying beer from a glass bottle. Cheers to that.