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COM: October 2008

Senate Beer (circa 1951)

Senate beer. Senate Beer. Senate beer.

This month let's go back to Christian Heurich Brewing in Washington, DC.  I've covered Heurich Brewing several times before, covering their Old Georgetown brand, their radio advertising campaigns, and the career of Christian Heurich, so this time I'll concentrate just on this design and brand.  I particularly like this can because of the US Senate eagle and shield design. 

(NOTE: I updated some of this information in my November 2016 page)

The Senate Eagle

The logo on this can was copied from the gilded eagle and shield that have decorated the old US Senate chambers off and on since at least the 1830s. 

US Senate eagle.  

The eagle and shield were carved from wood by an unknown artist.  Since the capitol was burned by the British in 1814 it has to have been made after that.  The first mention of the eagle appears in a newspaper in 1838.  Made of gilded wood it stands 53.5 inches tall, 72 inches wide, and in 23 inches deep.  It remains as the symbol of the US Senate. 

The Senate Beer logo isn't exactly the same.  For one thing, its shield has the Heurich "H" on it.  But it's close enough to clearly be inspired by the US Senate version, appropriate for a beer brewed in Washington DC, just at the other end of the mall from the Capital building.

Senate beer logo.
The US Senate Eagle.
The Senate Beer logo.

FYI: Why did Heurich make a Senate Beer but not a Congress Beer? There was already a Congress Beer, made by Haberle-Congress Brewing in Syracuse, New York. 

Senate Beer: The Brand Struggles

Senate Beer (along with Senate Ale and Senate Bock) had been Christian Heurich's main product line before and after Prohibition.  The three Senate types (Beer, Bock and Ale) were the only products Heurich canned before World War II and again immediately after the war.  Something happened to the brand in the late 1940s however, that forced Heurich to try new products. I've been told that a bad batch of Senate Beer was accidentally distributed and it had ruined the brand's reputation. This account is supported by the advertising as it appears that Heurich Brewery was trying to remake the brand in 1948 and abandoned in favor of other brands as the brewery's main product in 1949.

In February 1947, Heurich advertised that "Cans Were Back" after World War II rationing had ended canning beer for civilian use was lifted.  The first post-war cans had the same blue label they had before the war.  In April the brewery ads began asking if you "Had a Senate Lately?"  In July 1947 they started a campaign asking customers to compare Senate to other premium beers and, starting in August, to "Make This Test," taste-testing Senate with other beers, including imports.  Such advertising themes were common with brands that feared they were losing ground to other brands.

In early 1948 the Senate label changed slightly, adding the words "EXTRA FINE" to the familiar blue design.  This label didn't last even a full year as by the Fall of 1948 the label had changed entirely to white and blue with the eagle and shield logo copying the eagle/shield found in the United States Senate since the 1830s.  The ads bragged that Senate was now lighter and "sparkling, new...in white, gold and blue."  A local liquor store ad referred to the "new Senate." The "Extra Fine" cans are one of the tougher Senate labels to find, supporting the idea that it was short-lived.

1948 ad. 1949 ad.
October 1948 ad (click to see larger)
 February 1949 ad (click to see larger)

In March 1949 the "250" appeared for the first time over the eagle.  It doesn't appear to actually have meant anything, it just sounded good.  The white cans with the 250 appeared in a  new ad campaign; "triplets."  These ads showed a trio of pretty girls (triplets) in casual settings (such as fishing).  The ads read "Try Senate's 'Triplet-Test' for Beer at its Best!"  The girls note that Senate "Looks Right!", "Smells Right!", and "Tastes Right!" Interesting, the "250" was added first on the cans, then on bottles. Label guru Bob Kay and several Heurich collectors had confirmed to me that their "250" labels are all non-IRTP.

By late 1949 Heurich Brewing had shifted its ad campaigns to new brands and away from Senate.  In August they began promoting Champeer as "America's New Taste Thrill."   Champeer was a sparkling malt liquor.   In March of 1950 they shifted to advertising Old Georgetown Beer, first in draft only, and then in cans.  Old Georgetown Beer (there was also an ale and a bock) became Heurich's main brand until they closed in 1956.  See my Old Georgetown page for more on this brand.

Senate Beer continued to be produced after 1950, although it seems to have become a minor brand for Heurich.  It's listed among available brands in local liquor store ads from 1951-1955, and the can featured this month is clearly post March 1950 as it is a non-IRTP

So, where does this leave us? Well, judging from the advertisements, here is a possible timeline for the Senate cans post-World War II. Dates are sometime approximated and cans and bottles on store shelves would not have followed this timeline exactly. As always, corrections and additions are welcome! mark@rustycans.com

February 1947-February 1948: Blue can (same as pre-war)
February 1948-September 1948: Blue "Extra Fine" label
September 1948-March 1949: White IRTP
March 1949-March 1950: White "250" IRTP
March 1950 to 1956?: White "250" non IRTP

For more on Heurich see these pages...

Christian Heurich

Heurich Lager Can (1955)
Old Georgetown
Senate Ale
Heurich's Radio Ads

You can see the short bio of Heurich I wrote in 2011 for the German Historical Institute at their site. (opens new window)

And my book on Heurich, which will be coming out in Spring 2017, published by McFarland.



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