Friday, July 3, 2015


"BEER PARTY/USA is a unique entertainment idea that is traditional, patriotic Americana, yet new and fresh. In concept, it captures the spirit of America--the big parade down Main Street, U.S.A., the carnival highlights of national holidays, the band concert on the village green. In essence, it connotes good fellowship, fun, gaiety, and the supurb quality of American beers." So reads a 36-page booklet published around 1966 by the United States Brewers Association called "BEER PARTY/USA."

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The booklet continues. "Everything about your BEER PARTY/USA should be American. Appropriate music can set the stage, from the lilting melodies of Victor Herbert and the homespun tunes of the "Gay Nineties" to the orchestrations of Cole Porter and selections from the latest Broadway hits. The basic decor should be red, white and blue--the nation's colors, but you may add a shade or two of your own to fit the occasion."

"BEER PARTY/USA" is an interesting bit of ephemera from what a lot of people these days would call the "Mad Men" era, reflecting the optimistic side of the Kennedy-Johnson years of the early 1960s, a time of leisure, suburbia, unbridled patriotism in the face of a percieved communist menace, lounge music, dreams of flying to the moon, and of course, plastics. It might have also been the era of martinis and tiki drinks, but this booklet was from the Brewers Association, so it was all about defining and promoting beer as the true all-American party beverage for all occasions.

Although the vast majority of American beers at the time were virtually alike--the variety of brands, labels, packaging and advertising were far more interesting than the mild flavored, basic yellow brew they all represented--the booklet stresses the importance in putting much thought in choosing and serving the right beer for your party.

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"One of the first decisions--how to serve your beer. Will it be in bottles--and if so, the easy non-returnable or returnable? Will it be in cans--easy-open or regular? Or is this THE party for a keg of draught beer? Much depends on the particular occasion and how many people will attend...

"For those assisting at the party, whether family or friends or paid help, be sure to let them know in advance your plans and needs. Who will bring the ice to cool the beer?"

It even suggests having someone play the role of Mr. Beer Opener. "To get the party started and to keep it moving, the host or a friend might be MR. BEER OPENER for the evening--perhaps with appropriate dress and big tag identification. Not only does he open and serve the cans or bottles, or tap the keg of beer; he helps open the party, open the conversation, provide the informality, the spark, the conviviality which sets the pace for a happy occasion."

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The booklet goes on with ideas for entertainment and party decor. "Gather all your old (or new) magazines and newspapers. Cut out pictures and advertisements, paste them on shirt cardboards, and with a felt marker print underneath and alongside funny quotations or sayings pertaining to the BEER PARTY/USA occasion. Hang or tape the pictures around the house or apartment; put lots in the area where the beer is being served...

"Everyone agrees that music sets any BEER PARTY/USA in full swing. It can be any type of presentation. The phonograph generally proves most practical. Before guests arrive, select a variety of records. You can then relax and enjoy the evening. If you are lucky enough to have 'home' musicians on the guest list, ask them to 'bring-a-long' their insturments and you've got ready-made festivity for the affair! Have song sheets available. Choose some old and some new 'favorite' tunes. Type the words on paper for each guest. It's great to have a piano, but if you don't, there's usually one good voice to start the singing. Then just watch and listen--they'll never stop!"
For party decorations, the booklet suggests using old beer bottles for flowers and as candle holders, and for the dinnertable centerpiece, "Include beer bottles, beer drawings or some allusion to beer in the display." It also suggests spray painting artichokes and lemons in a red, white and blue color scheme, and suggestions for a "patio candlerama."
"Beer bottles are more attractive than ever before. You can achieve many unique designs by decorating beer bottles with paint, ribbons, jewels and other decorative ornaments. They can be used for flower vases, candle holders or favors for your guests...Small artificial flowers around the base of the bottle can be most attractive."
There's a section on tips for serving beer, tips on properly displaying the flag and bunting, seasonal "BEER PARTIES/USA," birthday and anniversary "BEER PARTIES/USA," and beer recipies including "Brewmaster's Steak," "Beer-Glazed Ham," "Beer-Becued Spareribs," "Beer Cheese Wafers," and even "Birthday Beer Cake."
There's also a section on Social Hints. "Nowadays there are less rigid party rules than in the past," the booklet acknowleges. "The hour for your party and the placing of your table and your silverware may be to your choosing--provided it is done tastefully and thoughtfully."
But even in the 1960s, there were still some rigid (and some might say sexist) rules regarding introductions. "It's difficult for many of us to remember proper form on introductions. Here's a good tip: with two important exceptions, gentlemen are always introduced TO ladies. The proper form goes like this: 'Mr. Jones, this is Mrs. Smith.' Or, 'Mrs. Smith, may I present Mr. Jones.' The two exceptions are clergymen and important public officials. In these instances, reverse it, as follows: 'Mrs. Smith, this is Reverend Jones.' Or, 'Mayor Jones, may I present Mrs. Smith.'"
Throughout the booklet, the word "gay" is used a lot--presumably the archaic old meaning of the word. "Use color, a gay tablecloth, bright napkins," it suggests in setting up a buffet table. Another suggestion: "if you're not good at names, or it's a large party, use name tags--the simple stick-on kind, which come in gay colors." It all adds up to a very gay BEER PARTY/USA.


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