Ballantine was an American brewery. It was best known for Ballantine Ale, a pale ale that is one of the oldest brands of beer in the United States. At its peak, Ballantine was the 4th largest brewer in the United States.
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The company was founded in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey, by Peter Ballantine (1791–1883), who emigrated from Scotland. The company was originally incorporated as the Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company. Ballantine rented an old brewing site which had dated back to 1805. Around 1850, Ballantine bought out his partner and purchased land near the Passaic River to brew his ale. His three sons joined the business and in 1857 the company was renamed P. Ballantine and Sons. The name would be used for the next 115 years, until the company closed its brewery in May 1972. By 1879, it had become sixth largest brewery in the US, almost twice as large as Anheuser-Busch. Ballantine added a second brewery location, also in Newark, in order to brew lager beer to fill out the company product line. Peter Ballantine died in 1883 and his eldest son had died just a few months earlier. His second oldest son then controlled the company until his own death from cancer in 1895. The last son died in 1905 and the company was taken over by George Griswold Frelinghuysen, the company’s vice-president, who was married to Peter Ballantine’s granddaughter.
George Griswold Frelinghuysen (1851-1936) was the son of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen and Matilda Elizabeth Griswold. He graduated from Rutgers College in 1870, received his Bachelor of Laws from Columbia University Law School in 1872, and was admitted to the New Jersey and New York bars in 1872 and 1876 respectively. George married Sara Linen Ballantine on April 26, 1881. Sara was the granddaughter of Peter Ballantine, the company founder. George and Sara had two children together: Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen I (1882-?) who married Adaline Havemeyer (1884-?); and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen (1887-?). He started his career as a patent lawyer, eventually working for and becoming President of Ballantine at the death of Robert Francis Ballantine (1836–1905), who was the last surviving son of founder Peter Ballantine. George died in 1935 and the George Griswold Frelinghuysen Arboretum is named for him.
In 1933 the Ballantine company was acquired by two brothers, Carl and Otto Badenhausen. The Badenhausens grew the brand through its most successful period of the 1940s and 1950s, primarily through clever advertising. Ballantine Beer was the first television sponsor of the New York Yankees. It was during this period that the brand was elevated to the number three beer in the U.S. It was also during this period that the company grew into one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States. Ballantine Beer enjoyed a high level of success into the early 1960s, however by the mid-sixties the brand began losing popularity. In 1965 Carl Badenhausen sold the company but remained at the helm until his retirement in 1969.
In the 1960s the company went into decline. The breweries were closed and the brands acquired by the Falstaff Brewing Corporation under whose stewardship the beers remained faithful for a time to their original flavor profile. By the late 1980s, though, Ballantine Ales were produced by a number of different outsourced companies.
The brand today
Since 2005, the Ballantine Ale brand has been owned and marketed by the Pabst Brewing Company, which in turn outsources the brewing to the Miller Brewing Company. The original formula is no longer used to produce the brand, though many tasters seem to agree that it retains at least some hint of its original character. The most notable changes are a markedly lower bitterness and a much less assertive aromatic character (the latter presumably due the apparent discontinuance long ago of the practice of using distilled hop oil).
Through the years Ballantine offered a range of products in addition to its flagship Ale and Lager; other specialties included a Porter; a Brown Stout; a dark lager; and a Bock beer. Also in regular production was a now legendary and very highly regarded world-class India Pale Ale (an intensely bitter and aromatic brew which, like the Brown Stout, was aged 1 year in wood prior to bottling).
Also of note was a special Burton Ale (which was aged from 10–20 years in wood prior to bottling). The Burton Ale was never a commercially sold product, rather, it was a special strong brew in the barleywine style which was given as a gift at Christmas to Ballantine distributors and VIPs. Surviving unopened bottles are still bought, sold and traded to this day among collectors, more than 60 years after being brewed. Because of the long aging and generous hopping as well as an ABV content comparable to barleywines, the beer had remarkable keeping qualities. Still, it could be argued that since the beer was already long aged prior to bottling, it was probably already at its peak when finally bottled. Reports of modern day tastings indicate that properly handled vintage bottles of this unique beer can still yield a complex (though somewhat faded) taste experience.
The Ballantine logo is three interlocking rings, in a design known as Borromean rings. New York Yankees announcer Mel Allen called it "the Three-Ring Sign." In the logo used in advertising, the rings were labeled "Purity, Body, Flavor". According to one legend, Peter Ballantine was inspired to use the pattern after seeing condensation rings left by beer glasses on a tabletop.
Ballantine as a sponsor and in popular culture
- Mel Brooks adapted the 2000 Year Old Man character to create the 2500 Year Old Brewmaster for Ballantine Beer in the 1960s. Interviewed by Dick Cavett in a series of ads, the Brewmaster (in a German accent, as opposed to the 2000 Year Old Man's Jewish voice) said he was inside the original Trojan horse and "could've used a six-pack of fresh air."
- Writer/journalist Hunter S. Thompson mentions drinking Ballantine Ale in his novel Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
- Ballantine's Beer is referred to as "expensive imported beer" in Sara Sheridan's "Brighton Belle", a mystery set on the South Coast in England in the 1950s.
- Ballantine Ale is mentioned in the song "High Plains Drifter" by the Beastie Boys. In particular, they refer to the rebus puzzles that were printed on the underside of the cap during the Falstaff era.
- Rapper GZA/The Genius of hip hop supergroup Wu-Tang Clan mentions Ballantine Ale numerous times on many different group and solo albums, as have other clan members. GZA/The Genius most notably mentions the classic ale on the Enter the Wu-Tang album track "7th Chamber".
- The Notorious B.I.G. also mentioned Ballantine Ale on "Long Kiss Goodnight" of his sophomore album "Life After Death. "Distribute to, kids who, take heart like Valentine Drink Ballentine, all the time Slugs hit your chest tap you spine, flatline"
- John Bonhams symbol used on Led Zeppelin IV (untitled album) is the same logo just upsidedown.
- The brewery had a long sponsorship arrangement with the New York Yankees on television and radio, spanning the 1940s to the 1960s. Team announcers, most notably the legendary Mel Allen, labeled Yankee home runs, "Ballantine Blasts." The advertising jingle went "Hey, get your cold beer! Hey, get your Ballantine!...Just look for the three-ring sign/And ask the man for Ballantine." After which Allen would advise, "You'll be so glad you did." Ballantine was responsible for making Phil Rizzuto a Yankee broadcaster after his release. Years after he was famously let go by the Yankees, Allen told author Curt Smith that Ballantine had ordered his firing as a cost-cutting move.
- New York Yankees broadcasts featured commercials with the jingle, "Baseball and Ballantine/ Baseball and Ballantine/ What a combination/ All across the nation/ Ballantine, Ballantine beer."
- Ballantine also sponsored the Philadelphia Phillies on radio and TV for many years in the 1950s and 1960s. The scoreboard in right center field at Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium (previously known as Shibe Park) sported a 60-foot-long (18 m) Ballantine Ale sign.
- In 1963 and 1964, Ballantine sponsored a drum and bugle corps based in Newark, New Jersey named the "Ballantine Brewers".
- Ballantine was the preferred beer of Martin Crane on the television show Frasier. He drinks the pale ale in almost every episode, usually from the can.
- In the Mad Men season 6 episode, "The Better Half", Ted Chaough compares Fleishchmann's margarine to Chivas Regal (because it's a relatively expensive brand of margarine), while Don Draper compares it to Ballantine Beer (because he compares margarine to butter).
- Peter Ballantine (1791–1883) from 1840 through 1883
- Robert Francis Ballantine (1836–1905) possibly from 1883 through 1905
- George Griswold Frelinghuysen (1851–1936) from 1905 through ?
- Charles Bradley from ? to 1929
- Carl Badenhausen (1894–1981) from 1933 to May 21, 1964
- John E. Farrell from May 21, 1964 to January 9, 1967
- Richard Griebel from January 9, 1967 to February 17, 1969
- Jack Waldron from February 17, 1969 to June 24, 1969
- Stephen D. Haymes from June 24, 1969 through ?
- "Frelinghuysen-Ballantine. Trinity Episcopal Church, Newark.". New York Times. April 27, 1881, Wednesday. "Trinity Church, in Newark, was crowded yesterday by one of the most brilliant wedding parties ever seen in that city. Many persons were present from New-York, and nearly every section of New-Jersey was represented in the audience of 1,200 persons."
- Article at fallstaffbrewing.com
- Baseball-fever.com archive.
- Falstaff Brewing site
- Impossible world: Articles: Möbius strip
- Vintage photos.
- Mel Brooks Interviewed in Playboy, 1966
- "P. Ballantine & Sons Elects New President". The New York Times. May 22, 1964.
- "P. Ballantine & Sons Fills Top Post". The New York Times. January 10, 1967.
- "Ballantine elects". The New York Times. February 18, 1969.
- "President Is Elected by Ballantine". The New York Times. June 25, 1969.
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