Carling Black Label

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This article is about the beer brand. For the article about the bike club, see Black Label Bike Club
Black Label
Type Beer
Manufacturer Carling Brewing Company
Distributor Carling Brewing Company
Country of origin Canada
Introduced 1927

Black Label is a Canadian brand of lager distributed by Carling and well-known throughout the former British Empire. In several countries, it is also known as Carling Black Label, and in Sweden, it is known as Carling Premier. However, in the United Kingdom it is now known as just Carling in response to public demand for a snappier call at the bar (according to the company).

History[edit]

Main article: Carling

Although its original focus was on ale, Carling has been brewing lager-style beers since the 1870s. In 1927, as part of an overall corporate re-branding effort under new president J. Innes Carling, the company renamed its already popular Black & White Lager to Black Label.[1]

Three years later, Carling was purchased by Toronto business tycoon E.P. Taylor, who merged the company into his Canadian Breweries Limited (CBL), which grew to be the world's largest brewing company, at least for a time. Under Taylor, Black Label was promoted as CBL's flagship brand and went on to become the world's first beer to be brewed on a mass international scale,[1] becoming particularly popular in Commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Canada[edit]

In response to a shift in popular taste away from ale, Carling added a three-story lager plant to their main London, Ontario brewery in 1877.[1] Carling's Lager (later renamed Carling's Bavarian Stock Lager, and then Carling's Imperial Club Lager) was the company's first lager brand. Carling's Black & White Lager was introduced in the 1920s and later renamed Black Label Lager, in contrast to their recently launched Red Cap Ale.

Due to its strength and price, the brand quickly became popular with the country's working class, perhaps most famously among the loggers and miners of Northern Ontario, where the brand gained a tough, blue-collar image.

Around 1990, Black Label had probably one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever made in Canada, which used the phrase "The Legend is Black." The genius of the advertising campaign came from the tendency for people in alternative music bars on Queen Street West in Toronto to drink Black Label because it was cheap and as a way to dissociate themselves from mainstream people drinking mainstream beer.

United States[edit]

The converted auto factory in 1965

After the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the Peerless Motor Car Company, looking for a way to diversify in the poor car market of the depression, purchased the American rights to Carling's formulas, identifying labels, and trademarks. Technicians and brewmasters were sent from Canada to convert a Peerless plant in Cleveland, Ohio into the Brewing Corporation of America. They first tried just brewing Carling's Red Cap Ale, but sales were too slow to maintain the brewery, and sales didn't climb until the introduction of Black Label lager. The philosophy behind Black Label was to have a high quality lager that was available nationwide but with a locally brewed budget price. The strategy worked, and the next several decades led to rapid growth and expansion for the brewery and the Carling Black Label brand.[2]

When Carling stopped producing Black Label to focus on a more profitable lager, they found their sales plummeting. Carling re-introduced Black Label with a beautiful blond named Mabel, portrayed by Jeanne Goodspeed, with the slogan "Hey Mabel, Black Label!". The twenty-year marketing campaign cemented the name in the popular culture of America.

In 1979, after several years of intense pressure from the larger American Brewers Miller and Anheuser-Busch, Carling-National was bought out by the Heileman Brewing Co. of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Carling and the Black Label brand are currently owned by the Molson Coors Brewing Company. Though no longer widely distributed in the U.S., Black Label remains the official beer of Beer Frisbee.[2]

United Kingdom[edit]

Black Label was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1952. Originally, it was only available in bottles, but in 1965, The Hill Top in Sheffield became the first pub to pour Carling on draught.[3]

In the 1970s, Carling Black Label sales were driven to great heights, due partly to increased advertising support, in particular the classic “I bet he drinks” series of advertisements, and partly with the launch of Carling Black Label in cans. Cans were important to Carling’s success as they helped open up the “take home” market.[3]

The “I bet he drinks” series of ads showed someone doing something cool, clever or difficult, and having a bystander say "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label". Many of the adverts featured comedians Mark Arden and Stephen Frost, also known as The Oblivion Boys, delivering the classic punchline. With the help of this advertising campaign, it became Britain's best-selling brand of beer in 1971.

Carling has remained Britain’s best selling beer since 1985. The Black Label was dropped from the name in 1997 and the brand's logo was updated.[3]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, Black Label began to take on a different tone with the anti-apartheid movement. This was partly due to the fact that, at 5.5%, it had more alcohol than the other brands of beer that generally had 5.0%, as noted in the popular advertising catch phrase "only hard working students deserve an extra 0.5 percent." Furthermore, the connotation of black to the racial issue became a point of pride to the native Africans. It used to be sold with the motto, "America's Lusty, Lively Beer," perhaps in reference to Canada, though it is seldom seen in the United States. The motto came from an older advertising campaign in the United States. The beer is commonly referred to as simply Black Label or, even more simply Label, in order to provide a snappy call at the bar. It also goes by the name Zamalek, Quickcharge, Soweto Pepsi, Silvertop or 1011 (10-11 Malt Liquor is a Carling's brand). Another famous Afrikaans slogan for Black Label in South Africa is, "Black Label sê die bybel", which means "The Bible says (one should drink) Black Label."

The beer was parodied by South African T-shirt company Laughitoff. The slogan was changed to "Black Labour, White Guilt," which led to an unsuccessful trademark infringement lawsuit from SABMiller.

References[edit]

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