Lucky Lager

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Lucky Lager
Manufacturer Labatt Brewing Company
Country of origin Canada

Lucky Lager is a beer with a large cult following on Vancouver Island. Lucky was actually brewed on Vancouver Island in Victoria until 1982, when Labatt Breweries of Canada moved off the Island and tore down the brewery to prevent any competition on the Island. Labatt now brews Lucky out of Edmonton, Alberta in the same brewery where they produce Budweiser for all of Western Canada. In 1995, Labatt was purchased by Belgian brewer Interbrew. Interbrew was then purchased by Brazilian brewing giant Ambev in 2004 and the company became Inbev. On 13 July 2008, Inbev merged with Anheuser-Busch and Lucky officially became owned by Budweiser.

History[edit]

Lucky Lager was first commercially introduced in 1934 by the General Brewing Company. The General Brewing Company was founded in San Francisco, California by Eugene Selvage (who would remain owner and CEO until 1961).[1][2][3] The following decade saw Lucky Lager grow to be the sales leader in the entire West.[1] Lucky Lager Brewing Company opened a second brewery in Azusa, California in 1949. During the early fifties, a brand slogan was "It's Lucky When You Live in California." It was seen on many billboards in Northern California. The following decade saw Lucky Lager grow to be the sales leader in the entire West.[1] It bought smaller breweries in Vancouver, Washington in 1950 and in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1960.

In the 1960s, Lucky Lager Brewing Company sponsored the Lucky International Open. Lucky's 1963 McCann Erickson ad campaign included the song "Go Lively: Get Lucky", by Richard Adler.[4]
The Salt Lake City brewery was closed in 1967.[5] Lucky Lager Brewing Company changed its name back to General Brewing between 1963 and 1969, and then changed its name to Lucky Breweries, Inc. in 1969. During the late 1960s, Lucky Lager's market share faltered among younger drinkers. This led to the ill-fated introduction of King Snedley's Beer. According to some accounts, King Snedley's was just Lucky Lager repackaged with a different brand and marketed toward counterculture hipsters. The new brand flopped and was withdrawn from the market, though it would reappear briefly in 1975.

In 1971, millionaire beer baron Paul Kalmanovitz bought Lucky Lager Brewing and again changed the name back to General Brewing Company. The Azusa, CA brewery was closed immediately. The San Francisco brewery was closed in 1978. This left Vancouver, WA and Cranston, RI as the only locations where Lucky Lager was brewed.[6] In the late 1970s, General Brewing took advantage of the "generic brand" marketing craze in the US by producing beer with plain white labels emblazoned with the word BEER. Rumors surfaced that BEER was simply repackaged Lucky Lager. When the generic craze died, and the microbrewery movement took off, General had a hard time maintaining profitability as a brewer of inexpensive beers. The fact that Lucky Lager tasted no worse than expensively-advertised "premium" brands such as Budweiser or Miller did not impress a market of drinkers where image was frequently more important than taste. The brewery's fortunes began to decline.

After the Vancouver, WA brewery shut down in July 1985, the Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, WA began to produce this lager. On 1 July 2003, this brewery was also closed. Since then, Lucky Lager has been brewed in Irwindale, CA, along with other brands such as Olympia and Rainier.

Bottles[edit]

Lucky Lager was once famous for its 11 oz stubby bottles featuring a rebus under the cap. Since the closure of the Tumwater brewery, this famous bottle has been discontinued.

The label for Lucky Lager has also seen many changes. The large red X was made less prominent in the 1950s, but it remained on the labels and on advertising. The label was redesigned and the X was again made smaller in 1962, although it was still the design's focus. This can with the smaller "X" is sometimes called the 'bug' can by collectors because there is a small "dated" seal that can appear on different spots on the label, like a bug moving around. A subsequent design got rid of the "X" entirely and replaced it with a large "L". The "L" was written in the cursive form with the rest of the letters following. The origin and reason for this new design (X to L) is somewhat unknown, but is said to have been created by the son of a Lucky Lager distributor in the Northwest.

Availability[edit]

In recent years, the popularity of the beer has declined, but in selected areas in North America, the beer is still available. Lucky is commonly found all across Southern British Columbia. Though generally considered a "non-premium" beer, it enjoys a dedicated following on Vancouver Island and is popular in South Island towns such as Sooke, Lake Cowichan, Ucluelet, Duncan, Chemainus, Crofton, Cherryville, Campbell River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Gold River, Port Alice, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Cassidy, Cedar, and Victoria, and in Alberta in the Edmonton neighborhood of Terwillegar Towne. Labatt Brewing Company declared Cumberland, BC to be the "Luckiest Town in Canada" in early 2002 due to its incredible rate of consumption. Labatt markets Lucky Lager as a budget brand in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario. Lucky Beer is available at Salmon and Bannock in Vancouver & The Pemberton Station Pub in North Vancouver. It can also be found in certain areas of the United States, most commonly Michigan.

In films and television[edit]

Several references were made to Lucky Lager in 1960s films. In the 1961 independent feature The Exiles, the characters are drinking Lucky Lager during much of the movie and local liquor stores advertise the sale of Lucky Lager with neon signs. It was also featured in the bar room brawl scene in the 1968 movie The Devil's Brigade starring William Holden. In the 1968 Russ Meyer film "Vixen!", Lucky Lager is being enjoyed in the backwoods of British Columbia.

The beer also appeared in films over the next three decades. Jack Nicholson's character drank the old oil can style of Lucky Lager throughout the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces. Lucky Lager was in the closing of The Bad News Bears (1976), as Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) gives the team Lucky Lager stubby grenades to celebrate. Cans of Lucky feature prominently in the film The Van, being sold out of a cooler for 35 cents at a van show in one scene. In the 1993 film Kalifornia, Lucky Lager was the favorite drink of Brad Pitt's character, Early Grayce.

Lucky Lager was also featured in the 1982 Black Flag video "TV Party".

In the television show Greg the Bunny, a Lucky Lager sign can be seen in the background in the bar scene of the 'Rabbit Redux' episode.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Eugene Selvage Retires As President of Lucky Lager." Humboldt Standard 3 March 1961: Pg. 9
  2. ^ Sullivan, Pat. "Fleisher, Green Tied For Lead / Seniors Cutting Up Silverado Course." San Francisco Chronicle 09 Oct. 1999: Sports
  3. ^ George Archer is a rookie golfer who—for press - 04.13.64 - SI Vault
  4. ^ Go Lively: Get Lucky, Richard Adler, arranged by Sid Ramin. Promotional LP, McCann Erickson Advertising, San Francisco, RR-25659, recorded 12/27/1962
  5. ^ Van Wieren, Dale P. American Breweries II (West Point, PA.: East Coast Breweriana Association, 1995) 17, 37, 372, 385.
  6. ^ Decamp, Bob. "It's Lucky When You Live in the West" Beer Cans and Brewery Collectibles (Feb/March 1997) 6-8.

References[edit]

  • Decamp, Bob. "It's Lucky When You Live in the West" Beer Cans and Brewery Collectibles (Feb/March 1997) 6-8.
  • Hernon, Peter and Terry Ganey. Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty. (New York: Avon Books, 1992)
  • "General Brewing Corporation Will Enter West Field" (Reno) Nevada State Journal. (11 April 1934) 10.
  • "General Brewing Management Plan, The" Modern Brewery (December 1934) 43-46.
  • Novins, J. K. "General Brewing Corp. Begins Operations" Modern Brewery (March 1934) 52-54, 80-81.
  • Novins, J. K. "Lucky Lager Centers Promotion on the Label" Modern Brewery (May 1939) 24-27, 66.
  • Van Wieren, Dale P. American Breweries II (West Point, PA.: East Coast Breweriana Association, 1995) 17, 37, 372, 385.

External links[edit]