Rheingold Beer, introduced in 1883, is a New York beer that held 35 percent of the state's beer market from 1950 to 1960. The company was sold by the founding German American Liebmann family in 1963. According to the New York Times, "Rheingold Beer was once a top New York brew guzzled regularly by a loyal cadre of workingmen who would just as soon have eaten nails as drink another beer maker's suds." Its VP-Technical Joseph Owades claims credit for Rheingold's developing the first light beer.
Rheingold shut down operations in 1976, when they were unable to compete with the large national breweries. Corporate consolidation and the rise of national breweries led to the demise of dozens of regional breweries. The Orange, New Jersey brewery was the last facility to close.
The label was revived in 1998 by Terry Liebmann and partner Mike Mitaro. The beer's evocative name is an allusion to Germany's great river Rhein as well as Richard Wagner's opera Das Rheingold.
Miss Rheingold Girls 1940–1965
At the center of its media campaign was the "Miss Rheingold" pageant. Beer drinkers voted each year on the young lady who would be featured as Miss Rheingold in advertisements. In the 1940s and 1950s in New York, "the selection of Miss Rheingold was as highly anticipated as the race for the White House." The first Miss Rheingold was Spanish-born Jinx Falkenburg. When Nat King Cole became the first major black entertainer to host a television show, advertisers stayed away—but not Rheingold; Rheingold was the New York regional sponsor for Cole's show. As early as 1965, Rheingold aired television ads featuring African American, Puerto Rican and Asian actors, to appeal to its racially diverse customer base. The company's headquarters was in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Rheingold was the official beer of the New York Mets, and its advertisements featured John Wayne, Jackie Robinson, Sarah Vaughan and the Marx Brothers. They also sponsored The Jackie Robinson Show which aired on 660 WRCA radio in New York City on Sunday evenings between 6:30 and 7 PM during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The company shut down four years after the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center was completed. During the cleanup of the WTC site following the collapse of the towers on September 11, 2001, numerous Rheingold beer cans were found in the rubble, having been hidden in the beams of the building decades earlier by construction workers who had drunk the beers on the job.
According to an October 18, 1999 New York Observer article, Mike Mitaro's Rheingold Brewing Company LLC bought the brand in 1998. Walter Liebmann, a director of the new company, is a relative of Rheingold's founding family. When Rheingold re-launched, they revived the Miss Rheingold pageant. The new Miss Rheingold contestants no longer wore ball gowns and white gloves--"They had tattoos. They were pierced. They were badasses." In 2003, The Village Voice noted Rheingold for "the best marketing campaign co-opting hipster drinking habits." In 2004, Rheingold stirred controversy in New York City with a series of ads which mock New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on smoking in bars and enforcement of city laws which prohibit dancing in bars which do not have a "cabaret license." Bloomberg responded by drinking Coors in public.
In 2005, Drinks Americas of Wilton Ct., whose brands include Trump Vodka and Dr. Dre Cognac, purchased Rheingold Brewing. Drinks Americas has reformulated the Rheingold product for follow through distribution throughout the US. The date of the release is currently unknown. A reformulated Rheingold beer was introduced to the New York Metropolitan market, as well as Cincinnati, Ohio and Georgia, in August 2010.
In popular culture
Les Paul recorded a very popular radio commercial for Rheingold in 1951. Humorist and radio personality Jean Shepherd was the radio spokesman for Rheingold's radio ads on New York Mets broadcasts in the 1970s.
In the 1959 film "It Happened to Jane" newspaper reporter Matilda Runyon drinks Rheingold at home and warns her husband Clarence to stay away from her beer supply.
In the movie Sophie's Choice (1982), Nathan Landau throws a beer to Stingo.
In the film Silver Bullet (1985), Arnie Westrum is first seen singing a drunken rendition of the Rheingold beer song.
In the movie Just Looking (1999), which takes place in 1955, Rheingold beer and advertisements are shown throughout.
In the summer 2011 edition of San Francisco Opera's The Ring of the Nibelung (a cycle of four related operas by German composer Richard Wagner), the character Wotan, who represents the main Germanic god, sips from a can of Rheingold Beer. It is an homage to Das Rheingold, one of the Ring operas, and a direct reference to the legendary gold in the Rhine River, of which the Ring of the Nibelungs is fashioned.
The history of the Rheingold Girl contest is recounted in Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed (Harper 2008).
In a 1992 episode of The Golden Girls (season 7, episode 24), Sophia, Blanche, and Dorothy sang the Rheingold Beer theme song lyrics to the tune of Emil Waldteufel's "Estudiantina Valse" (The Students' Waltz), op. 191, No. 4; .[which?] Sophia commented to her daughter, Dorothy, "Your father was always singing that damn jingle."
In the "Hi Def Jam" episode of King of Queens, Doug and his friends are all seen drinking Rheingold while playing poker.
- Patricia Winters Lauro (February 12, 2003). "Rheingold Hopes to Rekindle the Romance Between the Beer and New York City". New York Times, reprinted by NYU. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- Ellen Neuborne (June 1, 2003). "Beauty Is In The Eye of The Beer Holder". Business 2.0. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- Will Anderson (1998). "Who'll Be New York's Favorite Girl? The Miss Rheingold Contest". Beerhistory.com, excerpt From Beer to Eternity. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "The Nat King Cole Show". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- Carl H. Miller (2002). "Beer Commercials: A Brief History". Beerhistory.com. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "For an Old Beer, A New Life". New York Times. March 31, 1998. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "My beer is Rheingold-the Dry beer!". Ebony December 1959. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
- Smith, Dennis (2003). Report From Ground Zero. Penguin Group. p. 287. ISBN 0-670-03116-X.
- Carla Spartos (2003). "best of New York 2003". Village Voice. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "NYC mayor blasts Rheingold for planned ads". Modern Brewery Age. April 26, 2004. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- Colin Moynihan (April 19, 2004). "After Brewer Unveils Ads, Mugs Aren't All That's Frosty". New York Times, reprinted by NYU. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "Drinks Americas to buy Rheingold brand" (Press release). 2005-06-27. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
- Gil Hembree (2002). "Les Paul: Birth of a Guitar Icon (section titled "Commercial Appeal")". Vintage Guitar. Archived from the original on 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "I Want to Be Evil" television performance, retrieved June 21, 2014
- Corporate website
- "The Originators of Rheingold Beer," by Rolf Hofmann
-  A classic Rheingold advertisement, featuring dancing beers – clip 31 at 00:09:030 in the archive.
- Rheingold's "Little Old New York" at the 1964/1965 NY World's Fair – Featured at nywf64.com
-  Interview with Kate Duyn, Miss Rheingold 2003.