Another Rheingold Revival

“My beer is Rheingold the dry beer.
Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer …”

That commercial jingle was a popular one back in the 1940s, ‘50s and ’60s, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area, before Rheingold stopped brewing beer and while it still was running the wildly popular Miss Rheingold contest.

Those weaned on today’s brewpub brands won’t remember this bit of pop culture, but there was a time when the Miss Rheingold contest drew as many or more local votes as the presidential election. The event was created in 1940 by Philip Liebmann, president of the Liebmann Brewery that made Rheingold. His idea was to get pretty girls to vie for the title, then they would be used in Rheingold ads.

After two years, says author Will Anderson in his book “From Beer to Eternity,” Liebmann decided to let the public vote. That first year saw 200,000 votes. By 1959, the number hit its all-time high of 22 million.

Anderson says the contest was dropped after Sharon Vaughn won the crown in 1965. The announced reason: marketing problems.

“The unofficial -- and probably truer -- reason was that Liebmann was rapidly sliding into a no-win situation. If they were to continue to have only lily-white Miss Rheingold contestants, the important black and Hispanic markets would feel cheated; but if a black or Hispanic were to win, the company could genuinely fear white backlash. If there's no way to win, why bother to play? Liebmann decided not to. And so ended one of New York's most famous -- and certainly most fun -- annual traditions.”

This all comes to mind because Drinks America has signed a letter of intent with Rheingold Brewing Co. Inc. for the acquisition of Rheingold. The company was restarted in 1998 after being out of business for two decades, but hasn’t made a strong showing in its old market where it once held 35% of New York City’s beer sales.

“Rheingold fits well into our distribution network since many of our non-alcoholic distribution partners are beer wholesalers,” said Drinks Americas CEO Patrick Kenny. “Rheingold will benefit in a number of ways from the synergy which comes from being a brand within Drinks as opposed to an independent company.”

No financial details were revealed.

The Miss Rheingold contest was briefly revived in 2003, when Kate Duyn was crowned. Stay alert for it to come one more time. When, we don't know, but in an era of "American Idol," "So You Think You Can Dance" and other popularity contests dreamed up by marketing people, Miss Rheingold seems like a winner.

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