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Ballantine XXX Ale

Update 2/20/12

If you have come to this page looking for XXX pictures, you are definitely in the wrong place! This page celebrates Ballantine XXX Ale, America's best selling ale. I heard someone refer to it once as the "microbrewery taste at a macro brewery price". 

The Ballantine family of Ales really were / are truly American classics of the brewer's art -  As you can see by the many links at the bottom of the page, the Ballantine Ales are still some of the most talked about brews on the web.

Peter Ballantine was born in Scotland on November 16, 1791 and came to seek his fortune in America in 1820. He found work at a brewery in Albany, NY and being clever and thrifty opened his own brewery there in 1833. He took his wife and three children to Newark, NJ in 1840 to be closer to the growing New York City beer market. In the beginning he leased a brewery founded by Gen. John N. Cumming but around 1850 built his own ale brewery nearby. By 1877, P Ballantine & sons was the fourth largest brewery in the USA and the only one brewing ales exclusively in the top 20.  Production was listed as 107,592 bbl. The famous Ballantine three ring symbol ("Purity, Body, Flavor") was inspired by the wet rings left on a table as Peter Ballantine consumed his beer and was first used by the brewery in 1879. This same year Ballantine purchased the Schalk brewery to produce lager beer. The increase in immigrants from central Europe meant America's taste was moving away from the traditional English type ales.  By the 1880s, Ballantine Brewing plants covered 12 acres and was the sixth largest brewer in America. It was located at Ferry & Freeman streets and some buildings still survive today. In late 1882. Ballantine's oldest son Peter H. suddenly took ill after a trip to Europe and died (a pic of his grave is below). His father, active in the business until he died, quickly followed him in January of 1883 at the age of 91.

This Ballantine Lager bottle, probably dating back to the 19th century, submitted thanks to "Ballantine Ale & Nylons"

The running of the brewery was passed to John H. Ballantine, and later Robert F. Ballantine. John Herbert's oldest son, John, got into an argument with his family about saving a batch of beer, and left the family business. He went on to found the Neptune Meter Co. After the death of the last son Robert, the company was headed up by non-family members. By 1895 production had reached the 500,000 bbl per year mark, making Ballantine the 5th largest brewer in the country after Pabst, Anheuser-Busch, Jos. Schlitz, and the Ehret Brewery of New York.  The original ale brewery was eventually closed and all activities moved to the lager brewery site in 1912.

  Burton Ale label thanks to Edward Kelly

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Some Ballantine pics from around the turn of the century from the Virtual Newark Website (l to r) Ale breweries, lager breweries, Ballantine beer truck around 1902. Thanks to Michael Newman for the tip. 

Ballantine's management was forward thinking and saw the coming of Prohibition. In order to allow the company to survive, they produced malt syrup and diversified into insurance and real estate. Many of the family members left to join John Ballantine at the Neptune Meter Co.

Following the lifting of the Volstead Act, German brewing equipment salesman Carl499-47e.jpg (45966 bytes) Badenhausen and his brother Otto approached Ballantine to purchase the brewery. During the "dry" years, Badenhausen had sold equipment to breweries in South America. The management of Ballantine did not want to return to brewing as so many in-house skills had been lost during Prohibition. The brothers purchased the brewery and imported a brewmaster, Archibald MacKenchnie, from Scotland. The Ballantine beers and ales quickly returned to their original popularity in the greater New York City area.     ww2ballantine.jpg (97565 bytes)

During WWII Ballantine sponsored "Uncle Miltie" Berle on the radio as well as the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 50s. Ballantine were also one of the first breweries to sell canned beer in six packs for home consumption. Prior to Prohibition, virtually all beer was sold in kegs or individual bottles. In 1943499-47f.jpg (72366 bytes), Ballantine acquired the Christian Feiganspan Brewery also of Newark and ran this as a second brewery until 1948, when it was closed. Their brands included P.O.N. (Pride of Newark) and Munich.

 Ballantine had a close association with local sports. N.Y. Yankee announcer Mel Allen's called every Yankee home run a "Ballantine Blast" on his radio and later television coverage. . Ballantine also later owned the Boston Celtics basketball team for a time.

By 1950 Ballantine was the third largest brewer in America, surpassed only by Schlitz and A-B, brewing 4.3 million barrels. Shibe Park aka Connie Mack Stadium for the Philadelphia Phillies featured a 60 ft Ballantine Beer sign. NYC sports were divided into rival camps, Yankee fans drank Ballantine, and Mets fans had Rheingold.   

5/09/09 Great 1942 Ballantine Ad thanks to Jack Neville

12/30/05 Art Norton was in the liquor business a very long time. Here are some pics from his job as a display man for Ballantine in the 1950s. The delivery van is the one he used to drive from store to store setting up displays, the Red Bank distributorship was his headquarters. Mr. Norton also worked for Falstaff, Rheingold, G Heileman, Schmidt's of Philly and Pabst. Thanks to Don Norton for sending!

During this time Ballantine Ale was a favorite of many famous American writers. Author John Steinbeck was featured in an ad for Ballantine Ale for the January 26, 1953 Life magazine and Ernest Hemingway did the only commercial endorsement of his life in 1951 for Ballantine Ale. It was humorist Bob Benchley who introduced Hemingway to Ballantine Ale. You can learn more about Benchley here          

The Steinbeck ad is too large for my scanner, apologies

 Even gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson ordered a Ballantine Ale in his movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... as well as a mention in "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" - thanks to Bryon Wells

2/29/08 Ballantine opener thanks to Joseph Scappace

Other famous Ballantine fans included Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Olympian Jim Thorpe, boxer Rocky Marciano, and Frank Sinatra.

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These are the famous Ballantine Ale XXX Cans by American Pop Artist Jasper Johns from 1960. The popular story goes that someone told Johns "I'll bet you could paint a couple of beer cans and someone would buy them..."

Ballantine was also known for a marching band they sponsored for parades. 1964, promising young singer Mama Cass, who would later achieve fame with the Mamas & the Papas, recorded a series of ads for Ballantine Beer (you will need Adobe Acrobat to view this site).  Some of the old jingles went like this:

 

To be crisp a beer must be icylly light-

With true lively flavor precisilly right-

Liveilly golden, crystally clear-

         The crisp refresher (the crisp refresher)-

Ballantine, Ballantine Beer-

Hey, get your cold beer!    

Hey, get your Ballantine Beer!

You get a smile every time-

With the heads up taste of a Ballantine!

 

 

One of four brew kettles, holding 108,000 gallons of wort / Ballantine had their own fleet of 439 trucks that delivered the tasty XXX ale as far west as Chicago

Amazing.....but true!!!!

Unfortunately, sales stagnated during this period and by 1960, Ballantine Brewing had now fallen to sixth place during the great beer shakeout. Having said this, they were the only single plant brewery remaining in the top ten. An attempt was made to "modernize" the formula and flavor, as many other national brewers had already done, but it failed to slow the rapid decline in sales. New TV ads were tried as well, including one featuring Mel Brooks as a 2500 year old brew master and Dick Cavett at the 1964 World's Fair. Cavett's tag line was "There's More Spirit to It!". The jingle was around a song "Hey friend - do it again - Ballantine Beer". The company also tried to change it's packaging, over protests from the sales force, which resulted in catastrophic losses in sales in Hispanic areas..

The company had a sales at West 64th St and York Ave in NYC, three floors for the cars and the top for the sales offices. After a hard day out selling beer, the salesmen used to have some 7 oz "nips" before collecting the point of sale stuff to be used on the next day's calls.

 By 1965 the company started to lose money, so in 1969 Badenhausen and his partners sold the company to a group of investment bankers. Investors Funding Corp of NY had no previous experience in the brewing industry.  At the time Ballantine had sales of $70 million and 3000 employees. Investors paid $16.3 million for the company. My limited experience on buy-outs is that a healthy company goes for one years sales (i.e. $70 million). Since it sold for so much less, it must have been very sick indeed by this time. (pic on the left shows a Mickey Mantle home run that almost went out of the park...note the Ballantine sign in Yankee Stadium - scan thanks to Michael Newman)

   

  

These great Ballantine sports pics thanks to Bob Taylor!

Carl Badenhausen passed away in 1981 at the age of 87. He had run the brewery for 33 years.

 The new owners tried to slow the decline in sales but by now Ballantine had fallen out of the top ten. Just three years later in 1972, with losses mounting in the neighborhood of $1 million per month, the investment company sold the brands and distribution network (but not the brewery) to Falstaff for $4 million and a $.50 royalty on each barrel sold. The value of the company had dropped from $16 to $4 million in just three short years. Balco, as the company was now known, was hoping to develop the brewery site in Newark for other industrial purposes and Falstaff had enough spare capacity to absorb the brewing of the Ballantine products.

A Ballantine gallon can thanks to Brian Lagenbach / and the Holy Grail for beer drinkers - some Ballantine Burton Ale brewed in 1946 and bottled in 11/60 and 11/64. Thanks to Dennis Botens for the shot.

Balco's CEO Stephen Haymes blamed the annual city real estate tax bill of $1 million  for the failure of the company. Balco's management had robbed the employee pension fund in a search for cash, leaving 700 employees without any retirement. 1500 workers were thrown out of their jobs, and 700 transferred over to Falstaff, who retained the Ballantine direct sales and distribution network. But Balco was unable to develop the Newark site, and declared bankruptcy in 1974.

9/9/05 Ballantine light up sign thanks to Jay who said:

"May you live as long as you like, and have all you like as long as you live"

Ballantine had produced a hearty lager beer, the famous XXX ale, bock beer, and a fine India pale ale. The last was an authentic India pale ale, made from a recipe used in the nineteenth century in England for beer sent to the military forces in India. Since this beer had to travel for many months on a sailing vessel in equatorial waters, it had to be long brewed and long aged for four to five months, otherwise its contents would perish before reaching the thirsty consumers. The IPA still remains the subject of various chat rooms on the web and is sadly missed. It was probably one of the best and most unique beers brewed in America.

 

Skimming the famous Ballantine Ale yeast by hand, a practice later continued by Falstaff in Ft Wayne

Ballantine also produced the famous Burton Ale, which was not sold but given to prized customers every Fall. It was aged for not for mere months but for 10 years in oak tanks and considered a rare treat. There is a story that it was the Burton Ale that inspired Fritz Maytag, the heir to the appliance empire, to purchase the failing Anchor Steam brewery in San Francisco in the 1970s to produce similar top fermeted ales; thus launching the micro brewery revolution in America. 

After the sale, the Ballantine Ales were first reproduced at the Falstaff Brewery at Cranston, R.I.  Falstaff carefully maintained the formula and brewing process,  including aging the Ballantine XXX ale and India Pale Ale in the original oak barrels, which dated back to 1803. It could be questionable if this actually influenced the flavor of the beer, as the barrels were lined with wax to prevent contamination from bacteria. (For more see the "Working For Falstaff" page).

Falstaff also introduced the famous "rebus" (or puzzles) inside the bottle caps which proved to be very, very popular among drinkers.

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 But the Ballantine distribution and sales operations created multi-million dollars losses for Falstaff, and desperate for cash, the owners sold the company to Paul Kalmanovitz. It was estimated in the three years after Falstaff had taken control of Ballantine, they had lost $22 million on the product line. Kalmanovitz was not interested in promoting the Ballantine brands as he had to pay a royalty on sales of these products, and they were not as profitable as the Falstaff brands.

Kalmanovitz cut the advertising budget from $1 million to $115,000 and closed all the retail distribution centers. Certain illegal practices called "black bagging" were also stopped (i.e. carrying bribes in a little black bag to restaurants and taverns), leading to losses of key sales outlets to less scrupulous national brewers. As a result, finding Ballantine on tap became almost impossible. Ballantine sales begin to crash, first falling 30% in 1975 and an additional 46% in 1976. But Kalmanovitz achieved his goal, and profits and cash flow improve substantially.

The former owners of Ballantine sued Kalmanovitz for breach of contract due to the loss of royalties on sales, which became a landmark legal decision Bloor v. Falstaff You can see a review of the legal case here. (as this is also a PDF file you will need Adobe Acrobat on your computer to view it) The courts ruled in Barco's favor, and they won a $1.2 million settlement against Kalmanovitz & Falstaff in 1978.

Ballantine Burton Ale1.jpg (235747 bytes)After the closure of Cranston, brewing of Ballantine moved to Ft Wayne and then 1990, to Pabst in Milwaukee. The the oak tanks still remain there today even though this site was also shut down by S&P in 1996. Production was then shifted to contract brewing at Miller in Eden, NC to the former Stroh plant in Lehigh Valley, PA and finally contract brewed at Miller in Trenton, OH. (Cool pic of Ballantine Burton Ale thanks to Mary-Frances Williams)

In 1995, as microbreweries sprung up all over America, Pabst released the Ballantine Twisted Red Ale and re-released the IPA. But with shelves already saturated with microbrews, both brands were eventually dropped after only a short period of time.

While no longer aged in oak barrels, the XXX remains pretty true to its original flavor. There is some controversy as to whether the flavor profile had been modified over the years, but in your webguy's humble opinion, it tastes the same as the first time he tried it 25 years ago. My friend Michael, who has been drinking Ballantine since 1972 while it was still produced in Newark, strongly agrees. But there are a few people out there who believe the taste has indeed changed, and have some quantified evidence to support their argument. Just click here

 

These Photos of an Old Bally keg sent in by Goran and Danijela Crevar up in Canada:

We asked Robert Newman, brewmaster for Pabst and he had this to say: "My experience with this great product started in the mid-80's when Pabst Brewing Co. inherited the label and formula from Falstaff.  Being from the mid-west, I had never tasted this beer before then.  But I fell in love with it immediately.  My experience with the formula doesn't go back any further than that, so I'm not really sure that it tastes exactly the same as it did 20 years ago.  But we were so impressed with the flavor that we did our best to copy the formula exactly.  The three most important parts of the formula, the malt-adjunct ratio, the RDF (Real Degree of Fermentation), and the hopping regimen with Cascade hops have been followed religiously.  Other additions to the beer, like priming syrups and pH adjustments, came and went as the beer's production moved from Falstaff-Ft. Wayne to Pabst- Milwaukee, then to Stroh-Fogelsville, and now to Miller-Eden.  All these incidental tweekings occurred in an effort to preserve the original flavor, despite the changes of plant engineering, malt suppliers, and water sources.  We continue to hold the Ballantine formula sacrosanct because we with the public appreciates its special uniqueness" 

My position is as follows: nobody can do a side by side comparison with the Ballantine of 1972 and today. It is impossible and taste is very much a subjective topic. When I first tried a bottle of Guinness Stout in 1974 I thought it was just about the worst thing I had ever tasted. Now I truly enjoy its flavor. Guinness hasn't changed, I have. It's definitely not Bud, Miller Lite, nor Coors : it's  Ballantine. Try a can at room temperature and you will probably agree.

 Sadly, the IPA, Brewer's Gold (which I really liked), Burton Ales, and Ballantine Lager Beer are no longer produced and there are not any plans by Pabst to revive them. The XXX is not available in kegs, only 12 oz, 22 oz, and the famous 40 oz bottles as well as 12 oz and 16 oz cans.  They are brewed under contract by Pabst under license at Miller Brewing in Eden, NC.

03/29/10 Eric Maskrey's grandfather worked for Ballantine for 36 years. He sent in these great photos: Two bottles of Ballantine Burton Ale nabbed from the bottling line / brewed in 1946, bottled twenty years later (names were cut out as they were flinched!), Ballantine bock / Give-A-Ways / Two shots of the 1948 Plant Two softball team that Eric's grandfather managed for two years / and celebrating his 90th birthday in style in a 40 year old t shirt! Thanks, Eric!

Please note - Ballantine Ale is now available again at Yankee Stadium for $9 per can - thanks to former employee Geoffrey Arend for the tip

Here's more - click here - thanks to Michael Newman

10/14/08 Pabst has put up a nice Ballantine web site, just click here. Thanks to Michael Newman for the tip

2/20/2012 Brad Elliot was at Sugarbush in VT and dropped in Ballantine's Day at a local grog shop. Unusual to see Ballantine Ale in a pub!

9/30/09 Bradford Elliot has come up with the "Ballantini" - just chose the right glass, vermouth, olive, and lemon twist are optional (and unnecessary) embellishments!

Trivia : 12/04/04 The Marty Crane character on the TV sitcom Frasier is apparently often drinking Ballantine Beer. According to reliable sources, Alec Baldwin was seen drinking Ballantine on a cameo performance on "Casino" on 15 November 2004.....

What I really think is  a bit charming is that in NYC Ballantine Ale is considered by many to be a " badass ghetto beer" sold in 40 oz right next to all of that malt liquor. But here are loads of beer experts raving about its flavor. Hey, a little credibility on the street never hurt anyone!J

Ballantine Ale rocks the ganstas!

 

1/5/07 These pics of Ballantine breweriana thanks to Rusty Eder. Rusty said that being included on this site was "the high point of his professional career". Wow.

Ballantine Ale reviews thumbnail below from the Gourmet Guide to Beer by Howard Hillman, 1983. 

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Here is another review from The Connoisseur's Guide to Beer aka The Great American Beer Book by James D. Robertson 1984 - sorry the scans are not so clear (once again my KMart scanner proves why it was only $39.95)(of course, if someone wants to send me a new one, I will give you my mailing address...)

Ballantine Ale & Beer, both receiving 6 stars of out of possible 7 "almost perfect" according to Michael Weiner's "The Taster's Guide to Beer" 1977

From the Beer Lovers Rating Guide by Bob Klein 1997, scan thanks to Michael Newman. I also had some problems scanning the positive review of Falstaff from this book as well

Starts with sweet by not cloying fruitiness, in both aroma and taste, cool and relaxing with velvet consistency, deep golden color enhances the feel and enjoyment; hoppiness is subdued, making for a drinkable American IPA, aged in wood, look for the rebus on the underside of the bottle cap. Goes well with meat loaf, pickled beets, and rustic whole grain breads

If you want to check the freshness of the beer, look at the date code on the bottom of the can. The Miller Brewing codes read mm/dd/y so 02185 would mean the sell by date is February 18, 2005.

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Final resting place of Peter H. Ballantine, eldest son of the founder who died of typhoid pneumonia after a visit to Europe

To see where you can buy Ballantine Ale close to home, go over to the Where Can I Buy page or write Pabst. Be sure to tell them where you live!

 If you have any more on Ballantine Ale, please email me

3/24/05 Got a nice email from Rob Mara in Brooklyn explaining what a "Jimmi Green" was. His friend Jimmi used to drink a half of a bottle of Ballantine Ale and then mix it the balance with Guinness. Apparently much better than a standard black and tan. Rob's friend Jim Green was sadly murdered in the late 80s on his way home during the worst days of the Crack Cocaine wars. Try a "Jimmi Green" and let's remember a Ballantine Brother.  8/15/07 I understand from Bob Whelan who worked for a liquor store in 'Jersey back in the 70s that the old timers used to buy a quart of Ballantine Ale and a quart of Rheingold beer and mix them together at home. They apparently wanted something a little more flavorful than standard lager but not quite the bitterness of Ballantine Ale. Michael Newman of the Bronx said they used to call their mix of Guinness Extra Stout and Ballantine "Black n' Tine".

12/4/06 Proof positive that nothing can stop American ingenuity... we all know that once we pass the half century mark the old eyeballs start to fail and it gets hard to see the fine print. This includes the puzzles on the inside of the Ballantine caps which can be dadgumb hard to read (especially after drinking a few). Phil Rice has come up with a "Baliscope" which makes those rascals easy for to see for those of us becoming optically challenged.

   

2/14/08 I will be posting quite a few pictures of Ballantine advertising  from Bob Taylor's collection. Thanks to Dave Launt of the BCCA for the send. For more on the BCCA, click here.  More to come, so please stop back! Thanks, Bob & Dave!

A special tip of the green 16 oz. can to "Deadhead" Michael Newman of NYC ("Keep on Truckin") for the idea to create this page and to former Ballantine sales rep Geoffrey Arend,  John Thomas Ciappetta, former Ballantine employee Al Guippone , Don Norton, Mike Rolfsmeyer, Jim Anderson, Leon Busteed, John Beauregard, Bahama Bob, Rolf Badenhausen, Bert Badenhausen, and Rusty Eder for their contributions . Sincere thanks also to April Kane of the Newark Public Library and David Kuzma of the Rutgers University archives for all the wonderful material they sent me. They gave me everything to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.  I also really appreciate the input of Robert Newman, brewmaster for Pabst and to Andreas Salinas of Pabst for her assistance. Ballantine sales in 2001 were about 50,000 bbl, almost twice that of Falstaff and rose 5%. Look out Bud lite!

Want more info? Here are loads o'links:

12/06/2010 Michael Newman sent in this cool link to an old Ballantine ad. Just click on the photo!

12/28/07 Michael Newman found this classic ad on Youtube.

Here's another with a pretty hot babe enticing to drink the golden nectar...

8/22/07 Here is a nice link on Phil Rizzuto and Ballantine Ale thanks to Jay

10/16/06 Thirsty for a Ballantine Ale but facing a 15 hour drive to the closest outlet? Fear not, now you can order it online and have it delivered to your doorstep. Just click here. Thanks to Bill Becker out in WY for the tip!!!

 10/25/06 Here's a new page on the Rebus' inside the former Falstaff brand's bottle caps! Thanks to Alan Switzer

Here is an article on Ballantine Ale from 2/2004 from Rescue Magazine thanks to Ballantine Fan Michael

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4/04/05 Here is another review from Beer Pal.

Ballantine Ale is the beverage of choice for detective Jack McMorrow and his creator Gerry Boyle. To learn more, go here.            

             Click here for a nice page on our old friend Ballantine Ale

 Here is a nice review by Marc Morency. Thanks, Marc. Check out the rest of his listings!

 

If you live in the state of Mass, you can order Ballantine Ale on line!

Some folks have theorized that "Bonzo's" (drummer John Bonham) symbol on the Led Zeppelin album Four Symbols (aka Stairway to Heaven) came from the Ballantine Beer logo

Here is another mega-serious review of Ballantine Ale. Apparently it can cause Tacos to fail to reach your mouth.....

Don't know what to do with your massive tax refund check? - here is a Ballantine neon you can buy on line!

Some thoughts on the very famous Ballantine Burton Ale by Michael Jackson (the late English Beer and Ale expert, not the late singer)

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all this awesome stuff from www.breweriana.com

And another review of an ancient bottle of the Burton Ale

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