“It Works Every Time”
– Colt 45 Malt Liquor Advertising Slogan
Colt 45 Malt Liquor is a fermented beverage for people who want to get very drunk on beer, very fast and cheap. For years, it’s advertising slogan was, “It works every time.”
Introduced in 1963 by the National Brewing Company of Baltimore, it was the second malt liquor on the market, after Country Club, which came in 7 oz cans. It went t through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and is now brewed by Pabst.
It looks, tastes, and goes down just like beer, but kicks like jumping the horse on its label, or the recoil of a Colt 45 handgun, sometime s known as a “John Wayne rifle.”
It’s sold in 40-ounce bottles. I’ve been told that drinking a bottle fast can make a person hallucinate. Once, to revisit college days, I nursed a 40-ounce bottle all evening, went to bed, slept seven hours, and woke up plastered.
“Experienced users know it dishes out mule-kick hangovers,” says the website Drunkard.com in an article titled “Forty Ounces of Fury.”
Master home brewer Rod McBride of Kansas City, a certified judge of home brewing competitions, said malt liquor can be as much as 25 percent more alcoholic than beer. They fortify it by reducing the water content during fermentation, adding something like brandy, or both. He does not have specific knowledge of Colt 45’s brewing process or alcohol content.
The Brew from the Bad Part of Town
The alcoholic beverage consumer website Drunkard.com, calls malt liquor ,“The beer so strong they don’t even call it beer — they call it liquor. It’s the brew from the bad part of town, the staple of gangstas and punk rockers, barrios and trailer parks. Activist groups say it causes violence, and yuppies say it tastes like poison.
Colt 45 has a historic connection with the African American community. For years, Billy Dee Williams represented it in TV commercials, print ads, and on billboards. It’s current spokesman is the rapper Snoop Dogg.
When the National Brewing Company was sold to a Canadian brewery named Carling, Colt 45 was the only National product to survive.
National Bohemian Beer
Carling’s handling of National’s top product, National Bohemiam Beer, ranks as the worst marketing decision in beverage industry history after New Coke. As a marketing disaster, it ranks with the Ford Edsel.
National “Boh,” as it was called was like a public utility in Maryland and the District of Columbia. It also had a sizable market share in Philadelphia.
It so dominated those markets that it was the 12th largest beer in the country.
Owned by a kind, philanthropic local businessman and community figure, Jerold “Chuck” Hoffberger, “Boh” as it was called, sponsored the Orioles, Baltimore Colts, Washington Senators, and Washington Redskins on TV and radio.
Hoffberger owned the Orioles in the ’60′s, when the team became a dynasty. He hired the best baseball people in the business, then got out of their way and let them do their jobs. ”What do I know about baseball?” he once asked the Baltimore Sun rhetorically.
Boh also sponsored local charities and tournaments of local participant sports. Few local products were as intimately connected with their communities as National Boh.
Boh’s logo was a one-eyed man with a thick black moustache named Mr. Boh. It’s TV and radio ads were built on the theme that National Boh is “brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the Land of Pleasant Living.”
It’s TV spokesman was a humous animated shore bird named Chester Peake, who was a lot like GEICO’s lizard, who came along decades later.
Every commercial was based on a Chesapeake Bay theme. One I remember was a rap version of a classic recipe for Maryland fried chicken, 40 years before rap music, by that name, was common.
The obvious thing for Carling to do with it’s new acquisition was leave Boh alone. Chances are, no one would have noticed if they put Carling Black Label into Boh bottles and cans.
Instead, in a misguided attempt to make itself a best-selling national brand like Budweiser, Carling pulled Boh from store shelves and taverns, and tried to sell Black Label to loyal Boh drinkers. Carling commercials were generic and sexist: a guy whistling at a waitress, and saying “Mabel, Black Label.”
All Carling got for its expensive acquisition was a brewery and bottling plant outside Baltimore, a fleet of trucks, and a niche product, Colt 45 Malt Liquor. Black Label also went through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and is now brewed by Molson in Canada. It’s hard to find in the United States