Tag Archives: Toledo

George Carlin, A Toledo Window Box, And A Beer Brewed In Texas

A common practice in the modern craft brewing industry is for breweries to name some of their beers after local landmarks, natural landscape features, historical figures, historical events etc. Without looking beyond the state of Ohio, there are many examples of this. Toledo’s Maumee Bay Brewing Company brew Glass City Pale Ale, paying homage to the city’s historical association with the glass industry. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is brewed by Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company. The beer remembers the Great Lakes freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in a storm on Lake Superior in November, 1975 with the loss of its entire crew of twenty-nine men. As a side note, the captain of the Fitzgerald, Ernest M. McSorley, was from Toledo. Hustle Red Lager, from Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery, is a not to baseball great Pete Rose. Rose played for the Cincinnati Reds (1963-78, 1984-86), where he earned the nickname Charlie Hustle. Rose was given the nickname by the New York Yankees’s pitcher, Whitey Ford.  At a spring training game in 1963, Whitey saw Rose run to first base on a walk (it was customary to walk), and later watched as Rose run around the bases and race into the dugout when the inning ended. There, observed Ford, is “Charlie Hustle”.

Naming beers after something or someone with a local connection is part of a broader desire on the part of many craft breweries to be authentic and to promote what social scientists call a ‘sense of place’.  Craft breweries allow visitors to drink local beer and, in many cases, connect with local history and heritage. Ann Fletchall, in a study of craft breweries in Montana explores the concept of sense of place. In her paper Fletchall argues:

“Besides the taste of the beer, the local nature of breweries and their community focus prove to be an important draw for brewery visitors and provide the chance to experience the community in a more authentic way, and thus, offer an opportunity to make a meaningful connection with place.”

As I was contemplating the idea of sense of place, I started to wonder if there are any breweries not located in Toledo that have beers with Toledo in their name. So I went to the website RateBeer.com, and typed ‘Toledo’ into the search engine.  The results returned were interesting. First, I noticed that there were a number of beers listed that are brewed by Calles de Toledo, a brewery in Toledo, Spain. Toledo, Spain and Toledo, OH are sister cities. In fact, when Toledo, OH entered into a sister city relationship with its Spanish counterpart in 1931, it became the first city in North America to engage in such a relationship. Indeed, one of the beers listed on the RateBeer.com page that I pulled up actually provided a connection between the two Toledos. Casilda of Toledo is a Vienna Lager, brewed by the Black Cloister Brewing Company in Toledo, OH. Casilda of Toledo is is venerated as a saint in both the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church. Casilda was the daughter of the Muslim King of Toledo. She often showed compassion to Christian prisoners, by sneaking them bread hidden in her clothes. As a young woman she converted to Christianity. She died in 1050.

So what about beers that have a connection to Toledo, OH but are not brewed in Toledo. The RateBeer.com list contained three:

Collingwood Presbyterian Church, built in 1904, in one of the many churches on Toledo’s Collingwood Boulevard

The Holy Toledo IPA and Holy Toledo Pilsener did not particularly surprise me. The phrase ‘Holy Toledo’ is well-known and in common use. Most recently it was used in a headline in the Chicago Tribune, on a story extolling Toledo as place worthy of visiting for tourists – “Holy Toledo! Ohio’s ‘Glass City’ is worth a trip.” For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, it is an exclamation of surprise or astonishment. But as I looked at the names of these two beers, it struck me that I did not know the genesis of the phrase, Holy Toledo. Spending a some time on the internet did little to enlighten me – lots of ideas, but no definitive answer. There are a couple of ‘theories’, which include the heavy concentration of churches on the city’s Collingwood Boulevard, its use by Toledo-raised comedian, Danny Thomas, during the 1930s, and even a link to Toledo, Spain and that city’s importance, at different points in time, to the Christian, Islamic, and Judaic faiths.

Of all the beers listed on the RateBeer.com page, the one that really intrigued me was Toledo Window Box, an Imperial Pale Ale brewed by Idle Vine Brewing Company in  Pflugerville, TX. According to the brewery’s website:

The name Toledo Window Box refers to a report George Carlin read stating that the chief of police of Toledo, Ohio had gone to see a viewing of Reefer Madness and a training session by the FBI. Afterwards he made the statement that “You can grow enough marijuana in an average window box to drive the entire population of Toledo stark, raving mad”. Carlin then stated that he wanted one of those Toledo Window Boxes. This Imperial Pale Ale is our homage to Carlin and his Toledo Window Box.

The cover of George Carlin’s Toledo Window Box album

In 1974, Carlin released an album of the same name, Toledo Window Box. It was his sixth album and reached number thirteen on Billboard 200. Reefer Madness is a 1938 film about marijuana use. The film revolves around an unmarried couple, Mae Coleman and Jack Perry who live together and spend much of their time selling marijuana (‘reefer’) to friends and acquaintances who attend their reefer parties. The intention behind Reefer Madness is to convey the dangers of marijuana; witness the development of the plot which sees a series of marijuana-induced tragedies, including a car accident, a shooting, and an innocent boy being brought to trial.

There are a lot of things I like about the craft beer industry; one of which is the connection that many craft breweries make with people, places, and events through the naming of their beers.  In doing so, the craft brewery is inviting the beer drinker to stop and ponder before taking that first sip. I am sure that many craft beer drinkers do not care all that much about the story behind the name. I do. For me, it adds a layer of interest, as it peaks my curiosity. That curiosity can often be satisfied by a knowledgeable  bartender, or if that fails, by reaching for my smart phone and accessing the internet.

Further Reading and Viewing:

Fletchall, Ann M. 2016. Place-Making Through Beer-Drinking: A Case Study of Montana’s Craft Breweries. Geographical Review, Volume 106, Issue 4, pp. 539-566.

The movie Reefer Madness can be viewed here.

The Prohibition Chronicles

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, along with my wife and two friends, I attended the premier of  “Toledo: The Prohibition Chronicles”. The sixty minute documentary told the story of gangsters and bootleggers who operated in Toledo during the Prohibition era. In particular, it focused on the battle between Toledo bootlegger, Jack Kennedy and Yonnie Licavoli, head of Detroit’s Licavoli Gang, as they fought for control of Toledo’s illicit booze industry. The documentary was produced by University of Toledo alumnus, Charissa Gracyk, with help from her cousin Gillian Perdeau. The venue for the documentary’s premier was the Nelson Theater in the city’s Collingwood Arts Center.

Prohibition,  which outlawed the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol, was ushered in with the passage of the 18th Amendment. It took effect on January 17, 1920.  Prohibition lasted thirteen years. Repeal of the 18th Amendment was complete, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933. Ohio, like some other states, actually went dry before Federal Prohibition took effect. Prohibition in Ohio started on May 27, 1919. Ohio voters had went to the polls on November 5, 1918 to vote on The Ohio Prohibition on Alcohol Amendment (also known as Amendment 2). Amendment 2 passed by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6%. One year earlier, on November 6, 1917, Ohioans had rejected Prohibition (Amendment 1), 53% to 47%. The Anti-Saloon League, one of the organizations favoring Prohibition, was actually founded in Oberlin, OH in 1893. In 1905, by which time it was a powerful national organization, it moved its headquarters to Westerville, OH. Indeed, if you ever find yourself in Westerville, you might consider paying a visit to the Anti-Saloon League Museum.

In an informative essay titled Raising Our Glass: Saloon Culture in Toledo, Ohio, Arnette Hawkins describes the scene in Toledo on the final Saturday evening before the start of Prohibition. Drinking saloons were filled to capacity, with the customers including many revelers from nearby Michigan, where Prohibition had already kicked-in. In the last few days before the start of Prohibition in Ohio (between May 24 and 26 to be exact), there were one hundred individuals in Toledo who were arrested for being drunk and disorderly. When the fated day arrived, and Prohibition took effect, some Toledo saloons closed their doors. A few of them hung signs in their doorways that read, among other things, “Back Soon” and “Voters didn’t think and now they can’t drink”. Others found ways to stay open, rebranding themselves as soft drinks parlors or social centers.

When Prohibition went into effect, breweries looked to alternative products and markets as a means to stay in business.  D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville, PA, for example, transitioned into Yuengling Dairy Products Corporation, and produced ice-cream. Pabst Brewing of Milwaukee, WI also went into the dairy business, with cheese being their primary product. The cheese was produced on a farm in upstate Wisconsin and aged in the brewery’s ice cellars. Toledo’s Buckeye Brewery survived Prohibition by producing soft drinks such as ginger ale and root beer. A number of breweries produced malt extract during Prohibition. Obstensibly, this was for use in the baking of bread; some labels on the cans of malt extract even told how much to use in bread making. In reality, the vast majority of malt extract was probably used to produce homebrewed beer. In the city of Lima, OH enough malt extract was sold in one week to brew four hundred thousand pints (fifty thousand  gallons) of beer. Had it been used for bread, it could have produced sixteen loaves for every man, woman, and child living in Lima (clearly it was not all being used to  make bread).

Labeling tunnels beneath the old Jackson Brewery in Cincinnati, OH

By the time Prohibition started, Lager was the most popular style of beer in the United States. Producing Lager involved storing it at cool temperatures for up to several months (the name Lager comes from the German verb ‘to store’). This meant that breweries had large cellars (lagering cellars or tunnels), where they stored beer during the lagering process. As noted above, Pabst used their cellars to age cheese. Other breweries thought of innovative ways to use their cellars. Breweries in Mansfield, OH, for example, even considered using their lagering cellars for growing mushrooms or providing a haven for hay fever sufferers. A number of breweries closed during Prohibition and re-opened when alcohol production was legal again; Jackson Brewery in Cincinnati, OH was one such brewery. Yet others closed their doors, never to open again.

While Prohibition did have a negative impact on breweries, it is worth noting that the number of breweries was already declining prior to Prohibition (see chart below). For example, between 1900 and 1916,  the number of breweries in the United States fell from 1,816 to 1,313. So while Prohibition never did the brewing industry any favors, consolidation as a result of closures, mergers, and acquisitions, was already under way.

Number of Breweries in United States, 1873-2016 (Source: Brewers Association)

It was still possible to produce beer during Prohibition, with the stipulation that its alcohol content did not exceed one half of one percent. This is what was known an ‘near beer’. (Note: Beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% is often mistakenly referred to as ‘near beer’).

One of the beneficiaries of American Prohibition were breweries in Canada, who supplied bootleggers in the United States with beer. The length of Prohibition in Canada varied by province, ranging from two years in Quebec (1919-1921) to forty-seven years in Prince Edward Island (1901-1948). Even when under their own Prohibition restrictions, Canadian breweries were not prohibited from exporting Beer to the United States. In fact, in 1924, eleven small Canadian breweries established the Bermuda Export Company, a cartel, whose express purpose was to export beer to the United States. Such was the importance of the American market to Canadian breweries that, during the first five years of U.S. Prohibition, eighty percent of the Beer produced in Canada was exported to the United States.

Prohibition in Canadian Provinces (Source: Eberts 2007)

In 1930, under pressure from the United States, Canada made it illegal for their breweries to export beer to the United States. Bootleggers circumvented this restriction by indicating on customs forms that the beer was bound other markets such as Cuba or Mexico. In reality the bootleggers’ boats would offload their cargo in Detroit, and be back in Canada an hour later. Customs officials, probably bribed, turned a blind eye. Four trips between Canada and ‘Cuba’ in a day meant that these boats were dubbed the “fastest boats on water”.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of modern day craft breweries whose names are inspired by Prohibition. These include Southern Prohibition Brewing (Hattiesburg, MS), Speakeasy Ales and Lagers (San Francisco, CA), Bootlegger’s Brewery (Fullerton, CA), and 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA). And, of course, there are dozens of beers connected to the Prohibition era by virtue of their names. Examples include Boscos Prohibition Pilsener (Boscos Brewing Company, Memphis, TN), 18th Amendment Imperial IPA (Bootleggers’s Brewery, Fullerton, CA) and Suspension Pre-Prohibition Cream Ale (Brew Keepers, Wheeling, WV).

The United States and Canada are not the only countries to experiment with a prohibition on alcohol. At different points in their history, other countries, including Finland, and Iceland have banned alcohol. There are a number of countries today where alcohol is not permitted. These are mainly Muslim countries and include Afghanistan, Iran, and Kuwait.

Further Reading:

Stack, Martin H. No date. A concise history of America’s brewing industry. EH.net. Available here.


Holy Toledo, I Went To Church In A Brewery

I went to church last Sunday. Nothing unusual in that. I go most Sundays. What was unusual was that I actually went to church twice. The first time was to the church I usually attend – Augsburg Lutheran Church in Toledo, OH. The second time was to a church I Continue reading Holy Toledo, I Went To Church In A Brewery

Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

While archaeologists are confident that the brewing of beer occurred in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 3,500 BC there is some evidence that people living in the same region were quite possibly brewing beer as early as 10,000 BC. In these
ancient societies brewing was a task performed by women. In medieval Europe and colonial America much of the beer that was consumed was produced in the home, with Continue reading Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

The Black Cloister Brewing Company opened its doors for business in downtown Toledo one year ago today. An anniversary, particularly a first one, provides an opportunity to reflect upon the past and think about the future. With this in mind I sat down with Black Cloister’s CEO and Founder Tom Schaeffer. I wanted to chat with him about the ups and Continue reading The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

Glass City Beer Festival

Beer festivals are a common feature on the social calendar of increasing numbers of American beer drinkers. The grand-daddy of them all, of course, is the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) which is held every September in Denver, CO. It is an event that attracts approximately 60,000 people who can sample from 3,500 beers from over 700 Continue reading Glass City Beer Festival

Around The World in 800 Beers

The Beer Professor meets The Beer Doctors at Toledo’s Black Cloister Brewery

Last week I got a visit from two fellow Geographers – Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst Pullen. Mark and Nancy are faculty members at Kennesaw State University which is located about twenty miles north of Atlanta, GA. I first met Mark and Nancy in New York City in 2012 at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers. I was Continue reading Around The World in 800 Beers

Beer in the Old West End

One of the Old West End’s beautiful homes

The Old West End is a beautiful historic neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. Comprising over 25 city blocks the tree-lined neighborhood is home to one of the largest concentrations of Victorian, Edwardian, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Arts & Crafts, Neoclassical, and Colonial Revival homes in the country. Every June the people that Continue reading Beer in the Old West End