Gunther Beer, circa 1955-1959
This month’s can is a Gunther from Baltimore, sometimes known as the “racetrack can” due to the oval in the logo which is shaped like a track. Gunther Brewing was once the most popular brewer in Baltimore, a city that had a very active brewing industry. I already have several other Gunther pages. A Gunther Ale was my COM in February 2004. I also have a page with a short history of Gunther's popular radio show, "A Quiz of Two Cities." What can I say: I like Gunther cans and I have some nice indoor examples so expect to see a few more in the future.
Late 1950s Gunther advertisement.
Even since Prohibition ended Gunther had used a brownish label on their bottles and cans. The labels changed over the years but kept the general theme. In early 1955 Gunther completely revamped its label as part of a new campaign “Get in the golden mood with Gunther.” The abandoned their off-yellow label and replaced it with a metallic red and white over a metallic gold background with small crowns. The new can was introduced by a huge advertising campaign through the Gunther marketing area including Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, southern Pennsylvania and Delaware. In October 1955 the new design won numerous awards at the Brewers Association of American’s meeting in Chicago including best can design, best coaster, best metallic bottle label, and best window display. It also took second place in carry-home carton, crown (bottle cap), overall labels and letterhead. The new design won third place in coordinated advertising, menu cover, and in the tray category. (FYI, for the can collectors, the Bub’s cone top took 2d place in the can category and Gluek took 3d place.)
The new label is unveiled. Bryan Houston (left) advertising agency head, shows the first newspaper ad to LeRoy Cohen (center) president, and Arthur Goldman, advertising director of Gunther.
Gunther Beer disappeared suddenly in 1960. Hamms Brewing of Minnesota was looking to expand to a 4th location, adding to its existing facilities in St. Paul, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and they purchased Gunther Brewing in late 1959. In mid-December 1959 Hamms announced that as of January 1, 1960, Gunthers Beer would no longer be produced. The existing supply still being aged would be sold but after that was gone, there would be no more Gunther's Beer.
Hamm's decision was a disaster. They destroyed in a single stroke the local brand loyalty that Gunther's had established over many years. Hamm's slogan, "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" which referred to its home in Minnesota, didn't fly either, in an area proud of the Chesapeake Bay. Customers angry at a local company being bought out so abruptly switched to National Bohemian brewed by former Gunther rival National Brewing. Hamms also found that they could not put "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" on their labels as their beer brewed in Baltimore wasn't made with Minnesota water. So Baltimore labels read "Refreshing as the Land..."
Hamms reintroduced Gunther beer in the familiar can that even read "Gunther Brewing Company" but it was too late to save the brand, or its market share. Hamms gave up in 1963 and sold the Baltimore brewery to F&M Schaefer of Brooklyn. Schaefer remained there until 1978 when the brewery was closed.
Two Gunther glasses. The one on the right has the new logo, the one on the left uses the previous design.
A Gunther coaster from Hamm's attempt to revive the brand.
There are a few variations on this can. The small crowns can appear in either light yellow or white. Also, while most of the flats read “Gunther Brewing Company of Baltimore” a few flats, and the early zips read “Gunther Brewing Baltimore” without the “of.” The latter cans are scarce but not rare. The zips and tab tops are not nearly as common as the flats but also can not be considered “rare.” I suspect that the version without the “of” is the one issued by Hamms.
Interested in Gunther Brewing?
Check out my other pages:
“Gunther Introduces First New Labels Since Repeal” Brewer’s Journal. (April 1955)
Gunther: Maryland’s Largest Brewery” Modern Brewery Age. (December 1941)
“Hamm's Starts First Beer Sales in Area" Washington Post. March 8. 1960.
Kelly, William J. Brewing in Maryland: From Colonial Times to the Present. (1965)
“New Clean, White Look Marks Winning Entries in Annual BAA Contests” Modern Brewery Age. (November 1955)
Van Wieren, Dale P. American Breweries II. (West Point, PA., East Coast Breweriana Association, 1995)
"West's Biggest Brewery Buys Out Gunther's" Washington Daily News. December 14, 1959.