By Hope Good

The early 1970s saw dramatic changes in the realm of regional beer sales. In order to stay competitive, fun commercials promoted a variety of beer brands. Schlitz was one of the world’s largest in 1970, using innovations like its light-blocking brown bottle, pop-top cans, and “tallboys,” which established precedents that beer makers follow to this day. In commercials they placed their beer in a disco, marketing Schlitz as the beer for staying up all night and dancing with your friends.

Rainier ran several memorable television ads in the Pacific Northwest throughout the 1970s. Some of these surrealist advertisements included the Running of the MFRs (Mountain Fresh Rainiers) and frogs that croaked “Rainier Beer” (a motif appropriated many years later by Budweiser). The popular commercials grabbed people’s attention mostly for entertainment value, but they also added to the increase of beer sales by attracting a younger audience at a time when the drinking age was lowered in many states. (In Montana, the drinking age was lowered to 19 in 1971 and then to 18 in 1973, where it stayed until it was raised back to 19 in 1979.)

Olympia hung its hat with the younger generation and fought hard through the Seventies before selling to Pabst in 1983.The brand endorsed Evel Knievel as well as being featured in several movies. A neon sign advertising Olympia beer can be seen in the window of the liquor store in American Graffiti and Clint Eastwood promoted the brand in several popular films, including Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Eiger Sanction, and Every Which Way but Loose.

On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment creating an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use. This exemption went into effect on February 1, 1979, making homebrewing legal on a federal level in the U.S., which changed the landscape for beer sales dramatically in the future.

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