Sports and Advertising at the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co.
Spring is finally upon us, and as you get ready to see the Washington Nationals play some baseball, imagine yourself sitting in the stands, watching on the big screen at a local bar, or catching the game in the comfort of your own home. Does the image you have conjured up include a cold, fresh beer?
If so, then this is exactly the scenario that the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. was trying to create when they became the sponsor of the Washington Senators. Christian Heurich Jr. saw sports as the perfect place to advertise the local brews to the world. In an interview with Modern Brewer in 1936, Christian Jr. said that “people who drink beer are mostly sports wise.”11 His plan to build on the relationship between sports and beer would continue for decades and shape the way Washingtonians experienced their city.
The Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. started creating a sports marketing program in 1933 with their financial support of local athletic teams. Groups ranging from soccer and bowling to basketball and baseball were mobile marketing for the brewery.11 Players’ jerseys featured references to beer, including team names like the Heurich Brewers, and the event programs often included ads for Heurich beer. In 1933, Christian Jr., seeing the cost benefit of keeping their sponsored teams closer to the DC area, built a basketball gymnasium above their Foggy Bottom brewery and began hosting competitive games there, bringing outside teams in for a match.11
After earning success with their sponsored teams, many of which featured brewery employees as athletes, the company expanded to advertise in local media including the back cover of Flash Magazine, a DC-based news picture magazine that featured prominent African Americans of the time. Their ad in June of 1937 featured a depiction of Eugene Sandow, a weight lifter, whose record, along with Senate Beer, “could hold its head high in any company.”2 Other advertising included local events such as a roller derby at Riverside Stadium, located in Foggy Bottom, and The Washington Post’s Celebrity Golf Tournament.3, 8
Eventually the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. saw the need to expand their sports marketing efforts and gained rights to sponsor the Washington Senators TV and radio broadcasts through partner stations WWDC and WTTG.5, 11 The brewery began creating signs, including a metal Senators scoreboard, baseball shaped beer coasters, and bumper stickers. 6, 4, 12 Their ads, in print, radio, and TV, highlighted the ability for fans to sit and watch, or listen to, the Senators games in the comfort of their own home with an Old Georgetown beer in hand. 1 A 1951 advertisement also invited people to ask a local Old Georgetown dealer for a wallet-sized game and TV broadcast schedule for the Senators’ season. 7
While enjoying a Senators game with a cold Heurich brew was possible from home or at a local bar, it was not an option at the Senators’ home stadium itself. Griffith Stadium, now the site of the Howard University Hospital, was a dry stadium, thanks to the efforts of Senators owner Clark Griffith. After his death in 1956, the stadium began to allow alcohol sales on-site. 9 Unfortunately, it was too late for visitors to enjoy a cold Old Georgetown or Senate Beer as the Chr. Heurich Brewery had officially shut its doors earlier that year. 12
After several more seasons, the Washington Senators would go on to relocate and become the Minnesota Twins. In 2005, Washington, DC finally got the team we know today. The new Washington baseball team decided to forego the former Senators nickname in favor of the Nationals. While Clark Griffith’s team had several different names, the franchise was officially the Nationals, but fans and sponsors alike used the names Senators, Nats, and even the Griffmen as unofficial monikers for the team. 10
Today beer and sports are ubiquitous. From commercials and radio programs to lines of taps and cans at sporting events around the country, beer has made its mark on the sporting world and is unlikely to stop anytime soon. In Washington, DC, Christian Heurich Jr. led the way with his sports marketing program and developed a strong relationship between beer and athletics. So, the next time you visit Nationals Park, bypass the macro brew lines and instead visit District Drafts where you can grab a locally made beer in honor of the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co and the decades they spent honoring the world of sports.
To learn more about the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. visit the Heurich House Museum’s exhibit HOME/BREWED.
1. Benbow, Mark Elliott. The Nation’s Capital Brewmaster: Christian Heurich and His Brewery 1842-1956. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2017.
2. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Flash Weekly Newspicture Magazine, June 1937, back cover.
3. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Official Program Roller Derby, Date Unknown, back cover.
4. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Old Georgetown Beer Baseball Coaster, Date Unknown, coaster.
5. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Old Georgetown Beer Presents Washington Senators, Date Unknown, bus sign.
6. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Old Georgetown score board, Date Unknown, sign.
7. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Opening Game on radio and on television, 1951, pamphlet.
8. Heurich Brewing Co. Advertisement. Program National Celebrities Golf Tournament and Show, Date Unknown, back cover.
9. Hornbaker, Mark. “Washington Nationals Baseball Club was granted a ‘Class D’ license to sell beer at Griffith Stadium.” DCBaseballHistory.com. Accessed March 12, 2019. https://dcbaseballhistory.com/2018/08/washington-nationals-baseball-club-was-granted-a-class-d-license-to-sell-beer-at-griffith-stadium/.
10. Kelly, John. “Senators? Nationals? Nats? What’s in a name?” The Washington Post. October 6, 2012. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/senators-nationals-nats-whats-in-a-name/2012/10/05/75e95352-0ef9-11e2-bd1a-b868e65d57eb_story.html?utm_term=.30cad499cc6d.
11. Modern Brewer from the Heurich House Museum research archives. “Heurich, Champion of Sports.” 1936-1937.
12. Peck, Garrett. Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. Charleston, SC: American Palate, 2014.