Radio Jingle Moves 1 Million Barrels of Burgermeister Beer

Can of Burgermeister Beer from San Francisco Brewing
Burgermeister, Burgermeister
It's so light and golden clear,
Burgermeister, Burgermeister
It's a truly fine pale beer

This jingle has proved to be worth about $4 million a word so far. Sung to the tune of "Clementine" on a host of California radio stations, it has impelled thousands of Californians to switch to Burgermeister. Sales for 1951 are up 33% over 1950 with annual sales of close to one million barrels.

That wasn't the situation in 1944 when 55-year-old German-born Henry E. Picard took over as general manager. Then, Burgermeister was but one of San Francisco Brewing's 14 private label beers, and all were lagging in sales.

Picard, a merchandising expert, dropped the private label and draught beers and selected Burgermeister as the one beer to advertise and promote. As evidence of his sales-building confidence he burned up $10,000 worth of private labels in one afternoon. A limited budget, about $50,000, was put behind Burgermeister and, as there were four million Northern Californians to reach, radio chain breaks were an almost automatic selection.

Picard explains, "Chain breaks would allow us to deliver the maximum number of sales messages for the money expended. Chain break time could be bought on good stations adjacent to programs with high ratings, while, at the same time, announcements were available next to programs with low ratings."

Californians have been hearing the "Burgie jingle" ever since its 1944 introduction but not always in the same way. Sometimes the jingle is speeded up; sometimes it's sung in a different key.

Despite the Burgermeister success in the last seven years, Picard modestly considers himself "an ordinary, straight-forward businessman." Now, with 50% of the ad budget going into radio, Picard still insists on a strict and simple advertising policy. No comparisons. No fancy claims. Nothing except "Burgermeister -- a truly fine pale beer. Picard's extra sales touch: San Franciscans within hearing distance can listen to to chimes atop the brewery building play "Clementine" at 10 a.m., 3, 5 and 8 p.m.

From Sponsor, December 31, 1951


The Lurmann family, owners, were heavily involved in horses. Nice array of advertising focused on this. They supported the '49ers and the stadium upper reaches had canvas pennants the sported: Follow the 49ers with Burgie. At that time advertising could be written off. The brewery thus distributed hundreds of items, In this count were lighted signs (pre-plastic), ball knobs/tap handles, neon (spelling out the full 13 letter name), knives, fisherman round ice coolers, trash cans, openers to heavy card outdoor theme head turners.

Five different displays were awarded to retailers who sold large volumes of product. They were stored in two 55 gallon drums which were supported with leather carrying handles. Distribution went as far as western Texas, where examples of the 10 ounce can have occasionally been found (apparently their law wouldn't allow 11 ounce packaging, thus the ten ounce presentation). Print ads in magazines have a count higher than two dozen.

I have been collecting Burgermeister beer paraphernalia for many years and have been desperately seeking a video or audio Burgermeister Clementine beer commercial without any success. Are you aware of any that may still exist? Growing up in the 50s I remember watching TV and a Burgie comercial would come on with the Burgermeister holding up a glass of Burgie . I would sing the jingle so often that my parents would tell me to please go to another room. If there is a recording somewhere out there I'd love to hear and see it again.

Kindest regards

Gary E. Walter

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