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Virtual Oktoberfest: Cheers to fictional beers in film and TV

By Kara Santos Published Oct 26, 2020 5:00 pm

Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is typically celebrated in Germany starting mid- to late-September up to the first weekend in October. Multiple beer-related celebrations in honor of the original usually happen all over the world the whole month of October.

While major beer celebrations and events have been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions this 2020, by this time, most people have pretty much gotten used to drinking on their own in front of the television.

This got me thinking of some of the famous beers featured in films and movies that have made their mark on pop culture. Some fictional alcoholic beverages have even spawned real life versions, which have become worthy collectibles among beer lovers and film buffs alike.

To celebrate beer month virtually, let’s raise a glass to some of the fictional brews featured in films and TV shows that we love.

Butterbeer

Butterbeer is one beverage that’s been popularized by books and movies. This beloved drink from the world of Harry Potter was featured in the novels by J.K. Rowling and the film series adaptations.

Bottled Butterbeer.

Butterbeer is a wizards' favourite, served either from a chilled bottle or foamy tankard. It’s described as tasting "a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch." The alcoholic content of this sweet drink is low, making it suitable for young, would-be wizards.

Students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry often buy Butterbeer when visiting Hogsmeade, with pubs like The Thee Broomsticks, The Hog’s Head, and Leaky Cauldron considered top wizarding watering holes.

This fictional beer has spawned countless unofficial and DIY versions inspired by the books and films including Stanford Shaw’s non-alcoholic Butterbeer.

Potterheads can get a taste of the bewitching brew in draught form at select Wizarding World of Harry Potter locations (like Universal Studios Florida and Japan) as well as London's Harry Potter Studio Tour. 

Warner Bros. has also released their own official bottled Butterbeer sold in a stunning souvenir glass bottle with a collectible label, which is exclusively available only in the U.K. Accio beer!

Duff Beer

Duff Beer originated as a fictional beer on the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons. It was introduced in an episode that aired on January 1990, making Duff Beer over 30 years old! The bottle, which comes with a red and white label and simple black cursive lettering is widely known as Homer Simpson’s go to beer for decades. Mmmm…. beer!

Duff Beer.

The brand pokes fun at the stereotypical mass-market American lager, meaning it’s “cheap, poor-quality and heavily marketed.” Their spokesperson Duffman, is a parody of Budweiser’s '70s-era mascot Bud Man.

Duff Beer was copied in numerous countries and was eventually turned into an official licensed beer brand with real-life versions available in the USA, Germany, Europe, UK, Australia and more under different breweries.

Fun fact: In 2016, Time magazine included Duff Beer in a list of the most influential fictional companies of all time. 

Dharma Initiative Beer

The popular drama TV series Lost had its own beer, produced by the Dharma Initiative, the mysterious organisation based on the Island. In one episode Hurley, Sawyer, Charlie and Jin work together after finding beer stashed inside a Dharma Initiatve Volkswagen camper van.

Dharma Initiative Beer.

Similar to other Dharma initiative food rations, the simple white can just bore the iconic logo and minimalist label. Throughout the twists and turns of this baffling series, castaways of the fated Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, but most notably Sawyer, are seen chugging on (most likely stale) cans of the standard issue beer.

In 2010, many of the official Lost memorabilia and movie props were auctioned off. The blue-and-white van was sold for US$47,500 alongside 1,100 lots of props and costumes from the ABC series, including 12 cans of Dharma beer which sold for a staggering US$5,000.

Monkeyshine Beer

If you’re a fan of the hit sitcom Friends, you may have spotted several real beer brands in the background during the series' decade long run, including six-packs of Sierra Nevada, Pilsner Urquell, and Anchor Brewing on top of Chandler and Joey’s fridge.

Monkeyshine Beer.

One fictional beer featured in a main storyline is Monkeyshine Beer, whose ad featured a Capuchin monkey and several beautiful, scantily clad women in a tropical setting. The amber bottle is covered in a green and gold label with a couple of monkeys and the slogan "'Cause it's a Jungle Out There."

In The One After The Superbowl, Part 1 episode, Ross sees a commercial for Monkeyshine beer with a Capuchin monkey, which reminds him of his former pet Marcel who he turned over to the San Diego Zoo. Ross later learns that the monkey in the beer commercial actually is Marcel and that he’ll be in New York filming Outbreak 2: The Virus Takes Manhattan. Could that be any more cooler?

Heisler Beer

While the name may not be instantly recognizable, Heisler Beer is by far the most popular fictional beer on modern television. Everybody on TV seems to drink Heisler! Depicted as an amber bottle with a classic red and gold vine label, blocky white “Heisler” lettering and a “gold ale” description, this is considered the “Bud Light of fake beers” (or San Miguel for those based in the Philippines.)

Heisler Beer.

This ubiquitous beer can be spotted in bar and restaurant scenes in Brooklyn Nine-Nine with Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago often kicking back with a bottle or two.

Heisler beer also seems to be Nick Miller’s beer of choice when drinking with his pals on New Girl. Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg had bottles of Heisler scattered around his apartment in The Social Network. Cans of Heisler even appear in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Heisler Beer has also popped up in episodes of Heroes, Glee, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, My Name is Earl, Parks and Recreation, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, to name a few. Whew!

Apparently, Heisler Beer is just one of 40 different custom fake beer labels produced by the graphics team of Hollywood prop house, Independent Studio Services, to avoid any potential legal or advertising conflicts with existing beer brands. Fake beer also helps prevent actors from forgetting their lines and getting drunk on the set.

Since the beer’s creation in the mid to late '90s, Heisler has gotten several variants including the original Heisler gold ale, Heisler Lite, and the vintage Heisler for shows set in the '40s through '80s.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is another of Independent Studio’s fake beer brands that eagle-eyed viewers can spot in a number of TV shows including Dexter, Lost, Burn Notice, Community and New Girl.

Jekyll Island Beer.

The brewery is supposedly based in the Caribbean, but the real Jekyll Island is one of the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia, USA. This fake brand produces a lager, a red ale, and a root beer. The lager comes in a crisp-looking green bottle with a large skull and white lettering on the label. The Red Ale has a red label on the same green bottle, while the Root Beer variant comes is all red.

"Dean"-ing to party with ya!

In Community, Dean Pelton brings a six pack of Jekyll Island Root Beer and a bag of “Let's Potato Chips” with him to Troy and Abed's apartment. In Dexter, we see the notorious Ice truck killer casually drinking bottles of “Jekyll Island Lager” in the episode, "Born Free." In New Girl, Schmidt can be seen drinking a bottle of Jekyll Island Red Ale at the Griffin bar.

Cerveza Chango

The type of beer characters drink onscreen can help set the scene. Cerveza Chango is a fake beer brand featured in several Robert Rodriguez action flicks set in Mexico, including cult classics From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, El Mariachi, Desperado, Grindhouse and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Cerveza Chango.

The beer is named after the fearsome Chango, the Santeria Orisha (deity) of thunder, lightning, and gunpowder. The red, black and orange beer label features a horned creature with a wide open mouth bearing fangs. Considered a poor-quality beer, it’s most probably a shady place if they serve Chango there.

In From Dusk Till Dawn, this is the beer on tap at the Titty Twister strip bar. In Desperado, the staff at the Tarasco Bar not only serves it flat and warm, but also pees in each keg. We’ll pass on this one!

Mudder’s Milk

Joss Whedon’s short-lived but much loved space Western drama Firefly features an alcoholic beverage known as "Mudder's Milk." The strange brew is a specialty of the city of Canton on the remote outer planet Higgin's Moon, and used to feed the laborers (called "Mudders" as mud was the planet's only export) and keep them submissive.

Mudder's Milk.

The drink is said to contain "all the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma's best turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol." Sounds potently delicious and a great meal replacement. In Firefly lore, drinkers are expected to raise a toast to the Mudders before downing a glass of this concoction.

Super fans like the Geeky Chef have attempted to recreate this concoction in real life, resulting in an alcoholic milkshake. Peanut butter and turkey oatmeal stout, anyone?

I could really just go on and on about this topic if word count was not an issue. Want more fictional beers? Check out this awesome poster of Fantastical Fictive Beers as featured in the new Pop Chart Lab book A Visual Guide to Drink, available for purchase on Amazon.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

(Images copyright of their respective owners)