When it comes to the world of beer mascots, there is one that seems to have staked a claim in our collective memories. Featuring the silver-haired actor Jonathan Goldsmith as the Most Interesting Man in the World, the Dos Equis beer commercials graced American television screens for nearly a decade. With a seductive voiceover that casually relays macho and sometimes ridiculous exploits in a confident fake accent, Goldsmith’s character admits, “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, it’s Dos Equis.”
The long-running spots were “widely viewed as one of the best ad efforts of the 21st century,” according to AdAge. (After all, how could one forget a man who once ran a marathon because it was on his way — and then rewards himself with a refreshing Mexican lager?) Although Goldsmith is actually American (a Jewish boy from the Bronx, in fact), his acting helped propel the Mexican beer to fame in the U.S.
As for American beer brands, the mascots that endeared themselves to the beer-drinking public were equally intended to gain men’s attention (and, apparently, women’s lusty gratitude).
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Keep reading for a trip down memory lane to revisit the American beer mascots time forgot.
Spuds MacKenzie (Bud Light)
Before the Taco Bell Chihuahua was even born, bikini-clad women in leg warmers were lusting after Spuds MacKenzie, the coolest bull terrier at the beach. The Bud Light commercials first hit television screens during the 1987 Super Bowl XXI and featured Spuds, the “super party animal” who brings the party wherever he goes. Brewski-drinking men want to be him, and babes (creepily) want to date him. The Los Angeles Times even crowned Spuds as “the nation’s most unlikely sex symbol.”
Apparently, sexy dogs sell: The Bud Light campaign was so successful that sales of the beer increased by 20 percent between 1987 and 1988, according to The New York Times. The commercials were retired in 1989, but Spuds blazed the trail for beloved canine mascots in beer and beyond. (During the 2017 Super Bowl LI, Budweiser paid tribute to the mascot’s 30th anniversary with an ad featuring the ghost of Spuds.)
Bud Ice Penguin (Bud Ice)
In the mid-1990s, Anheuser-Busch ran a series of popular ad campaigns promoting its new product Bud Ice. Taking a page from “The Twilight Zone,” the commercials showed people being pursued or harassed by a psychotic penguin whose main goal is to confiscate their bottle of Bud Ice while singing “Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo.” (This was before the much more sophisticated “Dilly, Dilly” days.) The ads, whose tagline was “Drink Bud Ice, but beware of the penguins,” aired for several years, but were mostly sealed in the nightmares of young children.
Keith Stone (Keystone Light)
While commercials with cute animals appear to be arbiters of good ratings, MillerCoors took a different approach in its 2010s-era Keystone Light campaign: a hipster/hillbilly played by the actor Mitchell Jarvis. In the spots, Keith Stone uses his “always smooth” baritone and ever-present case of Keystone Light beer to rescue damsels in distress, from a runaway bride to a “Kiki” stuck in a tree. (Evidently, the brand later caught on to the dog thing: In March 2020, Keystone Light announced it was seeking a dog beer influencer.)
Beerwolf (Coors Light)
Coors Light was not always the beer mogul that it is today. In the 1980s, in an attempt to “own” a holiday, the now-ubiquitous light beer brand created the Halloween-themed character Beerwolf, a dopey werewolf-like creature who drinks Coors Light and howls at women. Yup.
Proving that Halloween drinking was a hit with the adult crowd, the character would go on to grace billboards and radio advertisements. Eventually, Beerwolf was used to promote Coors Light on non-macabre holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day. (This time, Beerwolf admits that he is, in actuality, Irish.)
Sasha the Bear (Hamm’s)
In the 1970s, Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Company (a.k.a. Hamm’s) needed to revamp its image. While in prior decades Hamm’s relied on a cartoon bear to promote its beer, it struck advertising gold with Sasha, a 287-pound trained Kodiak. The campaign introduced the public to Sasha and her real-life trainer, Earl Hammond. Lacking the time to train an actor for the role, Hamm’s settled with dying Hammond’s hair blond, and he and Sasha starred in multiple ads that showed off their natural chemistry.
In one commercial, Sasha and Earl go off-roading to spend time with some lumberjack friends. In another, the bear and her trainer enjoy a motorized canoe ride to a local pub. If there’s one takeaway from this, it’s that Hammond looked like he enjoyed the beer adventures much more than Sasha did.
Honorable Mention: Kegasus (Preakness Stakes)
Lacking both the weird charm of Keith Stone and the obvious appeal of furry (even murdery) creatures, the most unlikely and head-scratching mascot might fall to Kegasus, the Preakness “Party Manimal.” In 2011, the half-man, half-horse (but full-on “party-manimal”), “Lord of the InfieldFest,” became the controversial Preakness Stakes spokesman in an attempt to save the race’s declining attendance, and to appeal to younger crowds. Somehow, Kegasus may have actually helped solve the problem, as the horse race’s numbers improved over the next two years. But like all good things, Kegasus’ run ended after the 2012 Preakness.