Ballantine & Co. Brewery – RARE Certificate #1 signed 3 times by Robert Francis Ballantine – New Jersey 1900
Old Ballantine Truck shown for illustrative purposes
Robert Francis Ballantine Signature
John Herbert Ballantine Signature
Back of the certificate
Ballantine was an American brewery, founded by Peter Ballantine who was born in Scotland in 1781. It is best known for Ballantine Ale, a pale ale that is one of the oldest brands of beer in the United States. At its peak, Ballantine was the 4th largest brewer in the United States.
The company was founded in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey, by Peter Ballantine (1791–1883), who emigrated from Scotland. The company was originally incorporated as the Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company. Ballantine rented an old brewing site which had dated back to 1805. Around 1850, Ballantine bought out his partner and purchased land near the Passaic River to brew his ale. His three sons joined the business and in 1857 the company was renamed P. Ballantine and Sons. The name would be used for the next 115 years, until the company closed its brewery in May 1972. By 1879, it had become sixth largest brewery in the US, almost twice as large as Anheuser-Busch. Ballantine added a second brewery location, also in Newark, in order to brew lager beer to fill out the company product line. Peter Ballantine died in 1883 and his eldest son had died just a few months earlier. His second oldest son then controlled the company until his own death from cancer in 1895. The last son died in 1905 and the company was taken over by George Griswold Frelinghuysen, the company’s vice-president, who was married to Peter Ballantine’s granddaughter.
George Griswold Frelinghuysen (1851-1936) was the son of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen and Matilda Elizabeth Griswold. He graduated from Rutgers College in 1870, received his Bachelor of Laws from Columbia University Law School in 1872, and was admitted to the New Jersey and New York bars in 1872 and 1876 respectively. George married Sara Linen Ballantine on April 26, 1881. Sara was the granddaughter of Peter Ballantine, the company founder. George and Sara had two children together: Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen I (1882-?) who married Adaline Havemeyer (1884-?); and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen (1887-?). He started his career as a patent lawyer, eventually working for and becoming President of Ballantine at the death of Robert Francis Ballantine (1836–1905), who was the last surviving son of founder Peter Ballantine. George died in 1935 and the George Griswold Frelinghuysen Arboretum is named for him.
In 1933 the Ballantine company was acquired by two brothers, Carl and Otto Badenhausen. The Badenhausens’ grew the brand through its most successful period of the 1940s and 1950s, primarily through clever advertising. Ballantine Beer was the first television sponsor of the New York Yankees. It was during this period that the brand was elevated to the number three beer in the U.S. It was also during this period that the company grew into one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States. Ballantine Beer enjoyed a high level of success into the early 1960s, however by the mid-sixties the brand began losing popularity. In 1965 Carl Badenhausen sold the company but remained at the helm until his retirement in 1969.
Through the years Ballantine offered a range of products in addition to its flagship Ale and Lager; other specialties included a Porter; a Brown Stout; a dark lager; and a Bock beer. Also in regular production was a now legendary and very highly regarded world-class India Pale Ale (an intensely bitter and aromatic brew which was aged 1 year in wood prior to bottling). Also of note was a special Burton Ale (which was aged from 10–20 years in wood prior to bottling). The Burton Ale was never a commercially sold product, rather, it was a special strong brew in the barleywine style which was given as a gift at Christmas to Ballantine distributors and VIPs. Surviving unopened bottles are still bought, sold and traded to this day among collectors, more than 60 years after being brewed. Because of the long aging and generous hopping as well as an ABV content comparable to barleywines, the beer had remarkable keeping qualities. While it could be argued that the beer was probably at its prime at the time of bottling, reports of modern day tastings indicate that properly handled vintage bottles of this unique beer still yield a complex taste experience of very high calibre.
In the 1960s the company went into decline. The breweries were closed and the brands acquired by the Falstaff Brewing Corporation under whose stewardship the beers remained faithful for a time to their original flavor profile. By the late 1980s, though, Ballantine Ales were produced by a number of different outsourced companies. Katherine Ballantine, granddaughter of Pete, now resides in Greenwich, CT.
Since 2005, the Ballantine Ale brand has been owned and marketed by the Pabst Brewing Company, which in turn outsources the brewing to the Miller Brewing Company.
Because Ballantine is now widely sold in 40 oz bottles, it is often lumped together with Olde English 800 and other malt liquors in the public mind . By contrast, in its heyday it was a popular and well-regarded pale ale. While there are claims that the original formula has not been changed since then, it is fairly obvious that the formula and brewing process have both changed quite considerably over the years (multiple times) and that the present day Ballantine bears only a very slight resemblance to the original brew. This is most notably evidentin the lack of hop character that was present in the original (which was a direct result of the generous addition of house-distilled aromatic hop oils). Despite a greatly diminished flavor profile, Ballantine Ale remains a beer of character (particularly given its price) when compared to its peers, even if somewhat altered from its glory days as “America’s Best Selling Ale”.
The Ballantine logo is three interlocking rings, in a design known as Borromean rings. New York Yankees announcer Mel Allen called it “the Three-Ring Sign.” In the logo used in advertising, the rings were labeled “Purity, Body, Flavor”. According to one legend, Peter Ballantine was inspired to use the pattern after seeing condensation rings left by beer glasses on a tabletop.
Peter Ballantine (1791–1883) from 1840 through 1883
Robert Francis Ballantine (1836–1905) possibly from 1883 through 1905
George Griswold Frelinghuysen (1851–1936) possibly from 1905 through 1936
Carl Badenhausen (1894–1981) from 1933 through 1969
The brewery had a long sponsorship arrangement with the New York Yankees on television and radio, spanning the 1940s to the 1960s. Team announcers, most notably the legendary Mel Allen, labeled Yankee home runs, “Ballantine Blasts.” The advertising jingle went “Hey, get your cold beer! Hey, get your Ballantine!…Just look for the three-ring sign/And ask the man for Ballantine.” After which Allen would advise, “You’ll be so glad you did.”  Ballantine was responsible for making Phil Rizzuto a Yankee broadcaster after his release. Years after he was famously let go by the Yankees, Allen told author Curt Smith that Ballantine had ordered his firing as a cost-cutting move.
Ballantine also sponsored the Philadelphia Phillies on radio and TV for many years in the 1950s and 1960s. The scoreboard in right center field at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium (previously known as Shibe Park) sported a 60 foot long Ballantine Ale sign.
Mel Brooks adapted the 2000 Year Old Man character to create the 2500 Year Old Brewmaster for Ballantine Beer in the 1960s. Interviewed by Dick Cavett in a series of ads, the Brewmaster (in a German accent, as opposed to the 2000 Year Old Man’s Jewish voice) said he was inside the original Trojan horse and “could’ve used a six-pack of fresh air.”
In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raoul Duke orders a Ballantine in Baker, California: “a very mystic long shot, unknown between Newark and San Francisco.”
Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was reputed to have “borrowed” the design of Ballantine’s three-ring logo for his representative symbol on Led Zeppelin IV. Some statisticians refer to Venn diagrams as Ballentines (note spelling) because the beer can’s label looked like a Venn diagram. The Beastie Boys made reference to Ballantine in their song “High Plains Drifter” on 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, with the lyric: “Ballantine quarts with the puzzle on the cap”. Ballantine bottle caps have a rebus puzzle printed on the underside.
The abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning said of gallery owner Leo Castelli, that “he could sell anything. He could even sell beer cans.” The artist Jasper Johns heard of this statement, and produced a series of castings in bronze of Ballantine Ale cans, with labels painted on, under the title Painted Bronze.
Artwork on the label is a set of Borromean rings; these are mathematically interesting because all three are interlinked but no two of them are linked. Notorious B.I.G. made reference to Ballantine in his song “Long Kiss Goodnight”, with the lyric: “Distribute to kids who, take heart like Valentine, drink Ballantine, all the time”.
The Wu-Tang Clan has made many affectionate references to the drink, i.e. “shine shine shine like 409 / here comes the drunk monk with a quart of Ballantine” (GZA, Clan In Da Front)
Singer-songwriter Kevin Devine references the drink in his song “Afterparty,” i.e. “you keep drinking all my Ballantine and laughing while your lips turn blue.”
Tom Waits mentions Ballantine in his 1983 song “Swordfishtrombone”. On the television show Frasier, the title character’s father, Martin Crane frequently drank Ballantine and it was referred to extensively. In one episode, while discussing a trip to France, Frasier notes that Martin could enjoy an imported beer in a cafe, to which Martin replies “I only like Ballantines.” Frasier ripostes by pointing out that, in France, it is imported beer. In another episode, Ballantines is being discontinued, possibly a reference to the real-life decline of the brand. Martin exclaims, “Christmas just won’t be the same without Ballantines!” His son asks if anything is the same to him without Ballantines, to which Martin replies, “Sure, lots of things.” (Thoughtful pause, then), “No, not really.”
Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann references the drink in her song “Ballantines.” The music video includes references to the product and the original logo. Bottles of Ballentine’s can be seen in photos of American World War II aviators debriefing on Iwo Jima after a raid against Tokyo.
History from Wikipedia and OldCompany.com (old stock certificate research service).