Billy Beer: The Can and the Man
During my most recent move, I packed my modest beer can collection into a box, and that’s where it currently resides. However, I recently reacquired one of my cans, so I’m posting another entry in our occasional series about collectible beer cans.
Craft beer lovers often raise toasts to President Jimmy Carter, not necessarily because of his lauded humanitarian work after his presidency. They toast instead to his signing into law in 1978 a bill, sponsored by Sen. Alan Cranston, that lifted a federal ban on homebrewing, essentially leading to the booming craft beer industry that exists today.
But if you were around during his term, you might remember his black-sheep brother Billy, a good ol’ Georgia boy who enjoyed pounding back his Pabst Blue Ribbons while regularly embarrassing the president with his antics, such as the time he urinated on a runway in full view of the press and dignitaries.
Billy Beer came about during this time. Falls City Brewing Co. in Louisville, Kentucky, brewed the beer that was endorsed by Billy Carter, a Georgia gas station owner and folk hero to the redneck crowd. Other regional breweries also brewed it during its existence.
Along the top of the can, the text says: “Brewed expressly for and with the personal approval of one of America’s all-time great beer drinkers – Billy Carter.”
The beer became fodder for late-show comedians and a pop culture touchstone. It sold quickly at first, but Billy became involved in a scandal involving Libya, Falls City Brewing shut its doors and Billy Beer just became a memory.
There is some belief that Billy Beer cans are rare and valuable. They are not. You might be able to get a buck or two on eBay if the can is in pristine condition, but there were millions made and they are quite common.
I held on to the empty can for years, then gave it to my good friend Bill as a housewarming gift about 10 years ago. Bill unexpectedly passed away recently, and I asked his brother if the can was still around. He found it and gave it to me as a keepsake. It is of great value now, but only to me.
Incidentally, Falls City Beer has reopened as a local craft brewery in Louisville.