Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Why Old Style signs dot the Chicago landscape

Photo: Liz Garibay

Here in Chicago, where The A.V Club resides, we are surrounded by peerless architecture, a majestic Great Lake, historic bungalows, and no shortage of signs that proclaim our city’s preference for a certain domestic beer in a can. Why—an alien from outer space may ponder, if their spaceship happened to land in the heart of Avondale, or Ukrainian Village, or one of Chicago’s many other homey neighborhoods—is this town so crazy for Old Style? And what exactly are “Package Goods”?

We are also fortunate enough here that our city has a public radio station, WBEZ, that hosts a show called Curious City, that can tackle such tough questions, like, “Why does Chicago have quite so many Old Town signs?” Sure, Old Style is brewed in Chicago’s northern neighbor, Wisconsin, but so is Miller Lite, Leinenkugel, and hipster favorite Pabst Blue Ribbon. To answer this stumper, WBEZ headed straight to the source: the city’s own beer historian, Liz Garibay, formerly of the Chicago History Museum. Garibay explained that the tie between the city and Old Style was cemented in 1950, when it became the official brew of Wrigley Field, home of the (now World Champion) Cubs. Old Style began distributing these signs across this city for free in the inflation-ridden ’70s to push the brand; then a Budweiser workers’ strike in 1976 paved the way for Old Style to take the Chicago lead.


There’s much more on the WBEZ website, a blog page devoted just to Chicago’s Old Style signs, and Garibay’s own enterprise, History On Tap. Open up a cold one—you know which one—and enjoy.

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