In-depth history of the Rainier Beer commercials

About a year ago I pointed to the classic motorcycle Rainier Beer commercial on YouTube (found by Jeff) and wondered a bit about some of the other Rainier commercials. Today, I got an email from Ed Leimbacher (blog), who, it turns out, was key in the development of those:

For a dozen years from 1973 to 1985, I was the official writer-producer for all the Rainier Beer ads released during that stretch of time—each year three-to-five radio ads, maybe a half-dozen TV ads, up to a dozen print ads, and whatever other support material was needed.

This is a really good read (there’s a follow-up here), worth reading in full, but I’ll post some excerpts I like:

But I want to focus on a few TV ads that gave me some extra pleasure, or headaches, or both. The Motorcycle Spot, for example, really was the all-Northwest all-time favorite. Very simple: camera looking down a straight back-country road, nothing in sight, then gradually a spot becoming a motorcycle coming straight at the camera, passing close, flash-pan to follow it tailing off toward a looming Mount Rainier—and all the while the shifting gears have been keening/singing, distantly at first, then louder and louder, "Raaaaiiiii-niiieeeerrrr… (zoom by and receding sound) Beeeeerrrrrr…"

Looked amazingly simple, but of course there was much going on behind the scene. Building the soundtrack, for example, we found that we could not stretch the words out over the full 30 seconds, had to settle for 20-plus to be understandable—which meant the visuals had to not show any bike at first. Then trying to capture the actual motorcycle shot we found that we could not pan fast enough as the bike passed, so we had to make a hidden cut during the pan. And neither the weather nor the motorcycle itself cooperated at first—we had to go out filming on three different days to get the bike actually operating properly, at a time when Mount Rainier was also visible!

And, from the follow-up post:

Our other engineering challenge was a take-off on TV spots back then that used continuous rows of toppling dominoes which, once started, would go on tipping over sequentially, flowing in some pattern for 30 seconds. We hired an engineering firm to put a slight edge-crimp on about 2600 Rainier bottle caps that we could also stand on edge in rows. These, we hoped, when toppled and sent rippling onward, would create a giant version of the somewhat calligraphic Rainier R.

I was one of the lucky sods who had to place each and every cap painstakingly into position on the 12-foot-wide translucent surface; we "cappers" often wound up lying on our stomachs and reaching down from scaffolding above to line up the ones impossible to place from outside the circle. As I recall, the caps crew put in about 30 man-hours getting set. As a result, we all rather dreaded the actual moment of shooting, because if anything went wrong… yes, 30 more hours to set up for a second take.

And of course, there’s now a ton of classic Rainier commercials on YouTube.

One comment

  1. Years ago a friend of mine came up with one of the Raindeer beer bottles. We would bring it with us on camping trips. Quite cumbersome because of it’s size. But what a great time we had running across the forest roads at various camping areas. We would wait for just the perfect moment to run across the road and then into the woods when a car was approaching.I have often wondered what ever happened to that big Rainier bottle. The friend has since past away. Hopefully who ever has it will continue to entertain us.

Comments are closed.