The “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first successful harvest in the New World in October 1621. While we attribute the commemoration of this day of feasting to the Pilgrims, we should also acknowledge that the Pilgrims were the first to bring BEER to America.
History recounts that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in December 1602 because they were running out of the malty beverage. Unlike more perishable options, a ship’s beer would keep during long voyages, and became a mainstay for crew and passengers alike. Those who settled the colony in New England are believed to have brewed the first ale known in America. Beer was very much a necessity in those days, and it was common for men to consume a quart or more a day.
This November, and just in time for Thanksgiving, we bring you none other than Pilgrim Ale. Brewed by the Boston-based Croft Brewery, this was one of five ale varieties they produced. Croft was one of the only breweries to begin a new brewery post prohibition, beginning in 1934 and maintaining operations until 1965.
It is no wonder that Croft Brewing created a label paying homage to the original ale brewers. The launch of Pilgrim Ale came with some quirky advertising where the brewery invited direct descendants of the Pilgrims for tours and also employed pretty girls dressed as Pilgrims to serve its patrons. Some of the print advertising included a pledge stating “Our Pilgrim Fathers: I pledge myself always to keep Pilgrim Ale up to a standard of quality worthy of the name.” It was signed by the president of Croft Brewing Co.
Despite its claims of being America’s outstanding ale, immense press coverage and marketing, Pilgrim Ale was discontinued in 1938. It was available in two flat top designs and the cans that remain are rare and highly desirable for collectors.