The storied history of Goldcrest 51 beer starts at the Tennessee Brewing Company of Memphis (1885-1954) in 1906. Nearly 3 billion bottles of this flagship brand were sold to discerning beer drinkers throughout the south during its production.

The origin of the name “Goldcrest” is unknown, and the beer was actually introduced 21 years after the brewery began its operations in 1885. Despite not being its first offering, Goldcrest was the brewery’s most popular and only brand for much of its existence. Prior to 1906, the brewery made very few name brand beers, instead marketing its offerings by type, such as Erlanger, Pilsner and Budweiser among others. A few name brands were introduced, including Columbian and Jockey Club, but none were ever as well-known as Goldcrest. John W. Schorr, the brewery’s president, was more than a brewer, he was a horseman, which might explain the name Jockey Club on one of the brewery’s offerings. At one point, Schorr owned the largest stable of racehorses in the country, including a racehorse named, of course, Goldcrest Boy.

Goldcrest held the flagship position for the brewery until Prohibition stopped production of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition slowed, but did not close the Tennessee Brewing Company, as it focused on making soft drinks and non-alcoholic offerings. It experimented with products such as Goldcrest Cereal Beverage and Goldcrest Pure Barley Malt Syrup, during the time it was unable to produce beer. The brewery administration knew the value of the Goldcrest name and these products bearing that title illustrates the desire to keep that product name in front of its customers.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, Goldcrest was the first brand reintroduced to the market. In fact, there were several variations on the Goldcrest theme used between 1933 and 1935: Goldcrest Super Six, Goldcrest Pale Ale, Goldcrest Special Beer and Goldcrest Lager were all introduced and went away after very short runs. In 1936, the brewery was struggling to stay open due to slow sales. Something needed to be done to reinvigorate the Goldcrest name. The question was how to give Goldcrest a shorter “nickname” that would be catchy and easy to remember. Mrs. E.C. “Collie” Krausnick provided just the thing at a dinner party one night suggesting the number “51” be added to the Goldcrest name signifying the company’s fifty first year in business. The now familiar red ball with a white “51” in it was added to the label and Memphians were reminded in advertising to ask for 51 when they wanted good beer. The name stuck and remained a part of the Goldcrest brand until the brewery closed.

There were four variations of the 51 red ball used over the years and they all had to do with words, not numbers. The first 51 had the words “Years of Perfect Brewing” just below the number. That changed in 1937 when the word “Over” was added above the 51. The third variation simply said “Over” above the 51 and “Years” below it. And the fourth variation dropped the words totally with just the 51 remaining.

In 1954, the brewery closed its doors and the production of Goldcrest 51 ceased until 2015, when investors revived it and brought it back to Memphis. The reintroduced beer is based on the original Goldcrest 51 recipe.

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Image from the Newman Collection Copyright © 2015 Memphis Heritage, Inc./ Mrs. Don Newman. All rights reserved – available at www.newmansmemphis.org