Anheuser Busch introduce Bevo in 1916 as a non-alcoholic substitute for beer as a response to Prohibition. Bevo, a “cereal beverage” was also called “near beer“. The drink was successful enough to survive the 1933 repeal of Prohibition. However, the history of the Depression, changing tastes, and competition shrank sales in the 1930s to only a few hundred thousand cases annually as compared to over 5 million in the 1920s.
Busch had a brewery building in St. Louis devoted originally to producing Bevo in the 1920s. It still stands today along with the terra cotta depiction of Renard the Fox enjoying the brew.
Nevertheless, strict morals during Prohibition condemned the use of any drink that was even close to beer. In Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, Harold Hill stirs up the moral outrage of the citizens of fictional River City, Iowa, by listing the use of Bevo, cubebs, and tailor-mades as character flaws for their youth. Adding to the fiction, the story is set in 1912. Bevo was introduced in 1916.
What’s in a Name?
There are many stories surrounding the “Bevo” name. Of course, the “bev” begins the word “beverage”. The slang of the early Twentieth Century liked applying an “o” at the end of a name as a sort of cutesy tag. Think Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. It didn’t hurt that “Bevo” was like the Slavic word for beer, “pivo”. But that’s a stretch.
Another convoluted story using “Bevo” during that period was the naming of the longhorn steer at The University of Texas. Their arch rival on the gridiron was the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies had defeated Texas 13 – 0 in 1915. When the first live steer mascot was introduced on the halftime field in 1916, the stage was set. The story goes that a group of Aggies (who by the way lost in 1916) sneaked into the pen that house the poor animal and branded him with “13 – 0”. Texas loyalists are said to have “over-branded” the “13” into a “B”, the “-” into an “E”, and carefully inserted a “V” before the “0”.
But surely they needed a reason to use the the word “Bevo”. Some say that another word for beef, beeve (at least in England it is), was their inspiration. However, college boys recently deprived of beer may have had Bevo on their brains!
- Year Started: 1916
- Year Ended: 1933
- Origin Of Name: Convoluted
- Location Sales: USA
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: O’Doul’s
- Owner Original: Anheuser Busch
- Owner While In Use: Anheuser Busch
- Owner Successor: Anheuser Busch
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: O’Doul’s
- Naics Code: 312120
- Location Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri, USA