Kickin’ it with the Budweiser Clydesdales

A weekend trip to snowy Vermont and New Hampshire last weekend, two days of covered bridges and northern New England history, left me with George Clooney’s voice in my head.

Woodstock, VT, is a small town about a three-hour drive north from Boston and about five hours from New York City.  As of the 2010 census, its population was just over 3,000 people, spread across 44 square miles. Set in Vermont’s scenic Green Mountains, the town and surrounding village are postcard-perfect, filled with historic buildings and houses, small farms, quaint inns and old taverns.

The picturesque Kedron Valley Inn, in South Woodstock, was built in 1828. A red-brick building in the Federalist style, with 11 acres of land around it, was featured in Budweiser’s 1981 “Holiday Postcard” commercial.  The spot, filmed mostly in the village of South Woodstock, features the Budweiser Clydesdales pulling the brewer’s wagon. “Johnny Carson” sidekick Ed McMahon provided the voice over.

The Clydesdales have figured prominently in Budweiser ads for decades. Their origin dates back to April 7, 1933. To celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, August Anheuser Busch Jr wanted to present his father with a gift. August A Busch Sr was lured out of the brewery believing his son had purchased him in a new car.

Instead, the horses were outside, pulling a red, white, and gold beer wagon. The hitch then carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the brewery in a special journey down Pestalozzi Street in St Louis. The presentation of the original two six-horse hitches moved father, son, and carriage drivers to tears. The phrase “crying in your beer” is said to originate from this day.

Busch Sr quickly recognized the marketing potential of a horse-drawn beer wagon and sent the team by railroad to New York City, where they picked up two cases of beer at Newark Airport and brought them to former NY governor Al Smith, a driving force in the repeal of Prohibition. From there, the Clydesdales continued to tour New England and the mid-Atlantic states, stopping to deliver a case of beer to President Roosevelt at the White House.

The Clydesdales’ first TV ad appearance was in 1979, in this “Here Comes the King” spot.

In the 1986 update, featured on the Kedron Valley Inn’s website, George Clooney handles voice over duty.  :23 seconds into this ad the Kedron Valley Inn’s main building is highlighted.

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