Postage stamps reflect the culture and history of their homelands with a bent toward topics that appeal to collectors. Here, our favorite beer stamps—domestic and imported.
by David A. Norris
Between 1866 and 1955, all U.S. beer kegs were required to have a tax stamp over the bung; they were usually destroyed, making them scarce today. Many states had their own beer tax stamps; this Ohio version paid a $1.25 tax on half a barrel of malt beverage in 1935.
While not as retro as a beer wagon, this streamlined 1947 Labatt’s truck on a 90-cent Canadian stamp symbolizes post-World War II-era nostalgia.
Postage stamps often promote a country’s industries; this stamp from St. Christopher (better known as St. Kitts) depicts the Carib Brewery, founded in 1960 and a major employer on the Caribbean island.
This 1986 stamp from Belgium marked the country’s “Year of Beer.” Has there ever been a topic more deserving of a stamp? We think not.
Decorative and collectible (although not good for postage), poster stamps were popular in Europe and the United States in the early 1900s. Many German versions, such as this one, advertised beers.
John Molson founded his famous Montreal brewery in 1786. Barley was scarce in Canada back then, so Molson imported barley seeds himself and gave them to farmers. Canada honored Molson with this 1986 stamp on the 150th anniversary of his death.
This 2006 Belgian stamp depicts the ale made at the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval, one of just seven Trappist breweries in the world. The modern facility dates from 1931, but Orval’s monks made beer back in the Middle Ages. Today, the brewery’s run by laymen, but still benefits the monastery.
Two Renaissance brewers are hard at work on this German stamp from 1983, which marks “more than 450 years” of the 1516 Reinheitsgebot, the beer purity law permitting brewers to use only barley, hops and water.
In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on an abandoned Dublin brewery. His business grew to worldwide fame, earning Guinness a spot on this 1959 bicentennial stamp from Ireland, as well as another Irish stamp in 2009 commemorating the brewery’s 250th anniversary.
The San Miguel Brewery was founded in Manila in 1890, when the Spanish still ruled the Philippines. A hundred years later, the Philippines marked the event with postage stamps showing an inviting array of foamy mugs.
PLUS: As thousands of U.S. post offices threaten to close their doors, it’s worth wondering what’ll become of the real estate. Two breweries have snatched up former postal spaces: Willimantic Brewing—the 2009 GABF small brewpub of the year—occupies a former post office built from stone in 1909, where it brews IPAs like Junk Mail and Address Unknown. The Postmaster’s office now holds a private dining room. In Pullman, Wash., Paradise Creek Brewery crafts Postal Porter and other small batches in a marble-finished one-time post office that was completed in 1931 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.