It may be an urban legend (in Maryland, anyway) but I've always been told that the "33" was for the 33 words on the back label. I'm always a little too tipsy to count right, though.
Rolling Rock actually ran a series of radio ads a few years ago suggesting various explanations for the "33". I don't believe they ever made an honest public declaration about its meaning, though.
There are 33 words on the back of the bottle and on the back of the can. They actually change the text on the can to make the word count come out right! (The can doesn't have "Rolling Rock" on the neck, so it needs two more words in the body of the text.) 1933 was the end of Prohibition, a big year for beer drinkers. When I was in college in the early 70s, a friend wrote the brewery asking about "33," and the answer was that it was there to provoke friendly discussions among RR drinkers.
Good to know. Mystery solved.
There's actually a really interesting story behind this, and it's probably as close to the indisputable truth as we'll ever get. According to Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope:I hunted up James L. Tito, who at one time was chief executive officer of Latrobe Brewing, the maker of Rolling Rock beer. Mr. Tito's family owned Latrobe from the end of Prohibition until the company was sold to an outfit in Connecticut in 1985. After some prompting, he told me the sordid truth. Based on some old notes and discussions with family members now dead, Mr. Tito believes that putting the 33 on the label was nothing more or less than a horrible accident. It happened like this:When the Titos decided to introduce the Rolling Rock brand around 1939, they couldn't agree on a slogan for the back of the bottle. Some favored a long one, some a short one. At length somebody came up with the 33-word beauty quoted above, and to indicate its modest length, scribbled a big "33" on it. More argument ensued, until finally somebody said, dadgummit, boys, let's just use this one and be done with it, and sent the 33-word version off to the bottle maker. Unfortunately, no one realized that the big 33 wasn't supposed to be part of the design until 50 jillion returnable bottles had been made up with the errant label painted permanently on their backsides. (I suppose this bespeaks a certain inattentiveness on the part of the Tito family, but I am telling you this story just as it was told to me.)
I drank many an RR in college, and have always wondered this as well. Thanks for the great explanations! (And I wouldn't argue with the quotes in this instance.)
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