Rainier: A Beer Odyssey

USA | 2024 | 124 min. | Isaac Olsen

Crack open a cold one with the epic story of Rainier Beer and the world-famous 1970s advertising campaign—designed by a small, up-and-coming agency with everything to prove—that put the Seattle-based brewing company on the map.

Director Isaac Olsen scheduled to attend.

Come to the May 16 screening for a chance to win a prize package from Intentionalist to help you shop local in honor of Seattle's beloved Rainier Beer.

The word “iconic” is greatly overused, but Rainier Beer’s red-script “R” logo is just that—for decades a symbol of Seattle second, perhaps, only to the Space Needle itself. Rainier: A Beer Odyssey explores, exhaustively, how that happened. Short version: It was the dozens of witty, zany TV ads that have never left the memories of anyone who lived in Seattle from the World’s Fair through the Reagan era, dreamed up by a troupe of infinitely inventive (m)ad men and women led by Terry Heckler and Gordon Bowker. (Several of these merry pranksters were alumni of Seattle magazine, and that chapter of local journalistic history gets an affectionate sidebar.) Parody was a favorite strategy, using celeb impersonators from Carson to Rambo and sending up films from Jaws to Amadeus, plus plenty of the time’s pop songs. Mickey Rooney, of all people, got a late-career boost when the ad-makers found by accident he was available. Then in 1987 Rainier was bought by Aussie Alan Bond, the Rupert Murdoch of brewing; he instantly fired Heckler Bowker and Rainier sales plummeted in about as long as it took you to read this sentence. Funny how that happens. Since the ad crew was so young, several are still around, eager talking heads for director Isaac Olsen amid the wealth of vintage old-Seattle clips he’s amassed.

—Gavin Borchert

  • Director: Isaac Olsen
  • Principal Cast: Mickey Rooney, Terry Heckler, Gordon Bowker, Ed Leimbacher, Kathy Cain
  • Premiere Status: World
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2024
  • Running Time: 124 min.
  • Producer: Justin Peterson, Robby Peterson, Kurt Stream
  • Cinematographers: Nathan Blanchard, Karl Allsop, Matt Rome
  • Editors: Isaac Olsen
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: Walk Don’t Run: The Story of The Ventures (2022), Semi-Iconic: The Ballad of Dick Rossetti (2017), Strictly Sacred: The Story of Girl Trouble (2014), Ich Hunger (2013), Quiet Shoes (2010)
  • Language: English