The Jackson Brewing Company, named for its proximity to Jackson Square, opened in 1891 and was one of about 30 breweries serving New Orleans. While most breweries closed during Prohibition (1919-1933), their production of soft drinks and a near-beer (.5 percent alcohol) kept them in business.
As Prohibition was appealed, ads and promotions for Jax Beer started appearing regularly. Purchase of a new refrigerator would include a free case of Jax Beer, “as soon as it’s legal.” Other ads reminded people to ask for “good old Jax, with its old-time vigor and life” (and 4 percent alcohol content).
Over the following decades, Jax Beer’s promotions became the stuff of legend.
The 1940s brought the Jax Girls, a female softball team comprised of Jax Brewing employees. The Jax Girls were very popular – and very good. They drew huge crowds everywhere they played, from California to Chicago to Canada, and won seven national softball championships between 1942 and 1949 before disbanding.
The Jax Beer Jambalaya Golf Carnival at City Park was held in 1952 and 1953. A “strictly fun” tournament, it included lots of trick shots (like hitting a ball out of a bathtub) and costume contest prizes. Mayor Chep Morrison, “who set out in a natty white suit and came in bedraggled but good-natured,” won two awards in 1953: “Best Dressed Player on Tee” and “Golfer Who Came in with the Most Soiled Clothing.”
One of the most popular promotions was the “Golden Gill” contest, in which fish from Lake Pontchartrain, Audubon and City Park lagoons and Bayou St. John were caught, tagged and released back into the water. These tags noted dollar amounts, and whoever caught the fish could trade the fish in at the Brewery and receive the monetary amount, from $50-500 (and one $10,000 prize that was never caught). The contest ran for three years (1957-1959), and there were many happy winners.
After a few changes in ownership, and increased competition from national brands with larger budgets, Jax Brewing went out of business in 1974.