George Wendt Hated The Beer The ‘Cheers’ Cast Drank

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George Wendt breaks down how Cheers brewed its near beer and what he really thought about its tasteGeorge Wendt breaks down how Cheers brewed its near beer and what he really thought about its taste

Near beer was not very near and dear to George Wendt. Norman Peterson was a very famous regular at the bar in Cheers, but in reality, his actor Wendt was far from thrilled taking swigs of the beverage he was served during takes. In fact, their opinions couldn’t be more opposite.

Although Cheers, which ran for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993, took place primarily at the Boston-based bar, the actors could not be expected to drink actual beer, for fear of it impairing their performance. So, they got creative with a non-alcoholic alternative with a fizzy twist to how it was dispensed. Their options were limited back then and it was an option Wendt was not a fan of.

‘Cheers’ used a bubbly trick to replicate beer

Norman famously loved having a cold one at CheersNorman famously loved having a cold one at Cheers
Norman famously loved having a cold one at Cheers / Jim McHugh / TV Guide / ©NBC / courtesy Everett Collection

“There wasn’t a lot of choices for nonalcoholic beer back then, like now there is,” explained Wendt on Hollywood & Levine. “It was Kingsberry Brew near beer. It came in cans and it was from Cincinnati I believe. They didn’t want it to be in cans. They wanted it to be on tap and nobody made it on tap. So they had to use soda pop dispensers.”

CHEERS, George WendtCHEERS, George Wendt
CHEERS, George Wendt, (1987), 1982-93, © NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

So, a soda dispenser gave the look of a beer tap like what Cheers would use. But beer would sit too long to come out of that dispenser to appear how it should.

“So they poured cans of beer into soda pop dispensers well before we shot so it was completely warm and flat at time to shoot,” continued Wendt. “They go, ‘We don’t like the way that looks, it doesn’t look good.’ So the prop man had to put a pinch of salt in every beer mug that was on the set so whatever one Sam grabbed would have the salt in the bottom. So, it was warm, flat, salty near beer.”

George Wendt didn’t like this beer nearly as much as his ‘Cheers’ counterpart did

George Wendt hated drinking the near beer they served on CheersGeorge Wendt hated drinking the near beer they served on Cheers
George Wendt hated drinking the near beer they served on Cheers / ©NBC / courtesy Everett Collection

The concoction has been dubbed “near beer” and it wasn’t nearly enticing enough for Wendt to enjoy it the way Norman did.

“You’ll notice, in the [last] few seasons I only begrudgingly take a sip now and then,” he noted, “That stuff is awful.” While the beer was enough to keep Norman returning to the point he received a customary greeting of “Norm!” Wendt joked, “That was some serious acting to pretend I liked that stuff.”

Drinking With George: A Barstool Professional’s Guide to BeerDrinking With George: A Barstool Professional’s Guide to Beer
Drinking With George: A Barstool Professional’s Guide to Beer / Amazon

There are quite a few other key differences between Wendt and Norm. “I actually like my wife; Norm, on the other hand, was a bit more ambivalent about his heard-but-never-seen wife, Vera,” Wendt wrote in his book, Drinking With George: A Barstool Professional’s Guide to Beer. “And when I drink a lot of beer, I will occasionally get drunk. Not so for Norm: It was very important to the network (and to my mother) that Norm never seem like he was getting loaded. They didn’t want him to appear pathetic.”

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