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Heisler Beer in Hollywood

TV and Film's Most Famous Beer

Heisler Beer in Hollywood
Hal (played by Bryan Cranston) sips a Heisler in Malcolm in the Middle

Ever wondered what beer your favorite actors are drinking in films and television shows? The answer is most likely Heisler Beer.

What do Glenn Howerton, Danny DeVito, Jason Lee, Andy Samberg, Bryan Cranston, Zooey Deschanel and John Goodman, have in common?

Well, sure, they’re all actors. But what else?

They’ve all been seen knocking back a bottle or can of Heisler Beer. In fact, they’ve made Heisler so popular that it’s the best-selling beer in its market segment.

It’s probably the highest-selling beer you can’t get your hands on.

You’ve probably never heard of it. Or maybe you have and just don’t know it. If you’ve spent any amount of time in front of a television or movie screen, you’ve most likely seen it, even if you haven’t noticed it.

You see, Heisler Beer isn’t real. That market segment where it’s tops in sales? Beer props in television and movies. All the actors noted above, and countless others, have played characters who have consumed Heisler Beer on set.

Jason Lee, as the title character in My Name is Earl, imbibed several along with his friends at their local bar, the Crab Shack.


Earl Hickey (played by Jason Lee) chuckles with his brother Randy (played by Ethan Suplee) after downing many Heislers in My Name is Earl.
Earl Hickey (played by Jason Lee) chuckles with his brother Randy (played by Ethan Suplee) after downing many Heislers on the show "My Name is Earl."


A pre-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston (see header image above) could be seen with one as Hal, father of the titular Malcolm (played by Frankie Muniz) in Malcolm in the Middle.

Andy Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta enjoyed a few on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Glenn Howerton’s Dennis Reynolds and Danny DeVito’s Frank Reynolds sank more than their fair share in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

And Zooey Deschanel’s Jess Day and friends consumed many, many bottles of Heisler Beer while playing their elaborate homemade drinking game, True American, on the show New Girl.

But the brand itself is fake. In fact, depending on the needs of the scene, the liquid inside the can or bottle being quaffed might not even be beer.

If the scene depicts someone popping a bottle or can and maybe pouring it into a glass, then it’s typically filled with non-alcoholic beer, for appearance’s sake. But if you see a group of characters bringing cans to their lips while in conversation, those cans are most likely filled with water.

Because let’s face it, pounding one after another during the course of a long day’s shoot could be, well, problematic.

Heisler Beer is the creation of the TV and film industries’ leading prop supplier, Independent Studio Services (ISS). Specifically, it was designed by their in-house creative team, Studio Graphics.

ISS is headquartered in, of course, Southern California, where it began in the late 1970s. They’ve since grown to become the largest prop supplier in the entertainment industry. And as more and more productions have filmed away from Hollywood, ISS has gone with them, with 11 locations across the U.S. and one in London.


Zooey Deschanel’s Jess Day and friends consumed many, many bottles of Heisler Beer while playing their elaborate homemade drinking game, True American, on the show New Girl.
Zooey Deschanel’s Jess Day and friends consumed many, many bottles of Heisler Beer while playing their elaborate homemade drinking game, True American, on the show "New Girl."


Beer (and beverages in general) is only a small part of what they do. If there’s any kind of prop needed for a production, they most likely have it – books, tools, musical instruments, sports equipment, furniture, electronics, home appliances, office machines, uniforms, medical devices, and, for use in period pieces, brands and items that have long since ceased to exist. They are also home to many fake weapons, and they claim to own the largest private armory in the world.

But regarding Heisler Beer, and the other phony alcohol brands ISS and Studio Graphics produces, why are they even needed in the first place? Especially in the era of product placement, wouldn’t established brands want the exposure, especially in big-budget blockbusters?

Not necessarily. As in everything, it depends on context.

While product placement is definitely a thing, when it comes to alcohol and other vices, it is notoriously difficult for studios to get permission to use the genuine articles. Characters frequently consume these products in excess, often resulting in unsavory, dangerous or even deadly behavior. Alcohol companies are naturally quite averse to having their brands associated with any kind of belligerence, crime, or addiction.

There are also endorsement conflicts to consider. Especially in television, a network may not want to air a series featuring a specific brand while the network has a very lucrative deal with a top competitor.

So where did the Heisler brand originate, and how did it get its name? Well, that’s kind of a mystery, even to those who created it back in the 1990s.

As Molly Rummel, a manager at Studio Graphics, explained to Thrillist:

“I’ve talked to some of our old-timers, and no one can remember just who created it. It could have been created for one project or multiple.” Nor can they remember specifically where the name originated, as each design is the result of collaborations between many team members.

Beyond the standard Gold Ale, Heisler’s “family” has grown over the years to include a Light, as well as vintage-style label used in period productions.


Heisler Beer Can and Bottle
Most cans of Heisler are filled with water on film and television sets because, let’s face it, pounding one after another during the course of a long day’s shoot could be, well, problematic.


Heisler’s success has led Studio Graphics to design other fake brands, as well, mimicking other styles and demographics.

Their “craft” line includes a generic “Amber Ale”, which has kind of a 90s-era craft vibe. The Jekyll Island Red and Pale Ales look like they could have been brewed in southern Florida, complete with a skull wearing an eye patch and pirate hat. The Oro Vista IPA is very West Coast crafty, featuring big block lettering, stylized mountains and trees and, of course, a hop flower.

Macro brews are mimicked, as well. American Colonial has a Budweiser meets Samuel Adams thing happening, complete with blue and white stripes, furling banners and the Liberty Bell. HaberKern “Amber Premium Blend” has a Michelob Amber Bock ring to it, and Premium Light is a dead-on Keystone/Coors Light knockoff, with a blue label and snow-capped mountains.

“Import” beers are also featured. Cerveza Clara is nearly a dead ringer for Pacifico, and there’s even a “Light Refreshing Beer” with Asian-looking characters on a dark label, echoing Tsingtao or perhaps Sapporo.

But Heisler was where it all started, with a straight-ahead label that just says “beer” and feels as much at home on Roseanne’s kitchen table as it does in a millennial’s downtown loft.

Rummel credits Heisler’s appeal to its timeless design.

“It doesn’t completely copy something, but it still feels real. Whether it’s a dramatic piece or a half-hour sitcom, it sort of fits in. You can use it in a bar in Texas or one in New York.”

In fact, the “brand” became so ubiquitous in the industry that ISS took the unprecedented step of trademarking it. According to Rummel, “We were the first people, according to our lawyer, that put a patent on a fake brand.”


Heisler Beer has been featured in numerous films and television shows. Here are a few notable examples:

Heisler Beer - It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

  • 2 Broke Girls
  • American Pie Presents: Band Camp
  • Beerfest
  • Blue Bloods
  • Bones
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Burn Notice
  • Criminal Minds
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
  • CSI: Miami
  • Desperate Housewives
  • Everybody Hates Chris
  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • Footloose
  • Ghost Whisperer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Glee
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Happy Endings
  • Heroes
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Hulk
  • It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
  • Key and Peele
  • The League
  • Lucifer
  • Mad Love
  • Malcolm in the Middle
  • My Name is Earl
  • New Girl
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Prison Break
  • Reno 911!
  • The Riches
  • Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Roseanne
  • Split
  • Superbad
  • The Shield
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Training Day
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Ugly Betty
  • United States of Tara
  • The Vampire Diaries
  • Veronica Mars
  • Workaholics
  • Weeds
  • White Collar
  • w/ Bob and David