What does the “33” mean on the Rolling Rock Label?

This is one of those great beer conversations where everyone has an opinion and there doesn’t seem to be a clear provable conclusion.

There are several different versions of this legend which we have been able to discover. We have listed these below in reverse order of likelihood (from least likely to most likely) according to our extensive research and our best guess (not quite throwing darts at a list of possibilities, but close).

Rolling Rock “33” Theories

There were exactly 33 steps from the brewmaster’s office to the brewing floor.

The reservoir that was used by the brewery for its main water source was fed by 33 streams.

The list of ingredients on the label – water, malt, rice, hops, corn, brewer’s yeast – totals 33 letters (not counting the commas or the apostrophe).

The brewery workers were members of the Local #33 union.

The highest level that can be attained by a Freemason is 33rd degree (maybe the Latrobe’s were Freemasons?).

Legend has it that the Rolling Rock brewery was started with money won at the horse track. The winning bet was placed on #33, “Old Latrobe,” and that is why there is a horse and the “33” on the bottle.

It was the 33rd version of the recipe that became what is now Rolling Rock. This one may have come about because of the Jack Daniels label. It states “Old Number 7” on the label in reference to the 7th attempt at its recipe.

The “33” represents the fabulous day that prohibition was repealed – December 5, 1933. Now that’s a holiday worth celebrating… why don’t we get that day off work?

And the most popular and most likely version…Rolling Rock Label “33” The “33” represents the number of words in the slogan on the bottle:

rolling rock 33 label

Rolling Rock – From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you.

rolling rock 33 label close-up

Now even this version has some controversy and multiple versions itself. From what we have been able to gather, it may have happened like this….

Our main source here is Latrobe Brewing’s past CEO, James Tito. Apparently Mr. Tito became very interested in this legend as well and began reviewing notes and speaking to members of the Latrobe family about it. After all of his research, Mr. Tito has been quoted as believing the 33 was left on the label by accident during the printing process.

There was apparently some disagreement on what the label should look like and what it should say, including an argument on how long the slogan should be. Eventually the family settled on the 33 word slogan that remains today (see above), and during the discussions of its length someone wrote “33” on the copy.

This label was then sent to the printer and was mistakenly thought to be part of the copy itself. Before the error could be discovered, a very large number of bottles were printed. Since this was the Depression (1939) and Rolling Rock paints their label directly on the bottles, it would have be extremely expensive to discard this batch of bottles and reprint them all. It is also important to note that bottles back then were cleaned and reused multiple times, which may explain why future runs of the bottles kept the “33”.

Conclusion

Many folks have come along and debunked all of the explanations detailed above, including the “words in the slogan” argument. Many feel that it would be unlikely for a printer to make such a mistake given that the customer would have had to approve a proof and even if they did mistakenly approve the “33”, it could have just been removed on future prints of the label.

While this may be true, we would like to offer another explanation. Just maybe, once the “33” labels reached the public, it created a little bit of a stir. Folks began debating and arguing over what the 33 meant. What company wouldn’t want to create a little buzz and mystery around their product, and of course some free advertising. Further proof of our point is that we are still discussing it today…..

Comments on this post are closed as of September 2020. Existing comments are preserved for informational purposes.
MARK TAYLORAUGUST 14, 2008 AT 3:02 PMI am from Pennsylvania originally. You’re right about the fact that “33” created a buzz around the product, but that is not why they kept it. I have also heard It is exactly 33 miles from the original mountain spring water source used to make the original product.What I heard from Latrobe folk lore is that there were 33 individuals credited with making the product and getting it to market in 1939. You certainly can’t argue with their success, and the perpetuation of the controversy is part of that. Oh, BTW, the horse is because they were farming folk and raised horses. It was a symbol of strength in quality.
JUNIPER JONESMARCH 22, 2009 AT 4:13 PMI always thought that “Rolling Rock” and “33” were related in that 33 was the age of Jesus when he died, and he supposedly walked out of his tomb when the “rock” was “rolled”, creating an exit. That’s what I was told years ago anyway. I thought the original brewery was run by monks…and so it made sense to me.
ROBERTAPRIL 10, 2009 AT 3:53 AMI find it a stretch that anyone (even monks) would connect a beer with Jesus, especially in the modern, progressive United States. I heard once that it was a reference to the packaging in a six pack: three on one side, three on the other. Were they the first to package their product in such a manner. I don’t know, but why is the thirty-three prominantly displayed in quotes?
AUDIE C.SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 AT 7:51 PMI believe that the number 33 came from the Scottish Free Masons… Some people believe the year the Pittsburgh Steelers began 1933… But it having Scottish roots and Mr. Art Rooney is now the embassitor of Ireland… Just my theory..
JOHN J.OCTOBER 1, 2009 AT 5:11 PMProbably masons. It’s “33”, and its mysterious. I can’t think of anything more likely than crazy masonic secrets.
RANDALLGHOEPPNEROCTOBER 1, 2009 AT 7:15 PMGood thoughts all. One onther thing on the “33” on rolling rock. If you count all the words describing Rolling Rock there are exactly 33 words. I am from PA and an old timer showed me that one. Thanks
RALPHIEOCTOBER 18, 2009 AT 10:33 PMref rolling rock beer number 33 mystery. could the number 33 be one of the FreeMason secret numbers?
MICHAELOCTOBER 29, 2009 AT 12:03 PMlegend has it that the brewery workers liked consuming beer at 33 degrees(one above freezing). beernumber.com
ANNIEJANUARY 12, 2010 AT 11:20 PMithink it was one of the best marketing hooks the ad men ever came up with
DAVEMARCH 25, 2010 AT 9:03 AMA friend of mine ran into Ralph Tito (one of the original buyers of the brewery back in 1933. He met him at the Yough Reservoir, probably in the late 1980s. Ralph was a pretty old duffer by then. He said then that the 33 celebrates the reopening of the brewery. While James story is better, I dont think he was there at the birth.Apparently the 33 was a little tongue in cheek as the brewery had been making some RR secretly during most of Prohibition.
SNIPRMN8OCTOBER 16, 2010 AT 5:41 PMBeer is best served at 33 degrees fahrenheit, 1 degree above freezing. If you kept the beer in an old fashoned refridgerator that kept the beer at 33 degrees you could see the colder air rising out of the bottle as you opened it, creating a frost on the bottle, (I’ve done this both with beer and glass coke bottles). If the frost was created by the colder air hitting the bottle as you opened it, you knew that it was at the perfect temperature.
HOWIE FELTERBUSHNOVEMBER 14, 2010 AT 1:30 PMi really dont care what the “33” means all i know its good beer
MICHAEL CRAFTDECEMBER 6, 2010 AT 1:23 PMCould it possibly have anything to do with the fact that there are 33 degrees of levels in the Free Masons which is probably the most secret and most exclusive club in the world?
THE TRUTHFEBRUARY 13, 2011 AT 8:09 AMThe brewmaster bet on the horse named “Old Latrobe” in a high stakes race. It’s number was “33” it won on a complete longshot almost miracuously and it’s given name was “Old Latrobe”. He took the large winnings from the odds on loser and started an ale brewing company in St. Louis(an easy city to start brewing in)Budweiser)) , named after the horse that helped him start the legendary brew. The “33” is dedicated to the winning horse which is the only reason that a poor pale ale enthusiast could start an American institution. An awesome pale ale with a well deserved controversial history.
PORKUS GORPSKYAPRIL 20, 2011 AT 10:04 PMDottie, the former owner of Ardmore Beverage in Ardmore, PA told me that “33” stands for the number of words in the Rolling Rock value statement printed on every bottle and can…and now maybe a few other things to like the best serving temperature, the year prohibition was repealed and a masonic symbol. I loved the taste of those returnable bottles we used to keep cold by packing them in with snow, “33” degrees…to the point that the tops of the beer had an iced 1 inch neck. Great beer, great legacy, Cheers!
CHRISAUGUST 13, 2011 AT 9:12 PMOne cold Sunday I stayed in the Allegheny Club in Three Rivers Stadium to watch the game in warmth and comfort. As I sat at my table drinking a Rolling Rock, an older man sitting at the table next to mine asked me if I liked the beer that I was drinking. After telling him how much I enjoyd Rolling Rock, he told me that he was one of the original founders of the brewery. I honestly don’t remember his name was. Perhaps Mr. Tito, but I do not know. Anyhow, after a pleasant conversation about his role in the starting the brewery, I eventually asked him about the meaning of the “33” on the printed labl. He told me that it had absolutely no meaning, then told me that it was the printer’s mark–probably just a note to count how many words for costing purposes. The number was printed in error. Funding and time limitations resulted in their decision to ues the initial batch of incorrectly printed bottles. Soon there was a buzz about what the “33” meant and why it was there, so they decided to leave it purely for markting purposes.Son the nxt time someone asks what it means, you can tell thm it mans absolutely nothing, and you’ll be right.
BRETTMARCH 4, 2012 AT 12:45 AMI agree with the freemason comment, the highest degree a freemason that is publicly known is the 33rd degree and being a 33rd degree freemason is a big deal, this is a number they are very proud of and love to display it, the masonic temple of the Scottish rite in Washington D.C. has the number 33 all over it, the adress is even 1733 although this is not the correct adress according to the cities layout.
STELLA WALDVOGELAPRIL 12, 2012 AT 9:25 PMI think everybody’s wrong.Rolling Rock was launched in 1939, the height of Seabiscuit’s popularity. The horse on the bottle is Seabiscuit.He placed first 33 races in his career.Admittedly, his last win was in 1940…when exactly did the 33 first appear? Was it on the 1939 beers?Even if it was, that doesn’t disprove my theory. Seabiscuit was foaled in 1933.When the truth comes out, remember: Stella called it. 
CHRISTOPHERMAY 4, 2012 AT 2:28 AM33 is short for 1933 the year the steelers were founded
TOMAUGUST 10, 2012 AT 6:21 PMThe theory I have is a metric measurement for a bottle of beer is 33cl
RALPH MECCANOVEMBER 9, 2012 AT 12:41 AMRalph Tito is correct. Ralph Mecca , ralph’s cousin, told me, Ralph Mecca , Ralph mecca’s son. , lots of ralph’s in our family. That our uncle Joe Tito made comment to his brothers, Ralph,, Tony, Bobby and frank in response to repeal of prohibition in 1933 that ” the same as it ever was” . At which time it was decided to put the “33” on bottles.
ANDREW WEBSTERNOVEMBER 15, 2012 AT 2:05 AMI happen to be a Master Freemason myself so maybe I’m biased, but Benjamin Latrobe was one of the great unsung founding fathers. He was an architect and the man who designed the Masonic layout of Washington DC. He was also, you guessed it, a 33rd degree Mason. As far as I’m concerned, it’s solved. The 33 on RR bottles is a Masonic reference and homage.
ingback: Beers I Have Known: Rolling Rock « Coffee for Two
STEFANAPRIL 11, 2013 AT 4:30 PMAnother theory that sounds very plausible but doubtful is that 33 is the angle of repose for rocks. Which means that if rocks are piled up so the slopes form a 33 degree angle with ground, then the rocks will roll. Hence rolling rock.
JOHNAUGUST 2, 2013 AT 3:14 PMMy friend called the toll-free # that has 3333as part of it.The girl who answered said thephrase “here’s to you 33 was a reference to theyear alcohol became legal.If that is the casewhy not say 1933 instead of just 33?
JOHNAUGUST 2, 2013 AT 3:28 PMA friend called that toll-free # w/all the 33’s in it.The girlwho answered said it was because prohibition was repealed in1933. Well why not just put the whole date 1933 instead ofjust 33. Also the town of Latrobe is named for a Freemasonwho was also an architect.
STEPHEN DAUGUST 7, 2013 AT 1:28 PMIs everyone else blind or am I? I’ve counted the words in the pic above (those inside the quotation marks) and all I get is a total of 31 words. Where are the two other words that everyone else sees?
JIMFEBRUARY 12, 2014 AT 4:50 PM“Where are the other two?” He asked?Here:ROLLiNG ROCK
RICHARDFEBRUARY 12, 2014 AT 8:37 PMThanks for that Jim! I did finally research it a bit more and it appears the original bottles did say “Rolling Rock” just before the slogan so I think that is where the “missing” two words are from.But again…. no body knows for sure what the “33” really means!
GRJUNE 7, 2014 AT 5:22 PMBack in 1974, my brother and I were trying to solve this great mystery of beer also,we wrote a letter to the brewery and the vice- president of the brewery at that point in history explained to us that the significance of “33” was two fold,the year prohibition was repealed & the number of words on the back label.I have heard many of the other theories behind the 33 as well.However;seeing as this was straight from the horse’s mouth…I’m sticking with it!
TOM SCHNEPPAUGUST 10, 2014 AT 3:06 PMKind of strange … I never noticed this “33” until I returnd from Viet Nam in 1963 and saw the “33” on the label. The most (and onlybeer beside Red Stripe) popular beer in Viet Nam was callec “33”Bamoi Ba which translated was 33 ??go figure !!!
DAVIDBDECEMBER 21, 2014 AT 11:57 AMThese are all very interesting theories, but Chris above is the closest!If you look at the “33” on the back of the bottle at the bottom you will notice it does NOT look like ANY of the other 33’s on the bottle! It is completely different because it is NOT “3’s”They are script lower case “Z’s”As chris said it is the brewers mark whose name was Mo”zz”arella!Those double script lower case “zz’s” were his brewers mark!Take a good look at those “Z’s” on the back at the bottom and you will see they are NOT 3’s!
WENDYFEBRUARY 14, 2015 AT 6:04 PMToday February 14 2015 is my husband and my 33 Anniversary so I bought him a case of Rolling Rock “33”.
BOB GRAFFMAY 4, 2015 AT 5:56 AMIt’s way more simpler than you guys are making it. “33” is a signature showing that this is a product made by free-masons as are 11, 13,333
DAVID NEALJUNE 1, 2015 AT 5:18 PMI do miss the (PONY) bottles and a shot at the Hunky Club in Zelienople , PA. $1.50……lol…..And even after 30 years in Chicago which is where I now live the question is posed……I do know one person that knows the answer…..Arnold Palmer……yes Arnold Palmer the pro golfer……see Arnie Lived up on the hill near Davidson Stone Quarry…..we used to shoot the quarry…..thats right trucks full of explosives….bulk….rock quarrys are a blast to shoot……lol…..well they did not get the money on a horse race……..the print thing was right…..they charge by the number of words……dah 33……it was jotted down on the proof to go to the printer……so there you have see…..all the way from CHICAGO where I still to this day drink my favorite pop……the rock…..and yinz wanna know something ……the charge rolling rock as a premium beer and get $4,00 a bottle here in the midwest…..bastards.
SALVATORE POLICICCHIOSEPTEMBER 3, 2015 AT 7:34 AM33 comes from the age Rockefeller became the most powerful man in America…..
LAWRENCEFEBRUARY 20, 2016 AT 3:32 PMAccording to the owners of the company the 33 is named after a racehorse that used to own which is why there is a horse on the bottle
JOSEPH MITCHELLAPRIL 8, 2016 AT 4:05 PMIam pretty sure that the 33 is there to represent the greatest day in NFL FOOTBALL, October 20,1933, the day the mighty STEELERS originated!!BLACK &GOLD TILL I’M DEAD AND COLD!!
ROBINAPRIL 15, 2016 AT 2:56 PMMy friend robin says the 33 represents the age of christ at the time he was crucified on the cross
TISH YORKSEPTEMBER 13, 2016 AT 12:38 PMWhere is the “33” located at on the old green 12 Oz bottles? I have yet to see one on my bottles.
RICHSEPTEMBER 15, 2016 AT 6:06 PMHey Tish,I am not sure as I have not seen the bottles you are talking about. All the bottles I have seen have the “33” on them. Can you share a photo of the bottle you are referring to?Thanks!
KENNNETH PANCOASTNOVEMBER 27, 2016 AT 7:09 PMRhe 33 is the year proabition was repeeled
D.G.JANUARY 18, 2017 AT 11:54 AM@Tish: on today’s bottles, it only appears on the back label (now they are manufactured with plastic decals instead of painted on the glass)… they used to be on the back as you see it today, oon the front under the logo, and around the neck, if I recall correctly. The switch to plastic decals occurred in late 80s or early 90s.
JEFF GOETTELMARCH 28, 2017 AT 5:29 PMI have a 7 oz green bottle embossed with ROLLING ROCK, PREMIUM BEER, 7FL OZ., LATROBE BREWING CO., NOT TO BE REFILLED on one side. The other side reads ROLLING ROCK, PREMIUM BEER, 7FL.OZ, LATROBE, PA., NO DEPOSIT NO RETURN ( a small star shape between no deposit/no return). There are 4 horse heads near the top and appears to have had a screw on cap. The only numbers appear on the bottom of the bottle and read L-7640, 70, 48, and 5. There is also a picture of an anchor on the bottom. There is no 33 on this bottle. Has anyone seen one of these?
FRANKJUNE 6, 2017 AT 7:01 AMKind of strange … I never noticed this “33” until I returned from Viet Nam in 1963 and saw the “33” on the label. The most (and onlybeer beside Red Stripe) popular beer in Viet Nam was called “33”Bamoi Ba which translated was 33 ??go figure !!!It’s on a billboard in the movie “Full Metal Jacket”.. A bottle could be .33 liters, just over 11 oz.
GOLDENOWLJUNE 23, 2017 AT 10:42 PMPoint of interest, the tito family bought Latrobe in 1933.
ANDY MAUGUST 1, 2017 AT 1:38 PMI always thought it was related to the horse and gate on the label… aren’t there “33” notes in the “call to post” bugle call?
STEVEAUGUST 21, 2017 AT 6:03 AMThe most popular beer in Saigon during the 50s – 60s was called Ba-Me-Ba, meaning ’33’. Any connections? Thanks & God Bless.
STEVEAUGUST 21, 2017 AT 6:07 AMAnd just found out:33 Beer’s name was devised per the manner in which it was packaged in 33-centilitre (11.2 ounce) bottles when it was first produced in the early 1900s GB.
ROBINNOVEMBER 7, 2017 AT 10:49 AM12 oz bottle=33 CL bottleMetric equivalentThe norm in Europe.
TOMJANUARY 25, 2018 AT 3:29 PMTo deepen the mystery, the “33” on the RR label is in the exact same font as the old 33 Bier that used to be bottled in the former South Vietnam, and which millions of servicemen became familiar with. Coincidence, eh?
MARLO MONTANAROJUNE 29, 2018 AT 4:06 AM“Rolling the rock” has long been slang for putting in golf. My contention is that 33 was a 9-hole golf score, or the number of putts in an 18 hole score.
CURTSEPTEMBER 21, 2019 AT 3:45 PMThis response is for Jeff Goettel’s question about the pony bottle. Those were made at Anchor Hocking plant 5 in South Connellsville. I own 7 different varieties of 7 ounce pony bottles made by them.
PAMFEBRUARY 2, 2020 AT 8:27 PMI was introduced to Rolling Rock 16 yrs ago ,I love it, I couldn’t drink Budweiser anymore so the guy at the liquor store in Colorado told me about rolling rock I only drink that ,I now live in Indiana .
JOHNJUNE 26, 2020 AT 8:02 PMWe drank Rolling Rock in college because it came in returnable bottles. At the end of the month we’d return all our empties and the refund would almost always pay for a another 6 pack. It didn’t hurt that it was good beer too. Almost started a late night 10 hour pilgrimage to Old Latrobe one night but the car owner fell asleep before we got up enough momentum. Here’s to Rolling Rock. 33