This illustration, first glimpsed when I was maybe 10 years old, was my introduction to Tree Frog Beer, a variety of beer that has been present in a lot of my RPG games (especially the less serious games and the modern games where cans of beer aren’t that out of place).
I ran a Cyberpunk 2020 campaign based around the Tree Frog Brewing Company, sabotage, and an AI shipping itself out broken into small RFID chips embedded in the pull tabs from the cans. And Tree Frog Beer was a great reminder for players for years afterwards about the fun of that campaign.
I had seen Tree Frog Beer references in other places than that first issue of the Dragon. It’s probably why the beer became my default “not actual beer” in my games. The cross-pollination of it showing up in classic Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics (this image is from issue 0 of the series, published in ’69) as well as the Dragon meant that I was seeing the labels in classic “bathroom reading” material which seeps even more easily into the subconscious.
From what I can tell, the label was invented by Gilbert Shelton (author of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) and propagated from there to various radio stations as a fake ad in the early 70’s. The illustration at the top of the article from the Dragon is definitely an homage to those old hippie comics. Today there is even a real “Tree Frog Ale” in California that I haven’t had the opportunity to try. But it doesn’t come in cans, which is a shame.
Next time your PCs sit down for a drink at the pub, inn or tavern, pour them some Tree Frog Beer and keep the old meme alive.