'Cheers': What Was Really in Norm's Beer Glass?
22nd September 2020

Ask any TV viewer to compile their list of the top 10 shows of all time and their lists will all be different. Much of it depends on the era of TV in which they grew up. Some shows will pop up on many lists, like Seinfeld, The Honeymooners, and Friends. Another show that would likely appear on most lists was the classic sitcom Cheers

Cheers had a lengthy run on NBC, with some of the most memorable characters to ever appear on TV. One of those characters was a bar patron named Norm Peterson who seemingly always had a beer in hand. But was the beer Norm drank on the show really beer and if not, what was in his glass? 

The phenomenon that was ‘Cheers’

Simply put, Cheers was a revolutionary sitcom that is still regarded as one of the best of all-time. According to IMDB, the show rarely happened occurred one location: a Boston bar known as Cheers.

While the show was an ensemble, the main character was the bar’s owner and head bartender, Sam “Mayday” Malone. Portrayed by Ted Danson, Sam was a former relief pitcher from the Boston Red Sox. Joining him as a bartender was his former pitching coach, Ernie Pantusso, affectionately known as Coach.

Other characters included the acid-tongued waitress Carla Tortelli, know-it-all mailman and barfly Cliff Clavin, and Sam’s love interest, the haughty Diane Chambers. Woody Harrelson later joined the show as the bartender, as well as Kelsey Grammer as psychiatrist Frasier Crane. 

The show’s characters had an incredible rapport. Each one was well-drawn and had their own idiosyncrasies. Another one of the show’s iconic characters was Norm, a man who could almost always be found at the end of the bar. 

Who was Norm on ‘Cheers?’ 

Norm, played by George Wendt, was one of the show’s most popular characters. According to the Cheers show wiki, Norm was known for the following attributes:

  • He was almost always filmed sitting next to Cliff at the end of the bar. 
  • Norm had a large bar tab he never seemed to pay Sam for. 
  • He also had an often-mentioned but never shown wife named Vera, perpetually calling the bar to inquire about Norm’s whereabouts

One of the hallmarks of the show that’s still quoted across pop culture today is Norm’s entrance. Any time he’d enter the bar, the entire bar would yell, “NORM!” to greet him. It became an iconic staple of the series. 

Another signature aspect of the show was Norm’s ever-present beer in front of him at his barstool. In just about every episode, Norm was depicted drinking ale from a frosty mug. Any fan of the show at some point had to wonder what was in that mug of Norm’s. 

What was really in Norm’s beer glass on ‘Cheers?’ 

So after watching countless instances of Norm taking the glass to his lips, Cheers viewers had to ask themselves: was it really beer in Norm’s glass? The answer is a bit complicated. The substance was technically beer, but a heavily modified version of it. 

According to Mental Floss, Norm’s glass was always full of a drink called “near beer.” It had an alcohol content of 3.2%. The crew had to insert salt into the beer as well to ensure it stayed foamy for the taping. Wendt did have to sip it to create a realistic effect. 

If Wendt had been drinking true beer the entire time throughout the show’s run, he wouldn’t have been able to stand for very long. One thing’s for sure though: he did a great job portraying Norm as a character who you really believed would spend entire days hanging at a bar like Cheers. 

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