‘Cheers’: What Did George Actually Drink on the Show?

by Josh Lanier

Norm Peterson racked up a hefty five-figure bar tab during Cheers‘ 11 seasons that he never paid back. It’s easy to understand why when you learn what they were serving him.

George Wendt, who played the loveable barfly on Cheers, explained to ESPN that he had one of the best jobs in show business. He entered to applause, sat down at his favorite stool, and delivered some of the best-written one-liners on television. It would have been perfect if not for the “beer” he had to drink.

“That was non-alcoholic beer. It was pretty nasty,” he said. “It wasn’t available in kegs and the producers wanted it to be on tap. So they took these cans of this generic non-alcoholic beer and put it into soda pop dispensers and put it in well before we would roll the cameras, so it was nice and flat. So the prop masters would put some salt in the mug to give the head a little pop. That was some serious acting to pretend I liked that stuff.”

Warm, flat, and salty “near beer.” That sounds more like a war crime than a drink.

And Wendt said he couldn’t pretend to drink it. He had to take sips to make the character seem believable.

Woody Harrelson Worried ‘Cheers’ Would be His Final Acting Job

Whereas George Wendt embraced his role on Cheers, Woody Harrelson fought his character. The A-List actor struggled to land roles outside of the show and couldn’t escape Woody Boyd’s shadow. Luckily, Keanu Reeves stunk at playing basketball.

Woody Harrelson told Interview Magazine in 2009 that he figured his career would end when Cheers did.

“I was on Cheers for eight years, and I couldn’t get another job,” he said. “And I thought, I’m going to be Woody Boyd forever, which is not bad, but I really thought I was capable of more.”

He got his first break outside of the show thanks to Keanu Reeves. Producers wanted Reeves to star opposite Wesley Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump, but the John Wick star wasn’t very good at the sport.

“It was really White Men Can’t Jump,” Harrelson said. “I guess I probably would’ve just been Woody Boyd but for the fact that Keanu Reeves didn’t play great basketball. That was the only thing that saved me.”

Harrelson got the job in the movie after showing off his skills on the court.

Harrelson landed his role on Cheers in 1985. The show was his first brush with fame, and he didn’t like it. He said the experience changed him.

“Before, I’d been gregarious – someone who enjoyed the company of others,” Harrelson told The Guardian in 2018. “But during Cheers, the pressure of people that I didn’t know constantly wanting to talk to me made me recoil and become less outgoing.”

He credits his wife, Laurie Louie, and daughters — Deni, Zoe, and Makani — with helping him overcome those issues.

“They kind of loved me into a better human being,” he said.