National Brewery, Netanya

This is a coda to my series on beer in Mandate Palestine. The series started with this post, on touring a Holy Land brewery in 1944, and ended with this one, on the Levant Brewery.

In 1952, an American brewery executive, Louis Hertzberg, invested with associates $2,300,000 to erect a brewery in Netanya, State of Israel. This was the National Brewery. An American press account told the tale, published on July 20, 1953 in the Berkshire Eagle, Mass.

Hertzberg owned a number of breweries including in New York and New Jersey. In the 1950s, he was said to be the largest supplier of private label brands to chain supermarkets, using his string of breweries to service different regions. Hertzberg also made Champale, a pioneering malt liquor brand.

In 1960, he capped this success with the purchase of Spearman Brewery in Pensacola, FL. Spearman has its own interesting history, which we may revisit one day. The Spearman deal was described in this story of August 1960 in the Pensacola News, Pensacola, FL.

National Brewery was hence the first serious rival to the first (modern) brewery in what is now Israel, Palestine Brewery Ltd., founded mid-1930s. In 1973 the two rivals finally merged. Their corporate successor today is Tempo Beverages Ltd., which also has interests in soft drinks, wine, and coffee, and is Israel’s largest brewer. It is still based in Netanya.

Heineken of the Netherlands owns a sizeable stake in Tempo, a testament to its global reach. I discussed Heineken’s prowess in that regard in Part V of the Mandate Palestine series.

As the Berkshire Eagle reported, much of the Netanya plant Hertzberg built came from Fidelio Brewery in New York. The September 1960 obituary of Hertzberg in the New York Times put it that “he transported to Israel the operating machinery of the old Fidelio Brewery here”.

Fidelio is notable for many reasons including as the supplier of stock ale to the famed McSorley’s Ale House, East Village, Manhattan. McSorley finally had its own label in local supermarkets, brewed by Fidelio, perhaps the same recipe as the stock ale, sometimes called cream ale, or very similar.

From Joseph Mitchell’s classic 1940 New Yorker essay, “The Old House at Home”:

Except during prohibition, the rich, wax-colored ale sold in McSorley’s always has come from the Fidelio Brewery on First Avenue; the brewery was founded two years before the saloon.

This ad from Fidelio, in a 1934 issue of the Glens Falls Times (via NYS Historic Newspapers), gives a flavour of its importance:

 

 

The inaugural beer of National Brewery was Abir. It was a lager in keeping with the European lager tradition evident during the Mandate, a position British ale imports, mainly for expats and the Forces, never displaced. Early Abir (at any rate) was probably all-malt, as were early lagers from Palestine Brewery Ltd. and lager imports in the 1930s.

To the objection that most American beer then was adjunct, a label survives from the Metropolis era of Fidelio brewing (see below) that shows it brewed some all-malt beer. Another example is seen in an eBay listing. The two are the same except in one case, Fidelio is by then produced in New Jersey vs. the original Manhattan location.

To this, we must add that Hertzberg engaged Anton Masaryk, a Czech, as brewmaster. A 1954 New York Times piece profiling National Brewery noted that Masaryk was related to Tomas Masaryk, founder of Czechoslovakia. It is unlikely a Czech brewer, then or now, would brew a lager with corn or rice adjunct!

Still, it is possible National Brewery borrowed not just physical plant but the adjunct recipe of Fidelio, or another in Louis Hertzberg’s quiver. (Fidelio’s flagship lager was certainly an adjunct brew).

The 1954 article has detail on the plant design. Everything was on one floor vs. a 19th century tower design, now obsolete due to modern power generation. It appears all the grain was malted in Israel, with some barley locally grown, and some imported. Hops were imported.

An obituary in 2000 recorded the passing of Alfred Woldin, a long-time employee with Champale. An engineer with an impressive academic background, he worked on the design for the Netanya plant.

This shows us that as ever, brewing is a combination of the old – here, the venerable Fidelio plant, and likely all-malt recipe – and the new, the latest technology of the period.

More specifically, while National Brewery seemed symbolic of a new country, Israel, in many ways it reprised the 1930s brewing tradition of the Mandate era. This was lager-based, as shown by local production and the reputed brands imported from Europe.

The Bay Bottles site has excellent background on Fidelio Brewery. It was one of the oldest breweries in New York, apparently with roots in the 1840s but claiming a formal start in 1852..

After a long and eventful history and a name change or two, Louis Hertzberg bought the business (1940s). He renamed it Metropolis Brewery, after his brewery of that name in Trenton, NJ. After being closed, dismantled and warehoused, the Manhattan plant found a new home as discussed above. To similar end, Hertzberg earlier had sent his Old Dutch Brewery in crates to South Africa.

Bay Bottles mentions the National Brewery connection, and shows an early bottle for Abir. For other early Abir labels, the website of a Danish collector is helpful. Among them is “Abir Royal”, showing a crown. A descendant of Fidelio’s noble stock ale? I’d like to think so.

During WW II, as I wrote earlier, Palestine Brewery Ltd. made a beer called Crown for the Australian forces in the country. It was a lager, as the Australians wanted that style of beer. An example of the label appears at WorthPoint. 

Abir Royal, while brewed 10 years later by a different brewer, shows a similar crown on the label. Of course by then there were no U.K. or Empire troops in Israel. If Abir Royal was meant to recall the earlier brand, then it was likely a lager. It may have been one anyway, following the wishes of Hertzberg and/or Masaryk.

Abir. A beer. In the end, the vocation of every brewery, no matter where it is, no matter what style it makes, is to brew a beer. Hopefully, you, the consumer will like it. If you don’t, there is always another next to it to try.

If the story of brewing tells us anything, anywhere, it is that competition is inevitable, and remorseless.

L’chaim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Levant Brewery Ltd., Mandate Palestine

This continues our series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine. It began with this post, a correspondent’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1944.

Palestine Post issues and other sources show that a third brewery operated in 1940s Mandate Palestine: Levant Brewery Ltd. It was operated by Abraham Bartz, and the beer was distributed by Nathan Zwy, the liquors agent who distributed beer from Barclay, Perkins of London and other reputed alcohol brands.

I believe Zwy and Bartz were both directors of the brewery based on various announcements in the 1940s Palestine press.

The Levant Brewery was unique in that a malt and hop extract was used. This is made clear in a January 1942 notice from the brewery announcing a competition to design a label. Palestine Brewery Ltd. had run a similar competition in 1935, from which its Eagle logo emerged.

A hopped malt extract dispensed with the time and equipment needed to mash barley malt. Generally, the extract is boiled before fermentation, as for normal wort, although there are ways to abbreviate that step. But saving on mashing alone can save money and time, a feature that appealed as well to some early craft breweries.

Malt extract can produce a quite acceptable beer although almost all craft beer today is full-mash.

A press report in February 1942 announced second and third prize winners but no first prize. Perhaps it wasn’t awarded.

One of the judges was Abel Pann (aka Abel Pan), whose background can be gleaned from this online bio. He immigrated to Ottoman-era Palestine in 1913 and became a well-known painter and lithographer. His work is collected by museums and galleries around the world, to this day.

The winning design was for Pioneer Beer, pictured in this 1942 ad. A red and white design depicts a covered wagon drawn by sturdy horses. It was probably meant to evoke the traditional brewery dray, as well as the idea of Jewish migration to Palestine.

A sample of the label appears below (source: the Antiques Navigator):

 

 

The label states awkwardly, “Brewed From the Finest American Malt & Hop Flavour”. Evidently the malt extract was sourced in the U.S. Some of the shipboard breweries we discussed recently (1920s-1940s) used a similar product.

A second brand of Levant Brewery was Globus – strikingly modern, isn’t it? See a 1945 advert in the Palestine Post.

Levant Brewery was acquired by Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1947, per a 1950s economic survey of Israel.

So, this is a third local brewery we have identified in the Mandate period. The others were Palestine Brewery Ltd. and Cabeer Brewery, which also came under the control finally of the first (1942).

Note: our look at beer in Mandate Palestine is now ended, but see this coda, on the National Brewery in Netanya, Israel, 1952.

Note re image: the source of the image above is identified and linked in the text. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part IX

The Australians 

This continues our series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine. It began with this post, a correspondent’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1944.

Rather than hyperlink continuously in the text, most sources are listed at the end by U.R.L. These are early 1940s press accounts, sites with images of Australian forces, and a jaunty Pathé clip showing the A.I.F.‘s arrival in Palestine.

The news accounts are mostly Australian, with a couple from the Palestine Post, published in Jerusalem.

General background was obtained from a variety of sources, especially the excellent ANZACS in the Middle East (2013, Cambridge University Press) by Mark Johnston.

The first battalions arrived in February 1940 after a long trip over the Indian Ocean with stops on the way, e.g. in India, and South Africa. Some forces were directed to Egypt (Sinai, Gaza).

In Palestine, tented camps were built in fenceless agricultural areas, with British help.

The forces trained to enter desert and other engagements, e.g. the Battle of Crete (May 1941) and earlier fighting in Greece which were debacles for the Allies.

Canteens in camp were administered by Australian Canteen Services, which reported to the Australian Canteens Control Board. Australia supplied its own troops, in time with beer, but also food, soap, toothpaste and other necessaries.

Initially, British beer of “well-known” brands was used, due evidently to availability in the country. Australian troops disliked this beer, which was felt “heavy”. The troops wanted the light lager that even then was the national Australian type, not top-fermented ale like Whitbread Pale Ale or McEwan’s Scotch Ale.

Canteen Services therefore ensured that Australian beer was available. Some beer from Sydney had been sent even ahead of the troops’ arrival, but much more was needed. Three or four breweries supplied the demand, among them, Tooth’s and Toohey’s (both Sydney), and Carlton & United in Melbourne.

Carlton & United even published in the Palestine Gazette trademark applications for Foster’s Lager and Melbourne Bitter. Melbourne Bitter is pictured in a Palestine warehouse in one of the sources below.

Flag Ale flew the flag for Toohey’s in many canteens.

The image following shows A.I.F. soldiers enjoying downtime in a Palestine restaurant, here drinking Carmel wine.

 

(Acknowledgement: State Library of South Australia – SRG+435/2/600).*

Over a two-year period in the early 40s, 12,000,000 bottles had to be recycled, an impressive consumption. They were stored in warehouses in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, so I suspect consumption was by forces in all these areas, not just Palestine.

This bottle stock was Australian. Palestine brewers used a smaller bottle type so could not refill them.

Some empties were repurposed for mugs, always short in the camps. A small plant was set up to remove the necks and smooth the edges, employing a half-dozen workers. A chemical engineer in Palestine was engaged to develop the design and manage the plant (1941).

The Australian supply was never enough, and some shiploads were lost to enemy action. Palestine Brewery Ltd. was engaged to make a lager for the A.I.F., called Crown. Worthpoint has the label for sale, see here.

In time this was found too sweet, and a more-hopped version, called Eagle, was substituted. This image at State Library of South Australia appears to picture the brand. Palestine Brewery’s inaugural brand (1936) was Eagle lager, so it is not clear if these were the same, or different brews.

The Canteen Services Board received complaints that some Australian beer in Palestine was deficient, either in taste or by cases not containing the stated number of bottles. Some beer from Toohey’s was cloudy, flat, and a little sour.

Evidently the long trip and challenging logistics in wartime did the beer no favours. Canteen Services decided finally to stop importing Toohey’s due to quality issues. Toohey’s felt this unfair, and a Canteens Inquiry was held in Australia to examine the situation. The inquiry also reviewed alleged irregularities in the procurement for other goods.

I can’t recall another instance where beer quality in wartime was challenged to anything like this degree. Beer was generally so appreciated that the discriminations practiced by some in peacetime were gladly dispensed with.

The usual complaint elsewhere was, the beer was too weak; but this case is very different, raising issues many would consider trivial in the context. Still, it was felt important enough to warrant investigation and a full hearing with benefit of legal counsel.

The report found the ban on Toohey’s arbitrary and unjustified, and exonerated the firm. See the conclusions in the Advocate of Tasmania, September 10, 1942. A similar news item (clearer scan) appeared in Canberra’s The Age on the same day.

Beer was consumed by the A.I.F. not just in camp, but on leave in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. One soldier noted with surprise the “beer gardens” and cafes of the former. Clearly, open-air drinking was unknown in Australian hotels in that period.

The Australian Soldiers Club was established in the Hotel Fast at Jaffa Gate, as I mentioned earlier. At least initially the club was under aegis of a Charities Services, and had a bar service.

Both in Palestine and Australia, some expressed disquiet at beer being exported over dangerous seas to Palestine. It was said the space taken by the beer could be better used for food or tanks.

Still, the shipments did not stop. We can infer I think that its morale function tipped the balance in favour of keeping the flow going.

The episode of A.I.F. and beer in Palestine is, to my mind, of a piece with my earlier examinations of beer in Australia. Beer had an outsize importance to the country, as represented almost from the beginning in its lore and myth.

For a long time the international image of Australia was coloured by a beer-bibbing reputation.

The special position of beer may now be altered due to globalization and the success of the Antipodes wine industry. A topic for another day, though.

Note: our posts in beer in Mandate Palestine continues with a post on the Levant Brewery.

……

*From the State Library of South Australia’s images collection at this page. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property in the image belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

Sources.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/189821355?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20A.I.F.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/166931572?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20A.I.F.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/62838861?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20A.I.F.

http://jpress.nli.org.il/olive/apa/nli/?href=PLS%2F1942%2F02%2F19&page=2&entityId=Ar00209#panel=document

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/47336309?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20Gee%20Inquiry

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/144165472?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20Gee%20Inquiry

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/247995704?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20Gee%20Inquiry

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68779935?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20Gee%20Inquiry

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/230598054?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20Gee%20Inquiry

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/96352463?searchTerm=Beer%20Palestine%20A.I.F.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-24/remarkable-photos-of-anzacs-in-the-middle-east/12175100?nw=0

http://jpress.nli.org.il/olive/apa/nli/?href=PLS%2F1941%2F06%2F22&page=4&entityId=Ar00405#panel=document

http://jpress.nli.org.il/olive/apa/nli/?href=CGS%2F1941%2F08%2F21&page=30&entityId=Ar03002#panel=document

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/173622208?searchTerm=beer%20Palestine%2012%2C000%2C000

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C14734

 

The Blue Nile Brewery (1956-1983)

I mentioned J.L. Loughnan recently in this post. It links to an earlier one where he figures, part of my ongoing Mandate Palestine series. That series starts, here. 

Loughnan figures in our story below, as well: Barclay Perkins’ investment in a Khartoum brewery, a project that began in 1951.

Loughnan had worked for Barclay Perkins, the former London brewers, from the late 1930s until 1955, as Export Manager. The role entailed looking for investment opportunities in the Near East and environs.

In 1995, the U.K. scholar Kenneth Thomas authored a paper, The Brewing Industry in Post-War East Africa: a Second Scramble?, that described the Sudan investment.

I rely below on Thomas’ study for the period up to 1958. Those interested in a deeper dive should read Thomas’ paper, which is well-written and researched.

In February, 1951, the directors of Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd., meeting at its Southwark headquarters, authorized building a brewery in Khartoum. The name they later chose for it was, Blue Nile Brewery. It was an unusual step for the U.K. brewer, which, until then largely focused on the British market.

There is no question the brewery had exported widely from the London docks for generations. That included an export drive before WW I in British Columbia, Canada, that I described here. But export to, and investment in, a host country are two different things.

The funds earmarked for Khartoum were finally released by the Bank of England for foreign transfer, that is, after a delay to secure approval.

Barclay Perkins took the majority interest, with Sudanese participation in the equity.

Another old London brewer, Courage & Co. amalgamated with Barclay Perkins in 1955. Blue Nile was still not operational due to nagging building and design delays. While a corporate merger can often derail such a project, Courage agreed to complete it.

Finally, the brewery opened in 1956. Loughnan, who had taken retirement by then, died in a car accident in March that year in Sudan.

J.L. Loughnan was considered a first-rate executive. The completion of the project owed much to his vision and determination. So committed was he that he stayed on after retirement to see the plan through to completion.

At the time, bringing such brewing to Sudan, a mostly Islamic country, was not controversial. Sudan’s accession to independence also had no impact on the project.

Once open, Blue Nile Brewery met its original revenue projections although the capital cost well-exceeded the original forecast. It closed in 1983 when Islamic law was introduced nationally.

On Etsy.com, there appears an interesting, 1959 calendar from the brewery. It depicts the stages of brewing in humorous, cartoon-like frames. The marquee brand, “Camel” beer, is shown. A camel appears in some scenes, the use of spent grains is one.

Animal imagery in advertising has a long history, one might recall Guinness’ inspired use of the toucan and other animals (“just think what two can do”). The series was widely known even by non-drinkers of beer or stout.

Blue Nile prospered for years. It had a reputation for quality, as a Reddit conversation suggests. A 1964 trade study, Area Handbook for the Republic of Sudan, states that production was then 525,000 gal. annually. Barley malt was sourced from Egypt and the U.K. Hops came from Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. No other cereals were mentioned, or sugar, although such adjuncts may have been used.

In 1963, the serial publication Overseas Business Reports stated that most Blue Nile production was lager, with the rest stout. The data is expressed as so many bottles. Most production was clearly bottled, but some draft may have been available, as the 1959 calendar depicts a “jug” along with the bottling process.

Producing stout derived from Barclay Perkins’ original expertise as a porter brewer. Possibly though Blue Nile’s stout was a dark lager, as so little comparatively of the stout was produced. And there was certainly a Blue Nile Dark Beer, see here.

Online sources also confirm that a “stout” so-called was marketed. Maybe they were the same beer, but this is unclear.

Either way, use of the Britannic term stout in a 1960s, East Africa context was a late remnant of British brewing tradition. That it was much reduced from former days, whether in the form of local production or imports, simply paralleled the decline of British influence internationally by the 1960s.

An American technical standards publication reported on the brewery in 1980. In that period, the malt came from Belgium and France. The book states that despite various technical challenges, “commendable” efforts were made to maintain quality. As an example, substandard malt was rejected by the plant.

In this account, the year cited for Sudan’s independence appears incorrect. It was 1956, not 1970, but the brewery had been nationalized by the time of writing, that was true. (Thomas in his paper discusses the nationalization).

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that non-Muslims in Sudan will be permitted to drink alcohol. It’s part of a package of changes being introduced. See its report, here. 

As mentioned, Blue Nile Brewery labels and other advertising may be viewed online. This coaster is illustrative, at WorthPoint, an early example of the brewery’s commercial art.

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VIII

Major Scottish Brewers Make Their Move

This continues our series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine. It began with this post, a correspondent’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1944.

Below I document more examples of British beer available in 1930s Mandate Palestine.

The Australian press in 1940, reporting on doings of the A.I.F., tells us McEwan’s “brown ale” was enjoyed by the troops, in 14-oz. glasses.

It also states “well-known” English brands were available, of which we saw examples earlier.

Australian camps in Palestine were permitted wet canteens unlike in Australia. Initially they drank English beer, but preferred lager, by then generalized in Australia.

This was addressed partly by importing Australian beer and partly by engaging Palestine Brewery in Rishon LeZion to brew lager for A.I.F. canteens. I will revisit this in Part IX.

In 1930 McEwan’s is advertised along with Younger’s ale, “in draught”, by the International Restaurant. McEwan and William Younger merged that year, in part to market jointly their beer in places such as Palestine.

Certainly, McEwan’s took good interest in the Palestine market even before the merger. The social page in January 1930 (Palestine Post, as the other news references herein except the first) noted that a Mr. Whitle and wife “representing McEwan’s beer, England” were staying at the Windsor Hotel in Haifa with other named dignitaries.

The merged Edinburgh brewers clearly made inroads in the expat and military markets through the Thirties. In 1939 a Mr. Wilcockson, representing McEwan-Younger, donated a cup for competitions held by the Jerusalem Services & Police Football League.

The occasion was a Dance at the Menorah Club. A battalion of the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment, took the palm.

In 1935, the German Restaurant in Jerusalem, run by F. Nothbaum connected to the German Templers, vaunted its Munich lager (Hacker, Lowenbrau), Younger’s ale, Guinness stout, and milk stout.

In this case, the Younger’s was probably from George Younger, who we dealt with in an earlier Part, as this brewery was noted for its milk stout and this product was regularly advertised by George Younger then, for example here, in 1937. But possibly the Younger’s mentioned was of McEwan-Younger’s.

In this series, it seemed a daunting task to find an actual beer list from a N.A.A.F.I. in Palestine, bar, restaurant or hotel. The distance in time, and other limitations, seemed too great.

Finally, I did though.

The extract below is from a Wine-Card of the Hotel Fast in Jerusalem, in 1938. Hotel Fast was a longstanding hotel in the city founded in the latter 1800s, just outside the Jaffa Gate. It was owned by the Fast family with an interruption in ownership after WW I. In 1929 the family recovered ownership.

 

 

The Fasts were German Templers. The hotel continued until WW II when it became a club for the Australian forces. After 1948 it found various uses until it fell into ruin. It was torn down in 1975 and a new hotel was later built on the site.

Further information on the Hotel Fast can be gleaned from Tourists, Travellers and Hotels in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem (2013) by Rupert L. Chapman, III and others. The authors devote a full chapter to the hostelry’s changing fortunes.

Czech Pilsner Urquell was on the wine list, the most expensive item. I stated earlier it was likely available in Mandate Palestine. The other beers are Tennent’s, Whitbread’s Double Brown Ale, stout (perhaps Guinness), a Munich beer, brand not specified, and Palestine Brewery Ltd.’s Eagle (aka Nesher), a lager.

The full wine list may be perused at the New York Public Library’s menu archive, here. It is interesting on numerous accounts, for example the local wines from Rishon LeZion.

Tennent’s of Glasgow took good interest in Palestine, as indeed George Younger had, and McEwans-Younger’s. Consider this ad of Tennent’s in 1933 (“Tennent’s: The Beer”) and, in 1934, this one. The brand was probably Tennent’s Lager, for which Tennent’s long had a reputation in the U.K.

The brand is still made and very popular; below is an image of the current label, from The Beer Store in Ontario. Tennent’s had an advantage over many other U.K. brewers in that it already had a lager suitable for hot climate markets – what’s more a reputed brand. It did not need to adapt an ale for the purpose, although it did produce ales as well.

 

 

It seems the Scots were more alert than English brewers to develop export markets from about 1875. Skill at such business was a Scots specialty in the period, probably reflecting the comparatively small size of Scotland’s brewing industry and increased domestic competition.

For background, particularly viz. McEwan, see Wilson & Gourvish, The Dynamics of the Modern Brewing Industry (1998).

Nonetheless, a signal exception exists for London-based Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd: its investment – post WW II – in a Sudan brewery. I will revisit this soon.

Numerous cafe ads mention beer and ale without specifying brands. It is possible, even outside such ads of course, that beers were sold other than names I have canvassed.

In 1940 the Kineret Bar on the storied Allenby Road advertised “all kinds of English beer”. Also touted was its “English food”. In 1939 the same bar advertised simply “the best glass of beer”. Clearly, Kineret was one of the Palestine beer haunts, proud of its offerings, not just offering a “list”.

In 1935, Futter’s Restaurant on Storrs Road in Jerusalem advertised “Wines and Ales”; the bald and rather unusual (to us) juxtaposition made clear these potables were a specialty.

Below, is the Hotel Fast as it appeared in 1935.

 

 

Note: the series continues with Part IX.

Note re images: the source of the first two images image above is identified and linked in the text. The third was sourced from Wikipedia Commons, here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

The Bagel and Me

I’ve never written notes on the bagel even though I was raised in Montreal, home of perhaps the most admired type of the baked wheat ring. I’ll remedy that here.

Much has been written on the lore and history of the bagel. A Business Insider article in 2016 summarized well the various origin theories. Maria Balinska, who wrote a full-length study of bagel history (2009), was interviewed. An Atlantic article from 2009 delved further into the history, and also interviewed Balinska.

It all seems to go back to Middle Ages Poland, or possibly Austria.

This well-referenced Wikipedia essay is also helpful, in particular to describe similar European and Asian breads. For some reason, the bagel came to international prominence. Small differences in ingredients and the baking perhaps account for this, although it’s always hard to know. For whatever reason, the “bagel taste” did the trick.

I can’t add much to the objective historiography, except perhaps to highlight a couple of American press accounts as the bagel was rising (sorry) to national prominence.

In February, 1944 in Manhattan a truckload of bagels was stolen. When reported to police, it had to be explained to them what a bagel was. See the account, here. Until then and for decades after, the bagel was Jewish ethnic food, made where Jews lived and consumed mostly by them.

A 1975 article in Cortland, New York, “Bagel Becomes an Institution”, shows how the bagel finally left its native precincts. It interviewed Connecticut-based Murray Lender, surely responsible more than anyone for putting the bagel on the national map.

Lender devised a method to freeze bagels that allowed a highly perishable item to be kept in near-perfect condition for months. Hence how something from the corner bakeshop, that might last a day or two in the breadbox, was transformed into a widely-available stand-by.

Lender’s 1976 ad in the Watertown Daily Times adroitly explained how easy it was to bring frozen bagels to freshness. As they were “pre-sliced”, they needed only to be popped in the “toaster or toaster oven” for a morning treat. Six varieties were offered at the time.

I remember visiting a Lender’s with restaurant attached in New Haven, about when the last story came out. I liked the bagels even though they seemed quite different to the pride of Montreal. They had a dense kind of crumb, a little salty as I recall, and toasted well.

Fresh-baked bagels are as popular as ever, especially in larger centres that can support local bakeries. There are chains and indie stores in cities of almost any size, it seems. And various brands are distributed through supermarkets, sometimes frozen, to have them available almost everywhere.

Tim Horton, the donut chain in Canada, has them, which means they are everywhere. Its multi-grain bagel, toasted, is pretty good – butter and strawberry jam for me.

In my youth, 1950s-60s, the bagel was strictly an occasionally treat. We lived in Snowdon on the west side of Mount Royal, the verdant hill in Montreal’s centre. There were no bagel bakeries in our quarter, at that time.

To get them, we went to St-Viateur Bagel Bakery on St-Viateur Street in the east end, or Fairmount Bagel a short distance away. Both were, and are, east of Avenue Parc.*

Until the 1950s most Jews in Montreal lived in the east end. They were artisans, shopkeepers, and factory workers, for the most part. A much smaller professional and business class lived further west, in Outremont, Mount Royal, later Westmount, etc.

We got St-Viateur Bagels when we visited my grandparents on Sunday. They lived around the corner from the bakery, on Esplanade Street, on the second floor of a triplex.

At that time there were two kinds of Montreal bagel: sesame seed and poppy seed. That’s it. The variations with onion, garlic, caraway, etc. came in later, I think from New York influence.

Montreal is famous for its particular method: hand-rolling, a light boiling of the rings in honey-flavoured water, and baking in a wood-fired stove. Barley malt is added to the flour mixture, usually.  The crumb is fairly dense but not dry, a little spongy. The sesame type was and still is the best I think but a good poppy seed is hard to beat.

Finally, no salt is added to the dough, which accents a slight sweetness.

Unlike many devotees, I rarely eat them with cream cheese and almost never with smoked salmon. I like it with butter and usually, jam. Maybe a little cheddar or sliced Kraft cheese. If very fresh, no toasting is needed.

Bagels were more expensive than sliced white loaf, a factor I think in not being a staple in our home. But also, my mother was always weight-conscious and used to say, a bagel is like three pieces of standard bread…

We ate sliced Weston bread daily, regular not whole wheat (little known then). Sometimes, yes, a “kimmel” (caraway), “corn” (wheat-based with some corn), or “black” (pumpernickel-type) bread, also fetched from the east end, but they stood on a par with the bagel: occasional use. Of course I can’t speak for every family even in our part of Montreal, just ours.

A good commercial white loaf is still a favourite of mine. Toasted, it’s excellent if you get it hot and, I can’t insist enough, very fresh.

Now, I’ve never been chauvinist about Montreal bagels. They are tops, for sure, but sometimes I want something different. When we travel to New York I like Ess-a-Bagel. Big, doughy/elastic, crusty, good in its way.

The ones at the hot dog stands or ordinary cafes are too salty and dry imo, but still okay especially for the price.

In Toronto, a couple of small chains do the Montreal style well. The original Toronto way was slightly salty, lighter, with a browned crust. Gryfe’s does a good one, they have a particular taste, I think from the yeast, that is attractive. BlogTo had a good piece 12 years ago on this Toronto institution.

Kettleman’s in Ottawa, which does Montreal-style, is first-rate. Below is an image of their wood-fired oven in action. Kettleman’s perhaps is slightly lighter than the St-Viateur and Fairmount types but as good imo, very digestible with the scent of smoke on the crust. Also, they freeze great and come out of the toaster oven in perfect shape: five minutes at 350 F.

 

 

 

Kettleman’s follow Montreal procedures including hand-rolling, wood oven, the boiling, etc. and it shows in the taste.

I had beigels as they spell them (still?) in Britain a few times. They were fine. Smaller than ours as I recall, I needed two. Like saveloys. Or a good pint. You must have two. But I digress.

N.B. For some good background on the Montreal bagel scene, see here, from Tourisme Montreal.

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*An earlier version stated erroneously east of St-Laurent Boulevard (the Main). Thanks to an alert reader who wrote to me to point this out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A U.K. “Keg Beer” in 1936

Introduction

This post has the same content as another earlier this week, but is retitled to stand alone vs. part of a series, and lightly edited. We show that Whitbread used the term keg in 1936 to describe a draught beer almost certainly filtered, carbonated, and pasteurized. This was well before c. 1955, the commonly accepted time for the emergence of keg beer branding.

Whitbread, the NAAFI, Mandatory Palestine

The great house of Whitbread, the historic London brewer with roots in the 18th century, is now a hospitality business; the brewing was sold 20 years ago. It started in porter and stout and did not produce ale until 1834, but in time became known for pale and other ales.

In the 1930s Whitbread was one of the suppliers to the N.A.A.F.I., the revamped canteen system (from 1920) for H.M. Armed Forces.

Hence, its advertising overseas would often mention this association, to remind Forces’ members that Whitbread beer was available at the N.A.A.F.I. stores with tea, chocolate, tobacco, and other staples.

A stellar example of such marketing appeared in the Palestine Post, published in Jerusalemon October 18, 1936. The ad states that Whitbread’s beer, type not mentioned, is “light”, “cooling”, “refreshing”, yet “possessing all the true characteristics of genuine British Beer”.

It adds that the beer is suitable for the “Climate of the Near East”.

It then states:

… enjoy that “Fresh from the Keg” Flavour.

A detail from the ad:*

 

 

Emergence of Keg Beer Branding

(The discussion below viz the emergence of 1950s keg beer is accepted brewing history, with references therefore omitted).

The reference to keg is notable as the term generally is thought to originate with Flower’s Keg Bitter in the 1950s. Keg was not an expression typically used in the British industry before this period. I have found stray mentions in general literature of the 19th century, usually of provincial origin. But in commercial brewing, the terms used for bulk beer sent to the trade were cask, or occasionally, barrel (or accepted sub-divisions, firkin and the like),

In the same 1936, Watney’s brewery in London first supplied East Sheen Tennis Club in Surrey with chilled, filtered draught intended for keeping through the week. The club had complained that the usual cask-conditioned beer tended to go off by the weekend.

This Watney’s beer was devised in the early 1930s for export to India, and its branding depicted a small red barrel.

The term keg as in keg beer, meaning chilled, fizzy, filtered, pasteurized barrel beer, is usually attributed to Flower’s Breweries Ltd. Flowers was originally of Stratford-on-Avon and was bought out by J.W. Green’s of Luton in 1954.

The merged business, called Flowers, marketed a Flowers Keg Bitter in the mid-1950s. It was intended at first for the free trade, not the pub chain of the brewery. The latter presumably had the turnover and training to sell cask beer in good condition.

J.W. Green possibly originated that keg technology, arising from 1940s experiments to serve beer cold and fizzy for American service personnel. Luton’s wartime associations are well known need I add.

The year of introduction of Flowers Keg Bitter is cited usually as 1956, or sometimes the year after or before. By the 1960s, “keg” takes off as a category of British barrelled beer. On its introduction in the 1960s Guinness’s nitrogen-dispensed draft stout was a keg beer, and has remained so, replacing a formerly naturally-conditioned product.

Yet, in Jerusalem in Mandate Palestine, Whitbread in 1936 is advertising what probably was filtered, pasteurized beer as from a “keg”. Some draft beer clearly was sent by U.K. brewers to the overseas canteens by this period. It is doubtful very much sent to the Levant was cask-conditioned due to the very warm climate.

Cafe ads in the 1930s Palestine Post sometimes mention draught beer, occasionally specifying brands. “Barclay’s Beer on draught” is included in a 1939 ad for a cafe’s Easter Dinner, for example.

New Stainless Steel Vessels to Export Beer for Hot Climates

In December 1935 the Palestine Post carried a short item, “Draught Beer for the Tropics”. It states beer will be packaged in “stainless steel tanks” of five and 11 gallons for the “East”. This perhaps was Watney’s new beer mentioned, but perhaps also the beer Whitbread’s sent to N.A.A.F.I.s in the Middle East.

My point, or finding, is that to all appearances, “keg” in the modern sense of keg beer saw light much earlier than the mid-1950s. And this was so not just within the industry, but publicly via Whitbread’s 1936 news advert in Jerusalem.

The 1935 story used the utilitarian term tank. Not very attractive for marketing-oriented brewers. Keg is more satisfactory, and is a neat mid-point between cask and tank, not in capacity terms but in a marketing sense.

The depiction of a small red barrel in Watney’s new branding perhaps suggested to some in the industry the idea of a keg. Yet, Watney’s did not use the term keg; indeed its famous keg brand in the 1960s was called Red Barrel. More likely, we think the idea of “keg” was drawn from the size and look of the stainless tanks mentioned in the December 1935 story “Draught Beer for the Tropics”.

The fact that Whitbread put the words “Fresh From the Keg” in quotations suggests a coinage for trade purposes: you are drinking “keg beer” now, chaps.

As it seems unlikely Whitbread’s draught beer at the Palestine N.A.A.F.I. was cask-conditioned, Whitbread must have had a true keg beer in the mid-1930s, for export. It was an ale, not a lager, as Whitbread did not brew lager in this period, to my knowledge.**

It seems doubtful the beer advertised as from a keg in the 1936 ad was bottled, moreover. Why would such beer have a fresh-from-the keg flavour? That doesn’t mean bottled beer wasn’t sold at the canteens or for takeaway, which the ad would promote as well.

We know that Whitbread bottled beer was distributed by an agent, Spinney, in Palestine. This 1939 ad clearly refers to such beers: Pale Ale, London Stout, Double Brown.

But draught Whitbread must have been available at the N.A.A.F.I. canteen judging by the wording of the ad, particularly as it refers to no brand type and depicts no bottle.

I think likely all or most draught beer sent to Mandate Palestine by U.K. brewers after 1935 was keg beer, essentially modern bottled beer put in a large metal container.

Whitbread Pale Ale, 1930s

In the mid-30s Whitbread advertised widely its bottled Pale Ale in the U.K. Some ads stress its cool and refreshing qualities. Some have sports or leisure backdrops, e.g. in this eBay listing:

 

 

We suspect a similar beer was kegged in the new stainless tanks for N.A.A.F.I. markets such as Palestine.

Whitbread in 1957 introduced in Britain its Tankard keg bitter. It became in time, as later its keg Trophy, a major seller. I suspect this was simply an application of something deployed for export in the 1930s, including the understanding that such beers were “keg”.

Note re images: the sources of the images above are identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

…………….

*The Palestine Post is archived at the National Library of Israel (NLI) website. Per the website, the Jewish press archive is an initiative of NLI and Tel Aviv University and the Palestine Post was made available courtesy the Jerusalem Post and Professor Ronald Zweig.

**For its history with lager this company history is instructive, by Nicholas Redman. I’ve referred to it in earlier posts.

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VII

Whitbread Tankard’s Literal 1930s Roots

This continues my series on beer in Mandate Palestine, which started here.

A 1938 article in the Palestine Post on domestic beer consumption in 1937 had it at 2,450,000 L, including imports to the general public of 730,000 L.

Palestine Brewery Ltd. produced 1,700,000 L of the demand. Sales to the army dropped significantly in 1937 over 1936, reflecting a drop in service personnel strength.

Still, H.M. Forces bought 100,000 L from Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1937, and imported through N.A.A.F.I. 420,000 L. So that’s a lot of services beer, about a million shaker pints. During WW II demand increased again, particularly when British imports faltered due to war conditions.

It was met by a spur in local production. Australian imports helped as well, as this Australian press story showed.

As an example of how local beer was consumed, a 1940 dispatch in the Australian press by an A.I.F. sergeant gives the flavour. Some of the A.I.F. played a football match with a Maccabee (Jewish athletics) team, in Rishon LeZion. The sergeant notes in the understated style of the time:

Of the social aspect of the match the district paper said: “Local-style refreshments and produce were prominent and did much to lend cheer to the occasion.” Perhaps it should be explained that a large brewery is situated at Rishon.

Perhaps, Sergeant, yes.

While the tone of the article shows some apprehension pre-match whom they would meet and how it would go, the A.I.F. thoroughly enjoyed the encounter.

Whitbread Brewery was astute to develop friends among all the military complement, just as breweries have done immemorially.

An October 1940 report in Adelaide’s The Mail shows slouch-hatted A.I.F. men in London gazing at a chalkboard advertising a tour of Whitbread’s. Another picture shows the A.I.F. “at dusk” in headquarters in Palestine enjoying tall bottles of beer. This neatly bookends my account, doesn’t it?

Whitbread supported snooker in Palestine, and one of the ways, lo, was to offer winners a “Whitbread Tankard”. See this account in the Palestine Post, 1937 (“Whitbread Tankard Holder Beaten”). A group from the Palestine Police played a team of British civilians.

And so, as we saw in Part VI, Whitbread was selling at N.A.A.F.I. a draft beer that to all appearances was modern keg beer. Its 1936 advert, atypically for the time, actually stated the beer came from a “keg”. And Whitbread offered snooker champions a metal tankard as a prize, engraved with the company name.

For a handsome Whitbread Tankard that looks of the era, see this listing at Etsy.

Do you see some connection to Whitbread Tankard, a pioneering U.K. keg bitter first released in 1957? I do.

Nicholas Redman, who wrote up Whitbread history, stated in The Story of Whitbread PLC 1742-1990:

From the mid 1950s onwards bottled beer began to give way to draught beer, with a clear trend downwards emerging by 1959. At just the right moment Whitbread’s had launched, in 1957, Whitbread Tankard, the Company’s first entry into the field of container beer. Delivered in pressurised metal containers connected to a small cylinder of CO2 it was ideal for use where sales were irregular because it had a much longer shelf life than cask beer, was always in prime condition and needed no expert attention. The new beer was a great success. ‘Whitbread Tankard’, wrote Colonel Whitbread in 1961, ‘has astounded us by its popularity and progress’.

Redman states “first entry” but clearly the context is the domestic market. Also, he devotes little attention in the book to export markets in the 1930s, and the N.A.A.F.I. is not mentioned.

Whitbread actually trademarked “Whitbread Tankard” in February 1956, per this record.

Was the Whitbread draft beer served in the Palestine N.A.A.F.I.’s actually called Tankard? I don’t know. A 1939 Whitbread advert in the Palestine Post mentioned Pale Ale, London Stout, and Double Brown. No Tankard draft.

But it’s hard to know. That kind of ad was primarily for the general public. In the N.A.A.F.I. canteens things might have been different. Even so, the elements were there to coin a name 20 years later for domestic release. Ditto for the genre that emerged, keg beer.

Note: the series continues with Part VIII.

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VI

A Whitbread “Keg Beer” in 1936

This continues my series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine. It began with this post, a correspondent’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1944.

The great house of Whitbread, the historic London brewer with roots in the 18th century, is now a hospitality business; the brewing was sold 20 years ago. It started in porter and stout and did not produce ale until 1834, but in time became known for pale and other ales.

In the 1930s Whitbread was one of the suppliers to the N.A.A.F.I., the revamped canteen system (from 1920) for H.M. Armed Forces.

Hence, its advertising overseas would often mention this association, to remind Forces’ members that Whitbread beer was available at the N.A.A.F.I. stores with tea, chocolate, tobacco, and other staples.

A stellar example of such marketing, the largest box ad from a brewer I’ve seen in the 1930s Palestine Post, appeared in the October 18, 1936 issue. The ad states that Whitbread’s beer, type not mentioned, is “light”, “cooling”, “refreshing”, yet “possessing all the true characteristics of genuine British Beer”.

(Again the yin yang of traditional yet refreshing in the lager style).

It adds, the beer is suitable for the “Climate of the Near East”.

It then states:

… enjoy that “Fresh from the Keg” Flavour.

A detail from the ad:*

 

 

This mention of keg is notable as the term keg generally is thought to originate with Flower’s Keg Bitter in the 1950s. Keg was not an expression typically used in the British industry before this period. I have found stray mentions of the term in general literature of the 19th century, usually of provincial origin. But in commercial brewing, the terms used for bulk beer sent to the trade were cask, or occasionally, barrel (or accepted sub-divisions, firkin and the like),

In the same 1936, Watney’s brewery in London first supplied East Sheen Tennis Club in Surrey with chilled, filtered draught intended for keeping through the week. The club had complained that the usual cask-conditioned beer tended to go off by the weekend.

This Watney’s beer was devised in the early 1930s for export to India, and its branding depicted a small red barrel.

The term keg as in keg beer, meaning chilled, fizzy, filtered, pasteurized barrel beer, is usually attributed to Flower’s Breweries Ltd. It was originally of Stratford-on-Avon and was bought out by J.W. Green’s of Luton in 1954.

The merged business, called Flowers, marketed a Flowers Keg Bitter in the mid-1950s. It was intended at first for the free trade, not the pub chain of the brewery. The latter presumably had the turnover and training to sell cask beer in good condition.

J.W. Green possibly originated that keg technology, arising from 1940s experiments to serve beer cold and fizzy for American service personnel. Luton’s wartime associations are well known need I add.

The year for introduction of Flowers Keg Bitter is cited usually as 1956 or sometimes the year after or before. By the 1960s, “keg” takes off as a category of British barrelled beer. On its introduction in the 1960s Guinness’s nitrogen-dispensed draft stout was a keg beer, and has remained so, replacing a formerly naturally-conditioned product.

Yet, in Jerusalem in Mandate Palestine, Whitbread in 1936 is advertising what probably was filtered, pasteurized beer as from a “keg”. Some draft beer clearly was sent by U.K. brewers to the overseas canteens by this period.

Numerous cafe ads in the 1930s Palestine Post mention draught beer, often not specifying brand. But “Barclay’s Beer on draught” is included, as I mentioned earlier, in a 1939 cafe ad for an Easter Dinner.

So draft British beer of some sort was clearly available in 1930s Palestine, including from Whitbread.

In December 1935 the Palestine Post carried a short item called “Draught Beer for the Tropics”. It stated beer would be packaged in “stainless steel tanks” of five and 11 gallons for the “East”. This perhaps was Watney’s new beer mentioned, but perhaps Whitbread’s also, sent to the N.A.A.F.I.

My point, indeed finding, is, that to all appearances, “keg” in the modern sense of keg beer saw light much earlier than the mid-1950s. And this was so not just within the industry, but publicly via Whitbread’s 1936 news advert in Jerusalem.

The 1935 story used the utilitarian term tank. Not very attractive for marketing-oriented brewers. Keg is more satisfactory, and is a neat mid-point between cask and tank, not in capacity terms but in a marketing sense.

The keg term may have sprung from the visual depiction of a small red barrel in Watney’s new branding. Yet, Watney’s did not use the term keg; indeed its famous keg brand in the 1960s was called “Red Barrel”. More likely, we think the idea of “keg” was drawn from the size and look of the stainless tanks mentioned in the December 1935 story “Draught Beer for the Tropics”.

The fact that Whitbread put the words “Fresh From the Keg” in quotations suggests a coinage for trade purposes: you are drinking “keg beer” now, chaps.

Unless Whitbread’s draught beer sold at the Palestine N.A.A.F.I. was cask-conditioned, which seems unlikely, surely therefore Whitbread had a true keg beer in the mid-1930s, for export. It was an ale, not a lager, as Whitbread did not brew lager in this period, to my knowledge.**

In the mid-30s Whitbread advertised widely its bottled Pale Ale in the U.K. Some specimens stress its cool and refreshing qualities. Some ads are in sports or leisure settings. This one, for example:

 

 

We suspect a similar beer was kegged in the new stainless tanks for N.A.A.F.I. markets such as Palestine.

Whitbread in 1957 introduced in Britain its Tankard keg bitter. It became in time, as later its keg Trophy, a major seller. I suspect these were simply an application of something deployed for export in the 1930s, including the understanding such beers were “keg”.

Note: the series continues with Part VII.

Note re images: the sources of the images above are identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

…………..

*As mentioned earlier, issues of the Palestine Post referenced in this series are archived at the National Library of Israel (NLI) website. Per the website, its Jewish press archive is an initiative of NLI and Tel Aviv University, and the Palestine Post issues are made available courtesy the Jerusalem Post and Professor Ronald Zweig.

**For its history with lager this company history is instructive, by Nicholas Redman. I’ve referred to it in earlier posts.

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part V

It’s Lager’s World, and we Just Live in it

This continues my series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine. It began with this post, a correspondent’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1944.

Heineken, famously of the Netherlands, was an early global seeker of markets. One difference from the British brewers is the latter generally eschewed footholds overseas as a long-term strategy. Outside of Britain they were more concerned to satisfy needs within the ranging British precincts as it were.

So that once those precincts narrowed or disappeared Britain’s beer did, too. Contrast with Heineken and some other European brewers who were more prescient to sink local roots, initially by strong export drives, later by licensing arrangements and direct investment.

There were exceptions to the British pattern. For example, Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd. had an investment in Sudan promoted by its Export Manager J.L. Loughnan, whom I mentioned earlier. (I will revisit this soon). And Guinness, long an active exporter, made direct investments in some overseas markets relatively early. It did so in the United States, in 1949-1954 (Long Island City, NY), and 1960s, Nigeria, for example.

Hence though why India Pale Ale never developed traction overseas. Once the British presence that sent it there vanished, ditto the ale and porter, with India Exhibit A. (Craft breweries in the subcontinent have brought it back, as a specialty).

When British capital invested in American breweries in the late 1800s and early 1900s no sustained push was made to introduce British beer types. Some beer of that type continued to be made locally as a heritage of the declining top-fermentation breweries, but it mostly disappeared by the Thirties. American attempts at revival of British pale ale in the 30s were courtesy admiring Stateside brewers such as Louis Wehle.

British beer was sent in some quantity to Mandate Palestine. The locals had to become familiar with it, if only to brew imitations for the military market, as the local breweries did. Still, once the British left, lager quickly became the standard style. Only recently have IPA and other British styles come in and it was through a sidewind again, the craft phenomenon.

Heineken and the German Beck’s may be contrasted to British brewers viz. their more expansive international ambitions. This study in the Netherlands by Keetie Sluyterman charts Heineken’s carefully planned global march since the 1930s. Full-length books have been written on the phenomenon that is Heineken, and justly so.

Heineken beer is so ubiquitous that no matter where it is, almost, it becomes effectively a local brand, de-anchored from the mystique of importation and, at least in part, the quality image that implied. Given the volumes a Heineken obtains, this is more than a fair trade-off.

Even in parts of Europe one sees this. On an Air France flight last year, at least in economy class, Heineken was the only beer available. I asked the hostess, why isn’t a French beer served?

She said, “but it’s everywhere in Paris…” – and France as such, for that matter. I wonder how many French people know the brand is Dutch-owned.

Heineken is one of the great business successes of brewing history, on an outsize level. I’d think Anheuser Busch-In Bev’s Stella Artois, which hasn’t done so badly in the last 20 years, uses Heineken as its model for expansion. But Heineken has long had a head start, and also, Heineken hasn’t had qualms about having its beer brewed in other countries.

Bremen’s Beck’s has gained impressive world markets since the late 1800s and is another inspiration from the standpoint of adaptability and growth. Indeed, as I’ve discussed, the export trade was key for Beck’s from the start.

Given all the above, and even though the Thirties is early days for Heineken’s expansion, one might expect it to see it in Palestine, albeit the area had few Dutch associations. Indeed it was there, as this forthright ad in 1935 showed. The ad claimed the beer was already Holland’s “world-famous” beer.

The ad touts Heineken’s exhibit at the foreign general pavilion of Tel Aviv’s Levant Fair. This was an industrial, commercial, and agricultural fair held in Palestine in the mid-1930s, on the lines of other international expositions.

The event reached its zenith by 1935-1936 as explained in a 2019 article by Rachel Neiman in Israel 21c. A picture of the fairgrounds follows, built in handsome International Style.

 

 

Heineken’s erstwhile Dutch competitor Amstel, now in the same fold, was in Palestine too. Isaac Diskin, whom we encountered earlier, had the agency, as the Palestine Post again attests.

It seems likely Palestine Brewery Ltd. in Rishon LeZion, a new venture of Gaston Dreyfus and local capital, was there as well, as it exhibited at the Paris International Fair in 1937.

Hundreds of commercial and industrial enterprises were present at the Levant Fair. Among the national pavilions were countries as diverse as Lebanon and Romania, as Rachel Neiman explains. Whether any British breweries exhibited I do not know, but it is possible. Great Britain had as expected a substantial presence, see below.

 

 

One might expect to see the queen bee of the lager world, Pilsner Urquell, on offer in 1930s Palestine. This sizeable ad in Cairo’s French-language l’Aurore shows it was available there, in the cafe Parisiana, served with mezes exquis. It was also distributed in other cafes in Cairo, and at Alexandria.

It seems unlikely distribution did not reach over to Palestine, but thus far no evidence has come my way. I’ve discussed earlier that Munich beer of various brands, as well as some Italian and American beer, reached the Mandate territory.*

With this background, and factoring too the worldwide lager Zeitgeist, it was long odds that top-fermented British beer would have the same allure in Palestine’s future, even when lightened for modern tastes.

London brewer Barclay Perkins did try with its Sparkling Beer, a lager made to taste like an “ale”, per a 1939 news report that must have originated with the brewery. In other words, it was made to taste British. By my gleanings that could take in the palate of bitter or mild ale – businesspeople in brewing, at least past a certain scale, never worried overly about style.

And lo a beer marketed in the same period as “mildbitter” was sold by a competitor, Palestine Brewery Ltd. See the label in the collection of the Dane Kim Jacobsen, among other striking Mandate and early Israel beer labels.**

Yet by 1947, Barclay Perkins is preparing to ship over “lager”, plain and simple, as this advert in the Palestine Post showed.

In the end blonde, crisp lager emerged as victor in the style wars. Whether “desert campaign” or any other, it won by a country mile.***

Note: the series continues with Part VI.

Note re images: the images above were sourced from the Wikipedia entry on Levant Fair linked in the text, and bear the annotation “public domain”. Any rights therein belong solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*[Added August 2, 2020]. Indeed it was available, see our Part VIII of the series.

*16 rows down, to the right. The strategy elsewhere was not unknown. Toohey’s in Australia had a “mild bitter”.

**Reversed to a degree by craft brewing in the last 40 years, but the global picture is still closely tied to lager.