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 larger British brewers is the latter generally eschewed footholds overseas, or did not pursue them with the same assiduity. Outside of Britain U.K. brewers 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 Heineken and numerous other European brewers who were more prescient to sink local roots, initially by strong export drives, later by licensing or direct investment.

There were exceptions to the British pattern. Barclay, Perkins & Co. had an investment in Sudan promoted by its Export Manager J.L. Loughnan, whom I mentioned earlier. (I will revisit this soon). Guinness, long an active exporter, made a direct investment in the United States in 1949-1954 (Long Island City, NY), and, 1960s, in Nigeria. The latter was a clear success; not the former.

The English brewer Simmonds had interests postwar in Gibraltar and Malta, for example, see Dr. Ken Thomas’ doctoral study, from 2004. He concluded that varying success attended these, but Britain turned its attention increasingly in the 1970s to the European Community, which fated investments of this type (mostly) to insignificance.

Their main importance, he writes, was to strengthen Simmonds for merger – in the 60s it became part of Courage, Barclay & Simmonds.

Hence though why India Pale Ale never developed traction overseas, in the sense of becoming, as lager did, a permanent part of the local brewing scene. Once the British presence that sent it there departed, so did 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 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 mostly disappeared by the Thirties. American attempts at revival of British pale ale in the 1930s 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 local breweries did during WW II. Still, once the British left, lager became the standard style, as it was before WW II for the general market. Only recently have IPA and other British styles come in and it was via the craft phenomenon.

Heineken – especially – and, say, the German Beck’s stand out viz. British brewers for their more expansive, and persistent, international ambitions. Carlsberg of Denmark is a further example, perhaps Tuborg as well.

A study in the Netherlands by Keetie Sluyterman charts Heineken’s carefully planned global march. Full-length books have been written on the phenomenon that is Heineken, and justly so.

Heineken is so ubiquitous that no matter where it is, almost, it becomes arguably a local brand. This de-anchors it, essentially, from the mystique of importation. Given the volumes a Heineken obtains, that is more than a fair trade-off.

In the 1982 Pocket Guide to Beer, Michael Jackson noted how Heineken developed strong positions on the African continent together with some German, French, and Swiss brewers, in contrast to British brewers. Jackson assigns the cause to the superiority of lager over ale from the viewpoint of stability and a quenching quality. That argument, which could apply to the Middle East, oversimplifies: British business didn’t have the same heart in those markets, in my view.

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

She said, “but it’s everywhere in Paris…”. France as a whole, too. I wonder how many French people know the brand is Dutch-owned.

Heineken is one of the great business successes in brewing, on an outsize scale. I’d think Anheuser Busch-InBev’s Stella Artois, which has expanded internationally in the last 20 years, uses Heineken as its model. But Heineken had a long head start, and hadn’t any qualms, as well, about brewing its beer outside Holland.

Bremen’s Beck’s gained impressive world markets since the late 1800s, another example of adaptability and growth. In fact, as I’ve discussed, exportation was key for Beck’s from the start; the domestic market was never the foundation of its business, contrary to most breweries.

Given all the above, one might expect to see Heineken in 1930s Palestine, even though the area had few Dutch associations, and the 1930s was still early days for its global expansion.

Indeed the brand was there, as this forthright ad in 1935 shows. The ad billed the beer, even then, as “world-famous”. It touted Heineken’s stand 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. Below is a picture of the fairgrounds, built in the handsome International Style.

 

 

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

It seems likely Palestine Brewery Ltd. in Rishon LeZion, a new venture (from 1935) of Frenchman Gaston Dreyfus and local capital, was there as well, as it ewas present at the Paris International Fair in 1937.

Hundreds of commercial and industrial enterprises showed at the Levant Fair. Countries as diverse as Lebanon and Romania were represented, as Rachel Neiman explains. Whether British breweries exhibited I do not know, it is possible. Great Britain had as expected a substantial pavilion, 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 in Egypt, in the cafe Parisiana in that case, 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 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 staying power in Palestine, and Israel to come, even when lightened for modern tastes.

London brewer Barclay Perkins did try with its Sparkling Beer, a lager made to taste like an “ale”, said 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.

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part IV

Laving the Levant 

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.

Another British brewer in the Palestine market was George Younger of Alloa, Scotland. A brief history of the venerable brewery appears on the Brewery History Society Wiki, and more available by an easy search.

This Younger is separate from the better-known William Younger’s that had merged in Edinburgh with McEwan’s (1931), who also sold beer in the Palestine market.

An advert in 1934 in the Palestine Post touts George Younger’s Sparkling Ale, yet another example of the style in Palestine. Isaac Diskin was the local agent. The Revolver brand, pictured in the ad, appears to originate in the late 1800s.

Below is a bottle of the Sparkling Ale that appears to date from the Thirties.*

 

 

A July 1937 story in the same newspaper tells us that James Younger, 2nd Viscount Leckie (1880-1946), had visited Palestine two years earlier. He decided to invest in a new brewery at Beit Vegan, now Bat Yam, on a plot 500 metres from the seafront.

It was called Cabeer Breweries Ltd. The account describes its capacity and that it would brew “Scotch ale”. Younger’s took a 20% interest. The rest of the capital was to be subscribed locally in a public issue of securities.

While the story states that Lord Younger was a director of Cabeer, a letter to the editor clarified that he was not, but remained Chairman of George Younger in Alloa. The letter confirmed that George Younger was a shareholder in Cabeer.

This initiative followed on a long history by George Younger’s, not to mention namesake William Younger, to export beer throughout the world and not least the Middle East. Some good background on this drive may be gleaned from Wilson & Gourvish’s The Dynamics of the International Brewing Industry Since 1800. See here.

Per the July 1937 account, the manager of Cabeer Brewery was Mr. A. Würzburger, a “German Jew formerly owner of a large brewery in Heilbroun”, i.e., Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg.

In 1963, a Hans Franke penned a lengthy account of the history of Jewry in Heilbrunn, part of its municipal archive. He mentions the impact of the Nazi regime on Alfred Würzburger, his family, and their Adler Brewery, and it’s not pretty, see p. 119. But they got out evidently, and to brew another day.

At the end of 1939 George Younger’s agent in Palestine is still advertising the imported ale and stout, despite that is the local investment.

I believe what happened was, the Bat Yam brewery did not enter into commercial production until 1942.** A 1956 Annual Survey of Israel’s Economy states Palestine Brewery bought Cabeer and completed the brewery at Bat Yam that year.

A 1944 news item confirms Palestine Brewery “built” the brewery in Bat Yam, to help satisfy military demand.

In 1943-1945 the press is carrying Notices of Annual Meeting for Cabeer Brewery signed by Palestine Brewery Limited, which is consistent with the foregoing.

Further reports indicate Cabeer took over premises in Rishon LeZion made available when Palestine Brewery expanded its plant, so it all ties together.

Perhaps once war started in Europe George Younger decided to sell its stake in Cabeer, particularly as it seems start-up was delayed. The delay would explain why I. Diskin in 1939 was still distributing George Younger’s Scottish beer in Palestine.

Note: our series continues with Part V.

*Note re image: source of the image is apparently the Etsy independent sales site, although item appears no longer listed there. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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**Perhaps some beer was released in the late 30s until 1942 under the original ownership, but this is unclear.

 

 

Garlic? Yes, and yes

The question of garlic in cooking is, today, almost a dead letter. That is, its use in countless cuisines is unquestioned, and generally valued.

The influence of world cuisines has partly worked this change, but it started earlier with the vogue for French (classic, later regional), and southern European cooking. British, North American, Australian, etc. foodways underwent a permanent change.

American regional cuisines contributed too, particularly from the South and Southwest.

Pauline Adema in her The Garlic Capital of the World (2009) summarized well the American evolution, but claimed a lingering prejudice still exists against the bulb. Today, 11 years later, that may no longer be true but it’s an interesting question.

In Britain, postwar writers such as Jane Grigson often patiently explained why they made no apology for garlic. Grigson also showed, with typical scholarly elan, that garlic was historically a favourite in a region or two of Britain for its “haut gout”. Cornwall, for example.

In the 1930s X. Marcel Boulestin, French-born but working in London, wrote a mini-disquisition on garlic still apt today, in The Finer Cooking: Dishes for Parties. He stated whether one likes garlic or not “everyone eats it”, meaning it was pervasive in restaurant cooking even then. See pp. 51 et seq.

 

 

As restaurant chefs were often drawn from Continental ranks, this makes perfect sense. In home cooking, or school and institutional catering, the shift took longer to achieve, but today garlic in U.K. kitchens raises no frisson, or at least, nothing comparable to before the 1970s.

Setting aside the cultural and social historical aspects, interesting as they are, I come back to the main thing (for me), which Boulestin so artfully addressed. What is the effect of garlic in food, and how best to achieve it?

It’s a complicated question with an endless series of solutions, few clear-cut.

For a vue d’ensemble though, a remark made back in 1950 is striking in its simplicity and soundness. A Spanish diplomat was promoting agricultural exports before a group of Irish epicureans. He stated as reported in the Cortland Standard, New York:*

 

… the advantage of garlic is not that it makes for good cooking, but that its presence makes good cooking unnecessary.

Brilliant! A mini-code for garlic in cookery. Sometimes an essential truth remains hidden until someone expresses it so simply and accurately.

I might not make the best hamburgers, or spaghetti sauce, but if I add a bit of garlic, it will turn out fine.

Exactamente.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the Wikipedia entry on the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and is noted as public domain. Any rights therein belong solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Via the historical newspaper archive of Fulton History, as linked in the text.

 

 

Phases of a Business Career

Introduction

I mentioned J.L. Loughnan in Part III of my series on beer in Mandate Palestine. He represented the London brewer Barclay Perkins, marketing its beer in Palestine.

I learned more about him, which I relate in these notes. As it doesn’t pertain to beer in Palestine, this post stands on its own.

It sheds, I believe, interesting light on a brewing executive’s life of the period.

A Letter of Import

On July 27, 1939 Barclay Perkins issued a letter to be delivered in person. It was signed by J.L. Loughnan, addressed to a firm in Christchurch, N.Z. It is short, but makes its point: to “introduce” the bearer, Egon Schoenberger, and requesting the New Zealand firm to help Schoenberger obtain employment and otherwise on his “hard road”.*

The writer states he had never met Schoenberger, but expressed regret that he had not done so. He said the letter was issued as a favour to a Paul Eveque of the Champagne district in France, a close friend of Loughnan’s.

Schoenberger, 24, was a Jewish refugee who had fled Nazi Germany to complete doctoral legal studies in Berne (Switzerland) on wine regulation. Eveque had arranged evidently with Loughnan to write the letter, to help Schoenberger settle in a far-away land. Schoenberger left his mother and sister behind, sheltering in Rheims, France with Paul Eveque’s help, and travelled to New Zealand unaccompanied, a  seven-week journey by ship.

New Zealand had accepted him as a refugee due to his knowledge of the wine industry. Schoenberger remained in New Zealand the rest of his life. On his death his daughter contributed a box of her father’s papers to the museum, much of it in hard to read “cursive” German, whence the full story became known.

Schoenberger was from Mainz, on the Rhine. His family had owned a high-end sparkling wine business, and was prosperous before the Nazi persecutions.

Loughnan’s letter appears here (fully readable with some magnification). Many further details, images, and extracts from Egon’s diary are contained in the well-written, 24-part blog entitled “Egon’s Story” at the website of the museum. Numerous images of the winery are included, and additional ones may be viewed on the Facebook page of the museum.

The Schoenbergers made a particularly high quality sekt, following the Champagne method, hence no doubt their connection to Taittinger, where Eveque worked.

Whether Loughnan’s time in Palestine had any impact on the letter I don’t know, but I incline that it did. Loughnan probably knew Eveque through trade circles, as some British breweries distributed wines through their wine and spirits divisions.

There seems no prior connection between the Schoenberger wine business and Barclay Perkins, that I am aware of.

Envoi

Probably many people in many countries at the time had been asked to provide the kind of help Paul Eveque of Taittinger Champagne provided to the Schoenberger family, and declined.

Paul Eveque said yes.

Probably many people in many countries at the time had been asked to write the kind of letter John Loughnan of Barclay Perkins wrote, but declined.

John Loughnan said yes.**

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*It appears the firm were Chartered Accountants. Probably Barclay Perkins had dealt with them for its exports to New Zealand.

**Loughnan’s first name was John. I’ll have yet more to say of Loughnan later.

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part III

Beer, the British Army, the Mandate 

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.

In the First World War beer is already a feature of army expeditionary life in Palestine. James E. Kitchen’s 2014 The British Imperial Army in the Middle East mentions beer a number of times, but also other drinks, as a factor to maintain morale.

He states that in addition to beer various wines were available, notably the red wine of Mulebbis, and whisky. (The Jewish settlement at Mulebbis in 1917, aka Petah Tikva, among other names, probably produced it).

The ranks also relaxed with gifts of chocolate and other special foods, and steady use of tobacco, mainly cigarettes.

Kitchen quotes a Northhamptonshire sergeant (1917) on a tendency to drink to excess. This probably was typical of the colonial troop pattern especially after battle or other times of high stress.

I’m not sure how much hard data is available on army use of beer in this period. My posts on the 1903 committee inquiry on army canteens suggested a range of outcomes, based on the testimony taken. One officer stated that for many young soldiers plentiful food was more important than beer. Older soldiers were said often to be the reverse.

Israeli journalist Rachel Neiman included photos and menus of Forces Christmas celebrations between 1917 and 1942 in her article, “Biscuits, Bully Beef and Beer – Christmas Dinner During the British Mandate”. It appeared in the December 2018 Israel 21c. Bottles of beer can be seen in some images.

Some menus state at the foot “Beer”, one, from RAF Station Abu Sueir, reads “Beer?”!

Omar D. Foda’s excellent Egypt’s Beer: Stella, Identity, and the Modern State (2019) quotes a 1934 Egyptian beer study that assigned a consumption of 17,000 hl or 220 litres per head annually, to the 7,500 British soldiers in the country.

In my view, that gives some indication of the high point army capacity could reach in contemporary Palestine if supply permitted it.

A 1937 issue of The American Jewish World stated that the British Forces in Palestine counted 25,000 in 1936 (when disturbances spread in the context of the Arab-Jewish conflict), and that brewing expanded at Palestine Brewery to address it. The story implied the complement fell in 1937, with a corresponding drop in demand.

If consumption was in line with Egypt, there would not have been enough beer for the Army. Total Palestine consumption for 1936 was 30,000 hl, as we saw earlier.

A website devoted to the British Forces in Palestine states there were 10,000 troops in 1939, which climbed significantly with the onset of World War II. Whatever the specifics of troop numbers in a given Mandate year, and local brewery capacity, we can say the British Forces’ demand was constant. Two channels addressed it: domestic and imported.

They drank British in N.A.A.F.I. clubs and in cafes and other public resorts where it was available.

Barclay, Perkins Squares the Circle

One of the British brewers in the market was Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd. of London. Of this legendary London brewery much has been written. This brief overview, from the Craft Beer & Brewing site and in turn extracted from the Oxford Companion to Beer, will fill in readers not previously au fait.

Barclay Perkins’ visibility in the Palestine market is shown from its sizeable box ad in the December 25, 1939 Palestine Post. It states that Nathan Zwy Ltd. in Haifa was Barclay, Perkins’ sole representative. The Zwy name appears in many similar ads. Into 1947 at least, he appears to have been prominent in alcohol beverage distribution.

Next to this ad is another of the same size, from McEwan-Younger Ltd. in Edinburgh. We will return to them later.

The Barclay’s ad wishes members of H.M. Forces in all branches, the Palestine Police, and all “Christian friends” a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Pictured is a cone-topped can reading “sparkling beer”.

The June 21, 1939 issue of the Palestine Post stated:

J.L. Loughnan, former military governor at Jaffa, arrived by Imperial Airways flying boat on behalf of Messrs. Barclay, Perkins and Co. Ltd.

Hence, it appears the brewery hired an ex-senior Army officer familiar with the country to help its marketing efforts. We will return to Mr. Loughnan, later.

On February 17, 1939 the same newspaper stated:

A new British ale in tins, lager style, has been put on the market by Mr. Nathan Zwy, sole representative for Palestine and Trans-Jordan of Messrs. Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd…”.

The phraseology sounds at sea but it’s not, as will become clear.

Barclay’s beer was also featured in a Jerusalem restaurant operated by F. Nothbaum, whom we believe was connected to the German Templars judging by his various ads in the 1930s. Here is an example, from April 1939, same newspaper, advertising an Easter Dinner. Draught beer from Barclay’s (type not stated) is touted as well as Lowenbrau, presumably from Munich, and Rhine and Mosel wines.

This seems late for German beer to be available in Palestine but it seems some was still being imported, and the war had not yet started.

Sparkling beer or ale had been coming on strong in British and international brewing since about 1900, as discussed earlier. It was particularly appealing in hot climates. In 1940 a Sunbright Sparkling Beer in cans is advertised in the Palestine Post by another agent in Haifa, J. Ezra. His source, as stated in the ad, was Machen & Hudson in Liverpool.

Machen & Hudson were well-known export beer dealers. Their labels can be seen in David Hughes’ invaluable A Bottle of Guinness Please“. Note their Beaver Lager, which Machen & Hudson also sent to J. Ezra in Haifa.

The ultimate source was probably Hope Brewery in Sheffield, see an example of its Sunbright cone-top pale ale in this (impressive) Netherlands collection.

“Light” and “lager” were increasingly popular in the Near East, as seen in this almost wordless Palestine Brewery ad also of 1939, Palestine Post.

These and other indices show the growing interest to have lager, or ale with lager characteristics, in hot-climate markets like Palestine.

A few years ago, beer historian Ron Pattinson discussed in a blog post the 1939 Barclay’s Sparkling Beer. He showed it was, in fact, a lager, but an idiosyncratic one given the amber tint and sizeable crystal malt component. Readers’ comments emphasized the oddness of the recipe.

Given the context I have explained, the odd make-up becomes clear: Barclay’s wanted a beer for Britons in the Middle East that resembled ale to a degree – the traditional tipple Britons knew before shipping out – but that would drink cold and fizzy as a lager.

Crystal malt was known in English top-fermented beer by then, hence the “ale” part. Saaz hopping and all-malt construction bowed to Continental brewing, as of course the bottom yeast. The latter conferred the desired lager character, and would resonate as well with the permanent residents of European origin.

The “beer” on the Barclay’s can in lieu of “pilsner” or “lager”, terms unfamiliar to most Britons, or “ale”, which it wasn’t, helped square the circle.

Barclay, Perkins & Co. covered the bases, if an American baseball term isn’t inapt.

Below, from Miniature Bottle Library, is a later example of Barclay’s Sparkling Beer. Although can design today has reached a high pitch, it takes some doing to match the smart look.*

 

 

For a cone-top actually from 1939, sourced from India, see in WorthPoint here. It pictures as well every part of the label.

Note: our series continues with Part IV.

Note re image: Image above was sourced from the site identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Losing the ungainly cone-top design was one of the best things the brewing industry ever did.

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part II

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.

The association of Great Britain and its beer internationally is a vast subject that awaits full-length study. An important sub-set is the relationship of beer to H.M. Forces, especially the British Army.

The bond of Army and beer, into the mid-20th century, is probably unique in the world. Where else but Britain would a government committee have investigated (1903) how beer was supplied in Army canteens?

This was no mere financial/budgetary excercise, as it examined styles of beer (e.g. lager vs. ale and the rest), brands, strengths, and cellaring methods for draught beer.

What is the reason for this almost mystical tie of Tommy and tipple? Having studied and written on certain aspects of this vast field, I think it comes down to Britain and beer itself. The association is age-old, emphasized by the pub tradition, but not limited to it.

Beer was never just a momentary diversion at the pub, a subject with its own near-sacral history and complexities. Beer went into the fields to succour harvest-workers. It was carried on H.M. ships until rum was found more stable and convenient for the purpose.

It was used by nursing mothers, and as a tonic and reviver in hospitals, civilian or military. Beer was supplied to denizens of prisons in Victorian Britain, and in the poorhouse.

In colonial America and Canada work gangs required beer or another alcoholic stimulant to clear land, build barns, and erect homes.

Soldiers’ use of beer was, in our view, an extension of this broader tradition, even as rationales were advanced at the height of its influence such as supplementing nutrition, aiding digestion, and maintaining health. See e.g. in Sam Goodman’s Unpalatable Truths: Food and Drink as Medicine in Colonial British India, 2018.

Another paper by Sam Goodman, Spaces of Intemperance & the British Raj, 1860-1920 (2020) emphasizes usefully the unique, “spatial” effects of shipboard and garrison life for use of beer by Army and naval personnel.

In the language of the Abstract, the “act of drinking [has] as much to do with social performance as … with personal taste, with space in each instance a governing influence on choice of beverage, intent, behaviour, and the perceived identity of the drinker themselves”.

Clearly, such contexts intensified a reliance on beer and drinking, but the phenomenon as such has we think broader springs in the British social pattern.

Hence, in Mandate Palestine in the ’20s and ’30s Britannia and beer were a twain, just as they were in other parts of the Near East, and the Far East. Of the 40% (see my Part I) of the imported beer market in 1935 not represented by Syrian beer, a percentage was British beer, judging by newspaper advertising and period accounts of Army life.

Part of the military and administrative demand was supplied by the Palestine Brewery which started operations in 1936, but British-made beer continued to be available as I will show in Part III, at least until WW II.

Note: our series continues with Part III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part I

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

Beers from numerous sources were imported to Mandate Palestine in the 1930s. As demographic background (apart the obvious), see census details for 1931 in this link. The total population that year was 1,035,821 which included a small number of H.M. Forces.

The permanent residents comprised Muslims,* Jews, and Christians plus small numbers of other denominations. It is beyond our scope here to examine alcohol patterns in the various groups but the British presence, which increased after 1934 due to the Arab-Jewish conflict, likely formed a disproportionate part of the market.

Below is an image of Bialik Street, Tel Aviv, 1930s, via The Library of Congress.

 

 

In the interwar period, some countries exported small quantities of beer to Palestine, often too small for mention in news stories or advertisements. Italian beer is a good example, see this table in The Dynamics of the International Brewing Industry Since 1800, T.R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson (1998). There was a spike in 1933 to 1200 hl but generally the amounts, at least to 1936, were tiny.

I’d think Italian diplomatic presence, and perhaps trade or social groups connected to Italy, formed the customer base.

Small amounts of Cyprus-made beer came in as well, from AETOS Brewing aka Cyprus Beer Co. set up by Christodoulos Platanis in Athalassa, Nicosia. An evocative period label can be seen in an enthusiast’s outline of the history. See also this 1938 account in the Palestine Post.

Interestingly, AETOS also used a wide-winged bird logo, akin seemingly to Palestine Brewery’s eagle logo. Whether it was used in Palestine or caused any other issue between the two breweries I cannot say. As far as I know there were no ownership links between them.

As well, German beer was imported into the late 1930s. Of course the Jewish market in Palestine evaporated with the Nazi persecutions but there were other beer consumers. The German Colonies, as they were called, were established in Haifa and other localities since the late 1800s, and formed a natural market.

Their history is connected to the German Templar movement and avatars Christof Hoffmann, father and son. The communities probably brewed on a small scale for local use, as well.

Pross’s Restaurant and Beer Garden, German Colony, Carmel Avenue, Haifa, was connected to the Templars into the early years of WW II. Joan Comay, in her Introducing Israel (1962, 1969), gives some background.

In April 1937 an ad from Pross’ advertised real Munich Spaten beer. Pross’ advertised regularly in the Palestine Post until (at least) August 1939, except by then German beer is not referenced. Some Pross’ ads state it was “In-bounds to Sergeants and W.O.s in Plain Clothes”, see e.g. here, in 1939, which speaks for itself.

The famous Czech Pilsner Urquell was likely available in Palestine in the mid-30s, although I haven’t found an instance. It was certainly available in Cairo in 1937: a Jewish-owned cafe sold it with pride “very cold” alongside a kosher kitchen.

Omar Foda, a scholar of Egyptian brewing history, states at p. 58 in Egypt’s Beer: Stella, Identity, and the Modern State that in the 1920s Palestine was among the regular export markets for the Crown Brewery (Cairo, Alexandria, est. 1899) but the market declined in the 1930s.

Finally, in 1939-1940 canned U.S. Budweiser and bottled Pabst Blue Ribbon appeared in Palestine. The latter was advertised in the Palestine Post, January 1940.

In contrast to all these cases, beer described in the Jewish press as from Syria had a prominent position in the import market. Even after Palestine Brewery started production this remained the case to a point.

Palestine Brewery was completed in late 1935. It first marketed beer on January 15, 1936 per this report in Chicago’s The Sentinel. A January 1937 story in the Palestine Post gives a snapshot of the Palestine beer market between 1934 and 1936.

Per the account, total annual consumption was:

  • 15,000 hl in 1934
  • 26,000 hl in 1935, of which 60% was Syrian
  • 30,000 hl in 1936, of which 22,000 from Palestine Brewery

Hence, imports dropped significantly with the onset of local brewing. Despite this, as mentioned, Syrian beer continued as a factor in the market, much of it marketed with “Hebrew labels” according to a June 1937 issue of Palestine Post. Even after duty was imposed on the importation (1938) Syrian beer continued to find sales in Palestine, per this 1938 news item.

The latter notes that a factor was a lower beer excise in Syria than Palestine.

Where did the Syrian beer actually come from? Despite the name, I don’t think from Syria proper. I have not been able to document commercial brewing in Syria in the 1930s, although possibly it did exist.

More likely I think the beer came from Grande Brasserie du Levant (GBL), founded 1930, famed for its Laziza brand, or Brasserie Franco-Libano-Syrienne (Almaza lager), founded 1933. Each was headquartered in a different zone of Beirut. As covered in the Daily Star of Lebanon, GBL, a handsome, International style edifice, was demolished some years ago to build luxury flats.**

As to why beer from Lebanon would be called Syrian, if it was, perhaps this was due to Syria being mentioned in one of the company names, and/or because Syria and Lebanon were administered together under the French Mandate (until 1943).

In Part II I’ll look at British beer in Palestine in this period and a second Palestine brewery built in the mid-1930s, partly owned by a venerable British brewery.

Note: our series continues with Part II.

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*A former version read “Arabs” for Muslims. I intended reference to the language of the 1931 census article I linked to, but mis-recollected Muslims as Arabs. Now corrected.

**These have their own interesting history which I may examine later. Ditto for the Cyprus brewery.

 

 

 

 

 

Touring a Brewery in the Holy Land, 1944

Introduction to Mandate Palestine Beer Series

[Added August 2, 2020. This post inaugurates my series on beer and brewing in the British Mandate of Palestine (1923-1948). For a description of and links to the full series, see this post of August 2, 2020].

The Brewery Tour – General

In the social and cultural history of beer, the “tour” is of undoubted significance. Since the mid-1800s, breweries have seen it their business to welcome the open-eyed citizen – tasting included, of course.

Journalists didn’t lack on these treks, from (undoubted!) personal interest, and to find an offbeat assignment.

So, to these annals we can add a journalist’s tour of the Palestine Brewery in Rishon LeZion, Mandate Palestine, in 1944.

“Wayfarer in Uniform”

The account appeared in “Wayfarer in Uniform”, a column of the Palestine Post, on March 27, 1944, see here. This column was a regular feature in the paper during 1943 and 1944.*

The “Wayfarer” himself remained uncredited. Reading the various columns, it appears he was a British soldier in the enlisted ranks. He refers in one story to “my sergeant”, and to officers and different aspects of Forces life.

In civilian life, he may have been a teacher, artist, or writer, as he often mentions the arts and culture including literature, theatre, and painting. The Army knew he wrote the column, as his sergeant even made suggestions for future articles.

1944 was fraught with violence and conflict in Palestine, more than usual for that part of the world, quite aside the wider war. Yet the columns focus on human interest, on the comparatively benign. He might tour an ancient bell tower at Christmas, a crafts competition, a theatrical show, or a soldier’s gardening project.

He was clearly of English background and refers frequently to London and other parts of England. The tone is calm, equable, a characteristic of British journalism then, as I’ve noted.

Similar “soft” columns appeared in other parts of the world, a genre that offered readers a balm or distraction from daily life. Entertainer Bob Hope wrote one in the same period, albeit less literate than Wayfarer’s. I mentioned it recently in this post, viz. brewing in Burma.

The Palestine Post

The National Library of Israel’s website recounts the history of the Palestine Post. It states the readership included Mandate officialdom, local Jews and Arabs, Christians on pilgrimage, and foreign visitors.

Units of the British Army in Palestine and the Palestine Police Force were clearly part of the audience as well.

The Brewery 

As noted, the brewery visited was in Rishon LeZion. The images below show the brewery in 1939. Wayfarer’s account is notable especially for its humour and how a brewing plant struck someone of artistic temperament.

 

 

The large vessels appeared as “vases” to him – something that never occurred to me, I must say, but we are all different! He was plied with samples, evidently finding them quite satisfactory – the “Bohemian” beer about did him in on the bus home!

Wayfarer quite liked beer, to the point (he says) he tried to do an outing once without it, but it still didn’t end well. Read the account for why.

The Palestine Brewery was founded in 1935 to supply a local demand but with the British Forces in mind. Prior to that, beer was imported, from Britain, the Continent, Egypt, and Syria. The brewery was financed by French and local capital, as detailed in a January, 1937 story in the Palestine Post.

An article in a 1935 issue of The American Brewer, a trade journal, noted that Dostal & Lowey** of Milwaukee shipped bottle washing units to a number of customers including one in “Palestine”. Quite possibly Palestine Brewing Ltd. was the customer.

A 2017 story in the Atlanta Jewish Times by Rich Walter conveys additional detail for the brewery. The major investor, René Gaston-Dreyfus, was a French banker-brewer – a felicitous combination from the standpoint of the brewing ledger. He also had financed breweries in Morocco, Egypt, and Indonesia.

Walter states that the government assisted the Palestine Brewery plan by lowering the excise rate on beer from 20 mils/L to eight mils/L. This is confirmed by a 1934 article in the Palestine Post.

By 1936 the excise was seven mils/L, but a story that year explained the market was still challenging, as the brewery earned only one mil/L on the beer. Nonetheless, that was enough, given the volumes sold, to make a profit. The quantities of beer hitherto imported therefore fell.

(There were 1000 mils per Palestinian pound).

 

 

Beer Details

The brewery initially released its Eagle lager, also called Nesher lager, and a dark, non-alcohol brew. Nesher means eagle in Hebrew. A distinctive, spread-wing logo was selected in a public competition advertised in the Palestine Post. The bird still appears on the Nesher label of Tempo Industries, the successor (from 1985) to Palestine Brewery.***

By WW II, English-style beer was also brewed. In fact, by 1943, 60% of the brewery’s products was sold to the British Army, as reported in the Palestine Post that year.

The brewery studied how to brew this English beer. A report on January 15, 1939 stated that F. (Fritz) Hirschbruch, its general manager, travelled to England that year to study local methods.

Previous to that, the brewery made “Pilsener”, i.e.,the Bohemian-style mentioned, “Munich” – dark lager, and “malt beer” – probably the German malz or Schankbier.

Initially, the malt and surely all hops were imported. A story on May 25, 1936 explains that the brewery intended to build a plant to malt barley, but we cannot confirm if it did so.

In the Comments below I add further links viz. brand labels and similar.

Future Posts

I’ll discuss in future posts other aspects of beer and brewing in Mandatory Palestine and early Israel. These include the imported beer market, a second and third local brewery that opened in the 1930s and early 40s, and expansion of brewing in the early 1950s.

There is an active craft brewery scene in Israel now. I haven’t visited to taste the beers. As others have chronicled it well, I’ll leave that aside, ditto for Taybeh in the West Bank, a pioneer craft brewery in the region.

Note: For the next post in the series, see here. 

Note re images: images above were sourced from the Library of Congress, here.  All ownership therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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

**Still going strong.

***Tempo Industries is better known today for its Gold Star and Maccabee brands.

 

Vive Brador!

A Liquor for what Ales You

Brador was a premium beer brewed by Molson Breweries of Canada, now Molson-Coors Beverage Company.

It is a jointly-owned – Canada-U.S. – business, publicly traded in both countries, with both Canadians and Americans on the board including Geoffrey Molson. Reports at the time of the merger (2005) indicate the families, Coors and Molson, each have 1/3rd voting control, which is effectively joint control in this case.

The head office is in Chicago now, but with breweries in five Canadian provinces, plus a few craft breweries, and thousands employed throughout Canada, the Canadian business is sizeable. It is the oldest continuing brewery in North America.

Before the craft beer surge Brador was one of the few brands, Canadian or American, awarded cachet in beer circles. Brador was first released, according to a report prepared for the 1975 Inquiry on Corporate Concentration, in 1972. It appears it came out in 1971 though, at least in Quebec, according to sources cited below.

It finally departed the market 12-15 years ago. At the end was it was undistinguished imo, with a generic, mass-market taste.

I remember it differently in its prime, meaning 1970s-1990s. I drank it on occasion but as it was a strong beer, 6.2% abv (6% in its last years), I preferred the standard 5% offerings.

The taste was good, not impactful like a good U.K. pale ale or Munich lager, but above the Canadian norm certainly. Michael Jackson thought well of it in his 1982 The Pocket Guide to Beer, describing it as a top-fermenting ale more than the malt liquor stated on the label.

Steve Beaumont, in his 1994 Great Canadian Beer Guide, made these on-point remarks:

Pale gold-coloured with a sweet, roasted and faintly smoky nose. The soft and malty start gives way to floral body with hints of raw sugar before a slightly bitter caramel finish with sweet-and-sour notes.

I do not recall the beer from a time the label did not carry the statement malt liquor, but I do recall lore c. 1980 that it “used to be an ale” and “was better then”. It turns out it was an ale earlier, literally in the sense that at one time, the label stated that.

Look at this Brador ad (p. 18) in October 1971 in the Quebec press, in Le Nouvelliste. The label states “Bière/Ale”. No reference to malt liquor.

 

 

Check any label online though, as offered on Ebay or in various collections. The ones I’ve seen all state Bière/Malt Liquor. This must be because few examples survive of the original label, which I think changed in 1972.

The reason it changed had to be new federal legislation in that same year, as explained in this story (p. 13 – Treize) in another Quebec newspaper, December 1971. The strength, 6.2% abv, was in the band henceforth to be labeled as malt liquor.

From the story:

Dorénavant, il ne pourra exis­ter que trois catégories de biè­res: la bière blonde (“light beer”) pouvant contenir entre 1.2 et 2.5 pour cent d’alcool par volume; la bière anglaise (“beer”), la bière anglaise légè­re (“ale”), le bière anglaise bru­ne (“porter”) et la bière anglai­se forte (“stout”), qui pourront contenir entre 2.6 et 5.5 pour cent d’alcool par volume; enfin, la liqueur de malt (“malt liquor”) pourra contenir de 5.6 à 8.5 pour cent.

 

 

(I suspect there may be an error viz. the French terms stated for “beer” and “ale”, but did not check. And where is lager? But the part about malt liquor is clear enough).

Brador surely had nothing to do with American malt liquor so-called, the high-dextrose, low-hopped, high abv beer marketed since the 1960s at least. Colt 45 is a well-known brand, also Olde English 800. But after Brador’s label was changed to malt liquor, some people thought the recipe had changed.

That is unlikely in my view, and I’ve found no evidence of any change at least into the 1990s. The later drop in the beer from 6.2% to 6% abv may have been a subtle indication that something else in the formulation changed, maybe it was even just a stronger Molson Export, or Molson Stock Ale.

In 1985 Paul Roy of La Presse wrote a mini-history (see p. 19) of the Quebec beer market from the mid-1960s. He did a service for beer historical studies by listing each release in that period, down to month of issuance and duration in the market, by the three large brewers, Molson, O’Keefe, and Labatt.

He lists many names I had forgotten, like Kébec, Rallye, Ti-Bec, Cervoise. He includes Brador among the success stories, stating brewers never knew quite why a certain brand would take off.

An analyst from a stock brokerage interviewed for the story expressed the view that all brands, contrary to Roy’s initial impression, did not taste the same but other factors weighed in the balance, image was mentioned.

Brador had an odd name, as noted by Jackson – he said it was a contraction for Brassée d’Or.* Not that marketing-oriented really, but the extra jolt in alcohol probably ensured its success. The advertising was good too, I tweeted an example (tv spot) yesterday.

(The brand did cost more but it was pennies a bottle).

The analyst understood the industry well, e.g. he stated 20% of the population drank 80% of the beer. The proliferation of brands was really designed, he said, to attract the 80% who drank no or little beer, to snag market from competitors, and retain customers who might otherwise stray.

Consumption of beer had fallen per capita since the 1960s, due mostly to the increase of wine drinking. It’s been similar ever since for the big-picture with craft beer a mini-success story, taking share from declining brands that shifted lots of money back in the day.

What the big brewers hoped would light up the market in 1985 took a different form than they imagined, or rather a more extreme form. Brador was a good beer, but it was no Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, say, no Amsterdam Boneshaker IPA. No one in the brewery factories then had that kind of ken, or if they did, they were rendered silent at staff meetings.

Molson-Coors has brought back Laurentide Ale, and recently Molson Golden Ale. Why not bring back Brador? Perhaps even do retro-styled ads with breathy copy a la 1980 for the social assets.

If you do it though, Molson-Coors, please make it like the 1971 original.

N.B. The December 1971 story also describes Le Gobelet, the first “brasserie” so-termed in Montreal. This was formerly a male-only tavern that modified its premises to host women. Hence they could drink draft beer and enjoy the inexpensive, home-style food both formerly offered only in the tavern.

Further in the same issue is an article describing the success anticipated for the recent legalization of Quebec cider. As a student, I recall unlabeled bottles of cider being passed at parties, sourced from farmers who made cider under the table. Once legalization came, such production ended, for practical purposes.

Note re images: images are used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. The source of the news ad discussed is identified and linked in the text (via Quebec Provincial archives). All feedback welcomed.

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*See a reader’s Comment on the name aspect.

 

 

 

 

 

COVID’s Impact on Craft Beer Styles

The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on the drinks industry has been noted in articles, blog pieces, and research reports. Most that I’ve seen focus on sales dips, winners and losers for the new or enhanced ways to get product to consumer (online ordering, curbside pick-up, etc.), and regulatory challenges for pubs reopening.

Beer history, one of my beats, may seem distant from this new world, but it’s not, in many ways. A familiarity with pre- and post-Prohibition North American brewing contains lessons for the COVID world.

Specifically, I think it likely beer styles will diminish for the foreseeable future.

A 1935 article in the New York Post on a reopened, pre-Prohibition bar (Billy Condon’s) stated:

They used to pour forth new ale, musty ale, old ale, cream ale, stock ale, still ale, porter and stout from huge hogsheads at cellar temperature. They don’t make hogsheads that big any more; they don’t make the ales, and people don’t ask for them.

While some of these types continued to be made, it was negligible compared to the lager wave that dominated brewing after 1933.

Most of that beer was pale and fizzy light lager. In contrast, pre-Prohibition ads vaunted alongside the avatars of that style – Budweiser, Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc. – dark treacly Munichs, heady blackish Kulmbachers, strong bocks, and eccentric steam beers. A good flow still of malty amber lager was sold, the type that preceded Bohemian in popularity.*

Add to this picture the exotic ales mentioned, as well as a couple of wheat beer (“weiss”) styles, an enviable variety resulted.

It largely disappeared with the winnowing of American breweries after Prohibition. The requirements of modern advertising and distribution as well as new regulations took their toll. Tastes too likely had changed during Prohibition, when bootleg beer could not offer the old subtleties and being wet and fizzy was enough.

After World War II, a narrowing trend continued, in Britain as well. The apex was reached in the 1970s, more so in North America but Britain was not exempt with its standardised keg ales and emerging lager. A reaction set in that put us on the path to now, but COVID-19 will wring changes for sure.

New beer styles and variations depend on the ceaseless movement of people in and around breweries and internationally. When that pauses, as recently it has, such innovation takes second place at best. The future becomes less predictable than the usual competitive pressures entail.

The main forms of I.P.A. will not go away any time soon but I doubt new forms will become popular. And lesser forms like black I.P.A., white I.P.A., Belgian I.P.A, and triple I.P.A. may wither.

Same perhaps for pumpkin ale, Gose, dark lager, brown ale, porter, and other lesser lights – in market terms – of the beer world.

It seems likely craft breweries will streamline their range for efficiency in production and distribution especially under increased cost pressures.

Ironically, more innovation and line extension may come from the big brewers who can support them with mass advertising including social assets.

From the standpoint of reasonable variety, I don’t think any of us need fear very much. A palette of beer styles is in existence to paint a fine tableau for 100 years, even if it halves, or quarters, in size.

If you asked me, I see Pilsener, three or four I.P.A. types, amber ale, a couple of porter and stout styles, and Saison powering the future. Possibly, too, some sour styles.

New hops will continue to emerge because that part is driven by the growers, so that will help keep a smaller range of styles lively.

If full recovery from COVID occurs by mid-fall, perhaps with a miracle vaccine in aid, the old days may return. Right now though this seems unlikely.

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*The excellent Samuel Adams Boston Lager, a craft beer success story, was a recreation of that type. Our elucidation of the type appears here.