U Fleku in two Periods

The Roadmap of Palate

U Fleku is the venerable (“from 1499”), world-famous tavern brewery in Prague. I’ve spent some time in Prague, and Slovakia, but hadn’t the chance to visit U Fleku.

Modern reports on the place vary. Some love it, some are disenchanted with commercialism, but all seem agreed the beer is prima.

And for me, that’s what really matters in the end. Whether the place changed as Prague became a magnet for tourism post-1989, concerns me much less.

As many who read my accounts know, that’s my main interest in brewing: the palate and taste. I like the history – a good deal to be sure. I follow the beer business closely. But I’m primarily interested in taste and production methods: the roadmap of palate.

The same for my interest in food history: what did it taste like?

It’s interesting to compare two portraits of U Fleku in different periods. The first is from March 1982, by Henry Kamm of the New York Times. The other is from December 1956, an equally detailed account published (but likely not originating) in the Iraq Times of Baghdad.

1956 was still the Communist era in what is now the Czech Republic. This is addressed in the 1956 article, including the effects of the 1950 nationalization of the brewery.

Nonetheless a quite active business was still being run. Some 2,600 gallons were produced weekly, using three brewers.*

The tavern was undergoing renovation when the 1956 account appeared, and the details will interest those who follow its architectural history.

Like Henry Kamm’s story, attention is given to frescoes and paintings, the different rooms, and personalities associated with U Fleku including some legendary tipplers.

Where both accounts especially shine for me is they give a recipe of sorts for the single dark lager of U Fleku. Well, not really a recipe, but a list of ingredients. But that’s of value unto itself, especially as no official recipe has ever been published, to my knowledge.**

Both accounts state that four malts were used, and sugar, apart hops of course. The NYT’s enumeration is more accurate technically, but considering that beer journalism hardly existed in 1956, the earlier account can be parsed as consistent.

Henry Kamm had it that “fixed percentages of Pilsen, Bavarian, caramel and porter malts, hops and unrefined sugar” were used. Hop type not stated.

So, pale malt (the Pilsen), Munich malt (darker), caramel malt (a stewed form of malt, sugar-rich), and roasted black, or porter, malt. There are many kinds of brewing sugar, type is not stated.

The 1956 account specifies four malts as well, type not stated, with “caramel cream, roasted sugar and … white hops” also used.

White hops have no fixed meaning to my knowledge in modern brewing, so it is hard to tell what was meant.

The term was sometimes used loosely in 1800s British brewing, to contrast hops meant for pale ale, a high grade drink, with “brown” hops, often used for porter. Brown hops were said often to have a coarse or “strong” aroma. This was considered acceptable when porter was aged for months in vats to soften the taste.

I think perhaps “white hops”, as conveyed to the reporter in Prague in 1956, simply meant top-quality hops.

Caramel cream was probably a misunderstanding of caramel malt, likely one of the four malts the story stated were used in brewing.

As to roasted sugar,  that is not a trade term to my knowledge. I’d think probably it meant some type of dark, unrefined (per 1982 account) sugar. Maybe Muscovado, or one of the Belgian “candi” types. See an example of candi here from Amazon.

The 1956 account specified the amount of hops used, 250 grams per hectolitre of beer, useful to know.

Of course we aren’t told details of yeast, the mashing regime, aging, boil length, and more. But to my mind, indications look good for consistency of results over that time span, anyway.

The apparent use of sugar was a reminder to me that German-style, all-malt brewing, while characteristic of pale lager brewing in Czech Republic, didn’t apply to all beer types in the country, when these accounts were written. I’d think that is still true today, but have not checked.


*This number seems high to me even for the time and such an institution, but perhaps it was that.

**That said these are unofficial sources, to be taken for what they’re worth.










Mild ale on the Main, Part II


In our Part I, we discussed the brewery of HMS Menestheus, a Blue Funnel cargo-passenger liner converted to minelaying use during WW II. It was refitted as an “amenities” ship in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1944-45.

We address below the ultimate destination of its brewery, one that at first blush seems unlikely.

Two Ships and Their Breweries

HMS Agamemnon, also of Blue Funnel origins and used for minesweeping earlier in the war, was being refitted to similar purpose, in Victoria across Vancouver Bay.

Each was to carry a functioning brewery along with other rest and recreation facilities for HM Forces. There was a cinema, NAAFI shopping, a stage for shows, and more. The intended theatre of operations was the Pacific.

The brewery was fabricated by a brewery engineering firm in Bristol, U.K., George Adlam & Sons. It was meant to operate with malt extract and hop concentrate vs. a full grain mash and leaf hops. This resulted from practical and cost concerns. As I showed in other writing, interwar breweries on German passenger lines did something similar.

George Adlam’s design featured a closed fermentation system. It was originally developed by an English brewer, Stephen Clarke, in the early Forties. Clarke came up with the idea as a stop gap for his bomb-damaged brewery, Coopers, in Southampton.

The war with Japan ended in September 1945, with work mostly completed on Menestheus. The conversion of Agamemnon was still incomplete. Admiralty made the decision to return Agamemnon to Britain, but the Menestheus entered service according to the original plan.

It embarked on a postwar tour through the Pacific, returning home finally in July 1946. During the tour a low gravity mild ale was brewed on ship, a success by all accounts.

Some of the details above are drawn from Geoff Dye’s informative “The Menestheus ‘floating brewery’: a history of the ship and brewery”. See in Brewery History (Winter, 2019, Number 181).

Dye explains that on its return to the U.K. in July 1946 the Menestheus was restored to its pre-war condition and returned to the Blue Funnel line. The brewery, after passing through a couple of intermediaries in London, was sold to John J. Calder Brewery in (Alloa) Scotland.

Specifically,,“a lot” was sold to this buyer, meaning I think a parcel, or possibly a majority but not all the equipment.

Of the brewery meant for Agamemnon, neither Dye nor any other source I know addressed this aspect. Perhaps one was never fabricated, as Agamemnon’s refit was partial and abandoned. Yet, a second brewery may have been ready in storage for installation, and sold with the Menestheus plant as surplus.

John J. Calder

Brewing historian Ron Pattinson offered a sketch of John J. Calder in his blogpost of October 27, 2011. As he points out, Calder’s was absorbed by a larger concern in 1960 and for 40 years previous, had no brewery of its own: it outsourced needs to other breweries.

It therefore makes sense Calder’s wanted to buy a recently tested, relatively compact operation to make some beer in-house. Nonetheless, no account I know of mentions Calder’s doing this.

I then examined what happened to that plant, and concluded it likely ended at The Iraq Brewery Co., founded in 1945-46 in Baghdad.

The Iraq Brewery Co.

In 1945 Iraq was a Regency, with King Faisal II taking full power on reaching his majority in 1953. Brewing was in that period considered an acceptable activity in the country.

The British were still influential in Iraq, indeed had re-occupied it during the war to keep supply lines open to India and foreclose an Axis invasion.

The Iraq Brewery Co. supplied a local demand that included a small group of Britons, Europeans and Americans. They were business people, diplomats, and other expatriates. It was located on Rashid Street in Baghdad.

In 1956 a second brewery was established in Baghdad, The Eastern Brewery.

In 2006 an article by Michael Jansen in the Irish Times reported on the declining alcohol market in Iraq. This resulted from sectarianism in the wake of the American-led invasion of 2003. He interviewed Yaqthan Chadirji, who had brewed for decades at The Eastern Brewery.

Janssen wrote the following viz. the origins of modern brewing in Iraq:

The first Western-style beer was produced during the British-backed monarchy by a wealthy Shia businessman named Madhaf Khedairi, who bought a small brewery from a British naval vessel shortly after the second World War.

Khedairi’s brewery was, it seems clear, The Iraq Brewery Co.

In 1951, the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing recorded the election of “Al-Khedairi, Madhat” as a student member of the Institute of Brewing.

Al-Khedairi was described as a pupil (trainee) at Harman’s Uxbridge Brewery Ltd. He remained a member of the Institute of Brewing for almost 30 years. He resigned in 1980 according to this notation in the journal.

There seems no doubt Al-Khedairi was the gentleman named in the Irish Times as a pioneer of European brewing in Iraq, or possibly his son.

Plant and Operations

In 1950 a description of the brewery by James Kennedy (p. 386) appeared in Nos. 13-14, Wallerstein Laboratories Communications. Wallerstein were well-known brewery consultants based in New York.

Kennedy stated that construction of the brewery began in 1946 and was completed in 1948.*

He described a number of challenges attending the brewing. One was the temperature variations in the country. This was addressed by having “fermentation conducted under pressure according to a patented pressure fermentation system”.

While Kennedy doesn’t mention the source of the equipment, his account underscores the link to the Menestheus. Its brewery used the pressure fermentation system devised by Stephen Clarke earlier in the war. Geoff Dye described it as all-enclosed fermentation, a method half way between a Burton Unions system and modern continuous fermentation (a 20th century innovation pioneered notably in New Zealand).

Dye states this pressure fermentation method was applied in a number of breweries in Britain after the war, presumably in consequence of the patent mentioned by Kennedy. One was Crowley Brewery in Alton, where Clarke later worked, owned by the London giant Watney. Clearly this was newly fabricated plant that followed the Clarke-George Adlam design for fermentation.

Dye states the system was also used “in some other breweries abroad”, but does not name any.

Evidently The Iraq Brewery Co. was one. Perhaps new equipment was made for it using the Clarke/George Adlam design, a la Crowley’s. But everything points I think to actual use of ex-shipboard plant, either Menestheus‘, Agamemnon‘s, or parts of both.

The Beers

In the period discussed an English language newspaper, The Iraq Times, served the English-speaking community. It carried adverts over the years for products of both The Iraq Brewery Co. and The Eastern Brewery Co. (later known as Eastern Beer Company). Other English-language papers in the region also carried some advertising.

Historical issues of The Iraq Times and other newspapers are archived in full view at the East View Global Press Archive.

See e.g. this ad in 1950 for Diana Beer and Diana Stout. A 1954 ad showed a filled glass of black stout – did it subliminally appeal to the oil people? It mentions the port city of Basra as a distribution point for the beers.

These beers were not lagers, but The Iraq Brewery Co. did introduce lager later, as stated in the Irish Times. The launch was circa 1962, this advert suggests.

In 1966 the brewery advertised in the Baghdad News a Golden Lager, another lager, Diana Ale, and Diana Stout. The last two were introduced in 1948 and 1950, respectively, and were brewed into the 1960s.** They demonstrate an unusual example of British-style brewing offshore, as by that period lager had become generalized almost everywhere outside Britain.

Shadowing the old school ale and porter brewers in their surviving redoubts was international lager, of which the savvy Heineken was avatar. Is it any surprise Heineken was advertising prominently in the Iraq Times in 1955?

The Iraq Brewery Co. did finally make lager, as noted, and The Eastern Brewery brewed it from the beginning, its well-known Ferida brand.

For a high quality image of the Diana Stout label, see this image at Worthpoint. The goddess of mythology is depicted, with fawn. Perhaps the association with country life and hunting was thought appropriate to market English styles of beer, but this is speculation.

This image at Worthpoint shows the Golden Lager label c. 1975, post-nationalization.

Early Brewing Personnel

My research disclosed the names of some who brewed at The Iraq Brewery Co. between 1946 and 1955. Three I found in order of service were J.N.E. Whitton, Dick” Kennedy, and Gustave Michiels.

A 1956 issue of the Journal of the Institute of Brewing states that Madhat Al-Khedairi was then Assistant Brewer of The Iraq Brewery Co. Presumably he became head brewer in time.

James Kennedy writing in the Wallerstein publication may have been – likely was I think – the “Dick” Kennedy mentioned. Geoff Dye does not mention Whitton, Kennedy or Michiels in connection with Menestheus or Agamemnon, but there may have been an indirect connection.

The Iraq Brewery Co. was nationalised in 1973-74 according to the Irish Times account. Production continued for a time but I am unclear when brewing ceased. The Eastern Beer Company continues to brew in the country according to its website.


*A pen and ink drawing of the brewery is linked in the Comments below.

**Diana Beer and Diana Ale were almost certainly the same recipe. These were mashed and hopped in standard brewing fashion, as the article by James Kennedy makes clear. The malt extract and hop concentrate parts of the Clarke/George Adlam process were not taken over, in other words. The water distillation mentioned by Dye may have been, though, due to problems experienced with water drawn from the Tigris river.




A tin of Value

Elizabeth David, the great English culinary writer, first issued Italian Food in 1954. Many editions appeared subsequently.

She had lived and travelled in the country, and knew some Italian. This, with her natural curiosity and ability in the kitchen, produced an absorbing book. As in most of her writing, pointed anecdotes and asides lend an extra dimension.

She makes the statement that in (Anglophone) Middle East kitchens of the 1940s, a “tin” was a measure commonly understood. It meant a round tin of 50 cigarettes. She refers to the Middle East because she worked in Alexandria for the British government during WW II.

You can read her remarks, here.

When I first read this, before the Internet, I had to conjure in my mind the shape and volume of this tin. There was no Google to show an image from eBay, or WorthPoint. In Canada then, cigarettes were not sold in tins. There was loose tobacco, but those cans were quite large and would have held more than 50 cigarettes.

For some 35 years I had forgotten about this, until doing my research recently for the Mandate Palestine beer series. The Palestine Post of the 1930s and 40s had many adverts for cigarettes, in cardboard boxes, in tins. Generally, it was 10 and 20 in flat paper boxes, and 50 in round tins.

There were variations on this theme, as some makers sold a tin of 30 cigarettes, or 45.

There were Virginia cigarettes, Turkish ones, and Macedonian – or the tobacco was, and some (apparently) was also grown in Palestine. American-made cigarettes were sold, too.

According to stories in the Palestine Post, used tins could not be melted down. There was no blast furnace in the country. Some were weighted and adapted for ashtrays by the Red Cross. Others were used evidently for various household purposes.



David wrote that a tin was so well-established for kitchen use that numerous published recipes used the term. This may have applied in the U.K. as well, but she was speaking specifically of the Middle East.

This ad in the period (1945) shows a round fifty for State Express ‘555’. Another ad, from 1934, markets a tin of “The Greys”, a Virginia blend from the U.K.

David implies that many cooks could not have understood the exact volume intended. This would arise from reading a recipe in a later period, or outside the context intended.

Hence, they must often have used the wrong amount of stock, wine, water, etc.

She states that when writing a cookery book, standard procedure is to render measures in exact terms, something she did not always do for the subject volume. Yet, she notes that the “authenticity and spontaneity” of many Italian recipes would be lost under this approach.

Hence her point: measures for recipes should be taken with, well, a grain of salt.*

This shows her romantic and instinctive understanding of cookery, which is not and never can be a fine science. She sought to get at its secret soul, one might say.

Note re image: image is from the (highly informative) entry on Elizabeth David in Wikipedia, here. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.


*Baking is a well-known exception, and I believe she acknowledged this in other writing.


Beer in Mandate Palestine Series – Summary/Index

Recently, I completed a series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine (1923-1948). To my knowledge, nothing had been published systematically, or much otherwise,* on this area. It fills a sizable gap in beer historical studies, therefore.

For a vue d’ensemble, below are the posts in order of appearance.

1. Touring a Brewery in the Holy Land, 1944 (journalists’s tour of Palestine Brewery Ltd., origins of brewery)

2. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part I (“Syrian”, German, Cypriot, Italian, U.S. beers)

3. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part II (the special connection (general) of H.M. Armed Forces and beer)

4. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part III (beer and the Armed Forces in Palestine, Barclay Perkins’ Sparkling Beer)

5. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part IV (George Younger’s Scottish beers, founding of Cabeer Brewery)

6. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part V (Heineken at the Levant Fair, Amstel Bier, influence of lager on ale imports)

7. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VI (Whitbread’s ales in 1930s Palestine, emerging “keg” beers)

8. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VII (Whitbread marketing to army canteens and expat circles, the Tankard award)

9. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VIII (other Scottish beers: McEwan’s, William Younger’s, Tennent’s Lager, also Czech Pilsner Urquell)

10. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part IX (arrival of Australian Forces 1940, beers consumed by them, Australian “Beer Inquiry”)

11. The Levant Brewery Ltd., Mandate Palestine (founding of Levant Brewery early 1940s)

12. National Brewery, Netanya (Coda to above posts. Brewery founded 1952 in modern Israel reflecting also 1930s traditions)

In addition, three posts, not related to Mandate Palestine as such but indirectly deriving from the research, are:

1.  Phases of a Business Career (efforts of Barclay Perkins’ J.L. Loughnan to assist emigration to New Zealand of a German Jewish refugee)

2. The Blue Nile Brewery (1956-1983) (J.L. Loughnan’s role in establishing a Barclay Perkins affiliate brewery in Khartoum, Republic of Sudan)

3. A U.K. “Keg Beer” in 1936 (an apparent early “keg beer” from Whitbread in 1930s Palestine)


*My researches were limited to English sources and some in French. No doubt archives in Hebrew and Arabic could add more.



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 here, 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 had acquired New Jersey’s Champale, a pioneering malt liquor.

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. The Spearman deal was described in this story of August 1960 in the Pensacola News, Pensacola, FL.

National Brewery was the first serious rival to the first (modern) brewery in what is now Israel, Palestine Brewery Ltd., founded 1935. In 1973 the two rivals finally merged. Their corporate successor today is publicly traded Tempo Beverages Ltd.

Tempo 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, a further example of its global reach. I discussed Heineken’s international success in Part V of the Mandate Palestine series.

As the Berkshire Eagle stated, 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.

One Israeli brand which, at least circa 1977, apparently reflected an ale heritage, was Goldstar, still a big seller. Michael Jackson, the great beer author, called it an ale-type in his World Guide to Beer published that year. Goldstar emerged during WW II, produced by or for Palestine Brewery Ltd. The oldest labels in a collector’s site state the brand was for “HM Forces”. These labels state “beer”.

But later Goldstar labels in the same collection read “amber lager” and “dark lager”. If Goldstar today, or an iteration of it, is still an ale-type, it is probably bottom-fermented. The mainstream beers of Israel are all lagers and stout seems to have died without a trace.

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.








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 run 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.



















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 worked for Barclay Perkins, the former London brewers, from the late 1930s until 1955 as its 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?,which 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, 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 which I described here. But exporting to, and investing in, a foreign country are two different things.

There was  delay to obtain Bank of England permission to transfer the necessary funds outside the country but assent was finally obtained.

Barclay Perkins took a majority interest in the equity, with Sudanese capital participating.

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 a pending project of this nature, Courage agreed it should be completed. The brewery finally opened in 1956. Loughnan had taken retirement by then and sadly died in a car accident in March that year in Sudan.

J.L. Loughnan was considered a first-rate executive. The completion of the plan owed much to his vision and determination. So committed was he that he stayed on after retirement to see the project 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 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 is an interesting 1959 calendar from the brewery. It depicts the stages of brewing in humorous, cartoon-like frames. The marquee brand is shown, “Camel” beer. A camel is pictured in some scenes, one shows the use of spent grains.

Animal imagery in advertising has a long history, one might recall Guinness’ inspired use of the toucan (“just think what two can do”) and other animals. 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 trade study in 1964, Area Handbook for the Republic of Sudan, states that production was 525,000 gal. annually. Barley malt was sourced from Egypt and the U.K. Hops came from Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. No other cereals are mentioned, or sugar, although 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. 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 was produced. And there was certainly a Blue Nile Dark Beer, see here.

Online sources also confirm that a “stout” so-called was marketed, so 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 in the region. That it was much reduced from former days, whether as local production or in the form of imports, simply paralleled the decline of British influence internationally.

An American technical standards publication reported on the brewery as of 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. An example was the rejection by the plant of substandard malt.

In the account, the year cited for Sudan’s independence appears incorrect. It was not 1970 but 1956. 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 non-Muslims in Sudan will be permitted to drink alcohol. It’s part of a package of changes being introduced. See the report, here. 

As mentioned, examples of Blue Nile labels and other advertising may be viewed online. A 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

Montreal. Home of perhaps the most admired bagel type anywhere. I grew up there, but never wrote on the baked wheat ring. Until now.

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

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

This well-referenced Wikipedia essay is also helpful, especially to describe similar European and Asian breads. For some reason, it is the Jewish bagel that gained international prominence. Perhaps small differences in ingredients and the baking accounted 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 some press accounts as the bagel was rising (sorry) to U.S. 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”, traces how the bagel finally left its native precincts. Connecticut-based Murray Lender was interviewed, 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 an easy-to-get stand-by.

Lender’s 1976 ad in the Watertown Daily Times adroitly explained how easy it was to use frozen bagels. 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, 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 east to St-Viateur Bagel Bakery, on the other side of the mountain, or to Fairmount Bagel a short distance away. Both were, and are, east of Avenue du Parc.*

Until the 1950s most Jews in Montreal lived on the east side. 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 in honey-flavoured water, and baking in a wood-fired stove. Barley malt is added to the flour mixture, usually. Finally, no salt is added to the dough, which accents a slight sweetness.

The crumb is fairly dense but not dry, a little spongy. The sesame type was and is still best I think but a good poppy seed has its merits.

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 side, 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.


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