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 is available with an easy search.

This Younger is separate from the better-known William Younger’s which had merged in Edinburgh with McEwan’s in 1931, and 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 this beer style in Mandate Palestine. Isaac Diskin was the local agent handling the brand. The Revolver label, pictured in the advert, appears to originate in the late 1800s.

Below is a bottle of the Sparkling Ale that seems clearly of the 1930s era.*

 

 

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

It was named Cabeer Breweries Ltd. The account describes its capacity and that it would brew a “Scotch ale”. Younger’s took a 20% interest in the venture. The rest of the capital would 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 still that George Younger was a shareholder in Cabeer.

This initiative followed on a long history by George Younger’s, not to mention the namesake William Younger, to export beer throughout the world and not least the Middle East. Some good background on this drive can 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 who formerly owned a large brewery in “Heilbroun”, i.e., Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

In 1963, a German historian or researcher, Hans Franke, penned a lengthy account of the history of Jewry in Heilbrunn, which forms part of its municipal archive. He mentioned the impact of the Nazi regime on Alfred Würzburger, his family, and their Adler Brewery. It’s not pretty, see p. 119, in particular. But the family 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 this ocal investment.

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

A 1944 news item confirms that 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 above.

Further news reports indicate that 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 the nascent Cabeer, particularly as it seems the start-up was delayed. This delay would explain why the agent I. Diskin was still distributing George Younger’s Scottish beer in Palestine in 1939.

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 from the late 1930s until 1942 under the original ownership, but I have not been able to substantiate this.

 

 

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 the Briton J.L. Loughnan in Part III of my series on beer in Mandate Palestine. He worked for the London brewery Barclay Perkins, marketing its beer in Palestine.

I learned more about him, related below. As it does not pertain to beer in Palestine as such, the post stands on its own.

It sheds interesting light on a brewing executive’s life as WW II was approaching, and confronting anti-Semitism

A Letter of Import

On July 27, 1939 Barclay Perkins issued a letter meant to be delivered in person. It was signed 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 addressee firm help Schoenberger obtain employment, and otherwise on his “hard road”.*

Loughnan states he has never met Schoenberger, and expresses regret he had not done so. He states also the letter was issued as a favour to Paul Eveque in Champagne in France, a close friend of Loughnan’s.

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

New Zealand accepted him as a refugee due to his knowledge of the European wine industry, since it was trying to develop its own. Schoenberger remained in New Zealand for the rest of his life. On his death his daughter contributed his papers to the museum, much of it in hard-to read, “cursive” German. Only when these papers were deciphered did the full story of his trek, and second life in New Zealand, become known.

Schoenberger was born in Mainz, on the Rhine. His family owned a reputed sparkling wine business, and was prosperous before the Nazi persecutions.

Loughnan’s letter appears here, fully readable with some magnification. Further details, images, and extracts from Schoenberger’s diary are set out in a well-written, 24-part blog series, “Egon’s Story”, in the museum website. Images of the family winery are included. Additional ones may be viewed on the Facebook page of the museum.

The Schoenbergers made a high quality sekt, following the Champagne process, hence surely their connections with Taittinger, where Paul Eveque worked.

Whether the time Loughnan spent 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 had wine and spirits divisions, hence dealing with European suppliers.

There was no prior connection between the Schoenberger family and Barclay Perkins, as far as I know.

Envoi

Probably many people, in many countries at the time, had been asked to provide the kind of assistance Paul Eveque did for the Schoenbergers, but refused.

Paul Eveque said, yes.

Probably many people, in many countries at the time, were asked to write the kind of letter John Loughnan did for Egon Schoenberger, but refused.

John Loughnan said yes, and with Paul Eveque helped save Egon’s life.**

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

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

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part III

Beer, the British Army, and 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.

During 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 the soldiery’s use of beer a number of times as as 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 was also known, among other names, as Petah Tikvah and probably produced this wine.

The ranks also relaxed with gifts of chocolate and other special foods, and steady use of tobacco, mainly cigarettes. In regard to the ubiquitous alcohol Kitchen quotes a Northhamptonshire sergeant (1917) on soldiers’ tendency to drink to excess. It was probably typical of the colonial troop pattern, especially after a battle or other periods of high stress.

I am not sure how much hard data is available on the Army’s consumption of beer in this period. My earlier posts on the 1903 committee of inquiry into Army canteens suggest a range of possibilities, based on testimonies heard. One officer stated that for many young soldiers plentiful food was more important than beer. For older soldiers, the reverse was said often to be true.

The Israeli journalist Rachel Neiman has included photos and menus of Forces Christmas celebrations in her article “Biscuits, Bully Beef and Beer – Christmas Dinner During the British Mandate”.

These cover the period between 1917 and 1942. The article appeared in the December 2018 issue of the (online publication) Israel 21c. Bottles of beer can be seen in some images.

Some menus state at the foot simply, “Beer”. One, from RAF Station Abu Sueir, reads plaintively, “Beer?”.

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

That gives some indication of the high point army capacity could reach in contemporary Palestine if supply permitted it.

A 1937 story in The American Jewish World stated that in 1936 the British Forces in Palestine had risen to 25,000. The complement had risen to deal with spreading riots and other disturbances in the territory. One result was that brewing expanded at Palestine Brewery. The story explained that with a drop in the complement during 1937, demand for beer would fall accordingly.

There would not have been enough beer for the Army in Palestine if it wanted to reach the Forces’ consumption in Egypt. Total Palestine consumption for 1936 was just 30,000 hl, as we saw earlier.

A website devoted to British Forces in Palestine numbers the strength force as 10,000 in 1939. It then climbed significantly as World War II progressed. Whatever the specifics of troop numbers in a given Mandate year and local brewing capacity, it is evident that British Forces in the territory would continue to demand beer. The channels to address it were domestic production or imported beer.

According to the sources I have reviewed the Forces drank British beer both in the N.A.A.F.I. clubs and in cafes and other public resorts where it was available. The N.A.A.F.I. was the centralized Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes, the revamped canteen and supply system created shorty after WW I to replace the old canteen system.

At the same time, Palestine-produced beer supplied part of the demand and an increasing part as the war made imports difficult or in some cases impossible.

Barclay, Perkins Squares the Circle

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

Barclay Perkins’ visibility in Palestine is shown from its sizeable box advertisement in the December 25, 1939 Palestine Post. It reads that Nathan Zwy Ltd. in Haifa was Barclay, Perkins’ sole representative. Zwy’s name appears in many similar ads of the period. Into 1947 at least, he appears to have been prominent in alcohol beverage distribution in Palestine and beyond in the region.

Next to the ad noted is one of the same size from the brewer McEwan-Younger Ltd. of Edinburgh. We return to them in a subsequent part of this series.

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

On June 21, 1939 the Palestine Post reported in a short item:

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

It thus appears the brewery had hired an ex-senior Army officer familiar with the territory to further its marketing efforts. We will return to Mr. Loughnan later in the series.

On February 17, 1939 the same newspaper states:

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…”.

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

Barclay Perkins’ beer was also available in a Jerusalem restaurant operated by F. Nothbaum. It appears he was connected to the German Templars judging by his various press ads of the 1930s. Here is one example, from April 1939, in same newspaper, advertising an Easter Dinner. Draught beer from Barclay’s (type not stated) is touted in this ad together with Lowenbrau beer, presumably from Munich, and Rhine and Mosel wines.

The year seems late for German beer to be available in Palestine but evidently some was still imported before the war actually started.

Sparkling beer or ale, meant to be served cold, had been a growing factor in British and international brewing since about 1900, as I discussed in earlier posts. The type was particularly appealing for hot climates. In 1940 a canned Sunbright Sparkling Beer is advertised in the Palestine Post by another agent in Haifa, J. Ezra. His source stated in the ad was Machen & Hudson in Liverpool.

Labels of Machen & Hudson, a well-known export beer dealer, may be viewed in David Hughes’ A Bottle of Guinness Please“. Note its Beaver Lager, one of the brands Machen & Hudson supplied to J. Ezra in Haifa.

The ultimate source of this beer was likely the Hope Brewery in Sheffield. See an example of its Sunbright, cone-top pale ale in this interesting label collection from the Netherlands.

The increasing popularity of light ale and lager in the Near East in this period is shown as well by an almost wordless 1939 print ad for Palestine Brewery’s Eagle “Light Lager” (Palestine Post).

A few years ago in a blog post, the beer historian Ron Pattinson discussed Barclay’s Sparkling Beer as it was in 1939. By reference to brewing records he showed the beer was, in fact, a lager, an idiosyncratic one given its amber tint and sizeable component of crystal malt. The oddness of the recipe is emphasized by readers’ comments appended to the post.

Given the context I have discussed, the odd make-up becomes, by reasonable inference, clear: Barclay’s designed a beer for the Middle East that resembled ale to a degree – the traditional type Britons knew at home, but which drank cold and fizzy, like a lager.

Crystal malt was certainly known in British top-fermentation brewing by then, hence the “ale” part. The Saaz hopping and all-malt construction bowed to Continental tradition, as did of course the bottom fermentation. The latter traits would impart the desired lager character, which would resonate as well with residents in Palestine of European origin, mainly the Jews.

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

Below, from the Miniature Bottle Library, is a later design for Barclay’s Sparkling Beer. Although beer can design in 2020 has reached a high pitch of excellence, it would take some doing to match the smart look of this can.

 

 

For a Barclay’s Sparkling Beer cone-top that is actually from 1939, found in India, see at the auction site WorthPoint, this item. It pictures usefully as well every part of the label.

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.

Note: our series continues with Part IV.

 

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part II

Tommy and Tipple

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, at least into the mid-20th century, has been amply documented and is probably unique in the world. Where else but Britain would the government have held an inquiry and issued a Report (in 1903) on the supply of beer to Army canteens?*

This was no mere financial/budgetary exercise, as the study extended to styles of beer (e.g. lager vs. ale and the rest), brands, alcohol content, even cellaring methods for draught beer.

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

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

Beer, notably stout, 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 to the poorhouse.

In Colonial America and 19th century Canada work gangs required beer or another alcoholic stimulant to clear land, build barns, and erect homes at “bees”.

British soldiers’ adoration of beer was, in our view, a manifestation of this broader cultural tradition, even as different rationales were optimistically advanced at the height of its influence. They included supplementing nutrition, aiding digestion, and maintaining health. See for example Sam Goodman’s 2018 paper Unpalatable Truths: Food and Drink as Medicine in Colonial British India.

Another paper by Sam Goodman, Spaces of Intemperance & the British Raj, 1860-1920 (2020) emphasized the unique, “spatial” effects of shipboard and garrison life, and how they influenced use of beer by Forces personnel.

In the language of the Abstract, the “act of drinking [had] 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”.

While persuasive to explain a culture of beer and drinking in the Army, we think the phenomenon had broader springs in the British social pattern. Hence, in Mandate Palestine in the ’20s and ’30s Britain and beer were a twain, as they had been historically, just as in other parts of the Near East, and in the Far East.

Of the 40% of the Palestine market in 1935 for imported beer not represented by Syrian beer (see my Part I), a good amount had to be British beer judging by newspaper advertising and period accounts of Army life. This will be addressed in some detail in future parts of this series.

After the Palestine Brewery started operations in 1936 the military and administrative demand was, in part, supplied locally. British beer nonetheless continued to be available in Palestine, as we will show, until WW II impacted importation of beer.

Note: our series continues with Part III.

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*See our earlier post discussing the report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part I

We continue 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.

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

The permanent residents comprised Muslims,* Jews, Christians, and small numbers of other denominations. It is beyond our scope to examine alcohol consumption 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 in the period under review, via The Library of Congress.

 

 

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

The Italian diplomatic presence, and perhaps business or social groups connected to Italy, probably formed the customer base.

Small amounts of Cyprus-brewed beer came in as well, from AETOS Brewing aka Cyprus Beer Co., established by Christodoulos Platanis in Athalassa, Nicosia. An evocative period label was reproduced in an enthusiast’s outline pertaining to Cyprus brewing history. See also this 1938 account from the Palestine Post.

Interestingly, AETOS also employed a wide-winged bird logo, rather similar to the Palestine Brewery’s eagle logo. Whether it was used in Palestine, or caused any other issue between the two breweries, did not appear from our review. As far as I know there were no ownership links between the two breweries.

German beer was also imported into the late 1930s. Of course, the Jewish market for such beer in Palestine evaporated with the Nazi persecutions, but there were other beer consumers. The German Colonies in Palestine as they were called, established from the late 1800s, formed a natural market.

Their history in Haifa and other localities is connected to the German Templars of whom Christof Hoffmann, father and son, were avatars. These communities probably brewed on a small scale for local use.

Pross’s Restaurant and Beer Garden, in the German Colony, Carmel Avenue, Haifa, was well-known in Palestine until early during WW II. Joan Comay, in Introducing Israel (1962, 1969), offers useful background.

In April 1937 a Pross’ ad vaunted Munich Spaten beer. Pross advertised regularly in the Palestine Post until (at least) August 1939, except that towards the end German beer is not mentioned. Some Pross ads stated that its premises were “In-bounds to Sergeants and W.O.s in Plain Clothes”, see e.g. in 1939 here, which speaks for itself.

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

Omar Foda, a scholar of Egyptian brewing history, authored the book Egypt’s Beer: Stella, Identity, and the Modern State. At p. 58 he states that in the 1920s, Palestine was a regular export market for Crown Brewery in Cairo (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. Pabst was advertised for example in the Palestine Post in January 1940.

Beer described in the Jewish press as from “Syria” was also imported to Palestine. This beer held a prominent share of the import market. Even after the Palestine Brewery started production, this remained the case to a point.

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

Per the account, the 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 noted, Syrian beer continued to be a major 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 Syrian beer importation (1938) the beer continued to find sales in Palestine, per this 1938 news item.

The latter noted that a factor continuing to favour sales in Palestine was a lower beer excise in Syria.

Where did the Syrian beer actually come from? Despite the name, probably not from Syria proper. I cannot 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) in Lebanon, founded in 1930 and famed for the Laziza brand, or from Brasserie Franco-Libano-Syrienne (Almaza lager), founded 1933. Each was headquartered in a different zone of Beirut. As reported by the Daily Star of Lebanon GBL’s handsome, International-style edifice was demolished some years ago to build luxury flats.**

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

Note: this series continues with Part II.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Touring a Brewery in the Holy Land, 1944

Introduction

This post will introduce a multi-part series on beer and brewing in the British Mandate of Palestine (1923-1948). For an overview of the series, see this post.

Wartime Palestine Brewery Tour 

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 not excluded of course. Journalists have never lacked on these treks, from (undoubted!) personal interest, or for an offbeat assignment.

In such annals we must include a British journalist’s tour of the Palestine Brewery in Rishon LeZion, Mandate Palestine, in 1944.

“Wayfarer in Uniform”

The account appeared on March 27, 1944 in the column “Wayfarer in Uniform”, a regular feature in the Palestine Post in 1943-44. The article may be viewed here.

“Wayfarer” himself is uncredited. Those of his articles I was able to review suggest he was a British soldier in the enlisted ranks. He referred in one story to “my sergeant”, and in others to officers, or different aspects of service life.

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

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

He was clearly of English background, as London and other parts of England are often mentioned. A calm and equable tone informs the writing, a trait of British journalism then, as I’ve discussed earlier.

Similar “soft” columns appeared in other parts of the world then, a genre that offered a balm or distraction from wartime life. The American entertainer Bob Hope wrote such a column in the same period, albeit rather less literate than Wayfarer’s. I mentioned it in this post, in connection with beer in Burma.

The Palestine Post

The history of the Palestine Post is summarized on the website of the National Library of Israel.* The newspaper, published in Jerusalem, was read by British Mandate officialdom, local Jews and Arabs, Christians on pilgrimage, and foreign visitors.

While not expressly mentioned, British Forces in Palestine, as well as the Palestine Police Force, also comprised the readership.

The Brewery 

As noted, the brewery was in Rishon LeZion, a few miles south of Tel Aviv near the coast. The two images below show the brewery as it was in 1939. Wayfarer’s description of the tour is mainly notable for its humour, and also how a functioning brewery struck someone of artistic temperament.

 

 

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

Wayfarer quite liked beer, to the point, says he, that he tried a social outing in Britain once without it, but still it didn’t end well. Read the account to see why.

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

An article in 1935 in the trade journal The American Brewer recorded that the Milwaukee manufacturer Dostal & Lowey** shipped bottle washing equipment to various customers including one in “Palestine”. It seems likely Palestine Brewing Ltd. was the purchaser.

A 2017 story in the Atlanta Jewish Times by Rich Walter conveys additional detail on 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 Mandatory government assisted the venture by lowering the excise on beer from 20 mils/L to eight mils/L. (There were 1000 mils per Palestinian pound).

A 1934 article in the Palestine Post confirms the excise accommodation. By 1936 the rate was seven mils/L, but a story that year noted the market remained challenging. Indeed the brewery was earning only one mil/L on the beer sold, but based on the volumes shipped it was enough to ensure a profit. Beer imports to Palestine declined as a result of this local production.

 

 

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 eagle design still appears on the Nesher label of Tempo Industries Ltd., the successor (from 1985) to Palestine Brewery Ltd. Tempo Industries is better known today for its Gold Star and Maccabee brands.

By WW II Palestine Brewery was also brewing English-style beer. In fact, by 1943 60% of production was sold to the British Army, as reported in the Palestine Post that year.

A pilsener, i.e., the Bohemian type mentioned, a Munich, or dark lager, and malt beer, probably the German malz type or Schankbier, completed the range.

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

Initially, the malt and certainly all hops used were imported. A story on May 25, 1936 stated the brewery intended to build a plant to malt barley. I have not been able to confirm if this occurred.

In the Comments below see the further sources linked which identify the various brands marketed by Palestine Brewery in the early 1940s.

Future Posts 

In further posts I will discuss further aspects of beer and brewing in Mandatory Palestine. Topics will cover the imported beer market and second and third breweries established in the 1930s and early ’40s.

An active craft brewery scene exists in Israel today. As I haven’t visited (as yet) to investigate the beers and others have chronicled this area, I’ll leave this aside. The same for Taybeh in the West Bank, a pioneering craft brewery in the region.

Note: Series continues, 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.

*The National Library of Israel (NLI) website states the Jewish press archive is an initiative of NLI and Tel Aviv University, and the Palestine Post appears courtesy the Jerusalem Post and Professor Ronald Zweig.

**Still going strong.

 

Vive Brador!

A Liquor for what Ales You

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

The company is a jointly-owned – Canadian-American – business, publicly traded in both countries. Canadians and Americans are on the board including Geoffrey Molson. Reports in 2005 indicated the Coors and Molson families each has 1/3rd voting control. Effectively this is joint control of the business.

The head office is in Chicago now, but with breweries in five Canadian provinces and thousands employed here, the Canadian branch is still sizeable. Molson is the oldest continuing brewer in North America.

Before the craft beer era Brador was one of the few brands in Canada or the U.S. with cachet. It was first released in 1972, according to a report prepared for the 1975 Inquiry on Corporate Concentration. But it actually came out in 1971, according information discussed below.

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

I remember it differently in its prime, meaning 1970s-1980s. I drank it on occasion but it was a strong beer, 6.2% abv (6% in the last years) and I preferred the standard, 5% beer.

The taste was good, although not impactful like a British pale ale or a Munich lager. Beer writer Michael Jackson thought well of it in his 1982 The Pocket Guide to Beer, describing it as a top-fermenting ale even if the label read “malt liquor”.

Canadian beer writer Steve Beaumont, in his 1994 Great Canadian Beer Guide, made these 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.

This is how I remember the taste. I never knew the beer when the label did not state “malt liquor”, but I did recall lore that Brador “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 this.

Consider this Brador ad (p. 18) from October 1971 in Le Nouvelliste in Quebec.The label states “Bière/Ale”. There is no reference to malt liquor.

 

 

But check any vintage label online, say at Ebay, they say “Bière/Malt Liquor”. This must be because almost no examples survive of the original label, which I believe was changed in 1972.

The reason for that had to be new federal law that same year, as explained in this story (Poland at p. 3, or Treize) in another Quebec newspaper, in December 1971. The strength, 6.2% abv, was in a 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.

 

 

(There may be an error, viz. the French terms given for “beer” and “ale”. And where is lager? But the part about malt liquor is clear enough).

Brador surely had nothing to do with American malt liquor, the high-dextrose, low-hopped, high-ABV style sold since the 1960s (at least). Colt 45 is well-known, or Olde English 800.

But after Brador’s label was changed to read malt liquor, some people thought its recipe had changed. That is unlikely. I’ve found no evidence of any such change at least up to about 1990. The alcohol did finally drop from 6.2% to 6% abv. Maybe that didn’t mean anything, or maybe by then Brador was just a stronger Molson Export Ale, or Molson Stock Ale.

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

He listed many names I had forgot, like Kébec, Rallye, Ti-Bec, Cervoise. He included Brador among the success stories, stating brewers are never quite certain why a brand might take off.

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

Brador had an odd name, as noted by Jackson – he said it was a contraction for Brassée d’Or.* It’s that marketing-oriented seemingly, but the extra jolt of alcohol probably ensured its success. The advertising was good, too. Examples can be seen on YouTube.

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

The analyst understood the industry, 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 ward off competitors, or retain customers who might otherwise stray.

Consumption of beer, it was noted, had fallen per capita since the 1960s, due mostly to the increase in wine drinking.

It has been similar ever since, with craft beer a partial exception, as it took market share from mass-marketed, declining brands that once shifted lots of money.

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 Pale Ale, say. No one in brewery factories, then, had that kind of ken to intuit craft beer’s importance, or if they did they were silenced in meetings.

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

If you do though, Molson, 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 formerly offered only in the tavern.

Further in the same issue is an article describing the success anticipated for the 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 practices 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.

………

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