The Seventh Committee (Part II)

In Part I I discussed the Delegates Lounge at the New York headquarters of the United Nations, using a 1958 account to contrast with today’s Lounge.

Today, I’ll go back even further, to December 1952, when an article appeared in the New York Times by A.M. Rosenthal. Rosenthal was an award-winning, long-time journalist and senior editor at the NYT.

The Times published a number of pieces on the Lounge in the 1950s and 60s. All are good but Rosenthal’s is perhaps best, given, too, its early year of appearance.

His sharp depiction of scene and personalities is as good as being there, almost – maybe better because a top journalist notices things many will not.

He notes that while open only three months life at the Lounge had developed into a reliable pattern. Some nations congregated in specific areas. The Americans had “squatters’ rights” on two tan couches, for example.

Some delegates clustered near the Lounge entrance, so anyone wishing to talk to them had to “help them cluster”. Some patrons had a “broken-field” style, striding across the 60-yard length of the Lounge to meet others. We call that working the room, today.

Rosenthal wrote the Lounge nickname was “chicken-yard”, since “kernels of diplomatic information are strewn and picked up”. He pegs the nature of the place (1952) in a few words:

When the General Assembly is in session as it is now, that is where the delegates, main and otherwise, confer, read, write, drink, telephone, do some stage setting for diplomatic bargaining, trade shop news, and sometimes even lounge.

Surely that applies today, making allowance for the cell phone.

For drinks, Rosenthal mentioned the popular Scotch and soda, also mentioned in the 1958 coverage. Dutch gin, Danish beer (likely Carlsberg or Tuborg), French and Greek brandy, and orange juice were also stocked.

From then until now O.J. has been a staple at the U.N. – the sugar and vitamins must work a special energy in envoys and retinues.

One difference from now is, in the 50s the Lounge had a martini trade, before lunch. Its busiest time per Rosenthal again was after lunch for a an hour to so, but then delegates would leave for the meeting rooms and sessions.

(Today, the Lounge has a nightly scene and Friday is the busiest night).

Few design details were conveyed by Rosenthal, perhaps due to the plush but minimalist decor. He did note that “fan-backed Danish chairs”, “[faced] a sea of mud”. The U.N. Complex was not quite completed in late 1952.

But the main workings of the bar, as he limns it, seem pretty much to apply today in the Lounge.

That is probably true of most bars anywhere. Habits in a  place form early, shaped by the character of the clientele and management, and can long endure. New patrons constantly refresh the old but they follow the template of early days.

 

 

 

 

 

The Seventh Committee (Part I)

The North Lounge, New York City

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the United Nations before in this blog.

I deal here with beer, food, and spirits, their characteristics in time and space. Hence their make-up, taste, price, typical demographic, etc.

So how could this relate to an organization of world states, now almost 200 members? Its aim is to prevent conflict among States and foster goodwill, or at least co-existence, say through cultural exchanges. All to the good, but not directly affecting drink and food, or anything that seems close really.*

Yet I discuss the U.N. below because I learned it has a bar in New York, the North Delegates’ Lounge. It’s the watering hole and social centre of the U.N., reserved for delegates and their staff, the Secretariat staff, U.N.-accredited media, and their guests.

I’ve passed by the U.N. many times in New York. I’ve never been inside, and tended to gaze simply at the striking tall tower completed in 1952, the Secretariat. There is also the low, pavilion-like structure alongside, the General Assembly.

Between them further back though, facing the East River, is the Social and Economic Conference Centre of the U.N. On the second story on the north side is the Lounge. The Delegates Dining Hall, which is partly open to the public (in normal times), is on the fourth floor.

A few years ago the North Lounge underwent a significant remodelling and update. This article explains the background, by Jordan Kushins in Gizmodo (2013). A Dutch “dream team” was commissioned to do the design and renovation.

I think they did a nice job. The pastel scheme is effective, it reminds me of university conference rooms in the 1970s but updated with ‘all mod cons’. Maybe a retro look was intended.

The work was undertaken by The Netherlands at its expense, and on completion was presented to the U.N. – in effect to the world – as a gift of the Dutch people. It was a component of a larger revamp of the U.N. facilities in New York. Different countries assumed responsibility for different components of the work.

Below is how the North Lounge looked in 1952 (UN Photo, Walter Ethelbach).

 

 

Winston Aldworth, a New Zealand journalist, profiled the renovated bar and its “scene” a few years ago. Another profile appeared in a 2016 article by A.M. Brune in Atlas Obscura.

Aldworth mentions a few craft beers, and Brune mentions an ESB (extra-special bitter) from Rockaway Brewery in New York. Evidently the bar now offers a large selection of beer, wine, and other drinks. So far I haven’t succeeded in putting my hands on the full menu, but will keep trying.

The Lounge has a “Beer of the Month” program, which is all to the good. It chose Bira91 IPA from India a couple of years ago, as nicely reported at the NDTV site.

The North Lounge in 1958

Historical perspective is gained by reading a detailed, 1958 news story on the Lounge. It appeared, of all places, in the Iraq Times, but clearly originated elsewhere, probably in Britain.

The writer dubbed the Lounge “the world’s only unlicensed bar”.

A lot has changed in the drinks scene since 1958, but some things haven’t changed. Gin was popular among delegates then, not so much martinis – too strong, said the article – but G&T and other mixes. Gin is still popular today of course (more than ever), presumably at the North Lounge too.

Beer was a stand-by in 1958, and still is. Oddly, to my mind, Britain had no beer at the U.N. in 1958, 10 years after it began operations in New York.

Evidently the U.K. delegation was satisfied with gin, the then-popular whisky and soda, and other nations’ beer. One can detect British diffidence here for its beery heritage, matters have not improved since.

American diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge liked sherry. Russian diplomats at the time weren’t able to get Russian vodka in New York. American-made vodka was available but the Soviets rejected it as “Connecticut gin”. Now that one, I can’t figure out, I mean the Connecticut part.

The main tipple at the U.N. in 1958, the report states, was plain orange juice. In fact, O.J. is still a big draw there today as the more recent reports confirm.

Finally, the U.N. in New York has six working committees. There is no seventh, officially: the seventh is the name U.N. staffers give the North Lounge.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the United Nations website identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Our look at the Lounge continues, in Part II.

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*In contrast, the European Union, say, can and does influence food and drink policy. Legislation on appellations of origin is an example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Edwards Dishes on Steak and Kidney

Anne Edwards was a supremely successful columnist and author in the mid-20th century. She wrote mainly for Beaverbrook’s Daily Express but also other media.

The long-lived writer (1909-2005) had the magic touch for her chosen subjects: fashion, food, etiquette, celebrities, and youth advice, in the main.

Her Monday morning column was widely read by the nation. Some columns were reprinted far afield, including this 1956 example in the Iraq Times.

The article showcased a typical British dish, steak and kidney pie. In trademark crisp fashion she solicited the views of three chefs. She challenged them to cook their version for a compare and contrast.

She even included the recipes.

The modern-sounding piece, with its democratic spirit, presaged the cooking competitions and other food shows of today.

Good old steak and kidney pie. And the lesser-known pudding version. Most, surely, would rank them among the trad dishes of the British kitchen. Beth Watson of British Study Centre put steak and kidney in her top 10 listing a few years ago.

I like her other choices too, e.g. roast dinner, fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and full English breakfast.

I confess I’d never heard of Eton Mess, but it looks worthy.

Mr. Allouis, of a “theatrical restaurant” known for its steak and kidney pie, told Edwards beer was optional at best for the dish. I was pleased to read that, as it’s my own conclusion from years of experimentation and reading.

(Beer is great in many dishes, but different ones).

Anne Edwards diplomatically gave the palm to each version, and marvelled how different opinions and methods can all produce a fine dishe. True then as now.

The inclusion of steak and kidney pie in the British pantheon belies an interesting fact. The dish cannot be traced before the mid-19th century. Presumably it did exist in oral tradition, or in manuscripts for home use, but not published cookery works, to my awareness.

But that’s a different matter – of food history. Anne Edwards was writing for the here and now, to inform and entertain. The typical reader might ride the morning bus to Piccadilly, or take the tube.

Through the simple passage of time, her article is today very much a part of food history. One of those interesting inversions.

 

 

 

 

A Stout Supply of Beer

RAF Margil, 1948

In February 1948, a notice appeared in the Iraq Times announcing an auction at RAF Station Margil of “surplus NAAFI stores”. Next to it a notice advertised an auction at another base in the country, RAF Habbaniya.

Offerings included tens of thousands of empty beer bottles as well as office equipment and beds and other furnishings. The empties at Habbaniya amounted to some 200,000 bottles, at Margil, about 60,000.

RAF Margil, aka RAF Basra, in August 1948 advertised for auction beer itself, a seemingly large quantity. Once again large amounts of empty bottles were being sold, and other supplies.

A further auction at Margil the next year advertised a large amount of kitchen equipment, furnishings, and other items associated with canteen and base operations.

RAF Margil was just outside Basra, the port city in Iraq. It was not the main RAF base in Iraq. That was RAF Habbaniya, west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. RAF Shaibasome 12 miles from Basra, was next in size.

RAF Basra had a small airstrip and, from our study, operated as a maintenance and aircraft assembly unit during the Second World War. According to a listing of RAF stations, it ended operation in 1946.

It seems, though, some presence did continue after, see e.g. this news report, 1956.

In this period Iraq was a monarchy ruled by a Regent, as Faisal II had yet to attain majority.

On January 15, 1948 Britain and Iraq signed a new treaty that would transfer the existing air bases to Iraq. The treaty permitted Britain to re-assert defence rights including control of aerodromes, in certain instances. Due to popular protests, by the end of January the treaty was a dead letter.

(This Britannica discussion offers good background including how the air bases came to be, the monarchy, etc.).

It appears by 1948 Britain was downsizing its military presence regardless whether air bases would be immediately transferred.

They were finally turned over in the mid-Fifties when the 25-year term of an earlier, 1930 treaty expired. Despite this, British commercial presence continued in Baghdad and Basra into the 1960s and 1970s including an expatriate community.

The Beer, the NAAFIs

The August 1948 notice stated 2000 cartons (cases) of “Guinness stout” would be sold, each containing 24 pint bottles.

This seems rather high for a relatively small facility. Maybe some of the beer was originally meant, given the nearby Basra port, for transhipment elsewhere. Maybe too inventory built up by the end of WW II was now surplus.

The Guinness was almost certainly the strong Foreign Extra Stout, about 7.5% abv. See this 1954 ad in the Iraq Times picturing a bottle of “FES”. Continuity would suggest the NAAFI sold the same brand earlier.

48,000 pint bottles at that strength represented almost 100,000 standard units of drink. That’s about 300 drinks per day annualized if all had been intended originally for RAF Margil.

I don’t know how many personnel were stationed there, at what periods. Other drinks would have been available as well. It’s hard therefore to say what 2000 cases meant for supply management. Still, taking all with all, it seems a lot of beer!

It is probable The Iraq Brewery Co., newly established in the late 1940s as I discussed recently, bought the empties or some of them.  As to the full ones, I’d think liquor merchants, hotels, and clubs bought them, but details are elusive.

In a recent documentary on the air bases produced in part by a RAF Habbaniya veterans group, the three stations are shown on a map. Life is discussed in particular at Habbaniya. A recurring feature of the interviews is the extreme heat unaccustomed Britons were met with in those pre-air conditioning days.

I think that explains in part what what seems like a high beer consumption. The other part is the traditional beer-drinking culture of HM Forces, which I discussed earlier.

At 1:28 a plan of Habbaniya is shown that depicts a substantial facility. One can see the NAAFI canteen in the lower part of the plan. Margil was much smaller but evidently had a NAAFI canteen as well.

Stout in Early Modern Iraq

Guinness was certainly available in Iraq before WW II. Numerous ads can be found for it in the 1920s Baghdad English press. One example from 1922, in the Baghdad Times, lists Guinness with six or seven other beers. The others are all lagers and mostly or all German, but Asahi from Japan is also represented.

Asahi is today a potent force in the international beer business, and we see here an early example of its prowess.

(And these were by no means the only imported beers in Iraq at that time. There were at least a dozen others. I may return to this later).

Finally, as we saw above, Guinness was promoted in Iraq in the 1950s, quite outside a British Forces context that is.

While I’ve stressed how lager became the default international style well before World War II, Guinness is an outstanding example of success in the top-fermented category. I think being a very dark drink of unique palate helped it on that path.

Just as Heineken became pre-eminent internationally in lager (IMO), so did Guinness, for stout.

Of course it had competitors – even in Iraq in 1948. This ad in Baghdad that year touted stout from Holland and Belgium, a Two Lions brand is mentioned. I am not sure who made that, maybe one of our learned readers can tell us.

And, as I showed in recent posts, The Iraq Brewery Co. introduced its Diana Stout in about 1950. That would have taken part of the market from Guinness, but not all clearly, as the 1954 ad picturing Guinness “FES” shows.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout Today

For a depiction of the current label and a bit of history (there is a lot more), see this page of Guinness’ website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windy City, non-Windy Beer (Part II)

I know some people read missives such as my Part I with a sigh, “yes Gary thank you, nicely done, but I want to see the place, almost stroll in”.

Your wish is my command.

Courtesy British Movietone, and YouTube, here is the Nag’s Head in Chicago, in 1956.

It’s under a minute in length, with no sound, but still offers good detail for brewing and social historians.

Those china hand pulls do look kind of decorative, vs. working. (If so, they probably were in Britain, too).

But see the barrel with a tap driven in the head, on a metal frame, with a cooling jacket? Certainly looks like draught beer.

Was it real ale though, unfiltered, unpasteurized British beer? Maybe they flew it over. Whitbread had the brass to do it. Non-windy beer there may have been.

Lots of dark-suited men holding half-pints, probably both British and Americans. The Britons would haverepresented Whitbread Brewery and the British travel association that organized the promotion. Consular staff would be present, too.

Probably the executive of the American travel agents association was there as well.

In fact, the dope sheet states the names of some persons present, clearly from these categories.

It looks like the inaugural party, to open the pub. The venue was Palmer House in Chicago.

We can see English publican Frederick Esgen, also in suit and tie, supervising behind the bar.

The women are formally dressed too. A few are having a beer, one in a fur stole accepts her beer with a flourish.

Bottled beer is poured, with some impressive-looking cheeses on offer. One is just readable, Cheshire. Cheddar would have been another. One would expect Stilton, too. No cheese seems to resemble it though, but it can be hard to tell with a newsreel like this.

(And maybe it was white Stilton, the type without the blue veining. This was quite popular at the time).

Looks like they had fun.

It reminds me of the first English pubs in Toronto I patronized in the business district circa 1980. And they were fun.

Windy City, Non-windy Beer (Part I)

British pub in the Second City

A news story originating in Britain in December 1956, reported:

A replica of an English pub will open in Chicago this month to show Americans the attractions of this characteristically British institution.

The great beer writer Michael Jackson (1942-2007) wrote in the 1970s that the pub was more than just English, yet not quite wholly British; this ambiguity is reflected in the statement above.

But this post is about the pub in America. The article describes how the landlords of a Streatham, Greater London pub, the Sussex Tavern, travelled to America to host a replica pub in Chicago.

The pub would operate in a hotel at a convention of American travel agents.

It was planned as an annual affair. The pub came festooned with authentic trappings sent from the old sod: china hand pumps and spigots (likely just for show though?), dart board, board games, pictures, horse brasses, beer mats, and more.

For beer, imported British brands were offered, probably bottled only although this is not clear.

Frederick and Kathleen Esgen, seen here pulling beers smilingly in Streatham, hosted at the replica pub. It was called, not Sussex Tavern but Nag’s Head, after a pub of that name near Hastings, Sussex.

The real Nag’s Head obligingly sent its own pub sign to adorn the Chicago simulacrum.

I’ll bet more travel agents than not got down a couple, two, three beers at the Nag’s Head each night. Dollars to donuts lots of stories were exchanged over the bar, not a few I’m sure viz. the Second World War, ended just 12 years before.

The account states the Esgens were to take a cross-country tour after the convention, appearing on radio and tv to promote British tourism and hospitality.

In a similar development, just before and after WW II the British pub appears as an exhibit at various trade fairs and expositions, American and Canadian. In Europe something similar occurred, the English pub at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair is a good example.

I described here how another replica went down a treat in Toronto the Good (?) even earlier, 1949.

These promotions were launched by careful organizational work. In a more complex consumer society, marketing the English pub naturally took more active cooperation with British-based interests.

For the Chicago replica, London-based Whitbread brewery played a large role. It owned the Mackeson and Fredrick Leney and Sons mentioned in the press account, as well. It was a Whitbread party, in other words.

Outside brewing the British Travel and Holidays Association participated as well.

Yet, the long-standing appreciation of the English hostelry in the public mind here cannot be discounted. One can promote to the nth degree, but if a receptive audience is lacking, success is less certain.

The Midwest is a mix of many ethnicities and social backgrounds. Still, there can be no doubt a receptive audience awaited opening of the Nag’s Head in Chicago.

The old English inn, the comfortable nook where darkish beer, oak, brass, and copper contrive to work a certain magic, is irresistable to the North American.* When enhanced by a soft south London accent, as in the Nag’s Head Chicago in 1956, the sundae had a cherry on top.

A Briton wouldn’t put it that way, but I can.

Part II follows with a film of the Nag’s Head in Chicago.

N.B. The Sussex Tavern was located at 668 High Street Streatham, a Whitbread house of course. Originally it was the Brass Farthing. The pub endured to about 2002. It became offices, and is now a restaurant. For details see here at What Pub.

The Nag’s Head, for its part, carries on in charming St. Leonards, Hastings, in seaside East Sussex. It is now an Admiral Taverns property. For details, see here.

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*Of course, too, the travel agents would have hailed from all over the United States, a factor surely in the decision how to feature the pub to Americans.

 

 

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.

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*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

From Britain to Baghdad

In Part I, I discussed the brewery on HMS Menestheus, a Blue Funnel cargo-passenger liner that was converted to minelaying use during WW II. In 1944-45 the ship was refitted by the Admiralty as an “amenities” ship in Vancouver, Canada. The brewery was installed as part of the re-fit.

Below, I discuss the ultimate destination of the brewery, which at first blush seems unlikely – Iraq.

Two Ships and Their Breweries

The HMS Agamemnon, also from the Blue Funnel Line and used for minesweeping earlier in the war, was refitted to similar purpose at about the same time, in Victoria across Vancouver Bay.

Each ship was to carry brewing capacity and various rest and recreation facilities for HM Forces. There was a cinema, shops, a stage for shows, and more. The intended theatre of operations was the Pacific, as the war with Japan was still ongoing.

Brewery fabrication was by a firm of brewery engineers in Bristol, U.K., George Adlam & Sons. Each brewery was meant to operate with malt extract and hop concentrate, vs. a full grain mash and leaf hops. This plan was adopted for practical and cost reasons. As I have discussed in other posts, interwar breweries on German passenger liners 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 1940s. Clarke developed the idea as a stop gap in Coopers, his bomb-damaged brewery in Southampton.

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

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

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

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

Specifically, “a lot” was sold to Calder’s meaning perhaps some but not all of the equipment.

Of the brewery intended for the Agamemnon neither Dye nor any other source to my knowledge has addressed this aspect. Maybe one was never fabricated, as Agamemnon’s refit was partial only and abandoned. But a brewery might have been readied for installation, and sold off with Menestheus’ plant as “surplus”.

John J. Calder

The beer historian Ron Pattinson wrote a sketch of Calder’s in a blogpost on October 27, 2011. He points out that Calder’s was absorbed by a larger firm in 1960 but for 40 years previous, had no brewery of its own: it had outsourced its needs to other breweries, that is.

It therefore makes sense that Calder’s wanted to buy a recently tested, relatively compact plant to make some beer itself. Nonetheless, no account I know of mentions Calder’s having done so.

I then considered what happened to that plant, and concluded it probably 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 that Al-Khedairi was the person named in the Irish Times as a pioneer of European brewing in Iraq, or perhaps his son.

Plant and Operations

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

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

He described a number of challenges that occurred when designing the brewery. One was, strong temperature variations in the country. It was addressed by having the “fermentation conducted under pressure according to a patented pressure fermentation system”.

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

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

Dye states this system was also used “in some other breweries abroad”, but does not state where. Iraq must have been one.

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

The Beers

In the 1950s-60s an English language newspaper, The Iraq Times, served the English-speaking community of Iraq. It carried adverts for beers of both The Iraq Brewery Co. and The Eastern Brewery Co., later known as Eastern Beer Company. Other English-language papers in the Mid-East also carried some advertising.

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

See e.g. this ad in 1950 for Diana Beer and Diana Stout from The Iraq Brewery Co. A 1954 ad shows a filled glass of black stout – a subliminal appeal to oil executives? 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 finally introduce lager, as the Irish Times reported. The launch was circa 1962, as this advert suggests.

In 1966 The Iraq Brewery advertised in the Baghdad News its Golden Lager, a second lager, Diana Ale, and Diana Stout. The last two had been introduced in 1948 and 1950 and were brewed into the 1960s.** They demonstrate an unusual instance of British-style (top-fermented) brewing outside the U.K., as by the mid-1900s lager was generalized almost everywhere except Britain.

Therefore, international lager was shadowing the surviving, old school ale and porter brewers, of which savvy Heineken (of The Netherlands) was avatar. Is it any surprise that Heineken was advertising prominently in the Iraq Times in 1955?

For its part, The Eastern Brewery brewed lager from the beginning in Iraq, its well-known Ferida brand.

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

This image at Worthpoint shows the label for Golden Lager c. 1975, after nationalization of the brewery.

Early Brewing Personnel

My research disclosed the names of some brewers at The Iraq Brewery Co. between 1946 and 1955. Three that 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 stated 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 in his article 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 today according to its website.

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*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. They 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 continued, 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.

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

 

Beer in Mandate Palestine Series – Summary/Index

Recently, I concluded a series on beer in the British Mandate of Palestine (1923-1948). Apart from the inherent interest of the subject, to my knowledge nothing earlier had been published in this area,* hence the writing fills a sizeable gap.

For a vue d’ensemble, these are the posts in order of appearance:

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

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

3. Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part II (the special connection 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 for army canteens and expatriates, 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)

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*My researches were limited to sources in English with some in French. Archival studies in Hebrew and Arabic might add more, certainly.