Montreal Blind Beer Tasting 1978

In 1978 Radio-Canada TV held a blind beer tasting of 18 brands then manufactured in Quebec. You can see the brands pictured at the start of this archival clip (first clip in the group).

This is all in the French language.

The announcer drew attention to a beer newly placed on the market, La Cervoise, but did not identify the others.

The image is fairly clear though.

I have them as, from left to right, Labatt Blue, Labatt Porter, Heidelberg, Dow Kingsbeer, Molson Porter, La Cervoise, Laurentide Ale, Brador Malt Liquor, Carling Black Label (lager), Dow Ale, Labatt 50 Ale, Molson Export Ale, Carlsberg (lager), O’Keefe Ale, Molson Golden Ale, Guinness Stout, Champlain Porter, and Molson Canadian (lager).



The tasters, a diverse group of young men and women, couldn’t pick their favourites for the most part. My oral French especially in an informal setting like this isn’t what it should be, but this seemed clear.

From the video, it seems no stout or porter was served for obvious reasons, but also few drank these styles in Canada by then.

Clearly, mass market beers – and there were no others except a few imports with a negligible market – were quite uniform in taste. It confirms what many have said of the period.

Would I have done better? I think so. I attended similar tastings among friends where I got most of the tastes. The beers were actually not “the same”, but unless one knew what to look for, results as seen here were typical.

The industry of course knew this and relied largely on advertising to distinguish the products. It was the same in the United States. And many other places.




New Writing: Malaya Beer History

I’m pleased to announce that my newest paper,An Outline on Beers and Brewing in British Malaya: 1827-1957. Part I has just been published, in issue #184 of Brewery History.

It runs some 12,000 words, and should interest many in beer circles and perhaps beyond. Part I covers 1827 until 1939.

The second part, to appear later, will cover 1940-1957. A précis follows below for Part I.



(Image above: Weld Quay, George Town, Penang, 1910).

After providing historical and demographic background, I examine:

– The propensity for beer of the main communities in Malaya (today Malaysia and Republic of Singapore).

– The kaleidoscope of brands imported, from Britain, Europe, elsewhere.

– The establishment of two breweries in Singapore in the early 1930s.

– Characteristics of their brewing (for Tiger, etc.), and advertising strategies.

– Typical resorts for beer including the famed Raffles Hotel just prior to the cataclysmic invasion by Imperial Japan.

I deconstruct as well the little-known Bass Purple Triangle Ale, a Bass export bottling promoted with verve in 1920s Malaya.

The provision of beer by the N.A.A.F.I., caterer to H.M. Forces, is also reviewed. An interesting angle emerges viz. the Royal Air Force.

Some rather compelling social and cultural history is imparted apart the facts and figures, you may agree.

The journal Brewery History is print-only for three years from publication. To subscribe, follow this link.

Note re image:  Above image, indicated as in public domain, was sourced from the Wikipedia entry “History of Penang”, here.


Beer Reviews

With my current journal writing and book reviewing, I have little time to blog. There is also a conference I’m preparing for in May.

But I’ll do the odd one, read on for some disparate product reviews.

I mentioned some on Twitter but will offer a different twist, or to emphasize another point. I’ll keep the historical and business background to a minimum.

Beck’s Bier

The famous brew of Bremen, Germany, still an import in Canada. A recent can had the best taste I recall for years: well-matured, clean, but still “German pils”, as the brand always was (I discussed this in an earlier blogpost).




The Italian import. As compared say to a Beck’s, or Heineken (the parent company), not in the same league, IMO. The taste of adjunct – a grain to supplement the barley malt – seemed evident, I’d think maize or some derivative. The light and snappy taste would suit many foods, though.

Crank Lite Lager

Saw some press recently and checked around, it’s a contract brew, marketed by two young business grads in London, Ontario. The  website indicates the beer is low-cal and low carb, and intended for a 20s demographic.



It’s very light, with some corn content, but well-made. Likely designed for those familiar with hard seltzer, vodka and soda, the light mass-market beers, that kind of market. The finish notably has a refreshing taste. It has its place. We wish the promoters well.

Weatherhead Pilsener

From Perth in eastern Ontario, a top-quality beer. Full-flavoured, good body, pronounced bitterness, German-styled but still accessible for a general craft audience. Reminded me of the Frisian Jever to a degree, recent tastings of which confirm its own top quality.

St-Feuillien Cuvee Noel

9% abv. Mild-flavoured but good natural beer taste. Does not feature the full-on Belgian yeast signature of phenols and clove which is fine by me. I drank half and mixed half with a craft porter for a superb beer blend.

Whitewater Midnight Stout 

Also from eastern Ontario, a tangy oatmeal stout with lactose. Excellent cocoa-like flavours, good extract, perfectly balanced.













Lager: Success Story in Metropole and 1950s Iraq (Part II)

In my Part I, I noted that hard data proved elusive to substantiate my tentative conclusion that lager trumped ale and stout in popularity in 1950s Iraq.

It was not for want of looking, but lack of access currently to a real library makes it harder to find data.

Nonetheless, I did find a couple of interesting statistics, and may add to it here if more can be found. The (1953) Iraq: Economic and Commercial Conditions, a publication of H.M. Stationary office, stated that a brewery of British design went into production in August 1948. Further, in 1950-1951 it produced 2,200 thousand L (or 2,200,000 L).

I calculate that this produces 13,443 bbl (Imp). This brewery was of course The Iraq Brewery as I explained earlier. Its output at the time was ale and stout only, as lager was not produced until 1962.

The Annual Statement of Trade of the United Kingdom for 1951 states that the U.K. exported to Iraq in 1951 3,763 bulk barrels of beer. Of course this did not include Ireland, and we know Guinness was shipping stout to Iraq, as seen earlier.

Still, even with Ireland, the total from the British Isles probably did not exceed 5,000 bulk barrels. Interestingly, a bulk barrel is not an Imperial barrel. The term is a freight term, and denotes five cubic feet.

The Imperial barrelage sent to Iraq by the U.K. equates to a lower figure by my conversion, 3,255 bbl Imperial. Again, even with Irish stout nothing that would approximate local production.

Part of that U.K. export figure, unlike for Ireland, was lager, perhaps the majority but we don’t know the percentage.

We don’t know of course either how much beer came in from Europe. We have seen that European lager was increasingly available through the 1950s. Belgian Pilsor, from Lamot, was imported as early as 1948 and a Dutch lager, Antelope, in 1949.

If European lager imports equalled in 1951 the U.K./Irish exports, perhaps the total was 10,000 bbl (Imp). That is still under the domestic production represented by The Iraq Brewery.

I believe the tide must have turned later in lager’s favour. First, we have seen that the second brewery to start production in Iraq, The Eastern Brewery, debuted its Ferida lager in 1956.

That beer was heavily advertised (it is still made).* Eastern Brewery probably did at least as well if not better than The Iraq Brewery by the time of the July 1958 Revolution. Further, we have seen how numerous Dutch, German, and UK lagers were imported through the 1950s with ale and stout seemingly in decline, or so I judged by the tenor of adverts in the expatriate press.

On top of this, as I documented earlier, an emigre Iraqi brewer discussed brewery history with an Irish Times journalist in 2006. He stated The Iraq Brewery’s stout did poorly and this caused the brewery to make lager, which it first released (by my verification) in 1962.**

The brewer did not say “ale” but I suspect ale was not going great guns either by the later 1950s. If anything, lager is the putative replacement for ale, not stout.

Additional data, of course, might prove me wrong in some of these suppositions. Based, however, also on my earlier work examining beer markets in other parts of the world where Britain had a presence, I would think lager had the majority of the Iraq market by the late 1950s.

True, by then imports were banned so it was two domestic companies sharing the market, a new set of circumstances. But still, I think it likely The Eastern Brewery was outpacing The Iraq Brewery, hence presumably why the latter decided to make a lager.

The departure of almost all British military personnel in the country by the mid-1950s likely also boosted the fortunes of lager. Britons, especially H.M. Forces, were good consumers of the traditional ale and stout. Once they left…***

The fact that Amstel of Holland arranged licensed production with The Eastern Brewery in 1962, for lager of course, seems to validate all this. Amstel, not Bass or Guinness, did that.

However one looks at it, it seems fair to conclude that as Iraq acceded to full independence in the late 1950s, not just constitutionally but de facto, lager beer achieved critical mass both there and in erstwhile metropole.

It would take longer to capture a majority of the U.K. market than in former colonies and demesnes, but Sally Vincent’s sparkling feature of 1960 foretold the future.


*The beer is currently styled Farida in English, see website.

**Taken literally it may seem the brewery started with stout. My study suggests Diana Ale (or Diana Beer) came first. Diana Stout followed a couple of years later.

***The last Forces departed from RAF Habbaniya in 1959. See in Military Wiki.