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 them at the start of this archival clip (the 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 shows what they were though.

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 group of young men and women, couldn’t pick their favourites for the most part.

It seems no stout or porter was served, for obvious reasons, but few drank these anyway in Canada by then.

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

Would I have done better? I think so. I attended similar tastings in that period, and got most of the tastes. The beers were actually not “the same”, but unless one knew what to look for, had training so to speak, results as seen here were the norm.

The industry knew this and relied largely on advertising to distinguish the products. It was the same in the United States. And many other places. Craft beer changed it, but it took quite a while.




New Writing on Malaya Beer History

My newest paper,An Outline on Beers and Brewing in British Malaya: 1827-1957. Part I has just appeared in issue #184 of the journal Brewery History.

Running some 12,000 words, the paper should interest many in beer circles and perhaps beyond. Part I deals with the period 1827 until 1939. The second part, to appear next year, will cover 1940-1957.


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

Part I, after outlining historical and demographic background, addresses:

  • the propensity for beer of the main communities in Malaya (today comprising Malaysia and Republic of Singapore)

  • the kaleidoscope of brands imported to Malaya from Britain, Europe, and elsewhere

  • the establishment of two breweries in Singapore in the early 1930s

  • characteristics of brewing for Tiger Beer and advertising strategies for Tiger and Anchor beers

  • the typical resorts for beer including the famed Raffles Hotel just ahead of the cataclysmic invasion by Japan

As well, I deconstruct the little-known Bass Purple Triangle, an export bottling given particular attention by Bass in 1920s Malaya. I also review the provision of beer by the N.A.A.F.I., caterer to H.M. Forces, with an interesting angle for the Royal Air Force.

Along with lists of beers and statistics on sources and types of beer consumed, some rather compelling socio-cultural history emerges.

Below is a sample advertisement for Bass Purple Triangle, in this case from the Australian press (Townsville Daily Bulletin, Queensland, April 28, 1924).



Brewery History is print-only for three years from publication. To subscribe, see information in this link.

Note re images: first image, indicated as public domain, was sourced from the Wikipedia entry, “History of Penang”, here. Second image was sourced from the Trove digital archive, as linked in the text. All intellectual property in each belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


Lager: Success in U.K. and 1950s Iraq (Part II)

In Part I, I stated that hard data proved elusive to substantiate a tentative conclusion that lager trumped ale and stout in popularity by the 1950s in Iraq. It was not for want of looking, but lack of access currently to a real library made it harder to find data.

Nonetheless I did finally identify some interesting statistics. The (1953) Iraq: Economic and Commercial Conditions, a publication of H.M. Stationary office, stated a brewery of British design went into production in August 1948. Further, that in 1950-1951 it produced 2,200 thousand L (or 2,200,000 L).

This equates to 13,443 bbl (Imp). The brewery of course was The Iraq Brewery as I mentioned earlier. Its output at the time was ale and stout only, as its first lager came only in 1962.

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

Still, even taking in Ireland the total sent 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, it could not have approximated or approached local production. As to type of beer, part of that U.K. export figure, unlike for Ireland, was lager, perhaps the majority but the percentage was not recorded.

We don’t know either how much beer came in from Europe. We have seen that European lager was increasingly available in the 1950s. Belgian Pilsor from Lamot was imported as early as 1948, just one example.

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

Still, the tide must have turned later in lager’s favour. The second brewery to start production in Iraq, The Eastern Brewery, debuted its Ferida lager in 1956 (and did not make ale or stout to my awareness).

Ferida was heavily advertised, and is still made.* Further, we have seen how numerous Dutch, German, and UK lagers were imported through the 1950s with ale and stout in decline, or so the tenor of adverts in the expatriate press suggests by my review.

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

The Iraqi brewer did not mention ale but I suspect that category was not going strong either by the late 1950s. Lager was the new game, one way or another.

True, by 1960 beer imports were banned so two domestic companies were sharing the market, but I think it likely The Eastern Brewery was outpacing The Iraq Brewery, hence presumably why the latter decided to introduce a lager.

The departure of most British military personnel in Iraq in this period also probably boosted the fortunes of lager. Many Britons, especially of H.M. Forces, still drank the traditional ale and stout. But once they left …***

The fact that Amstel of Holland arranged licensed production with The Eastern Brewery in 1962 seems to validate all this. Amstel, a lager, was produced, by a Dutch brewery. No British brewery ever sought to make an ale or stout by a parallel arrangement, as far as I know, or a lager but the latter was much less likely.

In international terms, lager prestige was attached to established Continental makers, not the British, who in time themselves largely turned to lager anyway. It would take longer for lager 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 the website.

**My study suggests The Iraq Brewery debuted with Diana Ale, aka Diana Beer. Diana Stout followed a couple of years later (early 1950s).

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