Lagered ale – how old?
Few terms suggest “recent craft origins” to me as much as lagered ale. The type of beer is not new, of course. Top-fermented ale has been cold-stored, filtered, and pale since (at least) the early 1900s, acquiring names such as Diamond Ale, Sparkling Ale, and Export Ale.
Today’s Kolsch Bier, of Cologne, Germany, is a type of lagered ale. Beau Brewery in eastern Ontario makes an excellent lagered ale, called Lugtread.
I thought it likely the term, vs. beer type, emerged in the 1990s. In fact it is much older.
The Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank (HBKB) is a New Zealand public trust, dedicated to preserving history of its region. The HBKB website provides good detail on the history of what, in 1960, was still called Newbigin’s Brewery, in Hastings, NZ.
Dating from 1882, it was founded by George Ellis, and originally called Burton Brewery. Ellis sold it in 1893 to an employee, a Newcastle-on-Tyne emigrant named Edward Newbigin. He had come to the brewery with 21 years’ experience at Swan’s Brewery in Napier.
He later re-named Burton Brewery the Leopard Brewery, but it was also known with associated businesses as Newbigin’s. The Newbigin family owned it until 1957, when Malayan Breweries Ltd. of Singapore bought the business. After various ownership changes it ended as part of Dominion Breweries, now DB, owned by Heineken Asia Pacific.
The brewing plant was demolished some years ago, but numerous images on the HBKB website depict the brewery at different stages of its history.
Jim Newbigin, a descendant of Edward, gave a talk recorded and transcribed on the trust website. He discussed family history and some details of brewing when working at the brewery with his father.
The time is not stated, it was probably 1950s or 60s. Other details on brewing may be garnered from different parts of the HBKB website, which is an impressive document and resource for historians.*
Newbigin Lagered Ale
In this portion of the HBKB website appears a Newbigin Lagered Ale label, part of a group dating from different periods. (Click on the arrow three turns to see it).
It is hard to say exactly when the label was printed, as in this case the label does not bear a company name. It is seemingly before World War II, maybe 1930s, but could be later.
The brewery carried a lagered ale in 1960, as this brewery price list clearly shows. The brewery also listed an Export Ale that presumably differed from the Lagered Ale, unless they were the same beer.
Waikato Lagered Ale
Another NZ brewery sold a lagered ale, Waikato Breweries in Hamilton, in 1950 (via Papers Past):
A nice explanation of “lagered ale” we get, too, rather craft, but 70 years ago. Hamilton is half-way diagonally down North island from Hastings. In 1961 Waikato was absorbed into New Zealand Breweries Ltd., later the Lion (see below).
Crown Lagered Ale
Another label bearing the term lagered ale was Crown Lagered Ale, a brand of New Zealand Breweries Ltd. based in Christchurch. See a label offered at eBay, apparently 1960s vintage. This may be a continuation of Waikato’s lagered ale, given the buy-out in 1961, unless Crowm Lagered Ale had an independent history.
The Crown Brewery in Christchurch was a key component of New Zealand Breweries Ltd., with origins stretching back to the 1850s. Perhaps it had its own lagered ale before or independent to the others, but I have not been able to document this.
NZBL was finally absorbed into what is now Lion NZ, the Kirin-owned brewing giant in the country (and Australia). The other major group in NZ is Heineken-owned DB Breweries.
Bouquets to New Zealand?
Did lagered ale, as branding term, first emerge in New Zealand? At least three brands there used the term. I cannot say for certain, but am not aware of any usage prior to these elsewhere.
From what I can determine, the term was not used in this way in Australian brewing.
I traced a later usage, still pre-craft, in Forbes magazine in 1979, to describe Molson Golden Ale. This usage had to originate with Molson, so the term apparently was known in Canadian brewing or at least to Molson. It did not appear on the Molson Golden label, or in associated advertising, to my knowledge.**
The term was in use “in the brewhouse” in some parts of international brewing years before craft. Brewmasters migrating from an industrial setting to craft perhaps brought the term, or technical consultants dealing with both sectors.
In terms of branding or advertising use, so far it seems this originated in New Zealand.
Note re image: sourced from the archival New Zealand newspaper site Papers Past, as linked in the post. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property in source belongs solely to lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.
*Jim Newbigin states molasses was added depending whether the beer was to be a lager or stout, and intimated (or as I read him) that the same beer sometimes bore different labels. These practices were common in international brewing of the time, including in Canada.
**I recently reviewed the history of Molson Golden Ale, here.