Early Brewing Venture in Calcutta – Damp Squib? Part IV.

I did not anticipate a fourth part to this series, but found compelling additional information, in part by examining Far East newspapers, a resource a trick of memory triggered only recently.

Further, Martyn Cornell just sent in a very helpful note with details of the kind of brewing the Calcutta brewery did, especially the nature of its high-fermentation temperature yeast.

Below is what I learned earlier today using especially the British News Archive (paywall) and other sources from its lead.

A London-based concern, The British Beer Breweries Syndicate, Ltd. established brewing operations in both Singapore and Calcutta in the summer of 1908. The same press report for the Calcutta part (Madras Daily Mail, July 16, 1908) stated that due to a Licensing Committee Report issued in consequence of temperance campaigning, liquor shops in the city would be “reduced”, with hotels likely to follow.

This could not have assisted the prospects of this brewery, but in any case, by April 1910 the Calcutta subsidiary was in financial difficulty. The London parent company applied in the High Court of Judicature in Fort William, Bengal, to wind up the subsidiary due to debts unpaid.

Clearly, loan capital or other monies were advanced to build and operate the brewery but not repaid. Notice of the application, which you may read here, appeared in the Calcutta Gazette, May 4, 1910.

 

 

A supplement to the same Gazette, August 5, 1914 stated the company was liquidated on May 26, 1910, and dissolved (the corporate existence) on August 24, 1913.

The India press stories, by my searches, do not refer to the special fermentation system but in January 1908, a short item in The Brewers’ Journal stated The British Beer Breweries Syndicate had plans to license the “S.T. yeast” to brew across a swath of the Far East.

 

 

Clearly it was looking to raise more money for the expansion.

“S.T. yeast” and “concentrate” in the item, along with the “patent malt extract” in a Singapore press story, are explained further by Martyn’s information linked above.

It seems the Calcutta brewery survived under another guise. An April 27, 1912 item in the Burma Gazette deemed “foreign” (probably for duty purposes) beer imported to Burma, made at Calcutta by the “Bombay British Beer Brewing Company”.

 

 

I think it probable the assets of the Calcutta business on wind-up were acquired by another entity in the group, named as stated.* Martyn referred as well to a Madras affiliate, so clearly the parent syndicate continued operations in India in an altered form.

In Singapore, a similar affiliated brewery was established in the same period. The Singapore press in the summer of 1908 noted the brewery had opened, and carried ads for the beers into October 1908.

One ad stated that “British Beer Brewery”, at Selangor Street, Anson Rd., and from its stores in Orchard Road, could supply “Pilsen, Munchen, and Stout”. Price: $1.75 per 12 pints for the first two, and for the stout, $2.00.

The Singapore press mentioned, as the Indian papers, a price advantage for the beer. The manager of the Singapore brewery was William O’Connor, who received local dignitaries on opening, as occurred in Calcutta when that brewery opened.

A Singapore story stated the beer was “a light beer in every way suitable for this climate”.

I was not aware of this brewery when I wrote Part I of my study of beer and brewing in British Malaya, published last year in the journal Brewery History. As Part II is yet to appear, I will have the chance to fill the gap in that writing.

I suspect for various affiliates of The British Beer Breweries Syndicate Ltd. monies ran out before they could get on a successful, long-term footing. And Martyn has referred to quality issues, which could not have helped.**

Selected sources (apart as linked in text):

Madras Daily Mail, July 16, 1908.

The London and China Telegraph, August 31, 1908.

The Straits Times, August 1, 1908

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, August 6, 1908.

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, October 2, 1908.

*Or perhaps new investors, but the former seems more likely.

**As noted earlier above temperance measures, at least in some localities, may have played a role as well in dampening Syndicate prospects.

 

 

 

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