Whitbread Tankard’s Literal 1930s Roots
This continues my series on beer in Mandate Palestine, which started here.
A 1938 article in the Palestine Post on domestic beer consumption in 1937 had it at 2,450,000 L, including imports to the general public of 730,000 L.
Palestine Brewery Ltd. produced 1,700,000 L of the demand. Sales to the army dropped significantly in 1937 over 1936, reflecting a drop in service personnel strength.
Still, H.M. Forces bought 100,000 L from Palestine Brewery Ltd. in 1937, and imported through N.A.A.F.I. 420,000 L. So that’s a lot of services beer, about a million shaker pints. During WW II demand increased again, particularly when British imports faltered due to war conditions.
It was met by a spur in local production. Australian imports helped as well, as this Australian press story showed.
As an example of how local beer was consumed, a 1940 dispatch in the Australian press by an A.I.F. sergeant gives the flavour. Some of the A.I.F. played a football match with a Maccabee (Jewish athletics) team, in Rishon LeZion. The sergeant notes in the understated style of the time:
Of the social aspect of the match the district paper said: “Local-style refreshments and produce were prominent and did much to lend cheer to the occasion.” Perhaps it should be explained that a large brewery is situated at Rishon.
Perhaps, Sergeant, yes.
While the tone of the article shows some apprehension pre-match whom they would meet and how it would go, the A.I.F. thoroughly enjoyed the encounter.
Whitbread Brewery was astute to develop friends among all the military complement, just as breweries have done immemorially.
An October 1940 report in Adelaide’s The Mail shows slouch-hatted A.I.F. men in London gazing at a chalkboard advertising a tour of Whitbread’s. Another picture shows the A.I.F. “at dusk” in headquarters in Palestine enjoying tall bottles of beer. This neatly bookends my account, doesn’t it?
Whitbread supported snooker in Palestine, and one of the ways, lo, was to offer winners a “Whitbread Tankard”. See this account in the Palestine Post, 1937 (“Whitbread Tankard Holder Beaten”). A group from the Palestine Police played a team of British civilians.
And so, as we saw in Part VI, Whitbread was selling at N.A.A.F.I. a draft beer that to all appearances was modern keg beer. Its 1936 advert, atypically for the time, actually stated the beer came from a “keg”. And Whitbread offered snooker champions a metal tankard as a prize, engraved with the company name.
For a handsome Whitbread Tankard that looks of the era, see this listing at Etsy.
Do you see some connection to Whitbread Tankard, a pioneering U.K. keg bitter first released in 1957? I do.
Nicholas Redman, who wrote up Whitbread history, stated in The Story of Whitbread PLC 1742-1990:
From the mid 1950s onwards bottled beer began to give way to draught beer, with a clear trend downwards emerging by 1959. At just the right moment Whitbread’s had launched, in 1957, Whitbread Tankard, the Company’s first entry into the field of container beer. Delivered in pressurised metal containers connected to a small cylinder of CO2 it was ideal for use where sales were irregular because it had a much longer shelf life than cask beer, was always in prime condition and needed no expert attention. The new beer was a great success. ‘Whitbread Tankard’, wrote Colonel Whitbread in 1961, ‘has astounded us by its popularity and progress’.
Redman states “first entry” but clearly the context is the domestic market. Also, he devotes little attention in the book to export markets in the 1930s, and the N.A.A.F.I. is not mentioned.
Whitbread actually trademarked “Whitbread Tankard” in February 1956, per this record.
Was the Whitbread draft beer served in the Palestine N.A.A.F.I.’s actually called Tankard? I don’t know. A 1939 Whitbread advert in the Palestine Post mentioned Pale Ale, London Stout, and Double Brown. No Tankard draft.
But it’s hard to know. That kind of ad was primarily for the general public. In the N.A.A.F.I. canteens things might have been different. Even so, the elements were there to coin a name 20 years later for domestic release. Ditto for the genre that emerged, keg beer.
Note: the series continues with Part VIII.