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.




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