Thursday, 16 July 2015

Flying beer to Belgium

Here’s an interesting story from just after WW II about airlifting beer from Yorkshire to Belgium.

THE AIRLIFT to Europe has begun again from Yorkshire. But this time the load is not coal or flour—but beer!

Belgium's dock strike threatened to cut off imports of Tadcaster-brewed beer, so the brewery decided to fly direct to Antwerp from Sherburn airfield.

By to-morrow the equivalent 100,000 bottles special brew will have been flown by Halifax transport aircraft. After delivering, the plane brings back empties to Sherburn.

Week-end trips
The Halifax made three trips to Antwerp during the week-end, and took off again from Sherburn to-day with load of 36-gallon casks. It was due back to make a second run to-day.

With yesterday's load to Antwerp went the brewery’s bottling manager, Mr. A. J. Edwards, of Tadcaster. He will superintend unshipping at Antwerp airport until the "beer-lift" finishes.

A brewery director said to-day: We were forced to take this step retain our hold on a valuable export market We shall continue flying beer to Belgium as long as it is necessary."

A Customs and Excise officer is now at Sherburn for Customs formalities so that the aircraft can make a direct 90-minute run to Belgium.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Monday 28 August 1950, page 1.

It must have been a valuable market indeed for the brewery to go to the trouble of flying beer over. That can't have been cheap.

Any guesses at which brewery it might be? No, it’s not Sam Smiths. I don’t think they exported back then. Whereas I have evidence that the other Smith in Tadcaster was exporting to Belgium:

John Smith beers for Belgium 1950 - 1965
Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1960 Pale Ale (sold in Belgium) 1055.5 1013.7 5.22 75.32% 17
1965 Pale Ale (sold in Belgium) 1056.1 1011.8 5.54 78.97% 13
1950 Scotch Ale 1080.3 1025.6 7.11 68.12% 40 + 6.5
1950 Scotch Ale 1080.6 1025.6 7.15 68.24% 5.5 + 40
1952 Scotch Ale 1078.6 1024 7.10 69.47% 9.5 + 40
1954 Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium) 1072.6 1022.1 6.56 69.56% 95
1955 Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium) 1072.3 1022 6.54 69.57% 75
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

The Pale is an interesting one. It’s weaker and considerably paler than the Magnet Pale Ale they brewed for the domestic market.  I can understand why it would be stronger, but why so much paler? Presumably because that’s what the Belgian market demanded.

1 comment:

dyranian said...

At the end of the second world war John Smith's established a market for Magnet Ale in Belgium,shipping casks from Hull to Antwerp, bottling stores being established
in Belgium. The supply was jeopardised by a dock strike in 1950 and John Smith's for a period organised a 'Beer-Lift'. Two old Halifax bombers were converted to carry
seven-ton loads twice daily from an airfield near Tadcaster, the wooden casks being rolled straight from the tails of the diesel lorries into the bomb bays of the Halifaxes.
In 1970 the company was still sending to Belgium some 7000 barrels a year-by sea.
A Draught of Contentment 1970