Thursday, 29 October 2015

Who was branding their beers in 1954? (part one)

I’ve been thinking more about branding. When did it really start? When did it become popular? What was its purpose?

I can identify two types of branding. The first is generic. Toby is a good example. A brand applied not to a specific beer, but to a whole range. This seems to have been the most common type early doors.  It’s still around today, for example Hyde’s Anvil Ales.

Branding individual beers, by giving them their own name, is the second type. Beers used to have generic names. Though these weren’t always the same inside and outside the brewery gates. X Ale/Mild is a good example. As is PA/Bitter or KK/Burton. Or be named by place of origin: London Porter, Edinburgh Ale, Dublin Porter.

Did I mention that I collect the details from 19th-century price lists? My spreadsheet has about 4,500 beers extracted from them.  The first named beer in the set is “Velvet” brewed in 1856  by Bircham & Sons of Reepham, Norfolk. But between then and 1890, I’ve very few examples. This is the full set:

Early branded beers
Year Brewery Town Beer
1856 Bircham & Sons Reepham, Norfolk Velvet
1875 Mew Langton Newport, IOW No. 1 Royal Osborne Ale (as supplied to her majesty)
1875 Mew Langton Newport, IOW Guinea Pale Ale
1881 Lewis & Ridley Leamington Gem Sparkling Dinner Ale
1888 Watkins & Son's Hereford Golden Sunlight Ale
1888 Watkins & Son's Hereford Sunflower India Pale Ale
1890 Nottigham Brewery Nottingham Golden Ray Ale
1890 Cook Brothers Colchester Jubilee Pale Ale
1892 Wm. Whitmarsh & Co. Sheffield Hallamshire Export quality
1892 Lucas, Blackwell & Arkwright Leamington Gem Light Sparkling Dinner Ale
1892 Daniell & Sons Colchester John Bull Bitter Ale
1893 Hull Brewery Hull Champagne Bitter
1893 Major Lucas & Co Northampton VA Victoria Ale
1897 William Stones Sheffield Samson Extra Strong
1897 William Stones Sheffield Sparkling Light Bitter Beer
1897 Ash & Co London Light Tonic Dinner Ale
1897 Ash & Co London Canterbury Ale
1897 Ash & Co London Gold Medal Ale
1898 Waltham Bros. London The Half Guinea Ale
1898 Mew Langton Newport, IOW O.P.A. Osborne Pale Ale (as supplied to Her Majesty's Household)
1902 Brook's Cubley Brook Brwry Sheffield Wearncliffe Extra Strong Mild
1907 Benskins Watford Primrose Ale
1908 Walker & Homfray Salford Comet Ale
1925 Barclay Perkins London Red Label Stout
1930 Richard Clarke Stockport BB Crystal PAle Ale
1930 Hull Brewery Hull Anchor Ale
1930 Benskins Watford Jubilee Ale
1930 Benskins Watford Colne Spring Ale
1931 Hammerton London V.C. Ale
Various brewery price lists

What’s interesting  - or perhaps rather, totally predictable – is that naming beers seems to start taking off around the same time as bottled beer, in the 1890’s. And indeed the majority of the beers in the table above were bottled. At a time when pump-clips didn’t exist, branding a draught beer wasn’t easy. Whereas with bottles, you had a colourful label to tempt drinkers.

Flipping forward to the fifties, let’s see who was a branding fan. 

Leading the pack by quite a distance is Flowers, with 16 branded beers. Not much of a shock, as I know Bernard Dixon, the man in charge at Flowers, was a big fan of naming beers. Here’s the set:

Flowers branded beers in 1954
Brewery Beer Type
Flower & Sons Green Label Bottled
Flower & Sons Original Bitter Draught
Flower & Sons Shakespeare Ale Bottled Beer
Flowers Breweries Anchor Brown Ale
Flowers Breweries Brewmaster Bottled
Flowers Breweries Little Imp Bottled
Flowers Breweries Sable Bottled
Flowers Breweries Green Ribbon Bottled
Flowers Breweries Kelly's Eye Bottled
Flowers Breweries Luton Light Ale
Flowers Breweries Lutorian Bottled
Flowers Breweries Old Gold Bottled
Flowers Breweries Poacher Bottled
Flowers Breweries Stingo Bottled
Flowers Breweries Dragon's Blood Old English Ale
Flowers Breweries Ravensburg Bottled
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

Not sure why they haven’t identified Poacher as the Brown Ale it was. Nor Sable as a Stout. Stingo, obviously, was a Strong Ale. And I’m pretty sure Lutorian should be Lutonian.

Fascinating that some are branded Flower & Sons and others Flowers Breweries. The former are beers from the original Flowers brewery in Stratford-upon-Avon, the latter from J.W. Green in Luton. Flower & Sons, despite being relatively modest in size, had built up a good reputation for some of their beers well outside their core area. Original Bitter, in particular, made inroads outside their tied estate. Doubtless the strong branding of Flowers was why the J.W. Green name was ditched, despite being the senior partner in the new firm.

More branding to come.


Matt said...

"Old Tom" as a brand name for a strong ale is interesting. My local brewery Robinson's claims to have named theirs after the brewery cat whose face the head brewer drew in the brewing log the first time they brewed it in 1899 but there are lots of other breweries which use that name and Thomas Hardy mentions it in a short story written more than a decade before. Similar to the theories about how AK got its name I suppose.

Alan said...

I've been looking at this a bit at an earlier stage. Branding seems to become a thing in say the1780s in the very general sense of associating a product firmly with a manufacturer as opposed to a geographical source and inherent quality. Not just Philadelphia porter but someone's Philadelphia porter. Then in the 1820s you start seeing qualities associated more than just the maker. Imperial or cream gets added to the labels or newspaper notices that are not just puffery but identifiers. Then starting in the mid-1800s you get technological words like "steam" referencing the fact there was a steam engine used at the brewery (or printing press). Finally you seem to get the sort of personification of each sort of product in the 1900s that you are noting.

Rob Sterowski said...

There’s Old Tom gin as well, of course – wonder if there is a connection?