Sunday, 26 June 2016

Things going well at J.W. Green

The early years of the 1950’s were good for J.W. Green. The company was expanding through acquisitions and it was starting to build up some widely-known bottled beer brands. All under the enthusiastic leadership of Bernard Dixon, one of the figures who, like Eddie Taylor, woke the British brewing industry from its lethargic slumber.

That their sales were increasing at a time when national beer sales were falling, was a measure of their success:

The Adjourned Fifty-sixth Annual General Meeting of J. W. Green Limited was held Luton on the 26th January, 1954. Mr. Bernard Dixon, chairman, presided. The following are points from his Statement:

Whereas during the winter months of the year under review had weather conditions hampered trade to some extent. I am pleased to report that this was largely rectified by improved sales during the second half of the year, which finished on a strong note. Last year, in common with many other Breweries, found that the steady increase which had taken place in Bottled Beer sales was beginning to ease. During the year we have successfully launched a number of new brands of Bottled Beer which already have achieved considerable popularity and our Bottled Beer sales have regained impetus and are steadily increasing in volume.”
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

There was a boom in bottled beer sales after WW II. It looks as if the growth was starting to level off. We’ll be seeing later more details about those bottled brands.

The company was also investing, both in its pubs and its plant:

“Throughout the Group the expenditure on properties have been exceedingly heavy. This is inevitable in the early stages where new groups of properties have been brought in. There will, of course, be a gradual easing of this expenditure, and this should have a beneficial effect on future profits.

I am glad to report that we are now the end of our programme for the rehabilitation of the plant at the Luton Brewery, where every department is thoroughly up-to-date and should give the Company many years service.

It is anticipated that the by-products plant will be in operation the early part of the new year. Considerable delay has been experienced in obtaining the equipment for this department.

At our Sunderland Brewery we have practically completed a large well-equipped Bottling Store, which should be fully capable of handling our requirements in that area for some time to come.”
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

Those investments show that the company was looking to the future. Of course, the Luton Brewery didn’t last that much longer, being replaced at the end of the 1960’s by a brand new brewery just out of town. By then Whitbread were in control.

Now more about those bottled beer brands:

“During the year the Company brought into operation a fleet of articulated vehicles for the purpose of supplying some of our better-known brands such as "Brewmaster", "Dragon's Blood" and "Poacher" to wholesale customers and other Breweries in the Group. This move has been entirely successful, with the result that these brands are becoming popular over an ever-widening area of the country.“
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

It sounds as if they were supplying not just their own pubs and off-licences with these bottled beers, by independent customers, too. A sign they were serious about building up their brands.

And what were those three beers like? This:

JW Green bottled brands 1953 - 1962
Year Beer Style Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Dragon's Blood Old Ale 48 1073.4 1024.5 6.34 66.62% 4 + 40
1953 Dragon's Blood Old Ale 45 1073.6 1028.1 5.88 61.82% 56 B
1956 Brewmaster Ale Pale Ale 30 1045.8 1009.7 4.70 78.82% 18
1958 Brewmaster Export Beer Pale Ale 36 1045.4 1008 4.68 82.38% 16
1959 Brewmaster Pale Ale 34 1041.1 1009.2 4.14 77.62% 15
1960 Brewmaster Export Pale Ale 30 1047.4 1011 4.55 76.79% 17
1960 Brewmaster Pale Ale 30 1047.3 1011.15 4.70 76.43%
1962 Brewmaster Export PA Pale Ale 36 1046.6 1015.6 3.87 66.52% 18
1955 Poacher Ale Brown Ale 22 1034.9 1014.2 2.67 59.31% 115
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.

Dragon’s Blood was  pretty strong beer by early 1950’s standards. And Brewmaster a decent strength Pale Ale. But they weren’t cheap. To put the price into context, in 1953 a pint of draught Mild cost 14d, pint of Ordinary Bitter 17d and Best Bitter 20d.


Jeremy Drew said...

The name 'Dragon's Blood' was supposedly a nickname given to it by American aircrew during the war and the name stuck. Don't know if that's true, though.

J. Karanka said...

Any more info / recipes / labels for Dragons Blood?

LiamTheBrewer said...

When I started going to the pub at 15 I drank lager. By 16 had dropped it in favour of keg bitter like Tartan. By 17 I was drinking Flower's Best on cask, or Brewmaster in bottles if there was no cask.. I may be wrong but I think there were some German hops in Brewmaster. I suppose that would make it a bit like an inferior altbier. I loved it though, it seems to have disappeared even in Luton. Never got to try Dragon's Blood.

Ron Pattinson said...

J. Karanka,

no recipes, I'm afraid. Though, as they were bought by Whitbread, they must exist somewhere.

Sanks said...

Dragons Blood was an E&H Kelsey Brew, Kelsey's of Tunbridge Wells were taken over by JW Green in 1948, subsequently becoming Flowers in 1954... I have some beer labels from these times and a few newspapers clippings..

Unknown said...

I have 2 bottles (unopened) of the dragons blood ale. Wonder if they are worth anything?