Monday, 1 May 2017

Legally defining Milk Stout

I'm surprised at just how much handy documentation there is on the early days of Milk Stout. It must be one of best-recorded beer style birth.

In case you've forgotten, Mackeson took out patents on Milk Stout. They then sold licences to other brewers to brew Milk Stout. A condition of the licence was that a considerable percentage of lactose must be included in the beer.

Milk Stout was a big hit. First releasd by Mackeson in 1909, in less than three years it had acquires not only fans and licensees, but also non-licensed competitors. Obviously Mackeson was going to protect its intellectual property. So they took to the courts.

Tower Bridge Police Court Thursday, before Mr. Rose. the hearing was continued of the case in which Messrs. R. and H. Jenner and Sons, brewers, of Southwark Bridge-road were summonsed under the Merchandise Marks Act for selling eighteen bottles of stout bearing a false trade description, for applying the false trade description and for causing the false trade description to be applied. There were similar summonses against the three partners of the firm. The nominal complainant was Charles Herbert Hart, clerk to Messrs. Radford and Franklin, solicitors to Mackeson and Co., Ltd., brewers, of Hythe.

Mr. Arthur Colefax appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Kerby defended.

When the case was previously before the Magistrate on Thursday of last week - Mr. Colefax said that the bottles of stout bore labels, “Milk stout - full-bodied, soft-flavoured, easily digested stout, containg a large proportion of nutritive matter, very highly recommended for its food value." The term “milk stout" first came into use about two and a half years ago, he sad, when Messrs. Mackeson obtained letters patent for inventions which covered the manufacture of an article they called milk stout, which consisted of stout and an addition of sugar from milk. This sugar, known as lactose, was a characteristic constituent of milk, and the licenses which had been granted contained a covenant that the holders should put this particular sugar into the stout they sold as milk stout. A writ had been issued by Messrs. Mackeson and Co. against the defendants for an infringement of the letters patent, but the matter had been allowed to remain in abeyance because the analysis of the stout purchased failed to disclose the presence of lactose.
"Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 23 December 1911, page 5.

You can see that Mackeson's lawyer was trying to legally define Milk Stout as contained a certain amount of lactose. 

"Giving evidence last Thursday, Mr. Harry Brown, Secretary of the Walthamstow Liberal ami Radical Club, said that had ordered milk stout for consumption the members of that Club for about two years. He obtained it from the Highbury Brewery Company, and had circulated to the members a pamphlet (produced) issued by that Company. From that pamphlet, he was given to understand that it contained

From the term "milk stout" he inderstood something very different from ordinary stout. He understood that it was brewed milk sugar, and as far as he was concerned individually, and jugging from the opinion of the memmbers of the Club who bad drunk it during the pant two years he thought that it was much superior and better than any they had had before. He himself had taken it frequently, and had found that it was particularly good with regard to digestion. At the Club it had, to a large extent, taken the place of ordinary stout, although a small bottle cost 2d., whilst a bottle of ordinary stout, containing about double the quantity, cost only a  halfpennv more.

Cross-examined, witness said he did not know of any milk stout except Highbury milk stout. To him the name "milk chocolate" given to a certain kind of chocolate conveyed the idea that it was asuperios kind of chocolate. He had had no inducement to circulate the pamphlet at the Club.

Mr. Ferdinand Traxler, wholesale newsagent, 3. Camden-road, Tunbridge Wells, said he had drunk milk stout, which was brewed Hythe. for two years and thought it was different from ordinary stout, because it contained some extract of milk."
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 23 December 1911, page 5.

Milk Stout was sold at a premium price, considerably more than "ordinary" Stout. Which is why Mackeson would be so keen on defending its definition. They didn't want its value being eroded by cheap imitations.

Next time we'll learn that it wasn't just Mackeson, but also their licensees that wanted to keep Milk Stout special.


Anonymous said...

I often brew Mackeson milk stout clones from Rons lets brew listings. Am i at risk of legal action?

Anonymous said...

It's always interesting to me to read the phrase "easily digested" in reference to Milk Stout, because I've known a number of people here in the US who would fully disagree. I get the sense that the numbers in the UK are higher these days too wih a more diverse population.