Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Beers exhibited in 1879

I'm returning to that article on the Brewing Exhibition of 1879. Because, in addition to foreign Lagers, some local beers were also described.

Though first, fitting in nicely with current trends, some non-alcoholic drinks.

"Messrs. Cantrell & Cochrane, through their London agents. Messrs. Findlater, Mackie, Todd & Co., exhibited a large variety of their carefully-prepared mineral waters. The Aromatic Ginger ale made by this firm is an agreeable beverage, and far in advance of the many non-intoxicating drinks now offered to the public."
The Brewers' Guardian, October 14th 1879, page 340.

Now on with beers.

"Messrs. BEER & Co., of Canterbury, sent specimens of light dinner ale and India pale ale. Some very fine old Imperial Ale brewed by this firm was deservedly praised by all who tasted it.

Messrs. GORDON & Co., brewers, of Caledonian-road and Peckham, had in our opinion the best assortment of beers in the Exhibition; their extensive stand contained numbers of casks piled up one above the other, and representing some dozen different kinds of beer brewed by this firm. Their XX at 1s. a gallon is a splendid glass of beer, and so is their KKK or India pale ale at 1s. 4d. a gallon; but as a marvel of cheapness combined with quality, we commend their K or Tonic Bitter Ale at 10d. a gallon. This last-named fulfils all the requirements of those who have raised a cry for a cheaper and lighter beer."
The Brewers' Guardian, October 14th 1879, page 340.

Beer & Co. I've heard of. Hang on, no I haven't I was thinking of Beer & Rigden, also of Canterbury. This is a totally unrelated brewery, which seems to have fizzled out in the 1890s.

Gordon & Co. are nicely messing up my interpretation of alphabet soup. KKK as IPA? Not sure I've seen that one before. At least they seem to have been consistent, using a single K for their weakest Pale Ale.

"Messrs. Herbert Wright & Co., of Dover, contributed samples of their productions. This firm has previously exhibited at London, in 1873, Philadelphia in 1876, and Paris last year, and on every occasion has been awarded a medal. Their light bitter and extra stout were remarkably good, but the finest beer was a cask of splendid old XXXX, which we unhesitatingly pronounce as the best in the Exhibition.

Messrs. Santer & Collingwood, of Caledonian Road, sent some capital samples of ale and porter.

Messrs. T. P. Griffin & Co., of Philpot Lane, who we believe are not brewers, exhibited samples of sparkling pale ale, which was in beautiful condition, and specially adapted for use in hot climates, where it comes in competition with the products of Germany and America.

Messrs. Jones, Lloyd & Co., of Mold, sent a cask of their light Welsh mild ale. This was a clean drinking beet, with an agreeable flavour of both malt and hops, and one of the best samples in the Hall.

Messrs. Pryor & Co., of Hatfield, exhibited some excellent samples of pale ale, stout, porter, &c."
The Brewers' Guardian, October 14th 1879, page 341.

None of the brewers mentioned were exactly big names. It seems they had declined to attend:

"many well-known firms, who from various reasons have taken no part in this year’s show, have signified their intention of bring represented at the next one."
The Brewers' Guardian, October 14th 1879, page 340.

You'll note that there are quite a number of Light Bitters. These were very much on the up in the 1870s. And, considering it was the most popular type of beer, there are very few mentions of Mild Ale. Just one XX and one Welsh Mild Ale. 

The beers exhibited I think tells us something about what brewers wanted to push. So mostly lighter Pale Ales and strong beers like Old Ale or Stout. Very little marketing effort seems to have been put into Mild Ale.

That Sparkling Pale Ale from Griffin & Co. sounds like one of the UK beers which appeared when Lager beer started turning up in Far Eastern markets. They didn't fare particularly well, and Lager eventually pushed out Pale Ale entirely. 

It's amazingly rare to find any sort of discussion of a brewer's products, even in a trade magazine. Making the above vignettes, however brief, of particular interest.


eavyumble said...

George Beer & Co merged with w.e. & J. Rigden in 1922 to become Beer & Rigden.

Ron Pattinson said...


Beer & Co was a different brewery to George Beer & Co. Both located in Canterbury.

eavyumble said...

You are correct, Ron. Confusingly at that time there were 2 breweries operating in Canterbury with the name Beer. A.J. Beer & George Beer. Without an address or brewery name it`s impossible to tell which they mean here.