Tuesday 23 April 2024

Allied Breweries

Unlike the other large brewing groups, which had mostly coalesced around one large brewery, Allied was more like a merger of equals. Those parties being Tetley Walker, Ind Coope and Ansells, which joined together in 1961.  And, to some extent, they kept their regional identity. Other than Double Diamond and Skol, they didn’t really have national draught brands.

The grouping made a lot of sense. Tetley Walker was active mostly in the North, Ansells in the Midlands and Ind Coope in the South. Combined, they covered most of the country.

Allied didn’t go for a standard livery across the group, as most of the Big Six did. Well, not quite. The whole group had yellow signboards with brown lettering in a standard font. However, this was accompanied by the trademark of one of the constituent breweries

In the 1980s, this uniform look was dropped and the constituent breweries reverted to something like the livery they had before they grouped together.

In 1973, the group owned eight breweries, split amongst the three original companies. The relatively low number of breweries meant that Allied closed fewer breweries during the 1970s than most of the Big Six.

They also owned two breweries in Holland: Oranjeboom in Rotterdam and Drie Hoefijzers in Breda.

Let’s look at the three members of the group in detail.

Founded in 1857, Ansells grew to be one of the largest breweries in Birmingham.  In 1973, it operated two breweries in Birmingham: the original Ansells plant in Aston and the former Holts brewery. The latter had been acquired in 1934 and remained active until 1974.

In 1973, the brewery served 1,890 pubs. Which was less than a third of the 8,000 or so pubs controlled by Allied.

The Ansells brewery in Birmingham was the scene of much industrial unrest. Which led to its closure in 1981, with the Ansells beers being moved to other breweries in the group. Mainly the Ind Coope brewery in Burton.  Though the pubs retained their Ansells branding.

Ind Coope

Based in Romford, just outside London, Ind Coope moved into the big boy leagues in 1934 by merging with Allsopp. Whose brewery in Burton they continued to operate in the 1970s.

Two cask beers were brewed in the Romford plant, a Light Mild called KK (1031º) and Bitter (1037º). I can’t remember ever drinking either. Though I might have tried the Mild at a beer festival.

In the mid-1970s, Burton Ale, a cask version of Double Diamond, was introduced. Taken by CAMRA as a reassuring sign of a Big Six brewer taking cask seriously. Despite its confusing name. It being a Burton Pale Ale and not a Burton Ale. Which is a completely different style. At a gravity of 1047.5º, it was amongst the stronger Bitters brewed in the UK. And an excellent beer, when in good condition.

The only other cask beer from Burton was a fairly bland Bitter of 1037º.

Double Diamond, which had been a premium bottled Pale Ale, was first sold in keg form in 1962. It was a big success, becoming the best-selling keg beer in the UK. It was exclusively brewed in the Burton plant.

Tetley Walker
This arm of Allied operated two breweries, the former Walker plant in Warrington and Tetley in Leeds. Each serving one side of the Pennines.

In Yorkshire, Tetley was much better than most of the Big Six. They didn’t mess their pubs around and were happy for most of them to sell cask beer. It’s a brewery I had a lot of affection for. Obviously, it’s now closed.


The Tetley brewery West of the Pennines was a little schizophrenic. It brewed versions of the Leeds Mild and Bitter, but also Walkers Bitter, named after the original firm. They later also introduced a Walkers Mild.

Of the many breweries that once graced Alloa, in the 1970s just two remained: this and Maclay.

Formerly known as Arrols, this was one of handful of brewers making Lager between the wars. When Allsopp went bust just before WW I and John Calder was called in to sort the mess out, the extremely expensive Lager kit was moved from Burton to Alloa.

That kit was the reason this was the group’s principal source of Skol, their main Lager. A beer which had started life between the wars as an Arrol’s beer called Graham’s Golden Lager, with the name being changed to the more Germanic Skol in the 1950s.  

Wrexham Lager Brewery
It’s really strange that two of the six breweries producing Lager between the war, two ended up in the hands of Allied.

Wrexham was one of the specialist Lager breweries in the late 19th century. But, unlike most such breweries, it didn’t go bust after a few years.


Matt said...

The guy who wrote the history of Bass in Burton strongly disputes the idea that Burton Ale was a cask version of Double Diamond. I think he reckons that it stems from something that was said, or misunderstood, at the press conference to launch it.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Irish ale group in the 1950’s to 1960’s.

Chris Pickles said...

Ind Coope really worked the oracle with their 1037 bitter at the end of the 70's/start of the 80's. All of a sudden we had a string of new pub brands, each with it's own bitter. There was Benskins (Watford), Taylor Walker (East London), Friary Meux (Surrey), ABC (Aylesbury) and Halls (Oxford). NO doubt there were others, but all these 'new' beers were in fact the same old 1037 bitter that Ind Coope had been churning out for years. Perhaps they jiggled the colour a bit, or the dry hopping, but basically all these were the same beer.

Luckily it was a beer I liked.

Arrols also made a comeback as part of the same trend. IT became quite popular. As well as the basic 70/-, which was the old Ind Coope 1037 bitter yes again, they had an 80/- which had basically the same flavour but was a bit stronger, an excellent beer.

Tetley Walker had Walkers Warrington Ale which was splendid and a relatively recent innovation Leeds Tetley's had Imperial Bitter, sold only on Teesside which was also splendid, even if it was, at that time, keg/tank only. I wondered if these two were actually the same basic recipe.

Russell Gibbon said...

These days with all the success of Wrexham FC, there are Americans regularly making the trip over, to drink Wrexham Lager outside The Racecourse ground. While at University in Aberystwyth in the seventies I several times tried a Wrexham Lager. I concluded 100% that it was crap.

Russell Gibbon said...

Skol on the other hand I quite liked. I found it much more pleasing than the mainstream lagers that were being pumped at us at the time - Heineken, obviously, plus Stella Artois, Carlsberg and Carling Black Label. The only two lagers that I placed higher than Skol were Kronenbourg and Tuborg. Sadly, Tetleys Mild never made it to Wales, though I have long had plans to brew your recipe for it here!

Bribie G said...

In the 70s with the rise and rise of supermarkets selling beer, mostly in four packs of cans, I remember a very popular take home brew was Allied Breweries "Diamond Bitter" which was a pleasant dry and bitter ale. My dad and I would drink heaps of it and he called it "Single Diamond"!!

No mention here of Long Life, that was definitely a "national" brew and they refused to classify it as either a lager or a bitter, simply as "beer". I found it all the way from London to Wales to Newcastle. I wonder if it was all from Ind Coope or whether the regionals brewed and canned it as well.


Anonymous said...

Where do Oranjeboom and Lowenbrau sit in there Russell? I used to quite like both of those.

Russell Gibbon said...

My reply to anonymous . . . I was describing the lagers that were available to me as a university student in the late seventies and early eighties in Wales. Neither Oranjeboom or Lowenbrau were on the radar there and then.

Anonymous said...

I used to think Long Life's USP was that it wouldn't go off, like long life milk. I remember it being for sale but don't remember ever seeing anyone drink it

Anonymous said...

Maybe the recipe has changed.

Bribie G said...

Russell, in the Early 70s Bass brought out a strong lager on draught and in bottles called Lamot, from its Belgian subsidiary. I drank it in Cardiff where it was common in the Bass pubs (Welsh Brewers, Hancock's). Served from an ornate brass continental style font. Sadly it was fairly short lived, maybe it was cutting into their BUL Carling Black Lable sales or something.

It was in competition with Stella Artois at the time and was over 5% ABV and there was a bottled version that declared 6%. I remember that five pints would get you quite wobbly as opposed to the usual 4% or weaker stuff.

Chris Pickles said...

Bribie G

I went into a pub in Selkirk circa 1982 and there was a range of taps for various 'Diamond' beers. Diamond pale, Diamond scotch, Diamond bitter or whatever. The pub was a bit Spartan and my wife didn't like it, so we didn't stay. I never saw those diamond beers again.

Russell Gibbon said...

Thank you Bribie, that is interesting. I never encountered Lamot, it certainly didn¨t make it into my valley (the Ebbw) where Welsh Brewers and Whitbread ruled. Until I got to university in Aberystwyth in October 1977, the only "choices" for lager in my home village and those adjacent were Skol or Black Label. That´s it. And getting all the way to the capital, Cardiff(!) to find lagers was neither feasible or practical, at that age and state of affairs of my bank account.

Chris Pickles said...

Long Life's slogan was that it was 'specially brewed for the can'. It was darker than the average lager, paler than the average bitter.

In a situation where you needed some beer remote from a pub and didn't want to risk any broken bottles (an informal cricket match for instance) Long Life was as good as anything you were going to get. I actually quite liked it, it didn't have the horrible tinny taste that many cans of the era had.