Legacy of Colonialism Includes Beer

Posted by sepoy on April 29, 2004 · 2 mins read

Gerry wrote on my dry erase board: "The legacy of colonialism includes beer," and left a huge bottle of Tiger Beer from Singapore. The statement has been staring me in the face and, today, I remembered that old can of Murree Beer that I had found in the Karachi house kitchen. No, not for drinking, people. My aunt used it to wash her hair. It supposedly is good for your hair. Now, that sounds like a waste of fine brew to me but ... in any case, I decided to highlight at least the beers I know of colonial origins in hindoostan [and an extra]. Readers, please add to my knowledge.

  • Kingfisher Lager is United Breweries' flagship brand and the largest selling Indian Beer. It all started with 5 breweries in South India the oldest of which, Castle Breweries dates back to the year 1857. This is not the India Pale Ale that was developed in Scotland to be shipped over to India. As the "first" beer brewed in India, it has held on to mass appeal. Although, I have seen recently a bit of snobbishness against it.
  • Murree Beer is/was brewed at the Murree Brewery in Ghora Gali since 1861. A hill resort, the area has long been a tourist attraction but in my many visits there, I have only seen a small sign that said Murree Brewery and no brewery [that is in Pindi]. Interesting factoid from their website: In 1893, it won first prize at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.
  • On May 15, 1897, the Crown Brewery Company registered itself in the Kingdom of Belgium -≠home of the well known Stella Artois beer ≠ to start operations in Alexandria. Two years later, a different group of entrepreneurs from Brussels and Antwerp opened a brewery in Cairo, which came to be known as Pyramids Brewery. The new Cairo brewed beer was a hit, but competition with foreign imports was fierce. Despite the competition, by 1906 Pyramids Brewery was in the black, showing a profit of 16,032 French francs with a 30% increase in overall production. [their blurb]


    Morcy | April 29, 2004

    I'm not sure what you're getting at by suggesting that there are beers with colonial origins, since that suggests that there exist beers without colonial origins. I somehow doubt that's the case. We all know about how beer was invented at the dawn of history in Mesopotamia, but did it ever make it all the way to India? But even if it did, isn't the marketing/branding/bottling of beer part of a capitalist enterprise that is inherently colonial? If Kingfisher started in 1857, and was "first," what of the others? Perhaps another way of thinking about this: I was at Rajun Cajun many, many years ago. I can't remember if I used to have a typical drink I'd get there with my combo meal, but one day I asked Tushar what would be "authentic" (I didn't say that, but that word highlights the absurdity of my question) to drink along my samosa, parotha, chana masala, etc. He said that a person would probably just drink a Coke. How is a beer different?

    sepoy | April 29, 2004

    I was not suggesting, rather, stating that these beers were introduced into India and Egypt by the colonial enterprise. That is to say, companies originating in the metropole operating branches in the colony for a product aimed squarely at the colonists. These three are not the only ones, by any means. I actually want people to send me other beers that meet the criteria. Of course, I am ignoring "local" breweries - if, any such thing can exist in centuries old muslim dominions where consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden (*black market withstanding). As for the Rajun Cajun query, the answer he gave you was about as authentic as his samosa. The proper drink in most cases would be a "Lassi" - a light, yogurt-based drink made sweet or salty.

    Morcy | April 29, 2004

    "the answer he gave you was about as authentic as his samosa"?!? I'm keeping your beer. Way to set off the authenticity pet peeve.

    Steven | July 03, 2004

    Hey guys - I think you are limiting this discussion only to human's view of beer check out the elephants view at the bottom of this article:- BEER IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT FIVE MONTH LONG OCEAN VOYAGE WITHOUT REFRIGERATION - CREATION OF INDIA PALE ALE (IPA) The history of modern brewing in the Indian Sub-continent goes back to the early days of the British Empire - the mid-1700's. The demand for beer in the hot Indian climate by the British administrators and the troops was so great that it led to the creation of a completely new style of beer by George Hodgson in his London brewery - India Pale Ale. India Pale Ale is a strong, highly hopped ale designed to survive the five month ocean voyage to India without spoiling. India Pale Ale was shipped with every voyage to India for over a century and has now become very popular in Britain and North America. INDIA'S FIRST BREWERY & BEER - LION In the early 1840's Edward Dyer came from Britain to set up the first brewery in India at Kasauli (later incorporated as Dyer Breweries Ltd. in 1855) in the Himayalan Mountains near Shimla producing India's first beer called "Lion". He set up more Breweries at Solan, Murree, Rawalpindi and Mandalay. Another entrepreneur H G Meakin came to India from Britain and bought the old Shimla and Solan Breweries from Edward Dyer and added more at Ranikhet, Dalhousie, Chakrata, Darjeeling and Kirkee. In 1935, when Burma was separated from India the company was restructured with its Indian assets under the name "Dyer Meakin Breweries Ltd." - as a public company on the London Stock Exchange. Following independence, in 1949, N.N. Mohan took over the management of the company and the name was changed to Mohan Meakin Limited. The company continues to produce beer across India to this day and Lion beer is still available in northern India. INDIANS TODAY ONLY HAVE LAGER - HOPE FOR A COMEBACK OF IPA However, nowadays no brewer in India makes India Pale Ale. All Indian beers are either lagers (5% alcohol - such as "Australian" Lager) or strong lagers (8% alcohol - such as the popular "MAX" Super Strong Beer). International Breweries Pvt. Ltd. have recently announced their intention to work with Mohan Meakin Ltd. to produce and launch an India Pale Ale called "Indian IPA" from India's first brewery at Kasauli. TRADITIONAL RICE BEER - WATCH OUT FOR THE DRUNK & DISORDERLY ELEPHANTS! In various parts of north-eastern India, traditional rice beer is quite popular. Several festivals feature this nutritious, quite intoxicating, drink as part of the celebrations. The rice is fermented in vats that are sometimes buried underground. It is quite popular, and not only with humankind. Elephants are known to attack villages, with the primary agenda of raiding these vats and having a good time generally.

    Harry ANDREWS | January 07, 2005

    But who was H G MEAKIN, and when did he move to India? My interest is associated with Family History.

    nikasoffalot | January 22, 2005

    Well, it looks like I've stumbled into a real can of worms here. I started out this evening looking for details of my old local in Billericay (England) and ended up in the heart of India! Interesting topics here though !

    Steven | September 01, 2008

    In response to Harry Andrews request regarding who H.G. Meakin was? He is mentioned in "The Butcher of Amritsar" on page 6 which can be seen here: http://books.google.ca/books?id=XuQC5pgzCw4C&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=H.G.+Meakin&source=web&ots=gCn5LNEAKr&sig=p7hTagqtqFVA3ix4TTP4Xu_CnBQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result#PPA6,M1 I have also come across a description of him being from a brewing family from Burton on Trent. Unfortunately it is always hard to find out about people 150 years later unless you can speak to their living descendents. I hope this helps.

    Fiona Wilson | February 17, 2009

    What can you tell me about my grandfather A.G.P. McLaren, who I believe was the Director of Dyer Meakin(Burma)Ltd.?

    Jason | August 19, 2009

    Kosmas Spoetzel, one of the Pyramid Brewery men came to Texas and started the Texas National Beverage: Shiner Bock Beer.