Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Tower Stout - Beamish's Rebrand

As I'll be heading down south in a couple of weeks I thought I might wander the same direction with my cataloguing of Ireland's lost beer brands...

Image Source - Author's own collection
As we have seen from some of my previous posts the brewing trade in the 1960s was extremely volatile with lots of new beers entering in to the pub scene and many changes of branding from the existing Irish breweries. It would be foolish to think that the Cork brewers were unaffected by the unrest, especially as they were contibituing to much of it themselves, and indeed Beamish and Crawford decided to rebrand their famous black beer (or a version of it) as Tower Stout - named after the iconic tower on the older beer labels and logo.

Image Source - Cork Examiner September 17 1968

Launched on draught and bottle as Tower Export Strength Stout in January 1968  by Sean Lemass in his role as chairman of United Breweries of Ireland1, who was in danger of being called a serial beer launcher as he had previously launched Idea lager for Smithwicks. This was Beamish & Crawford - or Eddie Taylor's Canadian Breweries via UBI strictly speaking - going head-to-head with Guinness and an advertisement2 from the time clearly say so...
"We said to our brewers: Brew the most perfect pint that has ever been tasted in Ireland. Spare no expense."
It goes on:
"Three centuries of tradition and £1,000,000 went into the making of it. (When you're competing with a giant, you can't afford to pinch the pennies). They have come up with a stout the equal of which has not been seen in Ireland. A richer, rounder flavour, brewed to export strength, and extra creamy head - and it cost sno more than an ordinary pint. We modestly believe that Tower is an incomparable stout."
We can assume from the description it was a nitro stout like Guinness but as to what 'export strength' meant in alcohol content I have no idea, but I'm guessing not too strong, so perhaps around the 5%?

At the International Brewing, Bottling & Allied Trades Exhibition held in London in April 1968 Tower received a gold medal, which their marketing team capitalised on in the advertisements around this time. In September of the same year it was the stout of choice at the Cork Harbour Oyster Festival where along with 6,000 oysters they hoped to sell 3,500 glasses of Tower stout.3 

So all was looking rosy for the brand it seems ... or was it?

Image Source - Cork Examiner January 26 1968

According to Beamish & Crawford: The History of and Irish Brewery by Donal Ó Drisceoil & Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil all was not as well as it seemed to be from looking at newspapers of the day, which is hardly a surprise...

It wasn't received well in the UK and their were complaints here of inconsistency and of its 'laxative effects'4 - which I presume couldn't be blamed on the oysters...

Most importantly it failed to make any impact on Guinness's sales, in fact it appears to have had the opposite effect driving more stout drinkers towards that consistent and known brand.

Tower limped along, unloved and unwanted until it was replaced by Beamish Cream Stout in end of 19714, and so disappeared another Irish beer brand....

Image Source - Author's own collection
Glasses, labels and other breweriana seems scarce but I do possess a beer mat from this time, perhaps I'll find something else if I get a chance to go rummaging down in Cork?

Watch this space...


(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and can not be reproduced elsewhere without full credit to its source and a link back to this post. Please be aware that my own photos are watermarked.)


Cork Examiner - January 19th 1968

2 Cork Examiner - January 26th 1968

3 Cork Examiner - September 17th 1968

4 Beamish & Crawford: The History of and Irish Brewery, Donal Ó Drisceoil & Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil (2015) 

Note: The above mentioned Beamish & Crawford: The History of and Irish Brewery, Donal Ó Drisceoil & Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil is a book that should be on the shelf of anyone interested in Irish beer history and is still available online and in bookshops.

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