Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Toby Irish Ale - Who's up for some man-sized zest...?

© Independent News and Media PLC
The summer of 1966 saw the emergence of a new Irish beer into an increasingly tight marketplace. Toby Irish Ale appears to have been the brainchild of the Charrington Kinahan group who controlled the Charrington United Breweries' interests in Northern Ireland that included Ulster Breweries, Lyle & Kinahan and Old Bushmills. From May to August of that year this advertisement appeared in a couple of papers down south when the launched their new ale on the Irish market, albeit it seems in to just a few selected areas.

At this time we already had quite a selection of Irish - and English - brewed ales available to Ireland's beer drinkers including the appearance of Celebration that March, brewed by Beamish & Crawford in Cork but from the same umbrella company, Charrington United, plus towards the end of 1966 Smithwick's relaunched (or at least readvertised) their No. 1 Ale* into the category with the demise of their Time rebrand so it was a brave move by Charrington, if ill-fated it would appear. There was also Phoenix, Macardles, Bass, Double Diamond, Watneys Red Barrel (Brewed in Ireland at Lady's Well - Murphys - Brewery in Cork from that year.), Whitbread ... the list could go on so in the end it looks like it just became too crowded and something had to give, and Toby was probably the first to go...

Charrington Toby was a familiar name to English drinkers, as was the toby jug silhouette on the label, but seems to have been a strange choice for the Irish market even if it was a reformulation/new beer, as Toby - both the name and the actual jugs - would have appeared quintessentially English to the Irish public. After this entity disappeared the group launched a Toby Brown but that seems to have been exclusively up north as was Toby Ale on draught.. (Another interesting note is that in 1966 Beamish Stout was being brewed in the Ulster Brewery, aka Mountain Brewery, although this appears to have been a short lived arrangement.)

The byline in the advertisement is quite exceptional!

© Independent News and Media PLC
'Found at last! an ale with a distinctively Irish taste ... brewed in Ireland specially for Irish drinkers ... with all the full-bodied flavour and man-sized zest of a truly great ale. For years our brewers have sought this elusive flavour, and at last they've succeeded: tests show that Irish drinkers resoundingly prefer Toby over any other leading ale. See if you agree - try Toby today, and enjoy the true taste in Irish Ale'
There are many things we could accuse them of but it appears modesty isn't one of them...


*Smithwicks No. 1 was a pale ale by the way, the soon to be launched Smithwick's Draught - or Smithwick's D in bottle form - appears to have been the first iteration of their present red ale.

Newspaper images © Independent News and Media PLC. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive ( 

(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.)

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