Saturday, 20 February 2021

Cherry's Draught - An Irish Brewery's Bitter Ending?

Personally I don't remember 'The Great Bitter Widget War' that raged in the UK in 1994 and 1995, being separated from it by an actual interest and the expanse of water that is The Irish Sea, but it seems that Ireland played its part on at least one front - in the form of Cherry's Draught Bitter.

I was unaware of any of this until I came across a mention in the Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal of the 29th July 1994 about a new canning line in Dundalk county Louth, which mentions the following:

'The plant brews its own label [Macardles] along with Smithwicks Ale and Barley Wine and Cherrys Bitter for the UK market.'

Fair enough about the Macardles, Smithwicks Ale and Barley wine, and although it is interesting - but not surprising seeing as they were part of the Guinness's portfolio - to see the Smithwicks ales being brewed in Dundalk, what really caught my attention was the Cherry's Bitter.

A little more searching didn't throw up much more information but it seems that it was a widgetted bitter budget brand launched by Guinness into the UK market in January 1994 according to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, which states:

'Tyneside's army of armchair drinkers are bracing themselves for the war of the widgets. A canned beer price war is about to come to a head after Guinness launched a new cheapie brew featuring the revolutionary little gadget. Cherry's Bitter is yet to hit the shelves but its arrival is near and the North east is licking its lips in anticipation.

Guinness claim their new ale - named after an historic family run brewery in Waterford Ireland - will be up to 20p a can cheaper than rival widget brews.

[...]

The new Cherry's beer has an ABV of 3.7 per cent and is described in taste as "refreshingly smooth"' 

So there you go, Cherry's - a brand and brewery swallowed up by Guinness, and with a ton of history behind it - became a cheap bitter to compete against the likes of John Smith's, Boddington's and others. Guinness had their own branded 'premium' draught bitter at 4.4% abv already on the market, but presumably wanted to fight the war on two fronts.

The use of 'Established in 1792'* is particularly galling as I'm sure that refers to the establishment of Strangman brewery in Waterford city that would certainly become a 'Cherry's' brewery in the 1950s under Guinness's direction - I wonder why they didn't brew it there to at least give a vague nod towards provenance? But then again, why would they when marketing comes before historical accuracy in the majority of breweries, a common problem even today and not just with the big companies...

But poor Cherry's - what a way to go.

Liam

Footnote: Cherry's did make one final appearance in this commemorative ale brewed in 2013 ...


* There were Cherry's brewing in Waterford city in the late 18th Century but I don't think this date refers to them...

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4 comments:

daly's travels said...

Pint bottle in Dunmore East in 1981 was very pleasant if I remember correctly

Ron Pattinson said...

I assume the widget version of Cherry's Bitter didn't last long.

Liam said...

Hey Daly's Travel - thanks for the comment. I didn't realise Cherry's Ale was still available here in the 80s - I must look into that!

Liam said...

Hi Ron, Can't see any mention after 1995 so it looks like it was short-lived ...