26th September 2009. Decline of a Brand.

Today in 2009 was dubbed ‘Arthur’s Day’ by the Guinness Company to celebrate 250 years since Arthur Guinness took a long lease of the St James’ Gate Brewery site in Dublin in 1759.(1)

In the 18thc London was the centre of the popular, dark-beer, porter trade with John Calvert, William Whitbread and Trumans by 1760 being the major suppliers. However by the 1950.s porter was becoming a rare species with Guinness last brewing the drink in 1974.

Stout originated as a strong version of porter, but apart from Guinness, suffered a decline in the 1920.s, but even up to the early 1950.s Watney Combe Reid were making one draught and seven different bottled-stout brews.(2)

In the 1980.s ‘What’s Brewing’? found 29 UK breweries still making ‘milk stout’, but as older breweries closed few of the new big concerns were brewing the product.

The most popular milk-stout brand was Mackeson, originally from their brewery in Hythe, Kent, founded in 1669, but acquired by Whitbreads in 1929 it became nationally distributed and a market leader.(3)









Mackeson was launched in 1910 with a recipe from a dietitian, labelled ‘each pint contains energising carbohydrates of 10 ounces of pure dairy milk’. A booklet said the stout would give drinkers energy, stop distentions, fullness, indigestion, headaches and prevention of rheumatism and ideal for nursing mothers  and invalids. A tall order!



1965 advert.







A time of poor diets, ‘Mackie’ seemed to offer many benefits.  However the claims were not strictly true as the essential ingredient making the drink different from other stouts was that it had Lactose (milk sugar) which cannot be turned into alcohol by Brewers’ Yeast, resulting in the creamy character.

The 1945 Labour Government was not impressed by the claim of pure milk and it became simply stout and for a time the churn was dropped from the label, to later reappear.

By the 1960.s with Whitbread’s promotion, especially on TV, Mackeson constituted a half of that company’s production, particularly with those finding Guinness too bitter.

Times changed and dark ales fell from favour and ‘Mackie’ at 37% volume of alcohol became associated with old ladies.

Shunted around the Whitbread breweries, now defunct, Mackeson, once a household name, is now a ‘ghost brand’ and lost in the InBev conglomerate.

(1) They were later to brew in London, but quit the site in 2005.

(2) Combe Porter in 1818 was the fifth largest brewer in London, but mid-century there was a change to lighter Burton Beers and they amalgamated with Watneys (later famous for Red-Barrel), whose Stag Brewery (1811) Pimlico was London’s biggest.

In 1898 the Watney Family acquired Combe, Delafield and Reid and Co. becoming Watney Combe Reid.

In 1958 Watney Mann resulting from the merger of Watney, Combe Reid and Mann, Crossman and Paulin, acquired Phipps of Northampton and Ushers, Trowbridge, all submerged under Grand Metropolitan Hotels in 1972 and closed in 1979.

(3) Hythe closed in 1968.


corkscrewsonline.com/opener Pic.


dover-kent.com/ads. of ladies.

barclayperkins.blogspot.co.uk/mackeson/1965 Pic.

Guinness: 250 years Quest for the Perfect Pint. Bill Yenne. Google Books. 2007.

Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records (ed) L.M. Richmond & Alison Turner.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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