Wednesday 15 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #6 - Courage Best Bitter (1980)

This was one of the most famous beer ads of its time.  If I remember correctly from an old documentary, I watched years ago, Courage wanted to reassert their London heritage after many years of National-based filth-making. What better way to do it than do create a monochrome cockney fantasy pub and put a Chas & Dave soundtrack over it?  I think they dredged up some ancient lighting guy to do this (as few lighting directors of the time had experience of old-time B&W ambience).  Apparently, it looked awful while they were filming it.  But it came right on the print, as the old codger said it would all along.

Courage itself is long gone.  Flogged numerous times and subsequently dismembered, it's now merely a brand owned by Wells & Young.  I'm not sure if anyone misses them.  Amongst other crimes, they introduced Fosters into the UK, and even the Best Bitter was apparently a load of Cock too (pun!).

Fact #1 - The first record I bought was by Chas & Dave.  Yes, it was 'Snooker Loopy' in 1986.  In fact, I bought it three times as one 45 melted on the fire, and another one cracked.  Now you know why it was a hit. Also, the middle-eight of 'Snooker Loopy' was nicked from the 1963 hit "Don't You Think It's Time" by Mike Berry and the Outlaws (the bass player was one Chas Hodges Esq.).

Fact #2 - One of the heirs of the Courage Brewery was racing driver Piers Courage.  I visited his grave in Shenfield in 2009, as I was in town to see my girlfriend of the time.  The grave is not in the best of upkeep, sadly.  I thought at the time "Surely the Courage family must still be loaded after selling the brewery.  They should have kept the site in better nick than this".  I guess the great brewing families really were callous Tories after all.

1 comment:

  1. Not quite correct!!
    I was a brewer at the Courage Tower Bridge Brewery and then became eventually Marketing Manager for Ales.
    Back in the 1960s and early 70s Courage brewed Tavern Keg and 3 regional bitters ( plus several others) which were very similar at Tower Bridge, Reading and Bristol ( plus another in Plymouth). These were APA, SIPA and EIPA. All brewed at 1040 but with very different hop rates depending on the likes of the 3 head brewers.
    As Brand Manager for Ales in the late 1970s I was asked to bring these 3 beers together into one bitter (still brewed at the 3 different locations) for a launch across the south of England. The 3 beers were all cask conditioned and about 60% were sold under a very low pressurised dispense system but the other 40% were hand pumped with no CO2.
    A small amount of SIPA was sold as Courage Best on the Isle of Wight at holiday camps. This was a very strange beer in that it started as a cask ale but was pasteurised and kegged into 5 gallon kegs ( ex Naval Ships kegs which could be used easily on destroyers as they were small and could be used as under the counter installations in holiday parks if they did not have a cellar!)
    I "borrowed" the name Courage Best and with my brewing experience produced a recipe which became the single cask ale called Courage Best Bitter.I then went to our ad. agency (BMP) Account Director ( David Batterby) and he introduced me to Dave Trott, Creative Manager,and he with John Webster eventually came up with the Chas & Dave ads. Dave Trott and I actually "found" them playing in a pub on the Isle of Dogs in London, one fairly boozy night out after we had already rejected 2 concepts - one of which had the wonderful tag line " 2 straight sides and a pint of Courage Best" ( All bitter was then drunk in the south in "dimple mugs")
    The rest is beer history.
    By the way Courage did not introduce Fosters to the UK. That was WATNEYS and we inherited it when we merged with them. We introduced Harp Lager(1032) and Harp Special(1040) (Known in the trade as Harp Yellow and Harp Blue) Courage tended to sell Special in their pubs and S & N sold Harp Lager in the Free Trade. Harp Special was brewed in Alton in Hampshire next door to one of the original Courage breweries which became a canning factory.It was originally based on Courage Sparkling Beer - a lager beer sold only to the Armed Forces. We also introduced Colt 45 American Malt Liquor and Miller Lite.