- Beer in Asia
Beer in Asia begins with Asia's first modern brewery in 1855 which was built entirely using European brewing technology. It was set up to supply the British in
Indiaby Edward Dyer at Kasauliin the Himalayan Mountains under the name Dyer Breweries. The company still exists and is known as Mohan Meakin Limited, which today comprises a large group of companies involved in many industries.
In the late 1820s, Edward Dyer moved from
Englandto set up the first breweryin India (later incorporated as Dyer Breweries in 1855) at Kasauliin the Himalayan Mountains. The Kasauli brewery launched India's and indeed Asia's first beer, Lion, which was in great demand by the thirsty British administrators and troops stationed in the sweltering heat of India. Lion was much appreciated as a beer, and one famous poster featured a satisfied British Tommydeclaring, "as good as back home!".
The brewery was soon shifted to nearby
Solan(close to the British summer capital Shimla), as there was an abundant supply of fresh springwater there. The Kasauli brewery site was converted to a distillery, which Mohan Meakin Ltd. still operate. Dyer set up more breweries at Shimla, Murree Murree Brewery, Rawalpindi, Mandalay, Quettaand acquired interests in the OotacamundBrewery (South India).
Another entrepreneur, H G Meakin, moved to India and bought the old Shimla and Solan Breweries from Edward Dyer and added more at
Ranikhet, Dalhousie, Chakrata, Darjeeling, Kirkeeand Nuwara Eliya (Ceylon). After the First World War, the Meakin and Dyer breweries merged and in 1937, when Burmawas separated from India, the company was restructured with its Indian assets as Dyer Meakin Breweries, a public company on the London Stock Exchange.
Following independence, N.N. Mohan raised funds and travelled to London where he acquired a majority stake in Dyer Meakin Breweries. He took over management of the company in 1949 and built new breweries at
Lucknow, Ghaziabadand Khopoli(near Bombay). The company name was changed to Mohan Meakin Breweries in 1967 (the word "Breweries" was dropped in the eighties as the company diversified into other industries).
On the death of N.N. Mohan in 1969, his eldest son Colonel V.R. Mohan took over as Managing Director. He introduced a number of new products that are brand leaders today but died in 1973, soon after taking the helm. In the 1970s the manufacturing activities of the company were diversified into other fields including breakfast cereals, fruit juices and mineral water under the leadership of Brigadier Kapil Mohan (Col. V.R. Mohan's brother). Subsequently the word brewery was dropped from the company name in 1982 to remove the impression that the company was engaged only in beer making. New breweries were built during the seventies and eighties at
Chandigarh, Madras, Nepal and Kakinadanear Hyderabad.
Today, Mohan Meakin's principal brands are Old Monk rum and Golden Eagle beer. Its other products include Diplomat Deluxe, Colonel's Special, Black Knight, Meakin 10,000, Summer Hall and Solan No 1 whiskies, London Dry and Big Ben gins, and Kaplanski vodka. Asia’s original beer, Lion, is still sold in northern India.
"Lion Beer" is the main brand first sold in the 1840s. It was originally branded an IPA (
India Pale Alebut was changed in the sixties to a lager. Lion remained the number one beer in India for over a century from the 1840s until the 1960s. After this another Mohan Meakin brand, "Golden Eagle", took the number one spot until the 1980s, when "Kingfisher" became number one. By 2001, Lion sales had declined substantially and Lion was only available to the Indian Armythrough the CSD (Canteen Services Department). Mohan Meakin then entrusted the marketing of their original beer to International Breweries Pvt. Ltd. The brand has since been relaunched in the north Indian market. With a new label design and marketing campaign, Lion has established itself once more in the civilian market and is now expanding into markets across India.
"Lion" earns a place in history as Asia's first beer brand. Lion's popularity with the British during the heyday of the Empire led to the start-up of other Lion beers around the world, in
New Zealand, South Africaand elsewhere. Lion remains the number one brand in neighbouring Sri Lanka where Mohan Meakin had introduced it in the 1880s through their Ceylon brewery.
"Australian" is another popular 5% abv lager distributed by International Breweries (P) Ltd. The 8% abv version is called "Max".
* [http://www.goldeneagletrading.com/india/india_main.htm Mohan Meakin]
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