Beer history marketing

Ersatzsteiner Pils

Detail from our own Epingwalder Pilsner label.

While bigger breweries have tended to license European or global lager brands, regional and micro brewers have often turned out their own product under what they imagine to be a Germanic-sounding name. Here are some we’ve come across in our rambles.

Davenport’s Continental Lager. Let’s start with easily the laziest attempt to imply a European heritage we’ve come across. Could they not at least have called it Continentalbrau? (c.1973.)

Elgood’s Iceberg. Clever this one — a suitably Germanic word, but also an early use of coldness as a marketing angle. (Frank Baillie said it had ‘a pleasant flavour’.) (c.1973.)

Firkinstein. This seems to have originated in 1986 at the Fleece and Firkin in Bristol, which David Bruce sold off to Allied in 1988.

Litchborough Litchbrau. It wasn’t long into the microbrewery boom of the 1970s before an ersatz lager came along, from Bill Urquhart’s Litchborough Brewery, founded in 1974. Bill’s daughter recalls it selling quite well.

Greenall Whitley Grunhalle. One of our favourite names. It was strong, apparently. Is it the same Grunhalle conceived by Randall’s of Jersey and licensed to other brewers? Or did great minds think alike? (c.1973.)

Hall and Woodhouse Brock Lager. Sounds a bit like ‘bock’, nice Germanic ring, but also another word for badger, from the Old English. Nicely done. (c.1973.)

Hilden Hildenbrau. ‘A distinctive brew which undergoes several weeks conditioning’, said Brian Glover in 1987.

Ruddle’s Langdorf Lager. Brewed at Langham. Geddit?

Samuel Smith’s Alpine Lager. AKA ‘man in a box’. Bore the Ayinger name under license for a while, but now back under it’s original, retro, 1970s name.

Taddington Moravka. We remember this being launched in, we think, 2008. Not ersatz Germanic, in this case, but faux Slavonic, and very coy about its Derbyshire origins.

Vaux Norseman. Apparently ‘passed through a cooling unit’, according to Frank Baillie, so could have been called Norseman Extra Cold, if they’d thought of it. (c.1973.)

Young’s Saxon. Young & Co. produced various lagers over their lifetime. Saxon was on sale in the early 1970s, but we remember seeing the plainly-named Young’s Pilsner on sale c.2004. Not fondly remembered.

Have we missed any corkers? And does anyone remember drinking the obsolete beers listed above?

Of course, continental brewers have also been known to apply Ersatz English names to their attempts to brew ales...


46 replies on “Ersatzsteiner Pils”

I’m sure St Austell had one, but you’d have to ask Roger for its name, on the other hand going slightly off piste, Whitbread launched GB lager in 1999 or 2000, which I seem to remember was dispensed through bath taps…and then there was Iceni’s LAD lager in the late 1990s…

You being Southern Jessies have missed out some of the best. But firstly your Grunhalle question. It was the other way round. Greenalls licensed Randalls to make it.


Lees – Edelbrau, Tulip
Hydes – Kalten
Higsons – Higson’s Pilsner , later Kaltenbrau
Holts – Regal, Holtenbrau,
Robinsons – Einhorn
Thwaites – Stein
Matthew Brown – Slalom
Mansfield – Marksman
Usher/Vaux – Norseman (mentioned above)
Harp – Satzenbrau

These are off the top of my head. You are misinformed about Grunhalle too. It was a mere 3.8% though there was for a while an Export at 4.5%

Don’t forget Skol.

I should add that in theory it was more complicated than that. Greenalls set up a separate company for Grunhalle and licensed it to both. Pick the bones out of that.

Also brewed by Devenish. A Greenall was chairman of Randalls. Did they own Randalls? I don’t know, but possibly.

Yeah, that might count, though it would be better it it was Etonbrau… or something to do with Saxe-Coburg Gotha?

Moravka’s actually really nice. I do wish they wouldn’t hide the fact its a good quality English lager though, I suppose they think it would hit sales by association with more prominent English lagers like Carling etc.

We thought it was quite clever at the time, but the more keen we’ve become on transparency, the less we like it. (The beer is still very pleasant, or at least it was last time we had it.)

Point of sale just says “Moravka” (or at least used to). Most people we were with who didn’t know assumed (understandably) that it was Czech.

Greenalls, Devenish and Randalls were all linked, hence they all closed down at the same time when Greenalls pulled out of brewing.

Other wonderful erstaz lagers were:
Arkell’s Kellar
Tolly Cobbold Husky (truly vile)
Fuller’s K2 (never really got off the ground…)
Everard’s Sabre
I’m surprised no-one has mentioned the truly awful Courage Hofmeister (I always wanted to strangle that bear)

A bit off topic, but still lager-related, an old boss of mine (dead a few years now) went on a brewery tour at Guinness Park Royal with the staff social club at work, and on trying the lager offered him, said “this is much better than than Harp piss they sell in my local”!!!!

Greenalls, Devenish and Randalls were all linked, hence they all closed down at the same time when Greenalls pulled out of brewing.

Is that right? According to the new-model Randall’s Web site,

Members of the Randalls family owned and ran R.W. Randall Ltd right up until 2006, when they decided to sell the company to a group of private investors. Under new leadership and with new investment Randalls has been re-invigorated. This has seen a move to a purpose built warehouse, the installation of a bespoke 60hl brewery, the purchase a chain of off-licences and airport shops and the refurbishment of many of its tenanted pubs.

I visited Guernsey in 1998; I found a couple of places selling draught beer from the Guernsey Brewing Company (which varied from decent to foul, in the latter case almost certainly because the staff didn’t know what they were doing). No draught in Randall’s pubs, although they did have a really wide range of their own bottled beers, some of which were very good indeed. (Not BC, of course.)

By the looks of it all that’s gone by the board under the new regime, although they are now brewing one draught bitter as well as Breda and (drumroll please)… Oranjeboom. Which doesn’t count for this thread, being Dutch, but still – blast from the past or what?

Randalls of Guernsey was owned, or part-owned, by the Greenall family, I believe. Tandie will correct me if I’m wrong. I’m surprised he’s forgotten Amboss from Hydes, Amboss being the German for anvil – geddit? (And, of course, Einhorn is German for Unicorn, hence the name of Robinson’s offering). In a similar vein, Nimmo’s of Castle Eden has something called Schloss lager, which begged for the advertising slogan “Get sloshed on Schloss!” Hall and Woodhouse had “Brock lager”, after its badger tm (should have been Dachs lager, of course), Tolly in Ipswich had Kroner lager, and Phipps of Northampton sold Stein lager.

I remember Einhorn was a really pleasant beer, Grünhalle was pretty foul, unfortunately, in the 70’s, in Cheshire, G&W pretty much had a monopoly.

Agreed – there were a lot of Greenhall pubs in Shropshire, where my then girlfriend came from, and Gruenhalle was horrid.

Hydes’ Amboss lager (German for “Anvil”, the brewery logo).

Many of these products were also top-fermented “bastard lagers” – in fact a very lightly hopped ale brewed with pale malts and chilled down.

Robinson’s Unicorn survived in a few outlets until surprisingly recently. Apparently it still had a following amongst some first-generation lager drinkers. It was also pretty unpleasant.

Ah – that will teach me to check for later replies before I post. K2, actually, was named as part of a sponsorship deal by Fullers with the K2 expedition of 1986, but after the disasters which struck that expeditions and others the same summer, resulting in 13 mountaineers losing their lives, Fullers quietly withdrew the brand. However, of course, they now had a set of conical fermenters on site, installed to brew K2, which quickly proved eminently suitable to brewing their ales …

K2 was still around in 1990 at least. I remember John Keeling saying that K2 was dropped because due to economies of scale they could buy in international lagers cheaper than they could make their own.

My memory of drinking lager in the mid to late 70s was that Grunhalle actually wasn’t too bad, and even at 3.8% it was still stronger than many of the national brewers’ lagers – ISTR Heineken was 3.4% and Carlsberg a mere 3.0%.

I also seem to remember that some of the lagers that actually were bottom-fermented had a slight hint of what I would now call “noble hop” about them, which the mass-marked cooking lagers certainly don’t now. At the time, Carling was a notable exception to this.

I had really been largely weaned on to ale by my 18th birthday, though.

Slalom Lager sponsored rugby league for a few years. ‘After A Try, You’ll Be Converted’ was the slogan, which as a kid I thought was a work of genius (shivering in the sleet at Lawkholme Lane as Widnes pulverised Keighley for the 700th time).

Samuel Smith also did Prinz lager (a bit weaker than Ayinger if I recall).

I think Prinz was actually a five-percenter and thus stronger than Ayinger. Alpine Lager has now been reformulated as Sam’s 2.8% cheapie, and Taddy Lager has become the standard lager in their pubs.

Ron Crabtree of the Sair Inn near Huddersfield has now been brewing his splendid Linfit beers for three decades. The pub is at the top of an achingly steep hill called Hoyle Ing. In the early days Ron brewed a lager, and it was of course called Hoyleingerbrau.

Ha! That’s brilliant. If he’d squeezed an umlaut in somewhere, we might have a winner.

I rather like the name used by Tony Allen of Phoenix Brewery in Heywood – Pilsner Irwell (although I guess that being southern jessies you won’t get that one).

Coniston make a top fermented ‘lager’ called Thurstein. I wasn’t impressed but I don’t think I’ve had a cask lager that I’ve liked.

i came across Greene King-Noble English Craft Lager last mention on the pumpclip it was GK but defenitely English and craft according to them.

Thanks, John. Hadn’t come across this before. It’s an interesting angle, at least, but they’re being very coy about it. Assume it’s at the ‘consumer testing’ stage or something.

A bit related – the discount lager breweries in Italy seem to fancy Omlaut in the names of both breweries and beers, having a German (or Austrian,/South Tyrolean) sounding name probably means quality.

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