The First Cause Beer?

These days it’s not unusual for breweries to release beers intended to support a particular cause, but we reckon we might have pinpointed the first: ‘No Cruise Mild’, from 1983-84.

It was produced by Pitfield Brewery on a tiny kit in the basement of a specialist beer shop near Old Street in London and sold through one of David Bruce’s Firkin brewpubs, The Pheasant & Firkin in Islington. The name refers to US Cruise missiles, the installation of which was protested by women’s groups at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire during December 1983.

While the name of the beer certainly showed support for the Greenham Common protesters the short article in What’s Brewing for March 1984, which is the only reference we’ve been able to dig up, doesn’t make clear whether any of the profits from its sale also went their way. It does, however, reproduce Ken Pyne’s cartoon for Marketing Week which we hope he won’t mind us sharing here:

A group of women camps outside a pub offering No Cruise Mild.

Of course there were lots of beers before this that you can argue were political in one way or another — all those commemorative beers for the 1981 royal wedding and the Queen’s coronation, for example, are political in their own way — but we reckon this might be the earliest example of a beer whose branding was explicitly tied to a progressive cause.

If you reckon we’re wrong, or have more information on this particular beer, let us know in the comments below.

Further Reading

The Beer Rep Cometh

A band of aggressive beer salesmen seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-carry has opened?

Some cornershop beers
Some cornershop beers

A band of aggressive beer salesmen seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-carry has opened?

At any rate, the range of beers available at fairly ordinary corner shops and grocers near our house has expanded massively in recent weeks.

Here’s a partial list of bottled beers we can buy on the way home from work without going near a supermarket:

  • Grolsch Weizen (big thumbs up from Bailey, Boak not so excited)
  • Jennings Cocker Hoop, Cumberland and Sneck Lifter
  • Bateman’s Combined Harvest and Victory
  • All the Badgers, including unseasonal Pumpkin
  • Young’s Bitter (bottle conditioned), Special London and Chocolate Stout
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin, Wychcraft, Black Wych, Circle Master and Goliath
  • Hen’s Tooth
  • Cooper’s Sparkling Pale Ale
  • Theakston’s Old Peculier
  • Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay, Spitfire, Bishop’s Finger, Master Brew and 1698
  • Fuller’s London Pride, ESB, Golden Pride, Honey Dew and 1845
  • Svyturys Ekstra, Gintarinis and Baltas
  • Baltika porter, wheat beer, dark lager and helles
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Budvar and Budvar Dark
  • Pitfield Red Ale, Stock Ale and EKG
  • Gulpener Rose (eugh!)
  • Paulaner Helles
  • Brakspear Organic and Triple
  • St Austell Proper Job and Tribute
  • Baltika porter, dark lager and wheat beer
  • Usher’s Founders Ale.

That covers a great many of our day-to-day needs, but it would be nice to see more porters and stouts; more Belgian beer; and the return of Brooklyn Lager, which has disappeared from our local off licence.

And, of course, there is a bit of an illusion of choice here, because many of these beers are very similar in taste and appearance and, in some cases, are made and owned by a handful of umbrella companies.

The Duke of Cambridge organic pub

The Duke of Cambridge organic pub's trendy blue barThe Duke of Cambridge in Islington is a restaurant/pub which prides itself on its ethical credentials. Ninety-five per cent of its fruit and veg comes from the UK; everything, from the oil in the candles to the washing up liquid, is organic; everything is Fair Trade.

The place itself is all stripped wood, black ceilings and pot plants, but also full of sunlight and fresh air. The staff were friendly (we got a ‘Hello!’ on entering), even if they did make us feel rather lumpy and unglamorous. The clientele is solidly middle class — so much so, in fact, that they’d passed beyond suits and into expensively scruffy designer casuals.

Bailey’s Dad wouldn’t like it, let’s put it that way.

In line with their ethical mission, the pub’s owners get most of their beer from breweries in the south east of England, namely St Peter’s and Pitfield. We’d never seen Pitfield beers on tap, but were very impressed. These beers do not suffer at all from being organic!

The Pitfield SB (the first organic bitter in the UK, apparently) tasted a little sweet on its own, but with fish and chips suddenly gained a new dimension — drier, crisper and with more apparent hop aroma.

We also worked our way through Pitfield East Kent Goldings (Summer Lightning-like), Eco-Warrior (sweet and citrusy); St Peter’s Organic; and Pitfield lager (fruity, malty, very pleasant).

But the real revelation was a bottle of Pitfield’s N1 Wheat Beer. Coriander seed, orange peel and hops gave it a pronounced Belgian flavour, but darker malt made sure this was no mere Hoegaarden clone. Poperings Hommelbier sprang to mind, in fact.

In short, a lovely place to go if you fancy a treat (it’s not cheap) on a summer evening… of if you’re a ticker missing a few of Pitfield’s beers from your collection.

The Duke of Cambridge is at 30 St Peter’s Street, ten minutes walk from Angel tube station. The photo above is from their website.