Mackeson & Co was the first brewery to introduce milk stout.
The Hythe Brewery and the Mackeson family
The Hythe Brewery was established on High Street, Hythe, Kent in 1669.
William Mackeson (1774 – 1821), a surgeon, became junior partner at the Hythe Brewery from 1801.
Following his death in 1821 the business was continued by his brother, Henry Mackeson (1772 – 1860).
Nine men were employed at the Hythe Brewery in 1851.
Henry Mackeson died in 1860, and his son, Henry Bean Mackeson (1813 – 1894) took control of the Hythe Brewery.
Henry Bean Mackeson was gentlemanly, genial, courteous, and well-respected. He employed 37 men in 1871, and 36 men in 1881. He served as Mayor of Hythe for nine consecutive years.
Henry Mackeson takes control of the business, and milk stout is introduced
Henry Mackeson (1861 – 1935), studied chemistry at Edinburgh and London. He became the head of the business following the death of his father in 1894.
Mackeson was persistent and hard working, and developed the business. He invested in new buildings and machinery, and updated the range of beers provided in order to meet changing customer preference.
Henry Mackeson was joined in partnership by his brother, George Lawrie Mackeson (1864 – 1950).
Mackeson & Co was incorporated with a share capital of £120,000 in 1900.
Mackeson & Co acquired various patents relating to using lactose, or milk sugar, in brewing from 1908. Stout was already recommended as a source of energy during convalescence, and Mackeson hoped that the addition of lactose would further increase its nutritional value. Mackeson Milk Stout, the first milk stout in the world, was introduced from 1909. 9 lbs (4.1 kg) of lactose were used in each 36 gallon barrel. The product was an immediate success.
Henry and George Lawrie Mackeson sold their shareholdings to H & G Simonds, a large brewery based in Reading, in 1920. The two brothers took the opportunity to enter into retirement.
Mackeson became a well-established brand throughout Kent. The brewery employed 120 people by 1929.
Mackeson is acquired by Whitbread
Whitbread, a large London brewer, acquired Mackeson & Co in 1929. Simonds sold up as the offer price was simply too good to refuse.
Whitbread afforded Mackeson Milk Stout nationwide distribution. The J Walter Thompson advertising agency was engaged to market the brand towards women, who it was reasoned would appreciate its smooth and sweet flavour. Over 50,000 barrels were sold in 1939, and the beer accounted for nearly ten percent of Whitbread production.
The name of the product was changed to “Mackeson Stout” from around 1942 onwards.
Sales gained momentum following the Second World War. Mackeson benefited from an increasing demand for bottled beers, which, although more expensive, provided consistent flavour and quality.
103,000 barrels of Mackeson were produced in 1948.
Mackeson Stout contained eight percent lactose in 1954.
Whitbread bottled beers were available in over half the licensed houses in Britain by 1955. Demand was such that Whitbread had to subcontract around 20 percent of its bottling to other companies.
60 percent of the £850,000 Whitbread advertising budget was dedicated to Mackeson in 1957. Mackeson accounted for almost half of revenue at Whitbread by 1960. Sales had effectively quadrupled during the 1950s, and 425,000 barrels of Mackeson were sold in 1961.
Mackeson held around a quarter of the stout market in Britain by 1963. Whitbread briefly experimented with a draught version of Mackeson at this time.
A reciprocal agreement was signed with Bass in 1965, who agreed to stock Mackeson Stout across its estate of 4,100 public houses in exchange for Whitbread selling Bass beers throughout their estate.
Mackeson was introduced to the South African market in 1967.
Mackeson had an ABV of over four percent in 1968, and sold for a premium price.
The Hythe brewery was closed in 1968 and Whitbread relocated production to the Exchange Brewery in Sheffield.
Mackeson had been introduced in cans by 1971.
Mackeson was withdrawn from sale in South Africa in 1972.
Mackeson was brewed under licence in Jamaica and Trinidad from 1973. It began to be brewed in Singapore from 1978 and Nigeria from 1979.
Sales of Mackeson had began to decline in Britain by the late 1970s.
British Mackeson had an ABV of 4.3 percent in 1988.
The Exchange Brewery was closed in 1993, and Whitbread relocated production to their Castle Eden, Co Durham and Samlesbury, Lancashire plants.
Mackeson XXX Stout was brewed under licence in the United States by the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company in Cincinnati, Ohio from around 2000.
Whitbread sold its beer operations to Interbrew of Belgium for £400 million in 2000. Interbrew merged with AmBev to form Inbev from 2004.
Mackeson Stout was produced under contract by a number of brewers from 1999, including Young’s of Wandsworth, Ridley’s of Chelmsford, Cameron’s of Hartlepool and Hydes of Manchester. The Hydes Brewery was closed in 2012, and its production centre since this date remains unknown.
The ABV of Mackeson’s was reduced from 3 percent to 2.8 percent from 2012 in order to qualify for duty relief.
According to information kindly provided by InBev, Mackeson Stout currently contains 600g of lactose per hectolitre of final product as of 2020.