Mackeson became the first brewery to introduce milk stout.
The Hythe Brewery and the Mackeson family
James Pashley established the Hythe Brewery on High Street, Hythe, Kent in 1669.
The brewery was acquired by two brothers, Henry Mackeson (1772 – 1860) and William Mackeson (1774 – 1821) in 1801. The Mackeson family originated from Deal in Kent. Henry Mackeson had served an apprenticeship to Benjamin Bell (1749 – 1806), the first Scottish surgeon.
William Mackeson died in 1821 and the business was continued by Henry Mackeson.
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 a courteous, and well-respected man. 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. He was reckoned as one of the finest judges of barley in Britian.
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 believed that the addition of lactose would further increase its nutritional value. Mackeson Milk Stout, the first milk stout in the world, was introduced in 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, for £285,000 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 for a generous price in 1929.
Whitbread considered the discontinuation of Mackeson Milk Stout, as sales were small and locally based. However following a successful trial in Sheffield the product was afforded nationwide distribution from 1936. The J Walter Thompson advertising agency was engaged to market the brand towards women, who it was reasoned would appreciate its smooth palate and sweet taste. Over 50,000 barrels were sold in 1939, accounting for nearly ten percent of Whitbread production.
The name of the product was changed to “Mackeson Stout” from around 1942 onwards. The Ministry of Food had placed pressure on Whitbread to removed milk from the name as it was erroneous.
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.
Lactose accounted for eight percent of the Mackeson Stout grist 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.
Whitbread dedicated £510,000, some 60 percent of its advertising budget, to marketing Mackeson Stout in 1957. The beer accounted for almost half of revenue at Whitbread by 1960. Sales had effectively quadrupled during the 1950s, and 425,000 barrels of Mackeson Stout were sold in 1961.
Mackeson Stout held around a quarter of the stout market in Britain by 1963. Whitbread trialled a draught version of the beer 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 Stout had an ABV of over four percent in 1968, and sold for a premium price.
The Hythe brewery was closed in 1968, just short of its 300th anniversary. Mackeson Stout production was relocated to Whitbread’s Exchange Brewery in Sheffield.
Mackeson Stout had been introduced in cans by 1971.
Sales were developed overseas. Mackeson Stout was sold in South Africa between 1967 and 1972. The beer was brewed under licence in Jamaica and Trinidad from 1973. It was produced in Singapore from 1978 and in Nigeria from 1979.
Sales of Mackeson had began to decline in Britain by the late 1970s, as female drinkers increasingly chose lager over milk stout.
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.
The ABV had been reduced to 3 percent by 1995.
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 in 2004.
Mackeson Stout has been produced under contract by a number of brewers since 1999, including Young’s of Wandsworth, Ridley’s of Chelmsford, Cameron’s of Hartlepool and Hydes of Manchester. It is currently brewed by Brains of Cardiff.
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 contained 600g of lactose per hectolitre of final product as of 2020.