The beer train from the Anchor Brewery

30 10 2017

A wonderful set of photographs popped up On a Little Street in Singapore last week. The photographs were posted by Lies Strijker-Klaij and includes several of the old Anchor Brewery at which Mrs Strijker’s husband, the photographer, headed its Brewhouse and Bottling Hall in the 1960s as an employee of Heineken. The set of the brewery includes several rare photographs of the railway siding and the bonded store that was sited across Alexandra Road (where IKEA stands today), as well as an overhead conveyor bridge that was used to convey beer across to the store. Together with the brewery, the bridge was a longtime landmark in the area.

An aerial view showing the brewery, the bridge , the bonded store, and the railway siding (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

The brewery, occupied the spot where Anchorpoint (the shopping mall) and the Anchorage (a condominium) stands today. It was one of two breweries along a partly industrialised Alexandra Road, the other brewery being the Malayan Breweries Limited (MBL), a venture between Fraser and Neave (F&N) and Heineken. The Anchor Brewery, producing Anchor Beer, began as a $1 million venture by the Dutch East Indies based Archipel Brouwerij Compagnie named the Archipelago Brewery Company (ABC) on 4 November 1933. As a rival to MBL, which produced Tiger Beer, it entered into a five-year pooling agreement in March 1938.  The agreement, secured for it a 40% share of the beer market and 70% of the stout market in Malaya, with the intention that it was to eventually be extended to the breweries’ other markets in Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and China.

The bridge to the bonded store over Alexandra Road, 1969, decorated for the 150th Anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore  (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

A turn of events in Europe just one and a half years later would lead to MBL’s acquisition of ABC. Britain had declared war with Germany following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. ABC, which Germany’s Beck’s Brewery had an interest in, was then abandoned by its German management team and found itself in the hands of the government, who decided to keep the brewery running under their care before putting it up for sale in 1940. MBL submitted the winning bid and set up a subsidiary – the Archipelago Brewery Company (1941) – to run the brewery in 1941.  It wasn’t to be long however before another turn of events – the Japanese invasion and occupation – saw the brewery’s operators change hands once again when Dai Nippon, the producer of Asahi Beer in Japan, was asked to operate the brewery from late 1942.

The bonded store and a train leaving it (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

MBL returned to running the breweries after the war and it was in this post-war period in 1949 when the conveyor bridge, built 6 metres above Alexandra Road, was added along with a bonded storehouse (where IKEA is today). A private railway siding, connected the store with a pre-existing industrial branch line that connected with the main line across Jalan Bukit Merah. The industrial line was in use until the early 1980s, after which it was dismantled. The brewery closed in 1990 when MBL’s brewing operations were relocated to a new factory in Tuas and together with its iconic conveyor bridge and its store, were demolished in 1993 – except for a Arts and Crafts movement inspired house along Alexandra Road – the former residence of the brew master. The conservation building, now used as a restaurant, along with several hints of the former brewery found in the names of the mall and condominium that has replaced it (and also the ABC Brickworks Food Centre), are all that now remains of a brewery that introduced to Singapore what became until the 1980s at least, its favourite beer.

A loaded train leaving the siding (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

366A Alexandra Road – another Arts and Crafts styled house in the brewery compound – in which Mr and Mrs Strijker lived in (photo: Th. A. Strijker)  

The former Brewmaster’s House – conserved in 1993.

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The red tongued dog reinterpreted

7 04 2016

Unveiled last night – a limited edition of Ang Ji Gao (红舌狗) as Guinness Foreign Extra Stout has come to be known locally.

Hokkien for “Red Tongued Dog”, Ang Ji Gao is a reference to the wolf mark placed that has been found on Guinness Singapore edition’s labels since the 1880s. On sale for a period of two months or whilst stocks last, the labels for the limited edition’s bottles and cans will feature a reinterpretation of the red tongued wolf mark. Created by local artist Ben Quek, the mark is being decorated with illustrations of what Ben sees as all things Singaporean. Among the illustrations Singaporeans will identify with are those of the red plastic chair now found in many of Singapore’s coffee shops and one of the most commonly used expressions when it comes to good food and drink, “shiok”.

Presenting the limited edition Ang Ji Gao.

Presenting the limited edition Ang Ji Gao.

Interestingly, the wolf mark points to the manner in which Guinness first arrived on our shores; not as Guinness but as Blood’s Brand stout in the 1860s distributed by Blood, Wolfe and Company- a Liverpool based bottler.

Wolf Brand 1922 Advert

Branding for the now famous stout had then have been left to bottlers, who also established the distribution networks that gave the stout a worldwide reach. Blood, Wolfe and Company, who had networks that spread to British controlled Southeast Asia and Oceania, re-branded the stout as Wolf Brand in the 1880s using now well recognised red-tongued wolf’s head as its mark. The use of animals would then have been common in trade marks as they allowed for easy identification and recognition by a then largely illiterate populace. The wolf’s head mark had become so identifiable in Singapore that when Guinness reclaimed the distribution and branding of its Foreign Extra Stout in the 1950s, it decided to keep the mark on its labels.

Blood Wolfe Neck Label 1896 (source: Guinness Singapore Facebook Page).

Blood, Wolfe and Company Guinness Stout Neck Label 1896 (source: Guinness Singapore Facebook Page).

The launch of the limited edition also coincides with the production of a coffee table book, for which Guinness has collaborated with Humans of Singapore. Titled “Men of Singapore”, the book features 25 stories of men who embody the values of generousity, authenticity, innovation, courage and supportiveness. The book, which will be made available in the public libraries, will also be given out during promotions and contests on the Guinness Singapore Facebook Page.

Showing at the Projector last evening.

Showing at the Projector last evening.

Guinness will also be running promotions during the period with up to $60,000 worth of home furnishing vouchers up for grabs. Under three tabs Simply purchase Guinness Foreign Extra Stout bottles in coffeeshops or cans in supermarkets for a chance to win. More information on this can also be found on the Guinness Singapore Facebook Page.
JeromeLim-4397