Murree Brewery, Rawalpindi
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Consequent to the British annexation of the Punjab in 1849 from Sikh rule, and more so after 1857 when the British Crown formally extended its sovereignty over India, a structured administration commenced in the Punjab.
To meet the beer requirements of British personnel (mainly army), the Murree Brewery was established in 1860 and incorporated a year later at Ghora Gali, located in the Pir Punjal range of the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 6000' above sea level, near the resort town of Murree.
Between 1885 & 1890 the Company established Breweries in Rawalpindi & Quetta & acquired an interest in the Oticumand (South India) & Norailiya (Ceylon) breweries. A distillery was also established in the above period in Rawalpindi next to the Brewery.
A historic picture of the Quetta Brewery circa 1890 totally destroyed in the earth quake of 1935 The Murree Brewery at Ghora Galli was therefore among the first modern beer breweries established in Asia. Murree Beer proved to be very popular among the British troopers who were largely barracked in the 'Galis' of these hills.
The virtues of beer brewed from barley malt & hops as a light alcoholic beverage were not lost on the local population who rapidly became avid consumers.
By the turn of the 20 century, the name "Murree" was famous for its beer in keg and bottle in the bars, beer halls and army messes of British India. Murree Beer was first awarded a medal for product excellence at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876, followed by numerous awards over the past 140 years.
In 1935, a massive earthquake totally demolished the Quetta brewery as well as substantial part of Quetta town, killing thousands of persons, including a number of our employees. At Ghora Gali (Murree), the scarcity of water became an emerging problem. By the 1920s, brewing was mostly transferred to the Rawalpindi brewery but malting continued at Ghora Gali till the 1940s, when this property was sold. This historic brewery built in Gothic style architecture was burnt during the partition riots of 1947/48.
Park Lodge a handsome residential properly was purchased by the company from Mrs. H. Whymper in 1888. It was the principal residence and head office of the company till 1959, when it was taken over by the Government of Pakistan to house the office of the President of Pakistan. It remains an office of the Head of State of Pakistan from 1960 till the present day.
Two English families were closely connected with the founding of the original brewery. Edward Dyer was the first General Manager of the company. He was also the founder of Dyer Meaken breweries, Simla hills. The other was the Whymper family. Edward Whymper, a close relative was the the first to climb Matterhorn in 1865.
The Rawalpindi brewery is blessed with deep aquifers of good water. A railway siding was extended to the premises in the 19th century, which is now derelict.
Under the present prohibition law, only non-Muslims and foreigners are permitted to consume alcohol. Notwithstanding the consequent reduction in demand, the Company decided as policy to concentrate on product excellence. It was decided to modernize the plants.
A Ziemann (German) brew house was installed in 1967, 'Saladin' Box Maltings in 1971. Also in the sixties, it was decided to embark on an ambitious long-term programme to mature Malt Whiskies. Over the past four decades white oak casks and vats have been procured from North America, Australia and Spain.
Our two underground cellars now hold over half a million litres of Malt Whisky for varying periods of maturation upto 12 years under controlled temperature conditions.
Another wave of modernization was undertaken in the 1990s. New beer canning and modern bottle filling facility from Holstein and Kappert (Germany) was installed. Two units of alcohol rectification columns for producing extra neutral grade of potable alcohol from Molasses were procured from France and Italy, respectively, to give our Vodkas and Gins a qualitative edge.
Also in this period, the beer fermentation capacities were renewed. It is pertinent to point out that our basic beer fermentation system installed in the 1930s was then at the cutting edge of this technology. Known at the time as the Nathan system, it incorporates fermentation and the lagering of beer in a single double-jacketed vessel. The variation of this system is now in extensive use world wide.