Before embarking on our recent trip with Sanparks to the Langebos Huts in the the Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant National Park myself and Titus Chuene stopped at the local ‘chemist’ to pick up a decent bottle of whiskey. Perusing the aisles I spotted 12 very rare animals and packed them into the car for the journey – Lion Lager.
in my day, Lion Lager was the choice of libation for spotty horny teenagers all over as they progressed from sugary cooldrink to alcohol. Of course the code words used by underage drinkers was that they were looking for NO17 (L1ON in Lion Lager when you were upside down from one too many!).
In 1912 Anders Ohlssons died and his friends brewed a beer in his honour. His nickname had been The Lion so they named the beer Lion Lager.
Charles Glass’s Johannesburg-brewed lager competed fiercely with Ohlsson’s Lion Lager which originated in the Cape. These two rival breweries, along with many smaller rivals, fought to secure well located hotels and pubs, and vied for popular support. Merchandising in the form of posters, branded jugs and glasses were freely available.
In 1955 Castle Brewing bought out the Ohlsson’s and Chandlers Union Breweries groups for R400,000. The company then became known for the first time as The South African Breweries.
Critics describe Lion Lager thus; “Lion lager is a flavoured, golden beer that satisfies the thirst of a pride of natural leaders, with an unmistakable touch of Ohlsson’s Cape Breweries style, brewed in South Africa to the original recipe, since 1891.
“This mainstream beer brand is 5% alcohol by volume and expertly brewed using the finest variety of barley, and the highest quality of maize, malts and hops.
“It is a palatable beer, a beer of substance achieved through exclusive brewing process, which ensures a consistent, quality beer.”
Lion Lager was the biggest seller in the SAB group during the ’70s and into the early ’80s, but in the ’90s its popularity began to decline compared to Castle sales, after which it was taken off the shelves in 2000.
The next time consumers saw Lion Lager, it was a new and improved version that was lighter and aimed at a younger market. The improved version of the beer was again released to the market in October 2000 but in March 2003 it was again off the shelves.
The elusive Lions that Titus and I spotted were part of a batch that had been made available in stores across South Africa for a limited time only.
There is a Facebook Page encouraging SAB to Bring Back Lion Lager.
Lion Lager advert from the 1980’s featuring rowing – “Span alles in”.
For me, Lion Lager and the Langebos Huts in the Addo Elephant National Park will forever be tied together. Langebos is about one-and-a-half hours outside of Port Elizabeth. It is unique in that it encompasses three distinctly different environments – high forests, desert-like dunes and cliffs crumbling into the sea and spectacular beaches.
Thanks for the laughs Titus!
If you are interested in importing supplies of Lion Lager – speak to the Delta Corporation in Zimbabwe. Delta Corporation is a broad-based company with interests in beverages (manufacturing and distribution) and the Agro Industrial sectors. It is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and is one of the top quoted companies in terms of market capitalisation. The company traces its roots to 1898 when the foundation stone was laid by the Salisbury Lager Beer Brewery and Ice Factory. It was first listed on the Stock Exchange in 1946 as Rhodesian Breweries Limited. It later changed its name to Delta Corporation in 1978.
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