Murree Brewery: Over a century of quality and history

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Observer Report

THE history of Murree Brewery begins in 1860 to meet the beer requirements of British personnel and incorporated a year later at Ghora Gali, located in the Pir Punjal range of the Western Himalayas 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 Rawalpindi next to the Brewery.
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 soldiers as well as the local population who grew to love the flavor of Murree Brewery By the turn of the 20th 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 Galli (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 Galli 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 property 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. Edward Whymper, a member of this family was the first person to climb Matterhorn Mountain in 1865. 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 late sixties, it was decided to embark on an ambitious long-term program 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 liters of Malt Whisky for varying periods of maturation up to 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. A variation of this system is now in extensive use worldwide. Tops Food and Beverages a division of the Company was established in 1969. It processes fruits and markets fruit juices and allied food products. Two manufacturing units are located in Rawalpindi and Hattar (KP) respectively. A Tetra Pak packaging facility was added in 2001. The Hattar plant was installed in 1992.
The plant is based on a Recuperative Melter and two Emhart IS container-manufacturing machines and has the latest quality control equipment for online inspection of containers. The Murree Brewery is one of the oldest public companies of the sub-continent. Its shares were traded on the Calcutta Stock Exchange as early as 1902, and is now the oldest continuing industrial enterprise of Pakistan. In 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, we were judged among the top 25 performing public companies by the Karachi Stock Exchange.

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