Double Diamond beer

An ancient Double Diamond lantern outside the Royal Oak Hotel, Rhayader in 2006
An ancient Double Diamond lantern outside the Royal Oak Hotel, Rhayader in 2006

Double Diamond was a beer with a split personality. It was first brewed as a bottled India Pale Ale (IPA)(*). In the 1950s Double Diamond was Britain's best-selling bottled beer. It was also one of the most successful draught keg bitters of of the 60s and 70s. Many people will remember the tag line "Double Diamond works wonders".

The origin of Double Diamond

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of Ind Coope's Double Diamond. Ind Coope first used the name 'Double Diamond' on a bottle in 1936. It comes from a symbol of two interlocking diamonds which Ind Coope used on its IPA barrels.

According to Ian Webster, Double Diamond was probably a combination of two IPA brews, Ind Coope's own IPA and that of Samuel Allsop.[1] The two breweries merged in 1934. In 1938 the merged business produced one IPA called Ind Coope's Double Diamond.

Double Diamond works wonders

The famous tag line was originally "A Double Diamond works wonders". It was first used in 1949[2]. It referred to the bottled IPA and not the keg bitter, which came in the early 60s.

The tag line was part of a marketing campaign, along with a bowler hatted character called 'Sir Little Man'. There was a series of phrases:

In 1959 Ind Coope claimed that Double Diamond was Britain's best selling bottled beer [3]. It was also the Duke of Edinburgh's favourite brew.

Double Diamond draught

Bottle beer sales boomed in the 1950s. But in the 60s a new beer was taking the lead. Keg bitter was becoming the choice of Britain's beer drinkers.

In 1961 Ind Coope merged with Ansells and Tetley to form Allied Breweries. The following year Ind Coope launched Double Diamond Draught. It was, like Watneys Red Barrel and Flowers Keg Bitter, a pressurised keg beer.

Ind Coope sold Double Diamond Draught alongside bottled Double Diamond. It was a phenomenal success. In 1964 sales of Double Diamond Draught doubled.

Alongside the new beer there was a new advertising campaign by the advertising agency Hobson Bates. They dropped Sir Little Man and the 'works wonders' tag line. Double Diamond was now 'the beer the men drink'. The first campaign featured a 'Double Diamond Club' which you could join in your local. This was follwed by a James Bond theme similar to the Milk Tray adverts. Advertising only to men was considered fine in the early 60s, as women made up only 1-2% of the pale ale market. [4]

By the end of the 60s the 'works wonders' theme was back: 'Double Diamond works wonders, so drink some today'. Along with 'he's only here for the beer...it's Double Diamond'.

In 1970 Bass Charington was Britain's largest brewer. Allied was number two and more profitable.[5]

From the brewers' point of view it is easy to see why they pushed keg. Keg was consistent in flavour and appearance. The brewers became national brands through mergers. They were able to back their keg bitters with national advertising campaigns. At least until the mid 70s it worked.

The Daily Mirror ran a series testing the quality and flavour of beers in 1972. They found it difficult to understand the popularity of keg. But bottled Double Diamond was the only national beer to maintain its quality, strength and original gravity (OG). But their pick for best IPA was Green King's Abbot Ale.[6]

These statistics show that Double Diamond draught and Double Diamond bottled were not the same.

Original gravityStrength
Double Diamond keg (1972) (1)1037.63.4%
Double Diamond IPA (1972) (1)1047.34.2%
Double Diamond IPA (1960) (2)1047.44.7%

(1) Daily Mirror Square Deal Team/Consumers Association 1972

(2) Consumers Association 1960

In the late 1970s keg beer's popularity was waning. Allied pushed bottled Double Diamond in a series of national adverts in the late 1970s which stressed the beer's heritage.

The last advert I can find for Double Diamond is from 1981. It shows travellers returning from a bad flight into a rainly Luton airport. But one man has a smile on his face as he contemplates a glass of Double Diamond - 'Double Diamond still works wonders' ;-)

(*) IPA or India Pale Ale is hoppy style light-coloured beer

References

[1]Ind Coope & Samuel Allsopp Breweries: The History of the Hand by Ian Webster

[2]Ind Coope & Samuel Allsopp Breweries, as above

[3] 'The story of Ind Coope pubs and breweries', published in 'The Times' 9 October, 1959, page 9.

[4] 'The little tippler grows muscles', published in 'The Guardian', 24 November 1963, page 8

[5] 'Rolling out the barrels of cash' by Robert Head, published in 'The Daily Mirror', 7 January 1970, page 19

[6] 'What's brewing in that bottle', published in 'The Daily Mirror' 11 July 1972, page 9

By Steven Braggs, February 2020

Add your comments


Name
Comment
To prevent automated Bots from spamming, please enter the text you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history