Mackeson Stout: ‘Women like it better – it’s not bitter’

Mackeson Stout was originally brewed in Hythe, Kent, by Mackeson's Brewery in 1907 and released to the public a couple of years later. Whitbread acquired the brand in the 1920s and gave it a national distribution, eventually turning it into the market leader for a lower alcohol sweet dark beer. After 1968 brewing was discontinued at the Hythe plant but continued elsewhere. In recent times Mackeson has become a ‘ghost brand’ in the UK i.e. still manufactured but sold without advertising or promotion.

Mackeson, 1937

Although it was initially marketed as ‘milk stout’, claims that the beer contained milk were not strictly true; the essential ingredient that made Mackeson different from other stouts was lactose, a type of sugar that cannot be turned into alcohol by brewer's yeast, which imparts a creamy character to the beer. Contemporary labelling standards prevent the use of the term ‘milk stout’ in the UK although the label still bears the iconic milk churn.

The J Walter Thompson (JWT) advertising agency handled the advertising for Mackeson stout from 1937 onwards. It was a competitor of Guinness but differed in that it was sweeter in taste. Milk stout reputedly appealed to women who found its rich, slightly sweet taste a pleasant change from more bitter beers, as demonstrated in the arresting 1937 press ad (above) for Mackeson with the slogan: ‘Women like it better – it’s not bitter’. 

As the 1958 ‘Jenny looks for Mackeson when she gets home’ press ad illustrates (left), it was promoted to both sexes as a wholesome drink to look forward to after a long day at work. Its multi-generational marketing was unusual at the time; by targeting multiple age groups it suggested that senior, male members of the household would appreciate the beer’s strength whilst their daughters could enjoy its smoothness, albeit it with father’s tacit approval. Other ads from the ‘try it and taste the difference’ campaign also show women enjoying stout (and sometimes even putting men on the right track with regard to trying a pint of Mackeson for themselves!).

The JWT London Archive at HAT includes over 600 guard books of press advertising proofs, client planning files and corporate records.

Mackeson, 1958

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