Carling Brewery

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Product typeBeer, cider
OwnerMolson Coors (since 2005)
Introduced1840 in London, Upper Canada

The Carling Brewery was founded in 1840 by Ian Carling at London in Upper Canada (now Ontario, Canada). In 1952, Carling lager was first sold in the United Kingdom, and in the early 1980s, it became the UK's most popular beer brand (by volume sold). The company changed hands numerous times – it was acquired by Canadian Breweries, which was eventually renamed Carling O'Keefe, which merged with the Molson Brewery, which then merged with Coors to form Molson Coors.


The origin of Carling dates back to 1818, when Thomas Carling, a farmer from the English county of Yorkshire, and his family settled in Upper Canada, at what is now the city of London, Ontario. He brewed an ale which became popular, and eventually took up brewing full-time. The first Carling brewery had two kettles, a horse to turn the grinding mill and six men to work on the mash tubs, and Carling sold his beer from a wheelbarrow on the streets of London, Ontario.[citation needed]

In 1840, Carling began a small brewing operation in London, selling beer to soldiers at the local camp. In 1878, his sons, John and William, built a five-storey brewery in London, which was destroyed by fire within four years of opening, on 13 February 1879.[1] William Carling, the firm's senior partner and technical leader, died of pneumonia contracted after helping to fight the fire.[1] The remaining partners carried on without him. John Carling died in 1911, and the company changed hands numerous times thereafter.

In 1927, Carling offered a $25,000 prize for the first flight from London, Ontario, to London, England. The challenge was taken up by Capt. Terry Tully and Lt. James Medcalf in a Stinson Detroiter monoplane named Sir John Carling. They took off on 1 September 1927, from London, Ontario, and reached Newfoundland, but disappeared over the North Atlantic.[2]

Carling merged with the Brewing Corporation of Ontario (BCO) in 1930. BCO launched Carling in the US in 1932 through a joint venture[3] and acquired Toronto's O'Keefe Brewery in 1934. BCO became Canadian Breweries (CBL) in 1937. Under the leadership of president E. P. Taylor, CBL grew Carling into a Canadian national brand through the purchase of numerous other breweries across Canada, several of which were converted to brew Carling and O'Keefe brands and Carling Red Cap became the most popular brand of beer in Ontario in the 1960s. (Alcohol sale is regulated differently by each Canadian province, not on a nation-wide basis.)[4] The brand later disappeared from the market and was unsuccessfully revived in 1994.[5]

Carling brands entered the UK market in a joint venture between CBL and British brewers in 1952.[6] The joint venture eventually became Bass Charington, the largest brewer in the UK.[7] After CBL was sold to Rothmans in 1969, it was renamed Carling O'Keefe in 1973. In 1989, Carling O'Keefe merged with Molson, which merged in 2005 with Coors to form the Molson Coors Brewing Company. Molson Coors has continued to brew and sell Carling Black Label across Canada.

Molson Coors in Burton upon Trent, where Carling is brewed in the United Kingdom

Carling became the UK's most popular beer brand (by volume sold) in the early 1980s.[citation needed] UK sales in 1999 were one billion pints, in 2007, 2.3 billion pints (over six billion worldwide), in 2009, 4.1 billion pints (11.6 billion pints worldwide), in 2010, 17.6 billion pints worldwide, in 2011 24.9 billion pints worldwide. In 2016 they broke new records, selling 7.9 billion pints in the UK alone, with 83.6 billion pints worldwide.

The largest pub chain in the UK, J D Wetherspoon, stopped selling Carling in September 2009, entering into a seven-year exclusive deal with the Danish brewery Carlsberg. From Q1 2011 Amstel, Carling, Heineken and Staropramen were again sold by Wetherspoons, at higher prices than Carlsberg.[citation needed]

In 2017, UK HMRC took Carling to the tax tribunal because it claimed the firm underpaid tax by more than £50 million between 1 September 2012 and 31 January 2015. But the firm won the case after it successfully argued the actual strength of the lager meant it should not be subject to the four per cent level of taxation. The lager is advertised as having an alcohol by volume (ABV) of four per cent but is actually brewed between 3.7 per cent and 4.3 per cent, owners Molson Coors said. In the tribunal hearing brought by HMRC, the firm said the ABV was reduced in order to cut tax on Carling products as stronger beers are subject to higher taxes than lower-strength ones under UK excise duties. EU law permits beer to have a natural variation of 0.5 per cent and the owner insists it does not believe customers are being misled. According to papers from the tribunal, Philip Rutherford, vice president of Molson Coors Europe, told the tribunal the "key driver" behind the decision not to change the labelling on Carling's products was to prevent retailers, including pub chains and supermarkets, from demanding "a slice" of the savings.[8]


Carling, part of Molson Coors, were title sponsors of English football's Premier League from its second season in 1993 until 2001, returning as an official partner from 2016 to 2019 before being replaced by Budweiser, and the Reading and Leeds festivals from between 1998 and 2007. Carling are the official beer of the Scotland national football team, and in 2010 and 2011 were the sponsors of the Scottish Cup. In 2012, Carling ended their nine-year sponsorship of the Football League Cup, then called the Carling Cup . As of 2013 they sponsored Northern Ireland's IFA Premiership.[citation needed] Carling sponsored the two leading Scottish football clubs, Celtic and Rangers, from 2003 to 2010.[9][10]

Carling was a major sponsor of live music in the UK, sponsoring the Academy Music Group venues (including Brixton Academy), until replaced by O2.

In 1927, Carling offered a $25,000 prize for the first Canadian or British pilot to fly from London, Ontario to London, England. This offer was made just after Lindbergh had made his successful flight. The pilot, Terrence Tully, and James Medcalf the navigator made the attempt in a Stinson SM-1. The plane took off on 29 August 1927, but soon turned back due to heavy fog. Their second attempt a few days later brought them to Newfoundland, from which on 7 September they headed for London, England. After two days had passed with no sighting of them, it was assumed they were lost at sea.[11]

Carling in 1972 and 1973 sponsored race driver Larry Smith in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series; Smith died in a crash during the 1973 Talladega 500. For 1974 the company sponsored Canadian native Earl Ross; after his second place in that year’s Motor State 400 Ross' team was merged by Carling with the Junior Johnson #11 team of driver Cale Yarborough. Yarborough had won six races during the season and won four more under Carling colors while Ross stunned the sport by winning at Martinsville Speedway. Despite the success Carling unexpectedly dropped their sponsorship, this despite signing a deal lasting through 1977.


  • Carling Black Label is a beer sold in Canada and South Africa; it is the best-selling beer in South Africa.[citation needed] It has an alcohol content of 5% in Canada and 5.5% in South Africa.
  • Carling, formerly known as Carling Black Label, is a mass market lager in the United Kingdom with an alcohol content of 3.7% (But labelled at 4%).
  • Carling Black Label Ice, or "Black Ice", is a strong, low-priced ice beer sold in Canada with an alcohol content of 6.1%; sold as Molson Ice in the United States using a variation of the Black Label Ice label and logo.
  • Carling Lager is a no-preservatives lager sold in Canada, distinct from Carling (Black Label).
  • Carling Ice is an ice-brewed product from the Carling line.
  • Carling Light is a lighter variation of Carling Lager.
  • Carling Premier is a cream-flow lager with an alcohol content of 4.7%, introduced to celebrate Carling's sponsorship of the FA Premier League in 1992. In cans it is sold with a nitrogen widget, similar to those used in some canned ales. Unlike most lagers, Premier needs time to settle.
  • Carling Extra Cold is a version sold in British pubs chilled to 2 °C, launched in 2002.
  • C2 is the low-alcohol version of Carling, with 2% alcohol by volume.
  • Carling Black Label Supreme is an inexpensive 8% alcohol brew.
  • Carling Black Label Big 10 has 10% alcohol content.
  • Carling Chrome is a bottled lager, brewed for a less bitter taste at 4.8% abv.
  • Carling Cider - available in regular and Black Fruit flavors.
  • Carling Zest is a 2.8% lager that has different flavors, including ginger and citrus.

Black Label[edit]

Carling Black Label is the name of a brand of Canadian lager in Australia, Canada, and South Africa. In Ireland and the United Kingdom the same beer has been sold as Carling (without 'black label') since 1997. In Sweden it is known as Carling Premier.

Black Label is a brand of beer well known[by whom?] throughout the former British Empire, where it was known[by whom?] for its slogan "Hey Mabel, Black Label!" The most famous slogan[according to whom?] for this product was, "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label!" which was a reworking of an unsold campaign for the UK Milk Marketing Board, "I bet he drinks milk!"[12] In several countries it is also known as Carling Black Label. Black Label has the slang/street name of Zamalek in South Africa, because of an association with the Egyptian football club of the name which shares the colours black, white and red.

The SAB's brand Carling Black Label won Monde Selection's Grand Gold Award in 2008.[13]

Other brand history[edit]

WCRS[clarification needed] produced television and cinema adverts for Carling Premier. Carling Premier adverts used unusual cinematography. Film director Wim Wenders shot one advert in Iceland with actors Bryan Carney and Rebecca Godwin, showing Carney riding a bicycle on a highwire over a waterfall; it cost over £1 million. In 1996 Carling Premier used Gary Numan's 1979 song "Cars", and sponsored his tour of that year.


  • Coutts, Ian (2010). Brew North: How Canadians Made Beer and Beer Made Canada. Vancouver: Greystone Books. ISBN 9781553654674.
  • Heron, Craig (2003). Booze: a distilled history. Between The Lines. ISBN 9781896357836.
  • Rohmer, Richard (1978). E. P. Taylor : the biography of Edward Plunket Taylor. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-7709-2.


  1. ^ a b Phillips, Glen C. (2000). On Tap: The Odyssey of Beer and Brewing in Victorian London-Middlesex. Sarnia, Ontario: Cheshire Cat Press. ISBN 0-921818-21-1.
  2. ^ Corfield, Bill (September 1947). "Heroic Failure". Canadian Aviation. Retrieved 27 July 2018 – via Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.
  3. ^ Rohmer 1978, p. 67.
  4. ^ Advertising archives at Brock University, [1].
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Rohmer 1978, p. 223.
  7. ^ Rohmer 1978, p. 297.
  8. ^ Roberts, Rachel (27 August 2017). "Alcohol content of Carling weaker than advertised, owners tell tax tribunal". The Independent.
  9. ^ "Celtic". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Rangers". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  11. ^ Linn's Stamp News, January 2015
  12. ^ "Is this the secret formula for creating sustained marketing success?". Invisible Brand Blog. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009.
  13. ^ "SAB - Local brews scoop seven major international awards". Archived from the original on 16 January 2014.

External links[edit]