The Bottle of Britain

 The Bottle of Britain

Operation Sealion, the planned invasion of Great Britain by German armed forces was, in effect, cancelled because the Luftwaffe was unable to establish air superiority over southern England. The famous Battle of Britain was the turning point in the aerial struggle. During that battle, Hurricane and Spitfire fighter aircraft, rising to the fight from airfields across Kent, earned themselves a place in English history alongside Nelson, Richard the Lion Heart and Drake. Though the real workhorse of this epic clash was the Hawker Hurricane, it was the Supermarine Spitfire that became the rallying point for the English will to transcend adversity and persevere. The Spit was the elegant symbol of English fighting spirit - a spirit underestimated by the libertine Herman Goering.

Now, nearly seven decades after the threat of German invasion was on the minds of every Brit, the Teutonic Threat has returned. German forces led by Field Marshalls Beck, Warsteiner and Lowenbrau have already crossed the channel by the case and the keg. Truckloads of these German tallboys have been rolling unhindered through the Kentish countryside far too long. Though many “dead soldiers” have been left behind, the battle was starting to swing in favour of the Hun. It was time to bring back the hero of the last invasion - the Spitfire - to defeat the threat to the brewers of England by tangling with the invaders bock to bock - to instill the two-fingered fighting spirit in the hearts of Brits gone soft and addicted to pils.

This is certainly not a product placement for an alcoholic beverage nor do we expect the refrigerator in our lunch room to be filled with cold and free Spitfire beer any time soon (though we wouldn’t say no to that kind of sponsorship), but simply an appreciative nod to the creative advertising of Britain’s oldest brewery - Shepherd Neame.

Based in County Kent in southeast England, Shepherd Neame shared the same territory with the Royal Air Force throughout the Second World War. There’s no doubt that the young, highly strung and highly stressed Spitfire and Hurricane pilots of the Royal Air Force and other commonwealth air forces pounded back enough Shepherd Neame product to float the D-Day invasion fleet.

What better name for a beer from Kent than “Spitfire” - the ultimate British fighting machine and the beverage of choice for bleary-eyed hooligans from the home counties. The Spitfire “Bottle of Britain” ad campaign employs simple graphics and clever headlines and not much else. The ads make you laugh, and as in my case, make you go to the liquor store to pick some up. At $3.50 a bottle, it won’t be the beer of choice for handing out to my daughters’ boyfriends when they come over, but for special occasions, you can’t beat downing a Spitfire... a bottle of Spitfire that is.

Some of the ads actually don’t make much sense to Canucks from backwoods Lanark County, but I suppose just crack up Limeys from Kent. The ads don’t run in Canada, but the amber coloured “Premium Kentish Ale” is available at finer liquor stores across Ontario. Seems it’s a bit too “premium” for the workin’ man’s Beer Store - looks a tad snooty beside the low grade discount beer found in “Tall Boys” (Perhaps the beer container of choice for Bomber Command).

While no self-respecting Canadian fighter pilot would bring a six pack of Spitfire to a Maple Flag party, for fear of being called “precious”, it’s a good beer with a great name and a phenomenal advertising campaign. Take a look, or better yet, a taste.

The Bottle of Britain 1


Nike has Tiger Woods, but Shepherd Neame has Sir Winston Churchill endorsing their product, though I doubt he’s getting royalties. The familiar two fingered Victory sign turned call out to the publican simply nails the message that Shepherd Neame is trying to get across - it’s as British as the Prime Minister, it’s courageous, it’s defiant. The whole ad campaign is a defiant statement against an insidious invasion from the Teutonic Brewing Armies from the Fatherland - these hordes include the 8th Beck Grenadiers, the Bitburger Panzer Division and Schneider Weisse Beerwaffe.

The Bottle of Britain 1


This busboard poster is brilliant - perhaps the best of the whole series for a Marketing man. Only the Brits would have no qualms whatsoever about equating beers and ales imported from Teutonic and Nordic Europe with the consummate evil of the Third Reich.

The Bottle of Britain 1


Nothing like rubbing their noses in it. I guess if you won the Battle of Britain and the entire Second World War it’s OK to mercilessly mock the losers. It has a slight creepy edge in that it uses the needless deaths of many of Germany’s young men as a comic marketing tool. Perhaps if it were anyone but the British, it would be considered tasteless. Not so the beer.

The Bottle of Britain 1


Taking a page from a Second World War aircraft identification teaching tool. Simple and not so creepy.

The Bottle of Britain 1


Funny for the average pub goer, but goofy when you think about it. Fokker was a Dutch company and had no aircraft designs of military use by the Germans in the Second World War let alone The Battle of Britain. The pre-war Dutch Fokker G-1 and D.XXI managed to actually shoot down German aircraft before the fall of Holland to the Nazis.

The Bottle of Britain 1


We doubt that there were many Kentish men willing to hoist a stein full of German Pilsner after the Spitfire Bottle of Britain campaign. With many German beers like Bremen’s Beck’s and Munich’s Lowenbrau consumed worldwide, Kentish Spitfire may have won the battle, but the World War is still in doubt. Perhaps this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

The Bottle of Britain 1


The English can put up squadrons and squadrons of cases of Spitfire to fight the fight against the German invaders but they will never make headway in a land that wakes to Tim Horton and quaffs John Labatt at the end of a hard day. Here some RCAF bomber boys long for the taste of Canadian beer in the land of British ale.

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