Monday, 22 June 2009

The brewers' star in Scotland and England

Occasionally you come across an old label or beer mat bearing a six-pointed star. Most people's first thought is of the Star of David but it seems at first glance odd to postulate a link between beer and Judaism.

There has been a fair amount of research into the use of the star in Germany; in fact, Matthias Trum of the well-known Schlenkerla brewery in Bamberg wrote a paper about the "Brauersternla" at university. He notes that the use of the hexagram can be shown as far back as 1350 for the Jewish militia in Prague, and for brewers in Nuremburg in 1425, and argues:

… the hexagram was in those days in Franconia and northern Bavaria widely used symbol for protection and in this form used by everyone including both Jews and brewers. The exiled Jews of Nürnberg brought the star with them to Prague, where it became symbol of the Jewish community and was then spread all over the world through letterpress. The brewing star remained however in south Germany and developed into a tapping sign.

Zoigl-brewers in darkest Franconia
, the remnants of medieval commune-brewing tradition, still use it today to show where home-brewed beer is available for sale.

I was familiar with its use in Germany, but was interested to discover it was once used in Britain too.

The Northampton Brewery Company (later merged with Phipps – who continued to use the star logo – and finally taken over and eventually closed by Watney) had it as their logo, as did the Usher's brewery in Edinburgh. Both of these are modern usages. Usher's star is a trade mark, which suggests it was the only brewery in its local area using this symbol. But was it once more widespread, and how did the star get from Germany to Britain?


  1. Happily, the star is now being used once again by a new venture reviving the Phipps NBC beers: Good on them.

  2. You can see one on a Leeds-bottled Guinness label in this recent post of Ron's. Guinness even named one of their special edition stouts after it a couple of years ago: their account of the symbolism is in the second paragraph here.

  3. By the way, can this information be useful for collectors.

    Beermat searcher: