• This week, some of its most ardent fans discovered that Carling Black Label is, in fact, originally Canadian.
  • This did not go down well.
  • The beer has been around for almost a century in various markets. 

To the shock of some of its fans, the beer of the South African working man has been outed as Canadian on Twitter this week.

"The only black to succeed under apartheid is not even South African," another Twitter user lamented.

It's not clear why the beer's origins were suddenly a topic of discussion, but this much is certain: Carling Black Label was first brewed almost a century ago in Ontario by the Canadian Carling brewery.

Originally known as Black & White Lager, in the 1920s it was rebranded as Black Label, and distributed in the US and UK.

The beer – affectionately known here as Zamalek - was introduced in South Africa in the late 1960s by SA Breweries, which bought the rights to brew it in South Africa. 

Over the decades, SAB launched various macho campaigns – many featured cowboys - to associate it with hard work and masculinity.

Its strongman image was fortified by its high alcohol level – 5.5%, compared to Castle (5%) and Hansa Pilsener (4.5%).

The name Zamalek dates back to the 1990s, when an Egyptian football club – which shares the beer label’s colours of black, white and red – thoroughly trounced local soccer team Kaiser Chiefs. According to Urban Dictionary, local fans then claimed that the Zamalek club was as strong as Carling Black Label.

The lager is described by SAB as having  “a spicy hoppiness complemented by lightly kilned malted barley”.

Most recently, Carling Black Label has backed down from its ultra-masculine advertising with a large campaign to stop gender violence.

Carling Black Label, owned by the US group Molson Coors, is still available in Canada and the US. But there is no business link with the South African beer, says Grant Lake, brand manager of Carling Black Label Africa. 

Carling Black Label in Canada.
Carling Black Label in Canada.

Carling (which has an alcohol level below 4%) - which also originated from the Canadian Carling Black Label brand - is one of the most popular lagers in the UK.

Receive a single WhatsApp every morning with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: