It was a long distance between drinks






FRANK Harold, who has died aged 87, took modest pride in the fact that he was the first person to fly from Melbourne to London to give his approval to a glass of beer.

As assistant general manager, brewing, at Carlton and United, he had a key role in negotiating the arrangement for the British brewer Watney's to make Foster's under licence in Britain. The highly secretive arrangement had its own code name Phoenix and early meetings between CUB and Watney's were held in Singapore so as not to alert other brewers.

On August 25, 1981, Harold tasted Foster's Draught at Watney's and gave it full marks. In his speech, apart from noting his 19,000-kilometre trip for a beer, he pointed out that the occasion marked a full turn of the wheel of history Australia, having learnt its early beer habits from England, had in response to its warmer weather, developed its culture of chilled lager ahead of the "Mother Country" and was now passing on its skills. In the highly competitive British market, Foster's Draught quickly won 6 per cent of the national market.

As many Australians in Britain were to observe, it tasted differently from Australia's Foster's. To compete in the draught lager market in Britain, the alcohol level had to be reduced from 4.9 per cent to 4.2, because the higher alcohol level would have put it into a higher tax level and made it uncompetitive.

Harold was one of the post-war breed of brewers who were to give CUB and Foster's an international reputation for quality control and brewing research.

He was educated at Christian Brothers College, St Kilda, and St Kevin's, Toorak and, after war service in New Guinea and Borneo, went to Melbourne University where he gained his Bachelor of Science degree. After early experience at the Richmond Brewery, he joined CUB in 1951. At the time the brewery had only two other graduates who worked in an old laboratory, with Bunsen burners and a few other bare basics.

Things had begun to change with the arrival of the dynamic R. F. G. Fogarty (later Sir Reginald) as general manager in 1949. He initiated a new era of acquisitions and modernisation.

Fogarty purported to have a low view of brewers, calling them "just bloody cooks" and described brewing as "bloody witchcraft . . . any damn fool can do it". It was bluff.

What he did was to build the most modern laboratory of any brewery in Australia, and began recruiting science graduates to be the company's future brewers.

Frank Harold was one of them. While Fogarty was the epitome of the "beer baron" of legend, Harold was a quiet achiever. He became chief chemist in 1956 and leader of the team that developed hop extract, a world first in hop technology. The new process eliminated the need for the traditional but comparatively wasteful method of cooking hop leaves.

As Keith Dunstan said in his book The Amber Nectar: a Celebration of Beer and Brewing in Australia, "Frank was faintly nostalgic as he said: 'Some of our younger brewers are around for a year or two before they ever see any hops.' " CUB marketed its hop extract around the world.

By the 1980s CUB had a laboratory and technical centre to make it pre-eminent among brewers in Australia. It employed about 30 scientists as well as other technicians to carry out the pure research and quality control that made it the natural choice when Watney's in London wanted an Australian-style beer.

During Harold's era, the centre developed techniques for profiling or "fingerprinting" beer so that it could be exactly reproduced from one brewery to another. This was a huge advance up to the 1950s Foster's made in one of CUB's breweries was never precisely the same as Foster's made in another.

By the time he made his historic trip to London to taste Foster's Draught, CUB and Foster's were ready for the world.

This modest man who reached the top of his calling had an early family deprivation. Harold, along with his brothers Brian and Tony and sister Marie, were raised by relatives when both their parents died while they were still at school.

With that example, family remained a key to his life values. As he had planned, he retired in 1984 at age 60 to spend more time with his wife and family.

In retirement, he became a consultant to the new Power's brewery in Queensland. Despite being a lifelong St Kilda supporter, he was obliged on his trips north to develop an interest in, if not a passion for, rugby league and the Brisbane Broncos. He was only ever a token enthusiast.

Harold is survived by his brothers, Brian and Tony his sister, Sister Marie Therese Harold his two sons, Michael and Chris and two grandchildren, Charles and Emma. His wife, Pauline, died in 2010 and their son David in 2006.

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