History of Beermats
So where and when did beermats start ? Well, it’s open to a bit of conjecture but as beer and ale was popular across all classes in the 18th century it’s probable that some form of mat was used, both to keep insects out of beer by placing it on top of the tankard or whatever was being use to drink out of and also under it to wipe up and absorb spills. Not beermats as we know and recognise nowadays but probably serving the same purpose. Similarly, on occasions pottery coasters were placed under drinking vessels, possibly to protect the tables in certain Inns.
The first beermats as we know them were cardboard based and produced in Germany by around 1880 by Friedrich Horn, a German printing and board mill company. Not only did they create small thin(ish) cardboard mats but they also printed messages on them, something that would eventually open up a whole new world of advertising ! This was quickly taken to a new level by Robert Sputh, also in Germany who began to produce much thicker, highly absorbent mats which were made of liquid pulp and set overnight in moulds. Again, they could also be printed on once dry and set and he quickly patented the process and they began to be used across Germany.
Whilst unprinted absorbent mats would have been used in the UK, it is thought that the first mats produced by an English Brewery were produced by Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd around 1922. Highly prized by collectors, they began the era that we now recognise, of colourful designs which promote the brewery and it’s ales. In this case the design was based on two of their bottle labels, Watney’s Pale Ale and Reid’s Stout. It’s quite common for the printers to add their names to early mats, which helps us date them.
A number of other breweries also began producing mats in the 1920’s, for example Massey’s seen opposite..
And by the mid-late 1930’s many of the recognisable “names” in the brewing world were producing them and British manufacturers such as Quarmby and Regicor can be seen on many mats from this period.
Quarmby became part of the Katz group, one of the largest Beermat Printing Groups in the world. To find out more about Quarmby, in particular their manufacturing processes check out the section in the excellent book “A Guide to Collecting Beer Mats” by the late Ian Calvert. Also check out the history section on the Katz website: https://www.thekatzgroup.com/en/company/history.html