A. Le Coq

History

  • 1461 ‒ The beginning of beer brewing in Tartu

    Tartu (Dorpat, Дерпт, 1893–1917 Jurjev) became the centre of an agricultural region and the passing trade routes as early as in the second half of the first millennium. And people have probably been brewing and drinking beer there for as long as they have been baking bread.


    In the 13th century, a settlement spread around the bishop’s stronghold and the German tradesmen and craftsmen of this town cooked and brewed their favourite drink in the brewing kitchens by their homes.

    Everything related to beer as the source of income was strictly regulated in towns. The malt had to be ground in the malt mill (Meltsiveski, Malzmühle) that belonged to the town. According to the privileges given to the town first by bishops and later by kings, the right to brew beer for sale belonged for a long time to tradesmen of the Great Guild. Craftsmen of the Small Guild were allowed to brew beer only for their own use. The required order was established in the brewing statutes of the Big Guild (Brauerschragen), which were first mentioned in 1461.

    In 1783, Russian Imperial powers ordered the establishment of Tartu Brewing Company (Brauer-Compagnie), which was basically a social welfare body which could have an equal number of members both from the Big and the Small Guilds. These had to be without exception widows who had lost other sources of income, orphans or town citizens who had lost everything by no fault of their own. All others were banned from brewing beer and a brewing house was built for the brewing company on the banks of the Emajõgi River. The beer made there was sold in 30 pubs owned by the town.

    This order lasted until the end of the regency, when it was realized that the primitive brewery of the Brewing Company and the quality of beer did not meet the expectations and demand of the townspeople. Better beer was transported to the town from nearby manors and this situation made it hard for the town to collect beer taxes. As a result, the company started leasing its brewing rights to private tradesmen.

  • 19th century ‒ First private breweries

    Many small private breweries started operation in Tartu in the beginning of the 19th century.

    Direct predecessors of A. Le Coq, the oldest Estonian brewery that has been continuously operating, are the breweries of B. J. Hesse (founded in 1800) and J. R. Schramm (founded in 1826).


    Two other smaller breweries – Gambrinus and Livonia – were joined with the company in 1863. In the course of time, a large enterprise Tivoli Ltd was formed from these companies and in 1913 the owners renamed it A. Le Coq Ltd.

    In the end of 1825, Justus Reinhold Schramm was granted the status of a Tartu guild tradesman. He had become a brewer in 1822 and had previously worked in the largest brewery in Tallinn, which belonged to his mother. He first started brewing in a rented small brewery (built in 1823) and became the first to start producing quality lager in Tartu.

    In 1827, he started building a new brewery on the registered immovable on Rüütli Street that was completed in 1832. In 1827, he rented the former gunpowder cellar in Toomemägi hill as his lager cellar.

    After the death of J. R. Schramm in 1851, the company was managed by his son until 1863. From then on, the successors rented out the department store and the brewery that both carried the name of J. R. Schramm. The company that was located in the town centre was expanded in 1860, and in 1874, the production became powered by steam. Several vodka products were also made in addition to beer and mead between 1861 and 1914. The company also owned a large colonial store.

  • 1807 ‒ Birth of A. Le Coq

    A . Le Coq & Co. traded in drinks and the company had been founded in 1807 by a Prussian family of the same name, who were descendants of the Huguenots who had fled France in the 17th century.


    In the 1820s, Albert L. J. Le Coq moved to London so he could trade with products of the family’s wine manor. He soon started bottling and exporting Russian Imperial Stout under his own name. He ordered this special dark and strong top-fermented beer that was brewed specifically for the Russian market from large breweries in London. In his old age, A. Le Coq sold his London company to the Sillem family in 1870s.

  • 1893 ‒ Tivoli Ltd in Tähtvere

    In 1885, Julius Moritz Friedrich bought the rented company from the heirs of Schramm and in 1893 renamed it Tivoli and moved all production to Tähtvere, where the large lager cellars of the company had been built already in between 1879-1880.


    The owner transformed Tivoli into a public limited company in 1896, remaining a majority shareholder himself. A magnificent red brick brewery complex was built on Tähtvere Hill in 1894-1896, most of which has been preserved until today. In addition to local towns, Tivoli Ltd. marketed beer also in St. Petersburg and Pskov. In 1896 the company started to produce soft drinks.

    By the end of the 19th century Tartu had become a true beer town with six operating breweries.

    In 1900, Tivoli Ltd. acquired the oldest beer company in Tartu, which had been founded in 1800 by the great grandfather of Nobel Prize-winning Hermann Hesse, member of Tartu brewing company Barthold Joachim Hesse. In 1829, B. J. Hesse’s widow sold the brewery to a tradesman Alexander Diedrich Musso who in 1831 built new production premises on an immovable property behind the Town Hall, between Jaani Street and Toomemägi. The company that since 1880 had belonged to A. D. Musso’s heirs was bought at the turn of the century by Tivoli. The new name of the company became Tivoli II, or Tivoli Ltd. Jaani Street Brewery. The headquarters of Tivoli Ltd, were also moved to Jaani Street.

    In the first decade of the 20th century, the majority shareholder of Tivoli, M. Friedrich wanted to withdraw from active business because of old age. He soon, found a suitable buyer for the company – A. Le Coq – the British company who had been importing imperial stout to Russia.

  • 1912 ‒ A. Le Coq moves to Tartu

    The high customs duties imposed by Russia and the increasingly frequent forgery of the reputable A. Le Coq trademark forced A. Le Coq & Co. (Russia) Ltd., which had been changed into a private limited company in 1904, to move its headquarters and in 1906 also the bottling plant from London to St. Petersburg.


    In 1912, A. Le Coq Ltd. was chosen as the official supplier of the Russian emperor’s court. The owners of A. Le Coq looked for a brewery suitable for the production of imperial stout in Russia and selected Tivoli Ltd. in Tartu. After water analyses were approved, H. O. Sillem bought all company shares in March 1912. On May 16 the same year, public limited company A. Le Coq Ltd. was established in London for development of the company and the company in Tartu operated as its Russian subsidiary.

    Before World War I, a new stout department was built for the brewery that was managed by a brewer hired from England. A. Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout now came with a label saying “Brewed in Dorpat” and travelled by railway to consumers in the furthest corners of the empire – to Poland, Siberia and the Far East.

    The impressive success was cut short by the prohibition on selling alcohol in Russia in 1914 due to the break out of World War I. In 1917, the brewery on Tähtvere Hill was vandalized by anarchist Russian soldiers and in 1918, the armed forces of the German Empire plundered the remaining equipment.

  • 1921 ‒ A. Le Coq in the Republic of Estonia

    In the independent Republic of Estonia, Tartu brewery of A. Le Coq Ltd. started operating again in 1921. In 1926, A. Le Coq Ltd. bought the trademark of the Gambrinus brewery (founded in 1863) which operated on Emajõe Street in Tartu.


    In the same year, Estonian beer manufacturers entered into a mutual agreement of distribution zones. The established trust divided the sales zones as follows: A. Le Coq Ltd. got Southern Estonia and Saku Brewery got Northern Estonia. Most small breweries were turned into distributors of the aforementioned two large companies. The trust agreement expired in 1933 and A. Le Coq beer was once again sold all over Estonia.

    Big demand for the Tartu beer in the capital led to the opening of a modern Tallinn division in 1938. In addition to the bottling of beer, this was where more than half of popular A. Le Coq soft drinks were produced.

    According to the secret protocol of the Nazi German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact from of August 1939, the two parties to the pact divided Poland, Bessarabia, the Baltic States and Finland between themselves. In the summer of 1940, Estonia was annexed by the Red Army and a new puppet government nationalized A. Le Coq and Livonia breweries, among others. Foreign citizens, including the last director of A. Le Coq, Englishman J. H. Sillem and German brewmaster H. Dietz soon left Estonia.

    Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Thousands of citizens of the Republic of Estonia were thereafter murdered or died in Soviet concentration camps, amongst them the former owners of Livonia, beer manufacturers Ants and Albert Silvere.

    The Government of the United Kingdom compensated the English owners of A. Le Coq for the assets of the nationalized companies using the money obtained from selling the gold of the Republic of Estonia that had been frozen in the Bank of England in 1969.

  • 1941– New name – Tartu Õlletehas

    In January 1941, the nationalized enterprise was named Tartu Õlletehas (Tartu Brewery). The former Livonia was merged with it in April and became the Kalda Street Department.


    Kalda Street brewery (founded in 1863) that had repeatedly changed owners, was modernized into a steam brewery in 1910 and from 1916, it belonged to an Estonian called Ants Silvere (whose name before 1935 had been Hans Silbergleich). Livonia operated outside the trust contract and its sharp competition caused a lot of trouble for the trust. In 1930, management of the company was taken over by A. Silvere’s son Albert, who had studied beer technology in Czechoslovakia and Germany. In 1939, all business enterprises belonging to the company were reorganized into public limited company A. Silvere & Ko. The brewery was seriously damaged during the war in the summer of 1941 and the production buildings were completely destroyed in 1944.

    During World War II in 1941-1944, the company operated as the state-owned Bierbrauerei Dorpat. Approximately 80% of its production was consumed by the German army.

  • 1944 – the Soviet era

    The Soviet regime was restored in Estonia in autumn 1944 and during the next decades, the company operated on the basis of a state-approved production plan. The production volumes of Tartu Õlletehas were constantly increased and the high level of new specialists turned it into one of the leading Soviet breweries in the 1960s.


    Many technological innovations were developed in Tartu in cooperation with central Soviet institutions, which were later implemented in other breweries all over the USSR. In 1973, the company’s achievements were rewarded with the name Tartu Eksperimentaalõlletehas (Tartu Experimental Brewery). By the 1980s, beer production had grown by almost six times when compared to pre-war times. Bottling of the first Estonian mineral water, Värska, started in 1968 and it was also supplied to other regions of the USSR.

  • 1995 – A new beginning

    After the years of privatization, the state-owned Tartu Õlletehas was having hard times – its market share had diminished to a great extent and the main competitor, Saku held a strong position.


    In 1995, Magnum Konsuumer Ltd, a subsidiary of an Estonian pharmaceutical company Magnum Medical acquired Tartu Õlletehas. The new owners started to modernize the company and were looking for a strategic foreign investor. In 1995 over 30 million kroons (nearly 2 million Euros) were invested, and another 50 million kroons (3.2 million Euros) were invested a year later. New wort separation and filtration equipment as well as beer fermentation tanks and the first pasteurizer were bought. The new PET-bottle filling line made it possible to produce lemonade, Värska and long drinks in plastic bottles.

    In June 1996 Finnish brewery Olvi Oyj acquired 15% of Tartu Õlletehas shares. After hefty investments, Olvi Oyj bought the remanining 85% of Tartu Õlletehas shares on September 15, 1997, worth 52 million Finnish marks (8.74 million Euros). In addition, Olvi Oyj also bought the Saare Õlu brewery. The market share of the two acquired companies combined was about 25%.

  • 1999 – Relaunch of A. Le Coq trademark

    The Finnish holding company decided to completely renovate the brewery in Tartu. Substantial investments by Olvi Plc. (new fermenting cellar, boiling unit, bottling line, filter and new storage facilities) turned Tartu Õlletehas Ltd. into a company with up-to-date equipment that was the most modern one in the Baltic region at the time.


    Top quality production facilities made it possible to set higher marketing and sales goals. In May 1999, A. Le Coq trademark was relaunched and the first products to bear the new brand name were Premium lager, Porter and Pilsner as well as mineral water Vichy. In order to preserve the history and traditions of A. Le Coq, Olvi Foundation donated 100 000 Finnish marks to set up a beer museum which was opened to visitors on July 1, 2003.

    Thanks to good management, high quality and marketing support, the demand for A. Le Coq beer exceeded the production capacity by about 30% in the summer of 1999. The sales of soft drinks, waters and long drinks were also successful. The relaunch of A. Le Coq trademark was given the title of the best marketing campaign by the Estonian Marketing Centre and Marketing Institute in 1999.

  • 2004 ‒ The Largest Estonian Beverage producer ‒ A. Le Coq

    In the beginning of the 21st century, A. Le Coq became the largest manufacturer of beverages in Estonia, having increased the number of product groups up to ten, including waters, juices, soft drinks and sports drinks along with alcoholic drinks such as beer, cider and long drinks. It was the time when A. Le Coq became the market leader in the juice, sports drink, cider and long drink categories.


    New filling lines for cans and plastic bottles, new pasteurization equipment for bottling beer and juice as well as the introduction of new, high quality plastic bottles have all contributed to the current success of A. Le Coq.

    Major breakthrough for A. Le Coq was in 2003, when the company acquired the juice manufacturer Ösel Foods Ltd. and continued the production of Aura juices. In 2004, A. Le Coq became the first beverage manufacturer in Estonia whose annual production exceeded a hundred million litres of beverages, further securing the company's leading position in the market.

    In 2005, the company started to produce near waters, a new product group in the Estonian market. The same year also saw the launch of foil-covered cans and a year later, embossed cans. In 2006, A. Le Coq bought a new filling line for cans that made it possible to produce 6-packs with a convenient handle. An important milestone for A. Le Coq Ltd. was the relocation of its storage house and distribution to a new logistics centre, leaving more space for the PET bottling line, thus doubling the production capacity of plastic bottles.

  • 2007 ‒ A. Le Coq bicentennial

    In 2007, the company celebrated its 200th anniversary. The company name, A. Le Coq Tartu Brewery (A. Le Coq Tartu Õlletehas), was shortened into A. Le Coq Ltd., which was previously used from 1913 until 1940.


    In April, the company launched a new quality beer A. Le Coq Special which was brewed to mark the bicentennial of the company. Nearly 6 million kroons (ca 384´000 Euros) were invested to launch this signature beer.

    To mark the bicentennial, Andres Sepp, an Estonian beer history expert and the leader of the NPO Estonian Beer History Association, compiled a book „Õllelinn Tartu. A. Le Coq 1807-2007" (Beer Town Tartu. A. Le Coq 1809-2007). The generous, 400-page publication gives an overview of beer history and traditions of Estonia, as well as the birth of A. Le Coq trademark and its launch in Estonia.

    In 2007, A. Le Coq launched a new product category and started to produce Dynami:t energy drinks. In early 2008, the company entered another new product category – syrups.

    In 2009, A. Le Coq relaunched the long-forgotten production of kvass and started to produce A. Le Coq Kvass. The natural A. Le Coq Kvass is produced from rye and barley malt and it has been fermented with yeast and healthy lactic bacteria, just like in the olden days. This product was a great success and it was awarded the title of Best New Product of Estonia in 2009. Today A. Le Coq Kvass is the most beloved kvass among Estonians.

  • 2010 – New product groups in the portfolio

    In 2010, the company was the first in Estonia to start producing triple-filtered beer under the brand name of A. Le Coq Extra.


    Also, it was the first brewery in Estonia to produce corn beer, A. Le Coq Maíz. In the spring of 2010, A. Le Coq entered the cola segment of the soft drink market and started to produce Royal Crown Cola (RC Cola), a drink that originates from the US. The original recipe of RC Cola dates back to 1905 when a pharmacist Claude Hatcher started to produce and sell it in the state of Georgia, USA. Today RC Cola is the third largest cola brand in the world that is produced in about 60 countries worldwide.

  • 2015 – Developer of Estonian beer culture and the leading beverage producer

    A. Le Coq is currently the leading beverage producer in Estonia, holding first or second place in all market segments in which it operates, based on the average data for 2015. The company's key brands are A. Le Coq, Fizz, Aura and Limonaad.


    A. Le Coq continues to broaden its product portfolio and is constantly active in R&D. In 2012, the company launched Organic Beer - the first such beer in Estonia. In spring 2013, the company relaunched its historical beer - A. Le Coq Imperial. A. Le Coq Imperial Ale, Gold and Märzen are the successors of Imperial Extra Double Stout, which in 1912, had been given the title of the official beer of the Russian emperor’s court.

    As the oldest brewery in Estonia, A. Le Coq is promoting Estonian beer culture and training both the service sector and consumers under the name Beer Star since 2011 with the goal to improve the quality of serving beer in Estonian pubs and restaurants. The Beer Star quality sign is accredited to pubs and bars that have successfully passed the course and are serving beer excellently.

    In autumn 2013, Beer Star and the Estonian Sommelier Association launched a joint initiative - the Best Estonian Beer Sommelier competition. This is a unique competition in the Baltic and Scandinavian region. The first Best Beer Sommelier title was given to Kristjan Markii. In 2014, the winner was Urmas Lillemägi.

  • Most important facts in the history of A. Le Coq


    1800 ‒ B. J. Hesse starts to brew beer for the citizens of Tartu, whose small brewery, in the course of 200 years, turns into the biggest continuously operating beverage producer of Estonia, presently known as A. Le Coq.

    1807 A . Le Coq & Co. is founded in 1807 by a Prussian family of the same name, who were descendants of the Huguenots.

    1826 ‒ Beer brewer J. R. Schramm from Tallinn starts to produce lager in Tartu

    1830 ‒ In order to expand his family wine business, tradesman Albert L. J. Le Coq settles in London and starts to bottle and export Russian Imperial Stout under his name.

    1880 ‒ Albert L. J. Le Coq sells the successful export company to his business associate, the Sillem family.

    1893 ‒ The brewery, owned by J. R. Schramm’s successors is renamed Tivoli and manufacture is moved from the centre of Tartu to Tähtvere.

    1896 ‒ Tivoli becomes a public limited company and the newly built large modern brewery sets out to conquer the market.

    1900 ‒Tivoli Ltd. buys the company that belonged to A. D. Musso (former B. J. Hesse), which becomes Tivoli Ltd. Jaani Street Brewery.

    1904 ‒ A. Le Coq is transformed into a private limited company. Within two years, the company headquarters and bottling plant are moved from London to St. Petersburg.

    1912 ‒ A. Le Coq is granted the title of the official supplier of the Russian emperor’s court.

    1912 ‒ A. Le Coq buys Tivoli Ltd. in Tartu.

    1913 ‒ The production of Imperial Extra Double Stout starts in Tartu. Tivoli is renamed A. Le Coq.

    1914 ‒ World War I stops the growing success of A. Le Coq.

    1917‒1918 ‒ A. Le Coq Tartu factories are vandalized by Russian and German armies; St. Petersburg subsidiary is liquidated.

    1921 ‒ A. Le Coq factory starts to operate again in the independent Republic of Estonia.

    1926 ‒ A. Le Coq buys Gambrinus. Estonian beer market is divided between two major breweries - A. Le Coq and Saku.

    1933 ‒ On the initiative of A. Le Coq, the agreement of sale zones is terminated. Free competition substantially increases the sales volume of A. Le Coq products.

    1938 ‒ A. Le Coq opens a new beer and soft drink bottling plant in Tallinn on Suur-Patarei Street to meet the increasing needs of the capital city.

    1940 ‒ A. Le Coq is nationalized. Pre-war sales volumes have made the Tartu-based enterprise the biggest manufacturer of beer in Estonia.

    1941 ‒ Nationalized A. Le Coq Ltd. is renamed AS Tartu Õlletehas (Tartu Brewery).

    1941‒1944 ‒ A. Le Coq operates as the state-owned Bierbrauerei Dorpat. Nearly 80 % of beer production goes to satisfy the needs of the German army.

    1944 ‒ In September, Tartu Õlletehas is subordinated again to the People’s Commissariat of the Food Processing Industry of the ESSR.

    1950 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas is thoroughly reconstructed.

    1958 – The production capacity of Tartu Õlletehas exceeds 10 million litres of beer per year.

    1960 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas is appointed as the leading enterprise of beer and soft drinks.

    1962 ‒ A new beer bottling department is built, it is the most modern and efficient one in the whole of the Soviet Union at the time.

    1968 ‒ Bottling of the first Estonian mineral water Värska begins.

    1973 ‒ As an acknowledgement, Tartu Õlletehas is renamed Tartu Eksperimentaalõlletehas (Tartu Experimental Brewery).

    1980 ‒ Beer production increases six-fold compared to the pre-war production volume.

    1995 ‒ Newly independent Republic of Estonia privatizes the state-owned company Tartu Õlletehas. New owners, Magnum Konsuumer, start to modernize the company, they buy new equipment and a bottling line of plastic bottles.

    1997 ‒ Finnish brewery Olvi Oyj acquires the shares of Tartu Õlletehas.

    1998 ‒ Holding company A. Le Coq Ltd. is founded, which in addition to Tartu Õlletehas, also acquires ownership in the Latvian brewery Cesu Alus and Lithuanian brewery Ragutis AB.

    1999 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas becomes the first company in Estonia to produce cider.

    2001 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas becomes the first company in Estonia to produce sports drinks.

    2002 ‒ A. Le Coq becomes the leading producer of beverages in Estonia.

    2003 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas buys Ösel Food Ltd and starts to produce juice, juice drinks and ice tea.

    2004 ‒ Tartu Õlletehas Ltd. changes its name into A. Le Coq Tartu Õlletehas Ltd.

    2004 ‒ A. Le Coq is the first beverage producer in Estonia to exceed the production margin of 100 million litres.

    2005 ‒ A. Le Coq is the first introduce foil covered cans in Estonia.

    2005 ‒ A. Le Coq becomes the first company in Estonia to produce near water.

    2006 ‒ A. Le Coq launches Gin Long Drink in an embossed can.

    2006 ‒ A. Le Coq invests into the multipack bottling line of cans.

    2006 ‒ A. Le Coq becomes the biggest beverage producer in Estonia whose main product groups are beer, juice, water and soft drinks.

    2007 ‒ A. Le Coq Tartu Õlletehas Ltd changes its official name to A. Le Coq Ltd.

    2007 ‒ A. Le Coq starts to manufacture energy drinks.

    2007 ‒ The construction of a new logistics centre is completed in Tartu.

    2007 ‒ A. Le Coq celebrates the 200th anniversary of its trademark and launches A. Le Coq Special to mark the occasion.

    2007 ‒ A new bottling line of plastic bottles is completed.

    2008 – A. Le Coq starts to produce syrup.

    2009 ‒ A. Le Coq relaunches the long-forgotten production of kvass and starts to produce naturally fermented A. Le Coq Kvass.

    2010 – A. Le Coq launches the first corn beer in Estonia.

    2010 – A. Le Coq starts to produce Royal Crown Cola (RC Cola).

    2011 – A. Le Coq launches project Beer Star in order to improve beer drinking culture.

    2012 – A. Le Coq becomes the first Estonian company to produce organic beer.

    2013 – A. Le Coq relaunches A. Le Coq Imperial that was the official beer of the Russian emperor´s court a hundred years ago.

    2013 ‒ Beer Star and the Estonian Sommelier Association organize the Best Estonian Beer Sommelier competition. The first Best Beer Sommelier title is given to Kristjan Markii.

    2013 – A. Le Coq starts to sell Warsteiner beer in Estonia.

    2014 – The Best Beer Sommelier of Estonia title goes to Urmas Linnamägi.