The idle traveller around London is still frequently exhorted to “TAKE COURAGE” by pubs (fig. 34), and even occasionally other buildings which retain their old signage. This is, of course, no mere public-spirited advice; it is advertising. Where nowadays the imperative has been hijacked by Fuller Smith Turner’s brewers and amended to “Take Pride”,1 the original harks back to the brewery firm founded by John Courage in 1787.
Courage started his brewing business in a location by Tower Bridge — the Anchor Brewhouse (fig. 35) — and the company remained based in South-East London until very near the end of their existence. This first site is still there, clearly visible from the bridge, even if now it’s been turned into expensive waterside apartments.
For 150 years, this remained the arrangement, until a 1955 merger with Barclay Perkins & Co., who did their brewing at the larger Anchor Brewery, not far along the Thames.2 The story thereafter becomes one complicated by mergers and acquisitions. Five years later, Barclay Perkins merged with Simonds & Co. (of Reading), then Georges & Co. (of Bristol) in 1961, and John Smith & Co. (of Yorkshire) in 1970, though the name returned to plain Courage & Co. in this same year. Then they were sold to Imperial Tobacco in 1972, and in the mid-1980s a new brewery was opened in Reading to replace both the Anchor breweries.3
The Courage brewery was now sold to the Australian company Elders IXL in 1986, who became Foster’s Group in 1990, then merged a year later with the brewing operations of Grand Metropolitan (later to become known as Diageo), which owned Truman Hanbury Buxton and Watney Mann, two other key London players who are now extinct. This newly-enlarged Foster’s was purchased by Scottish & Newcastle in 1995 as its brewing arm, while the pub chain (under the brand Inntrepreneur Estates) was hived off and largely sold after the 1991 Beer Orders.4 Most recently, in 2007, Wells & Young’s have obtained the rights to brew the remaining Courage beers.
The most distinctive symbol to be found on Courage’s tied pubs was the rooster, most of the surviving examples of which are painted gold. Generally these are found perched atop the hanging signs. A more modest version of this same symbol, on a square red plastic background, can also often be seen affixed to pub buildings. It’s also worth noting the signs often hang off a pole held together by two iron supports with five holes punched in each (as may be seen, for example, on the sign hanging off The Prince Albert, Greenwich SE10, amongst many others).
You can still drink Courage’s beers. Their Courage Best and Courage Directors are fairly commonly available and represent perfectly decent session ales. So, this Christmas, have a good holiday season, and remember. Take Courage.
Photos of all Courage pubs that I have on my Flickr.
 This is a reference to their London Pride ale.
 This brewery was located on Park Street in Bankside. It was founded as far back as 1616, purchased by Henry Thrale in 1729, and came under the control of Robert Barclay and John Perkins in the early-18th century. After a huge fire in the mid-19th century it was rebuilt, but closed in 1981 and was largely demolished at this time to be replaced by Council housing. All that remains is The Anchor pub (the “brewery tap”, a name for a pub which adjoins a brewer and dispenses its wares directly) and some outlying buildings, such as one which may have been The Golden Anchor (Borough SE1) and which retains the ‘Take Courage’ banner.
 This brewery is itself set to close, with the takeover of Scottish & Newcastle by InBev. CAMRA provides some reportage here in its inimitably unbiased fashion (“no one it appears wants the mass of fizzy yellow liquid…”), inadvertently bringing to our attention the fine compound noun “mega-keggery”.
 Details of the changes in ownership are sourced from Jack S. Blocker Jr., Ian R. Tyrrell and David M. Fahey, Alcohol and Temperance in Modern Society: An International Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2003), accessed online. There is also useful information in the Wikipedia article. The Beer Orders are discussed in my earlier post on Mitchells & Butlers, another former brewer with extensive estate holdings.