PA2008_080_a.jpg Bottle (about 1916-1950s). A. E. Sykes & Sons Ltd. Collection of Puke Ariki (PA2008.080).

Just how much should you trust a manufacturing chemist? This bottle of Herb Beer Extract, brewed by the high profile New Plymouth company A. E. Sykes and Sons, is upfront about some of its rather exotic sounding ingredients including Horehound, Meadow Sweet and Dandelion, but it also leaves the door open with a mysterious 'etc' in the list of ingredients.

The label tells users to dissolve two pounds of sugar in a quart of boiling water, top the mixture up with cold water and yeast before adding two tablespoons of Herb Beer Extract. Once the brew was allowed to stand in a warm place for 24 hours a 'Sparkling Botanic Beer' would result. Judging the quality of the beverage by the dark, sticky gunk that still clings to the interior would be unfair and perhaps it could have been quite drinkable. After all, it was produced by the same firm that served up the much loved Sykes's range of cordials for many years.

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