Having obsessions is great. You always have something to talk about. Whether or not anyone wants to listen is another matter. Today it's the turn of of one of my favourites: Mild.
In 1914, standard London Mild (X Ale) was around 1051°, slightly higher than ordinary Bitter (1050°). During the war, the gravity of X Ale was slashed and during 1918 and 1919 was discontinued (in the case of Barclay Perkins) and replaced by 4d Ale, a price-controlled, low-gravity Mild of 1026-1029° After the War, the gravity bounced back to around 5-7° lower than in 1914, 1043-1045° and 4.3% ABV. That´s still substantially stronger than Mild today.
The crucial change came in the early 1930´s, when beer duty was increased from 80/- to 114/- per barrel. The effect was dramatic: brewers dropped their Mild gravities by 5-7° virtually overnight. It´s an even greater percentage change than that caused by WW I. The tax increase was repealed in 1933, partly because the drop in beer consumption it caused meant that the revenue collected was lower. But rather than increasing the gravity back to the old levels, the brewers kept the beer the same but dropped the price 1d to 5d a pint. The gravities in 1933 - 1032-1035° - match exactly those of modern Mild.
The full response from Barclay Perkins is interesting, because it illustrates a phenomenon that has occurred more than once in British brewing. They dropped the gravity of their X Ale to from 1043° to 1035°, but introduced a new beer, XX Ale, at 1043°. Looking at the specs, it seems to be the old X Ale renamed. This seems to be a common response to downward pressure on gravities: weaken a beer but at the same time introduce a "new" beer at the old strength. This is how Young´s Special was born - when the PA (Ordinary) was reduced in strength Special was introduced at the old PA gravity.
Towards the end of the 1930's Mild gravities did creep up a little - to 1036°-1038°. But a little event called World War Two soon knocked them back down to under 1035°. By 1945 Mild was hovering around 1030°.
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