Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bottled Beer 1901 - 1938

It's Christmas Eve and I've spent the morning looking through old documents. In particular, Whitbread sales by draught and bottled. Fascinating stuff. My life is non-stop fun.

There was a massive surge in the popularity of bottled beers at the beginning of the 20th century. It was partly fuelled by changes in technology which allowed the production of bright, artificially-carbonated bottled beers.

The proportion of Whitbread sales which were bottled doubled over the years 1901 to 1914, rising from a quarter to a half. The war knocked this back down to close to its 1901 level, but in the 1920's it soon rose back to around 50%.

The dubious quality of much draught beer helped bottled beer to continue increasing its market share after WW I.

For the whole interwar period, Whitbread's bottled and draught beer sales were neck and neck.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is the era in which a "light and bitter" took hold, the drinker using the increasing number and availability of bottled beer to blend with draught beer which in many cases was not in optimal condition (literally or otherwise).

In the 1980's and 90's, I received in the London pub a variety of answers as to what a light and bitter was.

A server in a pub near an early Pig's Ear (CAMRA) festival told me a light and bitter was always half bitter and half bottled lager. But other old hands in other places insisted it was "light ale" (bottled pale ale of some kind) and draught bitter. I recall one person who said, no, it is half keg beer and half bitter.

It is a drink that still has a certain logic to it, but I don't think lager works well.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, probably.

I've always understood Light and Bitter to be bottled Light Ale and draught Bitter mixed. Basically the same beer in bottled and draught form. Like Mild and Brown, another common mixture.

In my youth, Light Ale was a weak, bottled Bitter, not usually more than 3.5% ABV. Though confusingly, in the 1930's, Whitbread's Light Ale was a weak, bottled Mild.

There was still a fair bit of mixing bottled and draught beers in my youth (1970's). I used to mix a half point bottle of Guinness with low-quality cask Bitter to liven it up. Or the "royal" Light and Bitter - draught Bass and White Shield mixed.

Stonch said...

There are still drinkers today - many of them young - who drink bottled beer only due to some vague suspicion that draught beer is invariably dodgy. Mind you, considering how infrequently some places clean their lines, they may have a point...

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, Jeffrey. I recently saw a discussion on a non-beer site where someone asked why he got a hangover only with draught beers. The reply was, again, lines not properly cleaned.

Oblivious said...

Mike there is also vitamin B complex produce by yeast in bottle conditioned beers if that of any help. I have heard of estimation of around 5% of your B vitamin form 500ml bottle. Unfortunately vitamin B is water soluble!