Of course, C could just be a random letter, like Worthington's "E". There were basically three systems of brewhouse code.
- The "normal" system: X, XX. XXX, PA, KK, KKK, P, S, SS, SSS.
- The Bass system: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, P2, P3, P4 with 1 being the strongest, 6 the weakest and a P prefix designating a Porter/Stout.
- The Worthington system: A, M, S, J, E
Maybe Boddingtons can provide a clue. They used these codes for their beers:
A Pale Ale
BB Mild Ale
CC Strong Ale
The JW Lees C Ale is also billed as a Strong Ale. That might explain what it is, if not where the hell the name came from.
There are a couple of other pieces of evidence that point to a Strong Ale. Groves & Whitnall discontinued theirs during the war and brought it back in 1950. Many strong beers disappeared during the war. Also, theirs was bottle-conditioned. Lower-strength beers were usually artificially carbonated.
Any other ideas are very welcome. I don't think I've come up with a very robust theory yet. I wonder if the brewing records still exist for any of these breweries? As Lees are still in business, there's a good chance they might have kept their old logs. Anyone have a good contact within the brewery?
Finding a brewing record would at least settle the nature of the beer, if not its origin.