Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1965 Courage Light Ale

I'm starting to make a habit of this. Giving recipes for beers that still exist. Though I must admit to being a little surprised that Courage Light Ale was still around. Light Ale - the one beer that gives Mild a good run for its money in the cloth cap/old man stakes.

Bottled Light Ale, once a popular mixer with ordinary Bitter in London, seemed on its last legs even when I started drinking. It was one of those types of carbonated bottled beer that sprang up between the wars and started to fade away in the 1960's. Most pubs still sold it in my young days, but no youth would have drunk it.

Never sold on draught, Light Ale is often considered as bottled ordinary Bitter. Yet it might be more accurate to call it bottled Light Mild. What with the modest hopping and use of mild ale malt.

Whitbread brewed something called Light Ale in the 1920's and 1930's which was in a completely different style. For one thing it was dark in colour. It was basically a watered-down version of Dark Mild, with a gravity of just 1028 and less than 3% ABV. Its origins probably lie in the low-gravity Milds produced towards the end of WW I. They never brewed huge quantities of it and, when their standard Mild's gravity dropped to around the 1030 mark at the beginning of WW II, it was discontinued.

The example here wasn't, as you might expect, brewed at Courage's Horsleydown brewery by Tower Bridge. No, this one was brewed at the former Beasley brewery at Plumstead in London. Courage had bought it in 1963 and seemed to have run it as a bottled beer brewery. In addition to Courage Light Ale it also produced Brown Ale, IPA and 3 Star. Not that Courage kept it open long. Beasley's final brew was on Wednesday 3rd March 1965.

One last little point. For those who think every style of beer is currently brewed in the USA, who makes a Light Ale?



Time for Kirsten to take the reins . . . . .


1965 Courage Light Ale

Today you are in for a treat...nah, not really. However you are in for a beer that a lot of you older gents have tried. Courage's light ale. This one beer has a lot of stuff in it that I haven't seen before in a beer which we'll get to. My wondering is how close this recipe, 1965, is true to the one that's brewed today.

Grist and such
Here is where I start to see a lot of different things in a single beer that I either haven't seen or in numerous separate beers. The grist isn't all that different. A couple of pale malts, mild, crystal and flaked maize. Then we get to the 'sugar' additions. This is the first large scale commercial brewery that I've seen actually use enzymatic malt extract. This is also the first 'pale' beer that I've seen use the CDM or Caramelized Dextro-maltose. It was basically used in porters and stouts to lend fullness and mouthfeel to that and added a good bit of dark. The most 'shocking' I would say is the use of No3 invert sugar. For 'lighter' beers I've never seen No3 used and at such a high quantity even (~11%). Would definitely had those lovely dark fruits coming through.

Mash
Nothing fancy here. Very simple mash that they sparged the hell out of. For this recipe I don't think it really matters so I'd just do a simple mash around 153F and split the difference.

Hops
These hops were all that fresh but weren't that old either. Half being over a year and the other being over 2 years.





Tasting notes
Notes of corn, dark fruits and toasted biscuits. Sparklingly bright copper with a hint of fruity sweetness in the middle followed immediately by the drying finish. The hops don't over power by any means but add a rustic, herbal complexity.

18 comments:

Gary Gillman said...

Here is a beer that, based on having tasted many English light ales years back, is quite similar in style despite the second mash approach.

http://www.anchorbrewing.com/beers/smallbeer.htm

There are others, made here and there by U.S. micros. We have a bottled light bitter in Ontario that clocks in about 3.5% as well.

With these beers, you want them as fresh as possible and ideally on draft. Anchor's small beer in that form is particularly good, similar to many English cask bitters in fact.

Gary

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Light Ale is, I think, a development of things like Dinner Ale and Luncheon Ale - a bottled Light Bitter.

I'm not convinced Anchor Small Beer is the same as Light Ale. And Light Ale wasn't like a cask Bitter. Not from my recollection. I must hunt down the current Courage Light Ale. OF course, there's no guarantee that it bears any resemblance to the original.

Kristen England said...

Yeah the small beer is just runnings from their barley wine. I've visited the brewery and they even say its meant to be a true english bitter. They used to list that they used only Fuggles but I they were pretty mum about that when I talked with them.

Gary Gillman said...

When I last tasted Anchor Small Beer in San Francisco, which was on draft about two months ago, it reminded me of the old light ales and of some light cask bitters (the low-gravity ones I mean). I am not saying they are made the same way, but that was simply my taste reaction.

Gary

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember Bass doing Toby Light on draught (keg) in the mid eighties.

Ron Pattinson said...

You could be right about Toby Light. I probably wouldn't have noticed it.

Zythophile said...

Light ale was, of course, classically drunk as light-and-bitter or light-and-mild, half a pint of draught beer served in a pint glass with the bottled beer poured on top. This was the way for the drinker to perk up flat, badly kept (but cheaper than bottled) draught beer - before the arrival of keg beer in the 1960s, sales of bottled beer in the 1950s were massive, approaching 50 per cent by value of the whole UK beer market.

Latterly about the only two light ales produced were those of Courage and Young's. Young's light ale was a surprisingly big seller because most pubs normally had a few bottles of light ale in stock and the only one they could get hold of was Young's. Now that Wells and Youngs owns the Courage franchise, I'm kessing Courage Light is brewed in Bedford - anybody know for sure?

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, I'm pretty sure Courage Light Ale is brewed at Bedford. Isn't it one of the brands Wells & Young bought?

John said...

Sam Adams do a light beer (not specifically called an ale) that is quite marvelous. Ruby with a dry malt flavour and no American hops. A real balanced beer and one of my favourites over here.

Kristen England said...

Anyone have any direct experience with this beer? Meaning, what approximate color was it.

Mike said...

I remember drinking Toby Light in the mid to late 70's at Bass Charrington pubs, around Manchester. Toby Light was draught though there was a bottled Toby Light,it was a light mild.
I had bottled Light Ale in London around the same time, I don't recall the brewer, I only ever drank it in Light'n Bitter in London pubs, when in Rome!
Regarding Kris's question on color, Toby Light was somewhere in the 10-13L range, I don't recall Courage light, just remember the light blue cockerel badge.

Kristen England said...

Awesome! Thanks Mike. Gives me a much better understanding of the colors of the sugars they used.

Anonymous said...

Ive drunk this stuff in the late 60's and 70's in Wiltshire, always seen it under the bar in half pint bottles, light, pale and brown, you don't see Courage in Wilshire no more,but visited Surrey and they had Courage on draft....

Anonymous said...

I don't know where the taste notes come from? it was malty ok, but it very very dominated by the cats piss finish, cutting off the maltiness straight away..... Im very sorry but that way only way to describe it!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my dad used to love Toby Light and I am trying to get hold of some bottles of it for him as a gift, anyone be of any help? Thanks :)

Ron Pattinson said...

Anonymous, I don't think Toby Light is brewed any more.

Phil G said...

Anyone know the starting gravity of Toby light?

Ron Pattinson said...

Phil G,

in 1963 it was 1030.6º.