Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Drinking Keg

I spent most of last weekend drinking keg. A terrible admission, I know. I drank a couple of bottles, but mostly pints of luvverly keg.

None of this "craft" keg shit. I wouldn't go within a million miles of that filth. No, I was drinking proper, traditional Keg Bitter. The sort of stuff your grandfather might have drunk back in the 1960's. Pedigree, Old Speckled Hen and John Smiths Extra Smooth. There was Tetley's on offer, too, but I refuse to drink that since the closure of the Leeds brewery.

I was surprised how easily the stuff went down. Two or three pints an hour, no problem. From dawn till dusk, almost. And without getting that drunk, because, let's face it, the stuff isn't that strong. Not like that horrible modern keg that's stuffed with alcohol and other nastiness. No, with traditional Keg Bitter you need a double whisky with every other round if you want to have any impact on your ability to stand and speak. Either at the same time or separately.

Perhaps you're wondering why I spent a weekend on keg. Where is a better question. A place full of pubs, but with only keg beer: Gibraltar.

All this talk of Keg Bitter is making me thirsty. Thirsty for some cool, refreshing numbers. I just happen to have an apposite set. mostly courtesy of Whitbread's wonderful Gravity Book.

I suppose I should discuss the numbers a bit. All the beers are generally similar: OG 1037-1040º, attenuation averaging 80%. They're slightly above the average gravity for all beer brewed in the UK (1037º) but incredibly over-priced for their strength. The one outlier - 1972 Greene King King Keg - is the only one that's a reasonable price.

For example, the Courage Keg Bitters of 1957 and 1961 were 1041-1042º and cost 22-24d and 20-22d. In 1960, Alton IPA from the same company had an OG of  1050º and cost just 16d.

In 1960, Flower's Bitter was 19d a pint, while their Keg Bitter (of about the same strength) the year before and the year after was 22d and 24d respectively. Greene King's King Keg of 1968 cost the same as Abbot Ale which was almost 10 gravity points stronger.

Why did people drink Keg Bitter? Because it was fasionable.

Over-priced, trendy, processed beer - surely that could never become popular again?

The Keg Bitter in Gibraltar was a pretty reasonable 3 quid a pint.


Keg Bitter 1957 - 1972
Year Brewer Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1961 Arkells King Keg 24d pint draught 0.04 1007.2 1040.5 20 4.16 82.22%
1967 Bass, Burton Bass Keg 28d pint draught 0.04 1007 1038 23 4.03 81.58%
1961 Birkenhead Brewery Keg Gold 20d pint draught 0.11 1006.5 1043.1 23 4.57 84.92%
1966 Campbell, Hope & King Crown Keg bottled 0.04 1010.9 1036.2 16 3.16 69.89%
1968 Charles Wells  Nogger (Keg) 28d pint draught 0.06 1004 1040.4 25 4.55 90.10%
1966 Charrington  Toby Keg 27d pint draught 0.03 1008 1038.2 25 3.92 79.06%
1966 Courage Tavern Keg 26d pint draught 0.05 1007.3 1038 22 3.99 80.79%
1966 Courage Tavern Keg 28d pint draught 0.04 1009.1 1038 24 3.75 76.05%
1957 Courage & Barclay Keg Bitter 22d to 24d pint draught 0.06 1006.6 1042.8 22 4.72 84.58%
1967 Courage & Barclay Tavern Keg 28d pint draught 0.03 1007.8 1038.3 27 3.96 79.63%
1961 Courage, Barclay Keg Bitter 20d to 22d pint draught 0.06 1003.3 1041.2 19 4.95 91.99%
1961 Dryborough Keg 19d pint draught 0.08 1006.8 1037.6 10 3.85 81.91%
1959 Flowers Keg Bitter 22d pint draught 0.04 1010.7 1039 23 3.54 72.56%
1961 Flowers Keg 24d pint draught 0.04 1012.5 1039.3 27 3.35 68.19%
1961 Fremlin Keg 24d pint draught 0.04 1005.8 1040.4 23 4.33 85.64%
1960 Gibbs Mew Blue Keg Bitter 18d pint draught 0.05 1007.6 1036 25 3.55 78.89%
1961 Gibbs Mew Anchor Keg 21d to 24d pint draught 0.06 1004.4 1040.6 24 4.52 89.16%
1961 Gibbs Mew Red Keg 22d pint draught 0.11 1003.7 1040.4 21 4.59 90.84%
1968 Greene King King Keg 28d pint draught 0.02 1006.8 1038.4 20 3.95 82.29%
1972 Greene King King Keg 14p pint draught 1008.5 1037 3.20 77.03%
1968 Hall & Woodhouse Keg Bitter 25d pint draught 0.04 1007 1035.1 22 3.51 80.06%
1967 Harvey's (Lewes) Keg 26d pint draught 0.05 1009.2 1038 24 3.60 75.79%
1961 John Smith Golden Keg Ale 22d to 24d pint draught 0.04 1009 1039.1 19 3.76 76.98%
1964 John Smith Golden Keg 24d pint draught 0.05 1009.4 1039.1 23 3.71 75.96%
1961 Lacon Keg Bitter 24d pint draught 0.06 1007.1 1040.1 17 4.12 82.29%
1960 Marston Burton Keg 21d pint bottled 0.05 1006.8 1036 20 3.65 81.11%
1968 Mew Langton Island Keg 27d pint draught 0.05 1006.6 1037.6 19 3.87 82.45%
1968 Ridley Keg 27d pint draught 0.04 1005.7 1034.3 24 3.57 83.38%
1967 Scottish Brewers Tartan Keg 29d pint draught 0.03 1008.8 1036.9 25 3.51 76.15%
1967 Shepherd Neame Top Hat Keg 28d pint draught 0.04 1006.7 1038.4 19 3.96 82.55%
1959 Simonds Keg Bitter 22d pint draught 0.04 1007.3 1037.4 19 3.76 80.48%
1961 Starkey, Knight & Ford Star Keg 23d pint draught 0.07 1008 1042.3 27 4.29 81.09%
1968 Strongs Barley Corn Keg 27d pint draught 0.08 1007.8 1037.4 45 3.70 79.14%
1961 Tennant Bros. Keg Bitter 21d pint draught 0.05 1005 1036.8 15 3.97 86.41%
1961 Threllfalls Keg Bitter 17d to 18d pint draught 0.04 1004.9 1038.5 17 4.20 87.27%
1961 Tollemache Tolly Keg 24d to 26d pint draught 0.05 1006.9 1038.1 26 3.90 81.89%
1967 Tollemache Keg 27d pint draught 0.04 1010.8 1034.6 33 2.97 68.79%
1959 Truman Keg Bitter 22d pint draught 0.04 1008.8 1040.5 22 4.12 78.27%
1961 Truman Keg Bitter 21d pint draught 0.06 1006.2 1039 16 4.27 84.10%
1966 Truman Keg Bitter 28d pint draught 0.24 1006.4 1038.6 21 4.19 83.42%
1968 Truman Keg Bitter 27d pint draught 0.05 1004.6 1039.9 21 4.61 88.47%
1961 Vaux Keg Beer 20d pint draught 0.08 1002.2 1034.8 14 4.07 93.68%
1957 Watney Keg Bitter 24d to 26d pint draught 0.06 1007.6 1039.4 23 4.14 80.71%
1961 Yates's Castle Brewery, Ardwick Keg 20d pint draught 0.05 1006.8 1037.8 16 3.88 82.01%
1959 Younger, Wm. & Co Keg Bitter 19d pint draught 0.04 1007.8 1043.7 55 4.68 82.15%
Sources:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15

8 comments:

Matt said...

I cut my drinking teeth on keg bitter as a teenager in the late 80's - Greenall Whitley's Local Bitter, Websters' Choice and Whitbread Trophy which I drank gallons of - before I started drinking in a Holt's pub. Whether I'd enjoy any of them now is another question.

Jeremy Drew said...

Am I right in thinking that the Whitbread logo shown, is the 'Masterbrewer' image that they picked up when the took over Flowers/JW Green's in the '60s?

The brewers at Green's were still wearing the traditional red caps in the 1950s, I think.

Have I missed something about the price of GK King Keg? 14p would have been around 2/10d so about 34d in 1972. Shows how much of an impact inflation was having at the time.

BTW, I was working in a GK pub in Luton in the early 1980s, when GK were still seen as a decent, small regional brewer. We had King Keg on the bar but I could go several shifts at a stretch without touching it so in percentage terms of turnover it must have been tiny. I do remember one drinker who had it as a blend with a bottle of St Edmunds Pale, known as King and Teddy.

For what it is worth, the range was Mild, IPA and Abbot on handpump and we seemed to sell a surprising amount of mild for the location. I think that the prices were 68p,70p and 74p respectively.

Strange that I remember that but not my own 'phone number...

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeremy,

yes, that logo comes from Flower's.

My mistake about the King Keg. Almost all the prices I have are pre-decimal and I didn't notice that one was new money. I've corrected the text of my post accordingly.

Andrew said...

CO2 is CO2.

Ron Pattinson said...

Andrew,

I know. And keg beer has too much of the filthy stuff.

Jeff Renner said...

Image please.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff,

Fixed.

Maxwell Power said...

I usually visit Gib once a year to visit friends out there and I always thought it was stuck in the 70s. It never occurred to me that the beer had something to do with it as I would just drink the coldest holiday lager they had, I never expected to find cask ale.

A lot of the pubs, especially those at the very south end of the rock, have still got dartboards, proper bar towels, brewery branded trays and peanuts on the bar. While I don't miss most of it I do have to have a good think where I can play darts nowadays.