No, I realise that's just fantasy. But you know, once I've started something it's hard to stop. I just couldn't hold myself back from following up the piece about watery Milds in the 1920's with once about the same beers in the 1930's.
4d Ale is a funny beer style. Born in WW I, deceased in WW II. There were probably a lot of people for whom that was also the case. Though more tragic. This is just a beer style we're talking about, after all. Not like real flesh and blood. The styles roots were in the price-controlled beers of the latter years of WW I. It was originally called Government Ale. Until the government outlawed the term. I can see why. I wouldn't want my name associated with a piss-weak beer, either.
How did it get the catchy name of 4d Ale (Fourpenny Ale)? Er, because that's what it cost per pint. And it was an Ale. Under the WW I price control restrictions, brewers were obliged to put the retail price on the cask. The original definition in October 1917 was a beer with a gravity lower than 1036º. By the last set of price controls in 1920, the gravity band of beer that retailed at 4d had fallen to 1020 - 1026º. Pretty weak stuff, but not the weakest. 3d beer was anything under 1019º.
Other names were used for this type of beer: Ale or LA (Light Ale). The latter is dead confusing for a couple of reasons. First, these beers weren't often light in colour. Second, Light Ale was later used to describe a totally different type of beer a low-gravity Pale Ale.
|4d Ale 1930 - 1939|
|Year||Brewer||Beer||Price per pint (pence)||Acidity||FG||OG||colour||ABV||App. Atten-uation|
|1930||Leney & Co.||Ale||4d||1026.3|
|1930||Portsmouth & Brighton Breweries||L.A.||4d||1001.9||1027||3.27||92.96%|
|1930||Style & Winch||Ale||4d||1028.2|
|1931||Nalder & Collyer||X||5d||1027|
|1931||Taylor Walker||Ale||4d||1008||1024||40B + 11R||2.07||66.67%|
|1931||Young & Co||Ale||5d||1028.9|
|1932||Young & Co||Ale||5d||1032.8|
|1935||Leney & Co||X||4d||0.06||1006||1028||2.85||78.57%|
|1936||Barclay Perkins||Ale 4d||4d||1007||1029.1||44-46||2.87||75.95%|
|1936||Wells & Winch||Ale||4d||1031.8|
|1938||Ballard||Mild Ale||4d||0.05||1004.8||1030.7||40 + 4||3.37||84.36%|
|1938||Steward & Patteson||Mild Ale||4d||0.04||1004.9||1030.1||40 + 3.5||3.28||83.72%|
|Barclay Perkins brewing records.|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.|
|Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives|
The more observant amongst you have probably already noticed that not all the beers in the table below sold for 4d. There's a good reason for that, and not just that I'm a sloppy bastard. Look closer and you'll see that they're all from 1931 and 1932. When there was a big hike in beer duty. for many beers, the brewer's response was to lower the gravity and leave the price the same. But 4d Ale was already about as weak as a respectable beer could get and some brewers were forced to bump up the price.
About half the beers in the table are below 1030º, and most of the rest just barely above that level. The average OG is 1029.9. It's a shame that I have so few FG's. You can blame Truman. They mostly only bothered to record the OG and price. It's annoying because I can't really come to any conclusions about the degree of attenuation. In the beers that do have an FG, I can see two contradictory trends. Some have quite a high FG, presumably to retain some body. Others have obviously been fermented out as far as possible to get a decent ABV.
One last point. The vast majority of beers of this class were sold on draught, but there were some bottled examples. Another odd development as a result of WW I was the relationship between the bottled and draught versions of a beer. Before the war, bottled versions were the same strength or stronger than draught. During the war this changed and the bottled versions became weaker. Sometimes by quite a lot. Barclay Perkins brewed three versions of XLK, their Ordinary Bitter. Draught was the strongest, followed by pint and half pint bottles. Weakest was what they called "crate beer". A crate was four quart bottles and was the cheapest form of bottled beer.