Friday, 24 January 2014

4d Ale 1930 - 1939

Watery Mild. That'll bring in the punters. Everyone wants to know about low-gravity, cheap Milds from the 1930's.

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 Buddon Bigg Ale 4d 1026.5
1930 Fremlin Ale 4d 1035.7
1930 Isleworth Brewery RA 4d 1011.2 1032 2.69 65.00%
1930 Kemp Town L.A. 4d 1006.7 1034 3.55 80.29%
1930 Leney & Co. Ale 4d 1026.3
1930 Mackeson L.A. 4d 1005.4 1027 2.80 80.00%
1930 Mason Ale 4d 1030.4
1930 Portsmouth & Brighton Breweries L.A. 4d 1001.9 1027 3.27 92.96%
1930 Shepherd Neame Ale 4d 1028.5
1930 Style & Winch Ale 4d 1028.2
1930 Tamplin L.A. 4d 1007.4 1031 3.06 76.13%
1931 Fullers Ale 4d 1033.7
1931 Nalder & Collyer X 5d 1027
1931 Taylor Walker Ale 4d 1008 1024 40B + 11R 2.07 66.67%
1931 Truman Ale 4d 1028.6
1931 Watney Ale 5d 1030.5
1931 Watney Ale 4d 1031.6
1931 Young & Co Ale 5d 1028.9
1932 Fullers Ale 5d 1030.1
1932 Ind Coope Ale 5d 1030.7
1932 Truman Ale 4d 1026.9
1932 Truman Ale 4d 1029.1
1932 Watney Ale 5d 1028.8
1932 Wells Watford Ale 4.5d 1028.7
1932 Young & Co Ale 5d 1032.8
1933 Courage Mild Ale 4d 0.05 1010.8 1033 2.87 67.27%
1935 Charrington Ale 4d 1031.5
1935 Fullers LA 4d 0.07 1007.9 1032.8 3.23 75.91%
1935 Ind Coope Ale 4d 1028.8
1935 Isleworth LA 4d 0.06 1011.2 1032 2.69 65.00%
1935 Kidd Ale 4d 1032.2
1935 Leney & Co X 4d 0.06 1006 1028 2.85 78.57%
1935 Mann Ale 4d 1029.1
1935 Mann Brandon's LA 4d 0.04 1004.4 1031 3.46 85.81%
1935 Meux Ale 4d 1028.3
1935 Truman Ale 4d 1030
1935 Watney Ale 4d 1031.5
1935 Whitbread Ale 4d 1027.1
1936 Barclay Perkins Ale 4d 4d 1007 1029.1 44-46 2.87 75.95%
1936 Greene King Ale 4d 1028.9
1936 Wells & Winch Ale 4d 1031.8
1937 Tamplin LA 4d 0.05 1007.3 1032.7 3.30 77.68%
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%
1939 Barclay Perkins A 4d 1008.8 1030.7 42 2.83 71.31%
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.

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