At the time, I didn't realise how fortunate I was to try beer from of couple of London's great breweries. No matter what its quality. Truman and Courage were the two, if you're wondering.
Truman had gone all keg, but in the late seventies brought out a cask beer, Tap Bitter. I can remember drinking it in the Tenterden on Devon's Road, just around the corner from where I lived in Bromley-by-Bow. If I'm honest, it wasn't great. Mixing it 50-50 with bottled Guinness improved it greatly.
Then in 1982 they brought out a full range of cask beers including, to my delight, a pretty decent Mild. Sadly, the Mild only lasted a couple of years and the range was slowly whittled down as the brewery approached its 1989 closure. All of the beers were pretty good, when looked after probably. It was the last hurrah of the old guard of London brewing.
These are the beers:
|Truman cask beers in 1982|
|Best Bitter||Pale Ale||1045|
|Sampson Extra Strong||Pale Ale||1055|
|1983 Good Beer Guide|
Rambling reminiscences done, let's take a look at how shit (or otherwise) Truman's Mild was in the 1920's. Once again there are two different Mild in the table, a 5d Ale and a 7d/6d X Ale. Seems to have been pretty standard in London back then. My guess would be that all the breweries we've looked at would have had beers in this 5d Ale class, just that Whitbread didn't analyse ones from every brewery.
|Truman Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1925|
|1922||MA||1006||1027.8||2.79||77.34%||bright||American wood cask||-2|
|1922||MA||1007||1028.4||2.73||74.30%||fairly bright||poor unpleasantly bitter||-2|
|1923||MA||1008||1030.8||2.98||74.68%||bright||v unpleasant odour going off||-3|
|1922||X||1008||1040||4.16||80.00%||not bright||going off||-2|
|1922||X||1011||1042.1||4.02||73.63%||very hazy||v fair||2|
|1922||X||1011||1041.4||3.96||73.67%||bright||bitter flavoured but poor||-1|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001|
Starting as usual with the watery stuff, you can see it's threatening to be intoxicating without ever quite making it. The ABV bubbles just below the surface of 3%. The gravity lurks just below the waterline of 1030º in all but one case, which just pokes its head above the waves. Attenuation is mostly around the bog-standard 75% mark.
As for its quality, things don't look good. Only half the 8 examples are bright. And only two examples get a positive score for flavour. And there are a couple of pretty bad ones, with American oak showing up again.
I'd thought American oak wasn't usually used in Britain and I was scratching my head as to why it's shown up so often. I think I know the answer: the war. The Memel oak from the Baltic would have been unobtainable during the war. And, with the chaos of the Russian revolution, I doubt that situation had improved by the early 1920's. Brewers may well have had no choice but to use American oak.
An average score of -0.63 is, well, crap.
Let's leave the Boy's Mild and get onto the man's stuff. The X Ale has the typical gravity of just over 1040º. But the average attenuation of 71.44% is low for this class of beer. About 10 points lower than we've seen at other breweries. Which obviously means that the ABV is relatively low, only over 4% in a couple of cases and only then by a small amount. It averages out to 3.82% ABV.
This is much better. Eleven out of fourteen examples were bright. It doesn't do so well for flavour, with five negative scores. Of which a couple sound pretty undrinkable. The average score of 0.50 says to me: buy, but with caution.