Saturday, 28 March 2015

Draught Bitter in the 1950’s

Seeing as we’ve looked at the handling of draught beer in the 1950’s at great length, I thought you might like to take a look at some of the beers themselves. And it’s a good excuse for loads more tables.

I’ve taken everything in my mega gravity spreadsheet that’s British, draught and is dated between 1950 and 1959. There will be posts on other styles later, but I’m going to kick off with Bitter, a style that was very much on the up in this period. On its way to becoming, albeit briefly, the nation’s favourite.

I’ve split them into four groups: Boys Bitter (OG < 1036), Ordinary Bitter (OG 1036 – 1037.9), Best Bitter (OG > 1038) and Keg Bitter. It’s a fairly arbitrary division. As would any be, really. I could easily have extended Ordinary Bitter by a gravity point or two at either end.

I’m thinking of assembling a new book covering 1945 to 1960. It’s an interesting period in British brewing, if only for its relative lack of dynamism. After the chaotic changes of the previous decades, it was a period of surprising calm. But it was also when British beer styles solidified into their modern forms.

On with the tables. Beginning with Boys Bitter:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Boys Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1953 Steel Coulson Edinburgh Ale P. 60/- 14 1030
1959 Wm. Younger XXP Bitter 22 0.04 1030.4 1005.7 3.21 81.25% 21
1958 Bernard No. 3 (Pale 1/1) 13 1031 1010 2.72 67.74%
1959 Fuller Bitter 14 0.05 1031.6 1004.1 3.58 87.03% 23
1959 Charrington  BBB 17 0.04 1032.8 1007.8 3.24 76.22% 14
1954 Barclay Perkins XLK 15 0.06 1032.9 1004.5 3.70 86.32%
1954 Meux PA 17 0.04 1033.2 1005.3 3.63 84.04% 20
1954 Meux PA 17 0.06 1033.7 1007.3 3.43 78.34% 24
1954 Barclay Perkins XLK 15 0.04 1033.8 1006.9 3.49 79.59% 19
1953 Steel Coulson PXA P. 70/- 19 1034
1954 Taylor Walker EPA 17 0.06 1034 1008.6 3.29 74.71% 23
1958 Vaux & Co Bitter Ale 17 0.05 1034.2 1007.8 3.43 77.19% 26
1953 Whitbread Pale Ale 16 1035.1 22
1957 Ind Coope Best Bitter 17 0.06 1035.2 1008 3.53 77.27% 19
1954 Mann Crossman KK 17 0.04 1035.3 1007.7 3.58 78.19% 19
1957 Charrington PA 15 0.06 1035.5 1004.9 3.98 86.20% 23
1959 Whitaker Bitter 14 0.04 1035.6 1010.2 3.17 71.35% 22
Average 16.2 1033.4 1007.1 3.43 79.0% 21.3
Sources:
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
document from the Steel Coulson archive held at the Scottish Brewing Archives
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

Spot anything interesting there? Average attenuation is pretty high at 79%. The only exception is Bernard’s No. 3. Not even sure that should really be in there. Or, for that matter, the two other Scottish beers above it. As they are all 60/-. Which I usually consider to be Mild. Even though I know it was parti-gyled with 70/- and 80/-.

That reminds me. Kristen suggested we write another Beer Style Guide for a different year. I had been thinking of 1927, but I’m tempted to go for a year in the 1950’s. What do you reckon? Any preference for a year? It’s all a bit academic, as currently lack the time to write it.

Getting back to the beers, the relatively high attenuation means that the average ABV comes out at almost 3.5%. Not bad, but it might have left the beers a bit thin.

Next it’s the turn of Ordinary Bitter.

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Ordinary Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1958 Bernard No. 2 (Pale 1/2) 14 1036 1011 3.24 69.44%
1954 Watney PA 17 0.04 1036.1 1009.7 3.42 73.13% 25
1957 Ind Coope PA 17 0.05 1036.3 1006.5 3.88 82.09% 19
1953 Taylor Walker Pale Ale 18 1036.3 27
1953 Truman Pale Ale 17 1036.7 16
1954 Truman PA 17 0.04 1036.7 1006.4 3.94 82.56% 18
1954 Watney IPA 17 0.06 1036.7 1008.4 3.67 77.11% 23
1953 Meux Pale Ale 17 1036.8 27
1954 Charrington  BBB 15 0.06 1036.8 1008.9 3.62 75.82% 26
1957 Watney PA 17 0.06 1036.8 1006.9 3.89 81.25% 26
1953 Young & Co Pale Ale 16 1036.8 20
1954 Truman PA 17 0.05 1036.9 1006.8 3.91 81.57% 19
1953 Whitbread Pale Ale 17 1037.0 24
1959 Websters Bitter 15 0.07 1037 1005.4 3.95 85.41% 20
1953 Wenlock Pale Ale 16 1037 24
1957 Truman PA 17 0.07 1037.2 1007.1 3.91 80.91% 18
1953 Benskins Pale Ale 16 1037.2 18
1953 Tetley Pale Ale 16 1037.3 20
1953 Younger Pale Ale 17 1037.4 30
1959 Ind Coope Red Hand 22 0.04 1037.5 1011.5 3.37 69.33% 18
1953 Mann Crossman Pale Ale 17 1037.5 25
1954 Courage Alton PA 18 0.04 1037.7 1008.1 3.84 78.51% 24
1955 Truman PA Burton Brewed 17 0.05 1037.7 1005.9 4.14 84.35% 17
1954 Whitbread PA 17 0.06 1037.9 1004.8 4.31 87.34% 24
Average 16.8 1037.0 1007.7 3.79 79.2% 22.1
Sources:
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

I’m surprised that there’s so little difference between the average price of these first two classes of Bitter. There’s a fair bit of price uniformity – 18 of the 24 cost either 16d or 17d a pint. The one outlier is Ind Coope Red Hand which I suspect might have been a keg beer.

There’s a very heavy London slant in this set. Only Bernard, Younger and Tetley are exceptions. Unsurprising, as the majority of the analyses come from Truman and Whitbread.

Once again, there are some very highly-attenuated examples – eight are over 80%, and the average isn’t far off 80%.

Now Best Bitter:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Best Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1954 Taylor Walker PA 17 0.04 1038 1009.9 3.64 73.95% 23
1959 Websters Bitter 16 0.06 1038 1004.7 4.16 87.63% 22
1954 Courage PA 18 0.06 1038.4 1006.4 4.16 83.33% 28
1954 Charrington  PA 15 0.04 1038.6 1008.1 3.96 79.02% 20
1957 Whitbread PA 19 0.06 1038.6 1010 3.71 74.09% 20
1957 Whitbread PA 19 0.06 1038.6 1010 3.71 74.09% 20
1957 Taylor Walker PA 17 0.06 1038.8 1009.3 3.83 76.03% 19
1959 Ramsdens Bitter 16 0.05 1038.9 1006 4.28 84.58% 16
1955 Hancock, Cardiff HB 1039
1957 Barclay Perkins PA 18 0.05 1039.5 1005.9 4.38 85.06% 26
1959 Bentleys Bitter 16 0.04 1039.5 1010.2 3.66 74.18% 19
1954 Whitbread PA 17 1039.5
1957 Courage PA 18 0.08 1039.8 1005.4 4.48 86.43% 27
1954 Barclay Perkins Best Bitter 18 0.06 1040.4 1007.5 4.28 81.44% 22
1959 Ramsdens Bitter 16 0.05 1040.7 1006.2 4.31 84.77% 18
1959 Courage & Barclay Bitter 22 0.04 1040.9 1009.8 4.04 76.04% 23
1959 Fuller Best Bitter 19 0.05 1041.4 1006.1 4.60 85.27% 32
1953 Watney Pale Ale 19 1042.8 27
1957 Ind Coope Double Diamond 20 0.05 1043.8 1008.1 4.65 81.51% 20
1957 Watney Best PA 21 0.06 1044 1014.2 3.86 67.73% 20
1957 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 21 0.04 1044.6 1005.4 5.12 87.89% 21
1953 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 19 1044.7 26
1953 Watney Special Bitter 20 0.06 1044.9 1009.6 4.59 78.62% 28
1954 Watney Special Bitter 20 0.04 1045.5 1013.7 4.12 69.89% 23
1954 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 19 0.04 1046 1008.7 4.86 81.09% 20
1958 Bernard Special No. 1 (Pale 1/4) 16 1046 1013 4.28 71.74%
1953 Charrington Pale Ale 17 1046.4 29
1959 Charrington  Toby Ale 15 0.04 1046.6 1009.4 4.84 79.83% 20
Average 18.1 1041.6 1008.6 4.52 76.68% 22.7
Sources:
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
“Cardiff Pubs and Breweries” by Brian Glover, 2005. pages 97-101
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive


I’m wondering what to say about this lot. The attenuation is all over the place – 68% to 88% - but averages a little lower than the previous two sets.

I’m slightly surprised that Draught Bass was one of the paler examples. Though it’s also one of the strongest, at around 5% ABV. As a relatively expensive beer, it maintained its gravity better than most.

Again, it’s a very London-heavy set. Weird, isn’t it, to think how many big breweries used to have their home in London?

Finally, the geek’s favourite, nice expensive keg beer:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Keg Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1959 Simonds Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1037.4 1007.3 3.76 80.48% 19
1959 South London Brewery Golden Keg 18 0.07 1037.9 1005.7 4.03 84.96% 19
1959 Watney Red Barrel 22 0.04 1038.5 1010 3.70 74.03% 24
1959 Flowers Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1039 1010.7 3.54 72.56% 23
1959 Whitbread Tankard Bitter 22 0.05 1039.1 1011.9 3.52 69.57% 22
1957 Watney Keg Bitter 24 0.06 1039.4 1007.6 4.14 80.71% 23
1959 Truman Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1040.5 1008.8 4.12 78.27% 22
1957 Courage & Barclay Keg Bitter 22 0.06 1042.8 1006.6 4.72 84.58% 22
1959 Wm. Younger Keg Bitter 19 0.04 1043.7 1007.8 4.68 82.15% 55
Average 21.4 1039.8 1008.5 4.02 78.6% 25.4
Without Younger 21.75
Sources:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.


As you can see, they’re all at Ordinary or Best Bitter strength. Except priced at a few pence more per pint.

The William Younger example is very dark for a Bitter. In fact it’s getting close to Dark Mile territory. But you know the Scots – they loved colouring up their beer. And in loads of different shades. Doubtless in some markets that beer was much paler.

Probably Mild next time.

1 comment:

marquis said...

What, no Shippo's ?
When I began drinking , very often the only Bitter on the pumps was labelled "Best Bitter"
Presumably the lower gravity bitter had been discontinued or even relabelled as "Best" ?