Sunday, 12 April 2015

Barley Wine in the 1950's

Nope. Still can’t face Mild. A glance at Brown Ale revealed that’s almost as bad. When will I be in an arsing situation? Probably no time soon.

Right time for some of my bullshitty type stuff. God, I’m eloquent today.  Barley Wine? What sensible to I have to say about it? Well, to a great extent the use of the name was arbitrary. You’ll notice that pretty well all the beers have Barley Wine in their name. If they didn’t, I’d probably have classes them as Old Ale or Strong Ale.

You’ll see that I’ve two originals in there: Bass No. 1 and Tennants Gold Label. The former is the first beer to call itself Barley Wine, the latter the first of a new breed of Pale Barley Wines. One of my early beer style theories, which hurled itself from the top storey once I got my hands on real data, was based on Barley Wine being pale. Because I considered Gold Label the archetypal Barley Wine.

It’s a great shame that Bass No. 1 no longer exists. I can remember drinking it in a Bass pub in Mablethorpe in the 1970’s. I wonder when it was discontinued? I’m trying to remember what colour it was. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t dark, but I could be wrong.

Let’s kick of with colour, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it. All of the set are dark, except for Gold Label and Hall & Woodhouse Stingo. The others are all dark. Some very dark. But that’s what was expected of the style back then. It’s only in the 1960’s that the balanced started to tip towards pale interpretations.

There are some classic beers in there, in addition to the two I’ve already highlighted. Ind Coope’s is the descendant of Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, probably the most powerful beer of the 19th century.  Then there’s Benskins Colne Spring Ale. There’s been some discussion about the presence of Brettanomyces in it. A glance at the level of attenuation – around 90% - tells me it was almost certainly in the mix. Whether deliberately pitched or picked up.

Barley Wine in the 1950's
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1959 Tamplin Cheer-i-o No. 1 Barley Wine 0.04 1062.6 1016.1 6.05 74.28% 120
1953 Tamplin Cheerio Barley Wine 36 0.06 1063.3 1015.1 6.28 76.15% 16 + 40
1953 Scarborough & Whitby Barley Wine 43.5 0.07 1064.3 1024.3 5.17 62.21% 17 + 40
1954 Tollemache Tolly Royal 43 0.04 1065.9 1013.7 6.82 79.21% 110
1953 Morgans Barley Wine 42 0.06 1072.3 1024 6.27 66.80% 12 + 40
1953 Tollemache Tolly Royal 48 0.06 1073.3 1023.6 6.45 67.80% 17 + 40
1953 Cobbold Barley Wine 37.5 0.05 1073.8 1029.5 5.72 60.03% 15 + 40
1953 Everards Barley Wine 51 0.07 1077.1 1017.2 7.84 77.69% 13 + 40
1956 Ind Coope Arctic Barley Wine 54 0.05 1077.1 1019.7 7.49 74.45% 105
1959 Hall & Woodhouse Stingo Barley Wine 0.05 1077.3 1010.4 8.81 86.55% 45
1954 Georges Barley Wine 40 0.05 1078.2 1026 6.78 66.75% 95
1953 Tetley  Imperial Barley Wine 54 0.07 1078.9 1022.1 7.40 71.99% 10.5 + 40
1953 Ind Coope Arctic Ale 54 0.08 1079 1018 7.98 77.22% 18 + 40
1959 Harvey Elixzabethan Ale 0.07 1085.4 1030.5 7.12 64.29% 100
1953 Watney Yorkshire Stingo 51 0.10 1089.6 1031.7 7.52 64.62% 17 + 40
1953 Benskin Colne Spring Ale 60 0.05 1090.7 1008.2 10.95 90.96% 1 + 8
1955 Benskin Colne Spring Ale 60 0.08 1091.8 1011.1 10.69 87.91% 75
1959 Ind Coope Benskins Colne Spring Ale 47 0.10 1092.8 1009.3 11.08 89.98% 80
1953 Truman No. 1 Burton Barley Wine 60 0.06 1095.4 1023.6 9.42 75.26% 6 + 40
1955 Tennant No. 1 Barley Wine 57 0.10 1097.5 1022.6 9.84 76.82% 175
1954 Tennant Gold Label No.1 Sparkling Barley Wine 60 0.13 1101.5 1021.1 10.60 79.21% 90
1955 Tennant Gold Label Barley Wine 57 0.08 1102.4 1020.8 10.77 79.69% 45
1958 Tennant Gold Label No.1 Barley Wine 57 0.06 1102.5 1017.9 10.58 82.54% 35
1953 Bass Barley Wine 60 0.08 1104.6 1036.3 8.90 65.30% 10 + 40
1958 Bass No. 1 Barley Wine 63 0.06 1106.8 1039.8 8.71 62.73% 100
Average 51.05 0.07 1084.2 1021.3 8.21 74.42%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Have you noticed something about the dates? The earliest is 1953. That’s not a random date. Many breweries produced their strongest beers in more than a decade last year to celebrate the coronation. In some ways it marked the end of post-war austerity.

It’s a set of very strong beers for the period. There were probably no beers anywhere else in the world topping 10% ABV back then.

What might come as a surprise is that these were mostly drunk in the pub. To round off the night or to warm the blood on a cold winter’s night. It was the same with Hardy Ale. The vast majority was drunk in Eldridge Pope tied houses. When the brewery lost its tied estate, that’s when Hardy Ale first disappeared. The odd American geek wasn’t enough to keep it going.

That’s all I’m going to tell you. Look at the numbers and come to your own conclusions about the rest. I’m off to toast a breakfast crumpet.

What next? Light Ale probably. It’s another small set.


Phil said...

The prices seem high - were these really going for four and five bob a pint, in 1950s money?

Martyn Cornell said...

I was told Ind Coope's/Allied Breweries' Triple A barley wine derived its name from "Allsopp's Arctic Ale" - plausible, but I have no actual evidence …

Phil said...

Stingo! -- Any words of wisdom what that means? I've had Samuel Smith's Yorkshire Stingo and that's a nice beer, but I couldn't begin to guess what that name might mean to a British drinker.

This article

claims that Stingo refers to a sting you taste based on Lactic sourness, although I don't remember that at all from the Sam Smiths I had, and it sounds like the kind of nonsense story that springs up around beer.

"that primary fermentation took place on oak and the beer has a pronounced sourness from the use of lactic acid producing microbes. In the time that this beer was originally produced, it's likely that this sourness was part of the flavor profile, so Stingo was nicknamed due to the sting your mouth felt from the acidity in the flavor."

Any thoughts on what the name Stingo might mean in reality, as opposed to fantasy?

Anonymous said...

Re colour of Bass No. 1: I remember it as ruby-ish; darker than Gold Label, but not as dark as Old Nick.

Ron Pattinson said...


I really don't know where the name Stingo comes from. Dann asked me before that beer was brewed if I knew anything about Stingo - the answer was no.

Ron Pattinson said...


yes. Though they were mostly sold in nips. Just think, Ordinary Bitter cost 1s 6d a pint. These beers are much stronger.

Gary Gillman said...

I think it is an alternate spelling of "stinko" as in to get stinking drunk. This makes sense given stingo is a strong beer.

The late Canadian folk singer "Stomping" Tom Connors memorialized the term "stinko" in his classic, "Sudbury Saturday Night". Some Canadiana: Inco Mining is now called Vale and still mines nickel ore in the Sudbury, Ontario area. "Dilly" was (and maybe still is, I don't know) a small curved pickle (pickled cucumber) which was served with a meat pie or French Fries in Ontario's beer taverns.


Gus said...


Given the chinese whispers about the 'sting' in Stingo referring to acidity, is there a way to understand the 'acidity' column of these tables in real-life terms?

And whether the 0.10 acidity figure would support or contradict the idea that Stingo was noticeably acidic?



Ron Pattinson said...


I don't think you'd really start noticing any tartness at just 0.10%. I reckon you'd need at least double that level.