Sunday, 2 August 2015

Coronation Beers

There’s nothing like a royal event for generating celebration brews. Jubilees, royal weddings and coronations have all spawned dozens of special beers.

Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 came just as Britain was starting to drag itself out of the gloom of the immediate post-war years. With gravities had edging up a little and restrictions easing, it must have seemed a good excuse to cut loose with a really strong beer.

But everyone was so optimistic.

A limited number of brewers are brewing high-gravity beers for the Coronation.

Most brewers would like to have a special beer available for the Coronation, but as sales  will be limited, it is not a practicable proposition, so far as many are concerned, to put through a special brew without a great deal of waste. With this in mind, and feeling that under the circumstances some breweries may wish to purchase sufficient quantities of Coronation beer from an outside source, to bottle under their own label, Messrs. Starkey, Knight and Ford, Ltd., Tiverton, Devon, offer supplies, as will be seen from their advertisement published in this issue. In point of fact, they offer supplies in bulk or bottled under customers' own labels.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Nowadays I guess you’d call that arrangement contract brewing. As most breweries had bottling lines then, I suspect most would have taken it in bulk and bottled themselves. Bound to have been cheaper.

The author takes a very pessimistic view of the opportunities for a coronation beer:

“That a large number of brewers will not be brewing a Coronation beer is due to a wide variety of considerations, but indifference is certainly not one of them. The pros and cons of producing  Coronation beer were discussed in our January issue, when "Country Brewer" the contributor of the article, left the reader in no doubt as to the technical and other problems involved. Apart from the problems dealt with by "Country Brewer" other considerations which have led to decisions against a Coronation brew include (1) Indications that certain sections of the retail trade would not welcome the handling of yet another high-priced speciality; (2) That several "strong" beers were already being marketed and that coming so soon after the production of "Festival" ales and stouts, another would be unlikely to meet with success.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Basically no-one really wanted another strong, expensive beer. The Festival beers he mentioned were ones brewed for the Festival of Britain, which took place in the summer of 1951. There were indeed beers brewed for it, though I only have an analysis of one brewed by Barclay Perkins.

Now the author has a moan about the price of a coronation beer and the costs associated with brewing it:

“Some of the Coronation beers being produced, to sell probably at 1s. 6d., 1s. 9d., or 2s. per nip bottle, will be of 80° to 90°. At those prices which, on the face of them, may seem sufficiently remunerative, there is that bewitching item of "overheads" to be added, plus the cost of nip bottles, which raises the consideration of what use they can be put to next.

The choice of materials for the production of a Coronation beer is fairly simple—they must be of the best. There is scope, however, for the choice of hops of maximum P.V., since aroma and flavour are completely masked by the other constituents of an extra heavy beer.

The excessive Duty towers above material costs, and when that has been fully considered, one can weigh the possibility of making a profit against the probability of cutting a loss.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Not sure why he thinks brewers would have to buy in nip bottles especially for their coronation beer. Lots of breweries already packaged beer in nips. And not only really strong ones. The Whitbread Gravity Book usually mentions the bottle size. These are the breweries who according to that used nips in 1952 and 1953:

Bass, Barclay Perkins, Courage, Hammonds, Ind Coope, McMullen, Watney, Wenlock, Aitchison, Aitken, Alnwick Brewery, Ballingall, Barnard, Bentley's Yorkshire Brewery, Blair, Brickwoods, Bullard, Castletown, Catterall & Swarbrick, Chester Brewery, Cobbold, Bellhaven, Ely Brewery, Everards, Felinfoel, Flowers, Friary Holroyd, Fullers, Gordon & Blair, Guinness, Harman's, Hay, Holt Bros., Hunt Edmunds, Hydes, J Fowler, James Hole, Jeffrey, John Joule, John Smith, John Wright, JW Green, Maclachlan, Masseys, McEwan, Meux, Morgans, Morgans, Morrell, Norman & Pring, Octagon Brewery, Plymouth Breweries, Rose, Russells & Wrangham, Russell's, Scarborough & Whitby, Simonds, St. Austell, Star Brewery, Steel Coulson, Steward & Patteson, Tamplin, Taylor Walker, Tennent, Tetley, Threlfalls, Tollemache, Truman, Usher, W Murray & Co, WA Smith & Sons, Wards Ltd, Whitaker & Son, Young & Co, Younger Geo., Younger Robert, Younger Wm., Youngs Crawshay & Youngs.

Looks to me like his argument about nip bottles is bollocks.

His point about it not mattering which hops you used sounds equally dubious. He’s about right about the selling price, though 2s is on the high end when I look at beers of 1080-1090º in the Whitbread Gravity Book for 1953.

Next time we’ll see how many breweries did make, or at least market, a coronation beer.

No comments: