Monday, 31 August 2015

Draught Bitter in 1960

Table time again. The words are still rationed, owing to me having spoken too much last weekend. I don’t have an infinite supply of these things, you know.

Having obtained some fresh, juicy numbers, courtesy of Boak and Bailey, I thought I’d do something with them. As 1960 marks the end of the period I’m currently focussing on, it seems a good excuse to take a look at the state of British beer then.

Boak and Bailey’s data came from a Which? Report into beer from 1960. It’s hard to imagine how much in the dark drinkers were about the strength of the beer back then. Brewers were very secretive about how strong their beer was. With good reason. Their reflex reaction to tax increases  had long been to cut gravities. By not telling their customers about gravities, they hoped they might not notice their beer was getting weaker.

This report and the occasional newspaper article were the only times beer strengths were ever detailed. I know kicking CAMRA is a modern sport, but it was they who dragged beer gravities out into the open. In the late 1970’s, as brewers wouldn’t say how strong their beers were, CAMRA had them analysed themselves. And published the results in the Good Beer Guide. Once the information was out in the open, some brewers started to publish their gravities. Eventually legislation obliged them to include it on beer labels.

But back in the dark days of 1970, the only way to get an idea of the strength of a beer was its name and price. Though those indicators weren’t 100% reliable. There are plenty of examples of Best Bitter in the tables below that aren’t very best. They range from 1032º to 1048º. As average gravity was around 1037º at this time, I would expect a Best Bitter to be stronger than that.

You’ll notice that several beers appear in both tables. I’m reassured that the prices mostly match, as do the gravities to within a few percentage points.

The bitterness number which appears in the Which? Table is something called “Index of Hop Bitter”. Not sure exactly what that is, but it doesn’t look far off an IBU number to me. Perhaps a touch lower. It amuses me that one of the beers with the highest bitterness is From William Younger, a Scottish brewery. Weren’t they supposed to use almost no hops in Scotland?

There’s a huge variation in value for money, as indicated by the final column, which gives the price in pennies of 1% ABV.  I’m pleased to see that the winner of this particular race, by a whisker, is Carlisle State Management. A nationalised brewery. And it’s reassuring to see that by far the worst value for money is a keg beer, Flowers Bitter. You’ll note that the average price per % ABV is very similar for both tables, 4.21d and 4.22d.

That’s me done. I’ll leave you with the lovely tables.

Draught Bitter in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV atten-uation bitterness price per % ABV
Ansells Bitter 17 1045.3 1010.7 4.50 76.38% 31 3.78
Worthington  "E" 18 1041.8 1006.5 4.60 84.45% 28 3.91
Bass Red Triangle 18 1043.1 1008.5 4.50 80.28% 34 4.00
Carlisle State Management Bitter 14 1038.2 1008.2 3.90 78.53% 28 3.59
Charrington India Pale Ale 19 1044.9 1013.25 4.10 70.49% 37 4.63
Courage & Barclay Bitter 17 1040.3 1010.25 3.90 74.57% 40 4.36
Flowers Keg Bitter 22 1039.1 1012.8 3.40 67.26% 33 6.47
Fremlins Best Bitter 21 1044.7 1009.3 4.60 79.19% 34 4.56
Friary Meux Bitter 13 1034.9 1007.2 3.60 79.37% 28 3.61
Georges Bitter 13 1030.9 1004.75 3.40 84.63% 24 3.82
Greenall Whitley Bitter 14 1034.4 1005.95 3.70 82.70% 40 3.78
Greene King Bitter 15 1037.0 1006.25 4.00 83.11% 33 3.75
Hammond United Best Bitter 16 1035.5 1004.05 4.10 88.59% 20 3.90
Ind Coope Bitter (BB) 15 1037.7 1008.4 3.80 77.72% 36 3.94
John Smiths Best Bitter 16 1036.8 1010.55 3.40 71.33% 40 4.71
Tennant Best Bitter 16 1038.3 1006.05 4.20 84.20% 30 3.81
Tennant Queen's Ale 18 1041.7 1008.6 4.30 79.38% 35 4.18
Thwaites Bitter 16 1035.8 1006.6 3.80 81.56% 32 4.21
Truman Bitter 16 1037.6 1007.6 3.90 79.79% 30 4.10
Ushers Bitter 13 1031.9 1008.75 3.00 72.57% 25 4.33
Vaux Best Bitter 15 1034.8 1005.6 3.80 83.91% 22 3.95
Watney Special Bitter 19 1043.1 1014.5 3.70 66.36% 33 5.14
Whitbread Bitter 17 1037.4 1009.65 3.60 74.20% 35 4.72
Wilson Bitter 15 1036.1 1006.1 3.90 83.10% 35 3.84
Younger, Wm. Bitter 18 1043.9 1010.8 4.30 75.40% 40 4.19
Average
16.44 1038.6 1008.4 3.92 78.36% 32.12 4.21
Source:
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.


Draught Bitter in 1960
Brewer Year Price per pint d OG FG ABV atten-uation Colour price per % ABV
Bass Bitter 21 1044 1009.8 4.45 77.73% 19 4.72
Beasley Bitter 15 1034.3 1004.5 3.72 86.88% 35 4.03
Blatch Brewery Bitter 14 1031.8 1003.9 3.49 87.74% 20 4.01
Burt & Co. Best Bitter 13 1032.6 1004.5 3.51 86.20% 20 3.70
Charles Wells  Bitter 18 1034.4 1006.6 3.48 80.81% 18 5.18
Charrington  Ordinary Bitter 14 1033.8 1008 3.35 76.33% 18 4.18
Charrington  Best Bitter 19 1044.5 1012.9 4.10 71.01% 24 4.64
Clinch Bitter 13 1034 1006.1 3.49 82.06% 20 3.73
Courage & Barclay Directors' Bitter 24 1048.8 1008.4 5.27 82.79% 26 4.56
Courage & Barclay Bitter 17 1040.4 1009.1 4.07 77.48% 23 4.18
Courage & Barclay Alton Pale Ale 17 1040.4 1009.4 4.03 76.73% 25 4.22
Dunmow Brewery Bitter 14 1033.6 1006.6 3.37 80.36% 25 4.15
Flowers Bitter 19 1040.6 1008.8 3.97 78.33% 24 4.78
Fremlin XXX Bitter 14 1035.5 1005.7 3.72 83.94% 26 3.76
Friary Bitter 14 1033.8 1005.2 3.57 84.62% 20 3.92
Friary Meux Treble Gold 18 1042.3 1008.9 4.18 78.96% 23 4.31
Fullers London Pride 20 1042.3 1010.5 4.13 75.18% 24 4.85
Fullers Ordinary Bitter 16 1032.2 1005.3 3.50 83.54% 24 4.58
Garne & Sons Best Bitter 17 1042.9 1009.5 4.18 77.86% 30 4.07
Garne & Sons Bitter 13 1031.2 1004.3 3.36 86.22% 21 3.87
Gibbs Mew Blue Keg Bitter 18 1036 1007.6 3.55 78.89% 25 5.07
Gray's Bitter 13 1033.6 1006.1 3.44 81.85% 21 3.78
Greene King Abbot Ale 22 1051.3 1007.9 5.43 84.60% 20 4.06
Greene King Best Bitter 15 1038.4 1007.4 3.88 80.73% 20 3.87
Greene King Ordinary Bitter 13 1033.9 1005.7 3.53 83.19% 26 3.69
Harvey's Bitter 14 1033.8 1006.1 3.46 81.95% 22 4.04
Ind Coope Double Diamond 19 1040.2 1010 3.92 75.12% 22 4.85
McMullen Best Bitter 16 1041.1 1010.8 3.79 73.72% 25 4.22
McMullen Ordinary Bitter 15 1037 1008 3.63 78.38% 22 4.14
Mew Langton Best Bitter 18 1037 1008.6 3.55 76.76% 19 5.07
Morland Bitter 14 1035.6 1006.1 3.69 82.87% 18 3.80
Morrell Best Bitter 15 1035.3 1005.3 3.75 84.99% 23 4.00
Morrell Light Bitter 12 1030.7 1005 3.21 83.71% 17 3.74
Rayments Best Bitter 14 1035.7 1006.4 3.66 82.07% 22 3.82
Rayments Bitter 12 1030.3 1004.1 3.27 86.47% 18 3.66
Ridley Best Bitter 21 1047 1007.8 4.90 83.40% 22 4.29
Ridley Ordinary Bitter 14 1034.2 1009.8 3.05 71.35% 19 4.59
Simonds Best Bitter 19 1042.3 1007.5 4.35 82.27% 17 4.37
Simpson & Co. Bitter 15 1036.2 1008 3.53 77.90% 24 4.26
Star Brewery SPA 17 1039.5 1005.8 4.21 85.32% 22 4.04
Star Brewery Bitter 12 1029.5 1003.3 3.28 88.81% 20 3.66
Tamplin Bitter 14 1034.3 1006 3.54 82.51% 24 3.96
Tetley Bitter 16 1037.9 1003.7 4.28 90.24% 20 3.74
Tollemache Bitter 16 1033.3 1003.4 3.74 89.79% 20 4.28
Truman Best Burton Bitter 18 1042.7 1009.7 4.29 77.28% 19 4.20
Truman Ordinary Burton Bitter 16 1037.4 1007.6 3.87 79.68% 20 4.13
Usher Ordinary Bitter 13 1032.5 1007.3 3.15 77.54% 18 4.13
Usher, Trowbridge Best Bitter 18 1043.6 1010 4.20 77.06% 21 4.29
Watney Special Bitter 19 1044.2 1009.6 4.50 78.28% 26 4.22
Wells & Winch Bitter 16 1036 1010.3 3.21 71.39% 12 4.98
Wenlock Bitter 16 1035 1008.7 3.41 75.14% 26 4.69
Whitbread Bitter 17 1038.5 1011 3.56 71.43% 20 4.77
Young & Co Best Bitter 20 1048.4 1011.5 4.61 76.24% 24 4.34
Young & Co Ordinary Bitter 15 1037.5 1006.6 3.86 82.40% 19 3.88
Average
16.15 1037.7 1007.4 3.818 80.52% 21.81 4.22
Source:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

I’ve a few other types of beer to plough through. Unless I get distracted.

7 comments:

Stonch Beer said...

"State Management Scheme" - sends a shiver down the spine

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff,

but it seems to have worked well. Note their beer is some of the best value.

Martyn Cornell said...

I waas hoping to see some regional consistency in the bittering levels, but while the two West Country beers, Georges and Ushers, are low in bitterness, as I'd expected to find, Hammonds, from Yorkshire is also low, and particularly when compared with its fellow Yorkshire brewers. The London brewers seem to be mostly fairly high in bitterness, but there appears to be little geogrphical correolation generally.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn,

that's exactly what I'd noticed. Though a larger sample size might have revealed more.

Stonch Beer said...

Not good value if it were state subsidised, though: taxpayer money will have funded those cheaper pints, and no profit going back to shareholders to the benefit of the wider economy.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff,

I don't believe for a moment that their beer was subsidised by taxpayers. They seem to have been well run. They were big on "improved" pubs and their estate generally had good amenities.

I wonder if the state subsidises Weihenstephaner?

Stonch Beer said...

I don't think there was sufficient clarity on what was truly subject to effective or actual subsidy and what wasn't back then - nobody really worked it out as preference for private or public ownership was ideological on both sides - it cut both ways.