Friday, 11 December 2015

Branded Light Ale in 1953

I told you there were some branded Light Ales in the list. And here’s proof.

You’re probably bored of me telling you this, but Light Ale was one of the most popular types of beer in the 1950’s. In the same way as Brown Ale was used as a mixer to perk up dodgy draught Mild, Light Ale was mixed with Ordinary Bitter. The advent of lower gravity keg beer, which offered similar advantages to Light and Bitter, but at a lower price, could well have hastened the demand for Light Ale.

By the time I started drinking in the 1970’s, Light and Bitter mostly seemed popular in the South, particularly in London. When I lived in the East End back then, I had my own variation. There was a rather nice Bass pub in Bow where I’d drink Draught Bass and White Shield mixed. Quite reasonably priced, considering the combined ABV.

Probably my favourite one on the list is Bernard’s 90/- India Pale Ale. Why? Because its name goes totally against what style Nazis would have you believe, namely that 90/- is a strong Scotch Ale and that IPA is strong. From what I can piece together, 90/- became a common name for a low-gravity bottled Pale Ale – Light Ale, really – between the wars. It’s really, really confusing, since some breweries had a 60/- Pale Ale that was stronger than their 90/-. It’s another demonstration of how arbitrary and inconsistent classifications were in the past.

These beers will have had gravities in the 1028-1035º range, with most closer to the bottom rather than the top. About 3% ABV was average. And a very pale colour for an English Pale Ale.

Seeing as none of those breweries has survived, it’s no shock that every single brand in the table has disappeared. The last survivor seems to have been Ridley’s Essex Light Ale, which was discontinued when Greene King bought Ridley’s up in 2005.

Almost no Light Ales in the old style are currently brewed. A big change from a time when literally every brewer had one in their portfolio. Courage Light Ale is the only one I can think of. Must try it in the very unlikely case I stumble across it.

Branded Light Ale in 1953
Brewery Brand Type
Hull Brewery Amber Ale Light
South Wales and Monmouthshire United Clubs Brewery Club Special Light
T. D. Ridley & Sons Essex Light Ale
Cheltenham & Hereford Breweries Little Chelt Light Ale
Dutton's Green Label Light Ale
Dyer, Meakin Breweries Solan Light Ale
Flowers Breweries Luton Light Ale
George Gale Horndean Light Ale
John Richdale Wellington Light Ale
Meux's Brewery London Pale Ale Light Ale
Style & Winch Farmer Ale Light Ale
T. & J. Bernard 90/- India Pale Ale Light Ale
The Ely Brewery Druid's Ale Light Ale
The Ely Brewery T. V. Light Ale
The Stroud Brewery All Bright Light Ale
Wm. Murray Wee Murray Light Ale
Truman Eagle Light Ale
Hunt, Edmunds Banbury Cross Light Ale, bottled
Alton Court Brewery Golden Hop Light Bitter
G. Ruddle Golden Brew Light bitter, bottled
Hull Brewery Golden Light Dinner Ale
Andrew Buchan's Breweries Golden Hop Light Draught
Wm. Younger Holyrood Light Sparkling Ale
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

I might be done now. I’ll need to check.


J. Karanka said...

I had a Courage Light Ale years ago. I can't remember where I picked it up. Maybe they had bottles in Home Bargains and I wondered what was it about? As you can imagine, not a lot to report. It was beer. Probably some of that same umpf blandness I get from TT Golden Best. If you can get a pint of ordinary bitter for the same price...

Bailey said...

There are a few more around (or were until quite recently): Greene King Light Ale we found at a pub in Mevagissey and Young's Light Ale (probably, thinking about it, the same product as the Courage these days) shows up in the more trad Young's pubs in London.

Rod said...

My favourite draught + bottle combinations in the Light and Bitter vein were, in Courage pubs, Directors and Bulldog, and in Youngs pubs, Special and Ramrod.

Phil said...

Was light ale bottle-only?

Hyde's light mild is well over on the bitter end of milds & could probably pass for a light ale - they actually call it a bitter these days. (Update - they've stopped calling it a bitter; in fact they've stopped calling anything anything, style-wise, & now offer a 'session ale' (this one), a 'dark ale' and a beer with no style indications at all (formerly their Bitter). I smell the blood of a focus group...)

Ron Pattinson said...


my mate Lucas, who's a big Youngs fan, is always going on about Ram and Spesh.

Ron Pattinson said...


effectively it was only bottled. I think there was the odd keg beer called Light. But the whole point of Light Ale was that it was bottled. i.e. much more reliable than draught beer.

Rod said...

Ron -

Well I think you can still get Ramrod, so you could try it next time you're in London.

I really miss Bulldog though. You can get John Martins Pale Ale in Belgium, of course, but it's not as good. And you can't do a Directors and John Martin over there of course..........

Anonymous said...

Morrell's draught Light Ale was a good example of a light mild called light ale. I used to drink it regularly in Oxford in the early 1970s - usually straight from the cask at the Albion in Hollybush Row. At 11p a pint in 1974 (cheap even in those days), it went well with a game of bar billiards,