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|
|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|
|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.