Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The 1950’s pub (part two)

Time to take a look at the beers on sale in an early 1950’s London pub.

These wouldn’t have been exactly the same everywhere in the country. Burton, for example, was very much a London thing. And in Scotland the beers available would have been quite different.

the different brews
Bottled beers are easy: light ale, brown ale, Guinness, Bass, Worthington, and so on: you order them by the names on the labels and they usually come in half-pint bottles. But the draught kinds are more tricky. If you simply ask for "beer" or "ale," for instance, you will get half a pint of mild ale, which is also called "wallop" and is the cheapest and weakest beer and maybe not what you expected. The three main kinds of draught beer are bitter beer, pale coloured and generally the strongest ; mild ale, a darker, sweeter, cheaper drink; and Burton (sometimes called " old "), very dark and sweet and often quite strong. You order them by asking simply for a bitter, a mild or a Burton and you will be given a half-pint. If you want a pint you must say so. The interesting point is the mixtures of these beers: the gent beside you may ask for a mild-and-bitter, a bitter-and-Burton or an old-and-mild (Burton and mild). They are all exactly what they sound like though for some reason a mild-and-bitter always seems to contain more mild than bitter. It's because the mild is cheaper perhaps. In addition to beer, all but pure beer-houses sell sherries and ports (measures, qualities and prices varying from house to house) and spirits, which present no problem: you simply order "singles" (which Maurice Gorham describes as "the smallest amount of drink yet known to man") or "doubles," depending on your thirst.”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

Forty years earlier, ordering “beer” wouldn’t have got you a half of Mild, but a pint of Porter. While an order of “ale” would have resulted in a pint of Mild sliding over the bar towards you.

The half pint thing was a huge shock to me. I was surprised enough that a half was the norm in 1930’s Bolton. When did people default to drinking pints again? In my earliest recollections of the inside of a pub (The Mermaid on our caravan site in Mablethorpe) I’m sure all the men were drinking pints. That must have been in 1966 or 1967. Or had they always drunk pints in some parts of the country? But when was the switch to pints in London? I’d love to know.

By the 1970’s, Guinness Extra Stout was the only universally available bottled beer. I can’t remember ever seeing White Shield in another brewer’s pub. Though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still continuing. Bass Red Triangle was discontinued sometime in the 1970’s after it was revealed it was identical to White Shield.

Odd how there was always more of the cheaper beer in the mix. You couldn’t have done that in the pubs of my youth, as they all had metred electric pumps that always dispensed exactly a half pint. Mind you, that also meant you couldn’t have a half pint of mixed.

Now for some other terms for beer:

“That, of course, isn't the half of it but it's enough to start you off on the right foot. You'll pick up the rest as you go along. What, for instance, is a Pig's Ear, a Dog's Nose, a Drop, a Collar — you'll find out.”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

I wish they’d bothered to explain them, because I’ve no idea what all of them mean.

Next we’ll be looking at the different types of pub.


Dexter said...

'Pig's Ear' is Cockney rhyming slang for beer.
Charles Dickens mentions 'Dog's Nose' in Chapter 33 of The Pickwick Papers where he describes it as "compounded of warm porter, moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg"; so called, apparently, because it was black and wet.
'Collar' I think is short for 'Parson's Collar' and refers to the head on a pint (or a half).
I don't know what a 'Drop' might be, other than the obvious.

Chris said...

Enjoying this series 1950s pub

Here's what I've found on those terms.

Pig's Ear = Beer

Dog's Nose = Beer Cocktail (Gin, Sugar, Nutmeg)

Collar - Not sure it's British, but I've seen collar used as slang for the head on a beer

Drop - It's certainly slang meaning a small amount, but it could be something else entirely here.

Montreal Mike said...

Interesting literary reference to Dickens and surprising that the drink recipe stood up for 100 years. Thank you I appreciate that!