Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Newcastle Breweries bottled beers in 1931

Not the snappiest title, I know. More Snowden budget stuff, I’m afraid. This time the effect it had on the bottled beer range of Newcastle Breweries.

This is how they announced the change. First, with an “article”:

After due consideration the directors of Newcastle Breweries Ltd., say they intend to pursue their established policy of giving the public the best possible value and they have accordingly adjusted their prices to this end. Newcastle pale ale is now replaced by a light pale ale retailing at 7s. a dozen (pint bottles) and an entirely new line will marketed called amber ale, retailing at 8s. a dozen (pint bottles). Minimum increases have been made as Newcastle brown ale, mild ale and home brew, particulars of which will be found in our advertisement columns.”
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Thursday 01 October 1931, page 3.

You know what it sounds like happened? That they had Pale Ale selling for 7d a pint bottle. After the tax increase, they replaced it with a weaker beer at the same price. It wouldn’t surprise me if the new Amber Ale were the old Pale Ale rebadged.

A few pages later, there’s the related advert:

The Newcastle Breweries, Ltd., announce the introduction of two new Bottled Ales, which they have named

Newcastle AMBER ALE and Newcastle LIGHT PALE ALE.

These new Ales will be available on Monday, October 5th, while after Saturday, October 3rd, no further supplies of Newcastle PALE ALE will be distributed. The three other bottled Ales brewed by The Newcastle Breweries, Ltd., namely Newcastle Champion BROWN ALE, Newcastle MILD ALE, and Newcastle HOME BREW will still be supplied as before.

The prices of these five “Newcastle” Ales have all been adjusted to give that same good value for money, and that same high standard of quality and purity, which has characterised “Newcastle" Ales in the past, and which has earned for them the well-merited title of 

Newcastle Champion
Pint Bottles - 10/- doz.
Half Pints - - 5/6 doz.
Splits - - 3/6 doz.

Pint Bottles - 8/- doz. 
Half Pints - - 4/6 doz.

Newcastle MILD ALE.
Pint Bottles - 8/- doz. 
Half Pints - - 4/6 doz.

Pint Bottles - 7/- doz.
Half Pints - - 4/- doz.

Strong Ale
Reputed Pints- - 12/- doz.
Half Pints - - 8/6 doz.
Splits - - 6/- doz.

For Trade & Retail supplies-
Relton Bottling Co.,
Lowthian Rd., West Hartlepool.”
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Thursday 01 October 1931, page 7.

It would be nice to know more about those beers, wouldn’t it? It just so happens that I have analyses of almost the full set from exactly the right period.

Newcastle Breweries bottled beers 1925 - 1932
Year Beer Style Price size OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1925 Pale Ale Pale Ale 6.5d pint 1038.5 1006.4 4.18 83.38%
1928 Brown Ale Brown Ale 9d pint 1060.1 1012.5 6.21 79.20%
1929 Pale Ale Pale Ale pint 1040 1010.75 3.79 73.13%
1929 Brown Ale Brown Ale pint 1062.75 1014.3 6.32 77.21%
1931 Pale Ale Pale Ale pint 1040 1009.5 3.96 76.25%
1931 Brown Ale Brown Ale pint 1059.5 1014 5.93 76.47%
1931 Light Pale Ale Pale Ale pint 1035.25 1007 3.67 80.14%
1931 Mild Ale Mild pint 1040.5 1013.5 3.49 66.67%
1931 Amber Ale Amber Ale pint 1042 1010.5 4.09 75.00%
1931 Brown Ale Brown Ale pint 1056.5 1013 5.66 76.99%
1931 Brown Ale Brown Ale pint 1056 1014 5.46 75.00%
1932 Stout Stout 8d pint 1036 1010.2 3.34 71.67%
1932 Mild Ale Mild 8d half 1036 1011.5 3.17 68.06%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive
Younger, Wm. & Co Gravity Book document WY/6/1/1/19 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

After digging a little further, I wasn’t quite right about Pale Ale. Up until late 1931, Newcastle Pale Ale cost 6.5d a pint, just like Newcastle Mild Ale. While Newcastle Brown Ale was 9d per pint.*

The first two 1931 analyses are from early in the year, before the budget. The others are from October.

The new Pale Ale was 5 gravity points weaker and 0.5d more per pint. Mild Ale looks like it stayed at the same strength, but went up 1.5d per pint. While Brown Ale went up just 1d per pint, but had its gravity cut by 3 gravity points.

All in all, quite a complex response to the tax increase. Most breweries just cut gravities across the board. While Newcastle Breweries had a mix of gravity cuts and price increases that were different for different beers.

* Adverts in Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail on Thursday 17 January 1929, page 7; Thursday 23 January 1930, page 9 and Thursday 03 April 1930, page 7.


A Brew Rat said...

"According to Michael Jackson, Newcastle’s brewers blend two very different beers to produce their brown ale. One portion is brewed to a very high gravity so that fermentation creates extremely estery (fruity) notes they cannot achieve at normal beer gravities. That beer is then blended with a low-gravity “amber” beer to produce their standard at an original gravity of 1.045."

Any idea whether that is true or not, and whether that was true in 1931?

Jeremy Drew said...

Amber was still around in Durham in the early 80s. Only drank it when the brown ran out.

I'd assumed that it was the weaker fresh stuff that used in the days when NB was a blended beer.