Sunday, 7 August 2016

Light Ale vs. Pale Ale

I’ve said many times that British brewers were rather inconsistent in their naming of beers. Especially when it came to Pale Ales.

IPA, Pale Ale and Bitter could all be used to describe exactly the same beer. After seeing this advert, I realise that I can add Light Ale to that list.

"Lots of people ask for 'light ale’ but you’d be surprised how many say Whitbread’s.

Still, that's a taste That I've no quarrel with. Whitbread's make a fine Pale Ale; they do all their own bottling and their beers keep in top condition

It stands out— the best of the light ales is a WHITBREAD.
Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 16 August 1952, page 2.

So a beer with Whitbread Pale Ale on the label was what you got if you asked for a Light Ale in a Whitbread pub. Whitbread Pale Ale is a great example of the confusion of terms. But you need to look at its history to comprehend the full horror.

Before WW II, Whitbread brewed two Pale Ales: PA at 1048.5º which was their draught Bitter and IPA at 1037.4º which was a bottled beer. Both beers continued through the war and into the 1950’s albeit with reduced gravities. And their roles, one as a bottled and the other as a draught beer, continued. But I can see that though it retained the name IPA in the Brewhouse, the bottle was labelled “Whitbread Pale Ale”. It wasn’t until 1958 that it was called WPA in the Brewhouse.

Whitbread Pale Ale, IPA, Bitter Light Ale 1951 - 1955
Year Beer Style package Price OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1951 Pale Ale IPA bottled 21 1034.5
1951 Pale Ale Pale Ale draught 16 1038.4 30
1951 PA Pale Ale 1039.8 1007.0 4.34 82.41% 30
1952 Pale Ale Pale Ale draught 17 1038.12 28
1953 Pale Ale Pale Ale draught 16 1035.05 22
1953 Pale Ale Pale Ale draught 17 1036.97 24
1954 Pale Ale IPA bottled 21 1034 1005.2 3.75 84.71% 22
1954 PA Pale Ale draught 17 1039.5
1955 Pale Ale IPA bottled 22 1034.5
1955 IPA IPA 1034.5 1004.5 3.97 86.96% 20
1955 PA Pale Ale 1039.3 1010.5 3.81 73.28% 22
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Whitbread brewing records

Around the same time PA was rebadged as Tankard. Which Whitbread pushed heavily in keg form. But there was yet another name change is store for IPA. It started being sold on draught, sometime around 1960. Under the name of Trophy. Meaning Whitbread Trophy started life as an IPA.

I did promise to reveal this a while ago. But I sort of forgot. Sorry about that. Quite an impressive history for Whitbread IPA. It managed to be IPA, Pale Ale, Light Ale and Bitter. If only it had lasted long enough to become a Double IPA.


Ed said...


Russ said...

And more recently, Robinson's Best Bitter is now being sold as Unicorn - Golden Ale!