Thursday, 19 January 2017

The best of the light ales

More Whitbread advert fun. This time it’s Light Ale they’re plugging.

Or rather Pale Ale. It’s all rather confusing. I blame Whitbread for marketing their bottled Pale as the best Light Ale. Which is it then? A Pale Ale or a Light Ale? Technically it was neither in 1954. Because the Brewhouse name for this beer was IPA until late 1959.

Whitbread were heavily into newspaper advertising in 1954. They were pushing both their bottle Pale Ale and draught XXX, a strong (for the period) Dark Mild. In the case of the latter it can’t have been that successful as it was discontinued the following year. Whereas Whitbread Pale Ale is still alive – just about – today. The Belgian version has been continuously available, while a UK version was revived recently.

Here are some of the Pale Ale adverts:

You know what you're getting
Pour it out. Pour it all out, for Whitbread's Pale Ale is always clear and brilliant to the very last drop. A fine ale — refreshing even to the eye. Brewed from the finest materials, it’s bottled only by Whitbread. It may not be the cheapest but, without any doubt, it is the best of the light ales.

Wherever you buy Whitbread’s Pale Ale - at the bar or at the off-licence to take home - it is always in splendid condition. You know that you are going to enjoy a first-class beer - 
WHITBREAD the best of the light ales.”
Illustrated London News - Saturday 13 February 1954, page 4.

A recurring theme of the adverts is that you didn’t need to pour it a special way and that it was clear to the last drop. Why did they say this? Because some of the most famous Pale Ales – Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield, for example – were still bottle-conditioned and required careful pouring.

Note that they’re also going for a “reassuringly expensive” line in the reference to the price. We’ll see later if it really was more expensive.

This next advert spells it out:

You know what you're getting
Barmen have a way of pouring out bottled beer. But there is no special secret where Whitbread's Pale Ale is concerned. Whether you open the bottle yourself or whether it is poured for you at the bar, this is a beer that remains clear and brilliant to the last drop. It is brewed from the finest materials, with a skill that come from long experience and it is bottled only by Whitbread's. At the pub, the club or the off-licence, you know that you will not be disappointed -

when you pour out a WHITBREAD the best of the light ales.”
The Sketch - Wednesday 30 June 1954, page 41.

This next advert stresses how Whitbread Pale Ale was always in good condition:

You know what you're getting
It's good to have some beer at home when friends drop in. But how much better when you can be sure, as you open the bottle, that that beer will be in first-class condition - as you always can be sure with Whitbread's Pale Ale.

What a fine beer this is - brewed with a skill born of long experience. It is bottled only by Whitbread. That is why, wherever you buy a  bottle of Whitbread's, you know you can rely on its quality and condition.

Your friends will be glad that you laid in some beer.

But they'll be happier still -
when you offer them WHITBREAD the best of the light ales.”
The Sketch - Wednesday 17 November 1954, page 50.

At a time when there was plenty of dodgy draught beer about, a guarantee that your beer wouldn’t be flat, cloudy or sour was very attractive. Whereas your modern geek would be actively seeking out those characteristics.

How expensive was Whitbread Pale Ale compared to its rivals? Let’s take a look.

Light Ale 1953 - 1954
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Duttons Green Label Light Ale 18 1032 1006.8 3.27 78.75% 24
1953 Mitchell & Butler Cape Ale 17 1033.8 1007.3 3.44 78.40% 33
1953 Norman & Pring Light Ale 18 1031 1011 2.58 64.52% 17
1953 Young & Son Light Victory Ale 17 1032.1 1007.6 3.18 76.32% 30.5
1953 Ely Brewery Davids Ale 18 1033.1 1003.7 3.83 88.82% 23
1953 Fremlin Elephant Light Ale 20 1031.6 1006.9 3.21 78.16% 20
1953 Tamplin Baby Tamp 22.5 1031.8 1005.6 3.40 82.39% 20
1953 Truman Eagle Light Ale 19 1034 1004.6 3.83 86.47% 21
1954 Mitchell & Butler Cape Ale 18 1033.5 1007.7 3.35 77.01% 28
1954 Barclay Perkins IPA 19 1031.2 1007.5 3.07 75.96% 19
1954 Whitbread Pale Ale 21 1034 1005.2 3.75 84.71% 22
1954 Courage Pale Ale 19 1034 1007.2 3.48 78.82% 28
1954 Ind Coope Sparkling Ale 24 1030.5 1008.5 2.85 72.13% 26
1954 Taylor Walker Pale Ale 19 1031.2 1007.3 3.10 76.60% 21
1954 Tollemache Light Bitter 19 1030.4 1006.6 3.09 78.29% 18
1954 Truman Eagle Light Ale 19 1031.3 1005.3 3.38 83.07% 22
1954 Watney Pale Ale 19 1033.1 1009.7 3.03 70.69% 22
Average 19.2 1032.3 1007.0 3.28 78.30% 23.2
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

You can see that Whitbread Pale Ale is around 2d per pint more expensive than the average, but it isn’t the most expensive. That honour goes to Ind Coope Sparkling Ale, which costs a full 3d per pint more than Whitbread Pale Ale. Though the Whitbread beer does have the level highest OG and the highest ABV.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Why was sparkling ale so expensive?