Monday 12 August 2019

War starts to bite

One of the most unexpectedly fascinating documents in the Barclay Perkins archive at the London Metropolitan Archives contains master copies of the circular letters sent out to their tenants.

Mostly because it covers the war period, when all sorts of strange things were happening. Admittedly, a lot of the letters are requesting, with various levels of implied and unimplied threats, to return empty bottles and crates. Or telling tenants they won't be able to get as much beer as they would like.

But this one documents the death of three of Barclay Perkins beers. Casualties of war.

They did have a ridiculously large draught beer range - 11 in total, of which five were Milds. So it's not surprising that there was some trimming. The reason given "restricted plant" doesn't ring true. Especially as all three discontinued beers were parti-gyled with ones which continued to be brewed.

I suspect the real reasaon for dropping PA was that it was too strong at 1053º to be viable as a product when brewing restrictions were starting to kick in. As they already had a weaker Bitter, XLK, it made more sense just to concentrate on that.

As for the Milds, my guess would be that the discontinued brands weren't great sellers and the brewery reckoned they weren't worth the trouble.


Phil said...

I had to read that letter three times to work out what was actually being discontinued - they kept on X Dark Mild and XX Light Mild, but stopped supplying X Light Mild and XX Dark Mild! I'm guessing from the prices that the Ale was an even weaker mild.

Having grown up in the 70s I think of bitter as the default 'beer' - what most people drink most of the time - so it's interesting to see what a niche product it was. In price and presumably strength order, the range after this cull reads

Dark Mild
Light Mild
Old Burton

I guess what happened after the war was partly a continuation of an earlier trend, to shunt everything down the scale in strength and lose the styles that fell off the bottom - so mild and porter disappear as bitter takes their place on the ABV scale.

Ron Pattinson said...


postwar has it's own peculiarities. In the early 1950s, when brewing restrictions were lifted, you see a whole new class of stronger Bitter appear. Thing's like Young's Special, London Pride, Abbot Ale. Burton beers like Bass were about the only stronger Bitters to get through the war intact.

Barm said...

"Sent to houses supplied by Trumans" presumably implies there was a sort of pool in operation, where brewers delivered to all the local pubs, both their own and those of their competitors, so they could all save on fuel. I know a system like this operated in Scotland during the war.

Ron Pattinson said...


it was called beer zoning and was intended to save on fuel. I have posted a bit about it earlier this year. The only brewers exempted were ones like Bass, Worthinton and Guinness which operated nationally.