Thursday, 19 September 2019

The dangers of Russian Stout

This is quite a rarity: a newspaper article that mentions a specific brand of beer. Russian Stout, to be specific. A beer unique to Barclay Perkins.

The article tells a sad tale of intoxication due to an unexpectedly strong drink.

After celebrating a birthday party with Russian stout, Joseph Dennis Whorten of St. James', New Cross, London. took a car that he found in Queen-st. and crashed it into a wall outside Supt. Cotts house In Herne-rd. He was charged at the Magistrates' Court last Wednesday of driving away a motor vehicle without a licence; using an uninsured motor vehicle; and driving while under the influence of drink. The charge of theft was withdrawn on defendant pleading guilty to the remaining charges. Supt. Cott said that when Wharton got out of the car he was staggering and had cuts on the forehead. He was given first aid. He was examined by Dr. Rosenberg at the Police station and found to be under the influence of drink. Wharton admitted that this was so. The Supt. added that Wharton was a man of good character with a good war record In the R.N.V.R. Mr. R. J. Dromgoole, for Wharton, said that since his discharge from the Royal Navy he had applied to the Merchant Navy pool and had been posted to the Dutch Admiralty. Except for an occasional light beer, Wharton had practically given op intoxicating liquor, but on this Saturday at a birthday party he had had Russian stout, a particularly potent form of beer. He bad been asked to leave and saw the car open when he left the premises. He was fined in all £40 and ordered to pay £1 1s. costs. and was disqualified from driving for twelve months."
West Sussex Gazette - Thursday 21 April 1949, page 8.
I was surprised by a couple of things. The first that sprang to mind was this: was Russian Stout really that strong in 1949? During the war its gravity had been greatly reduced, as you can see in the table below.  I don't have any details for 1949, but by 1950 it was back up to full strength.

So it is possible that Mr. Whartom was drinking an exceptionally strong beer. And, at a time when almost no beer was stronger than 4% ABV, something over 10% ABV really was unusually strong.

On the other hand, Wharton had been in the Royal Navy. An organisation whose members aren't exactly renowned for temperance. And when he served sailors still received a daily ration of overproof rum.

Considering he nicked a car whilst pissed, didn't have a driving licence and crashed into a poliecman's house, I think Wharton got off pretty lightly.

Barclay Perkins Russian Stout 1941 - 1950
Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1941 IBS 1055.6 1022.0 4.45 60.45%
1946 IBS (Scot.) 1043.7 1019.0 3.27 56.52%
1947 IBS (Scot.) 1043.5 1021.0 2.98 51.72%
1950 Russian Imperial Stout 1100.1 1021.1 10.41 78.92%
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/624 and ACC/2305/01/627.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.


Martyn Cornell said...

A £40 fine in 1949 is equivalent to a £3,500 fine today: a month's wages or more.

Lady Luck Brewing said...

He didn't have a driver's license and the court suspended his license for 12 months!