Thursday, 14 May 2020

Barley Wine

The name Barley Wine was first coined by Bass to refer to their No. 1 Burton Ale, the strongest beer they produced. In time other breweries adopted the name to refer to a very strong beer, usually dark in colour. There was considerable overlap with the top end of Old Ale and the two terms were not used consistently.

It was usually the strongest beer a brewery produced, only rivalled by the occasional Imperial Stout. Ranged between 8% and 11%. Unlike most styles, the strength wasn’t drastically reduced by two World Wars. Though they weren’t totally immune.

Barley Wine came almost exclusively in bottled form. Usually nips (third of a pint) or occasionally half pints. It wasn’t usually something you drank all night. More something to finish off a session with or to warm you up in the cold weather. As an advertisement for Bass No. 1 from 1938 claimed:

BASS NO.1 BARLEY WINE The wine for warmth. Drink it regularly. It is your surest protection against colds and flu.” Daily Herald - Wednesday 16 February 1938, page 17.

I’m not sure anyone should be taking medical advice from an ad. I wonder how well No. 1 would have worked against corona?

This one didn’t make such ridiculous medical claims, though it did say it would keep you warm:

One glass of BASS No. l BARLEY WINE keeps you warm for a very long time, and so you do not feel die cold as others do. Prove it now. One glass will convince you.”  Yorkshire Evening Post - Tuesday 09 January 1934, page 8.

A further advertisement demonstrates that Bass No. 1 was one version which did sometimes turn up on draught:

“BASS' PALE ALE and No. 1 BARLEY WINE always on draught”
North Devon Journal - Wednesday 24 March 1937, page 6.

I can’t imagine it being sold in pints, though.


Mike in NSW said...

I seem to remember an ad in the 1960s.. "as strong as a double scotch but half the price".. a Whitbread one?

Ron Pattinson said...

Mike in NSW,

yep, that was a Whitbread ad. I remember it too, so it must have continued into the 1970s.

bigLurch Habercom said...

A good few years ago Steve Wellington at the then bass museum brewed it again. It was left for year in barrels which was superb. Hopefully the heritage brewery might brew it again

qq said...

This suggests that the Gold Label campaign "Strong as a double scotch. Less than half the price." began in October 1968 and it certainly continued as late as an Investor's Chronicle of 1973 that also mentions them clearing the biggest planning hurdle for the redevelopment of Chiswell St (which didn't happen for a generation).

I'm amazed that Gold Label still struggles on - I can't imagine InBev continuing it for much longer but it's available in several supermarkets still.