Monday, 10 April 2023

Looking back (part eight): Draught Lager prices in 1972

More early 1970s pricing fun. This time, it's the turn of Lager. How will this type turn out in terms of value for money?

Crap, obviously. Especially when compared with more traditional British styles. But we'll be getting back to that later.

At this point, most breweries were trying to brew their own Lager. Four of the ten examples come from regional breweries: Greenall Whitley, Vaux, Hall & Woodhouse and Youngs. Another four are international brands: Carling, Heineken, Carlsberg and Tuborg. Though two of those - Carling and Heineken were brewed under licence by Big Six brewers, namely Bass and Whitbread, respectively.

Harp is listed as being brewed by Guinness, but at this point it was also brewed by Courage. It was an odd period, as not all the Big Six owned their Lager brand. Something that was going to increase in importance as Lager slowly caught up with, and the surpassed, Bitter in popularity. All the weirder, given the amount of advertising effort they put into Lager.

Why were brewers so keen on Lager? Because the profit margins were larger. In theory, Lager cost more to brew than Bitter or Mild. That's if you brewed it the continental way and lagered it for a couple of months. But that wasn't how Lager was usually brewed in the UK. Harp, whose recipe was devised by a German brewer, was originally decocted, lagered for several weeks and "spundet" so that it conditioned naturally. Though I think all of that had been dropped by 1972.

The four Lagers from regional brewers won't have been decocted. And almost certainly weren't even bottom-fermented. They were just very pale and bland Ales.

The average price is almost 18p per pint. That's more than 50% greater than the average for Mild Ale, while being not much greater in strength. Which, along with being committed to cask, was why I never drank Lager myself. It was simply awful value for money. trying to think when I first drank Lager. It might well have been when I first visited the continent in 1979. When I drank Jupiler in Paris.

There's no correlation in this set between value for money and the size of the brewery. With Youngs Saxon second worst and Allied's Skol next to best. 

Draught Lager prices in 1972
Brewer Beer Price º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Greenall Whitley Grunhalle 16 2.33 0.24 1037.3 1007.3 3.90 80.43%
Allied Breweries Skol 15 2.21 0.23 1033.2 1007 3.40 78.92%
Vaux & Co Norseman 16 2.21 0.23 1035.3 1007.6 3.60 78.47%
Carling Black Label 18 2.17 0.24 1039.1 1006.1 4.30 84.40%
Guinness Harp 17 1.93 0.19 1032.8 1006.6 3.30 79.88%
Heineken Lager 17 1.93 0.21 1032.8 1005.9 3.50 82.01%
Hall & Woodhouse Brock 18 1.83 0.19 1033 1006.8 3.40 79.39%
Carlsberg Lager 18 1.64 0.17 1029.5 1005.6 3.10 81.02%
Young & Co Saxon 21 1.50 0.17 1031.5 1004.6 3.50 85.40%
Tuborg Lager 22 1.33 0.14 1029.3 1005.4 3.10 81.57%
Average   17.8 1.91 0.20 1033.4 1006.3 3.51 81.15%
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15


Chris Pickles said...

The first time I ever got seriously falling over drunk was on Tuborg, 1971 in the Yorkshire Dales. It cost 20p a pint, I remember because it was easily the most expensive beer I had ever had. Looking at the OG I hang my head in shame, I can only plead that the attenuation was decent!

I can remember when Vaux Norseman came out. I think they must have made a special effort when it was new, the first time I ever had it it was quite delicious, but ever afterwards it was absolute dross. I used to occasionally try it hoping to catch that original flavour but it was never there again.

Anonymous said...

Grunhalle always made me smile, trying to make Greenalls sound German.

arnie moodenbaugh said...

Interesting how low in alcohol these British lagers are. In the US in the 70s, most brewers' primary lagers were between 4.5 and 5% abv (3.6 to 4% abw) and their bargain brands were about 4.0% abv. Most US beer taxation did not factor in gravity or alcohol, so there was no need to scrimp on ingredients. Also I believe attenuation was lower then. They invariably used adjuncts up to 30% or so. Are you going to tell the tale of adjuncts in British lager?

Bribie G said...

Living in Cardiff in the early 1970s if I was at a non-Brains pub my go to beer was Carling Black Label out of that resin cube thing on the bar that you can see in the Fawlty Towers bar.

I used to get satisfactorily hammered on the stuff and on looking at your table it's not surprising as it was actually the same strength as Brains SA at around 4.3% ABV.

Black Label was all over the place as there were heaps of Bass pubs in South Wales because of Bass's Welsh Brewers who were brewing in the old Hancocks brewery (later taken over by Brains and the old CBD brewery closed down).

Later, Lamot lager arrived in the Bass pubs and it was a killer, over 5% IIRC and even SA drinkers would get legless on their customary five or six pints...

Anonymous said...

I'd love to spend an evening in the Fawlty Towers bar - looks cracking. Gin and tonics, then a chaotic dinner, then a few pints and a whisky or two after.

Chris Pickles said...

Nice big red "Watney's Red" tap. mmmmm!

rod said...

Grunhalle was the second-worst lager I have ever drunk. The absolute worst was Hemmling, brewed by Bass I think. Reputedly used potato starch in the mash...