Tuesday 18 April 2023

Revealing original gravity

The only brewery to voluntarily reveal OG
Remember me saying how beer strength had been a big secret until relatively recently? Well, it seems there was an attempt to lift this veil of secrecy in the 1950s.

A Labour MP introduced what I assume must have been a private members bill, obliging anyone selling beer to disclose its gravity.

Mr Bing’s Beer Bill: Bottle Must Tell All
Mr Geoffrey Bing, Q. C., Labour M.P. for Hornchurch, is making quick progress with his Beer Bill, published to-day, which asks that anyone buying beer shall be told the minimum quantity in the bottle and also the original gravity.

Permission to bring in the Bill was given to Mr Bing on Wednesday by 182 votes to 158. That enabled the Bill to be printed by to-day—and it may get a second reading a fortnight after Whitsun.

Its prospects of getting any farther are very slender at this period of the session, and. if they disappear altogether. Mr Bing may try to incorporate the idea in an amendment to the present Finance Bill.

His measure is called the Customs and Excise (Amendment) Bill, and those Labour M.P.s backing it with him are Mr Robert Taylor (Morpeth). Mr Hugh Delargy (Thurrock). Mr W. R. Blyton (Houghton Le Spring). Commander H. Pursey (East Kingston-upon-Hull). Mr E. Shackleton (South Preston). Mr Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth). and Mr J. T. Hall (West Gateshead).

There is only one effective clause. This proposes that the 1952 Act shall be amended by the insertion of a new section which provides that “no persons shall sell or display for sale beer in any cask, bottle, tin, or other receptacle" unless there appears on a label attached to it “a true statement of the minimum quantity of beer contained therein and the Original gravity thereof.”

No one shall sell beer otherwise than in a receptacle unless there is exhibited in the place where it is sold a true statement of the Original gravity.

Any offence will be liable to a fine of £10.
Edinburgh Evening News - Friday 28 May 1954, page 7. 

Obviously, being a private members bill introduced by an opposition MP it had bugger all chance of being passed into law.

There were occasional newspaper and magazine articles where beers were analysed and their gravity revealed. But these were few and far between. CAMRA magazine What's Brewing published a couple of articles along these lines in the mid-1970s. (If anyone has these to hand I'd be very grateful for some scans.)

Then, in the late 1970s, CAMRA did this in a more systematic manner, analysing and publishing the OG of every beer in the Good Beer Guide. I'm not sure exactly which year it was.1978 at the latest, though it might have been a year or two before.

This prompted some brewers to reveal to CAMRA the gravity of their beers. Followed a couple of years later by legislation requiring them to do so.

I'll be following up with more about Mr. Bing, who seemed to have a thing about beer gravity.


Matt said...

Bing had a colourful life that included service in the Spanish Civil War and World War II before his political career and the Attorney Generalship of postcolonial Ghana after it.

It's true that most Private Member's Bills have no chance of becoming law, but there are a few exceptions, notably the ones abolishing the death penalty and allowing abortion in the sixties, where the government is supportive of it, but doesn't want to be seen taking a position on a contentious moral issue, which clearly wasn't the case here.

The Flat Hat said...

The 1977 edition of the GBG has gravities listed, 1974 does not. I don't have the intervening editions but someone will check for you I'm sure.

mike Austin said...

It was i976.