Tuesday 2 May 2023

UK beer in 1978 (part one)

I'm still banging frantically on that 1970s drum. For no particular reason. I'm not even writing a book on the topic. Perhaps I should. Has anyone already covered the subject? 

In my recent searches for "original gravity" in the newspaper archive, I found a really handy Sunday Mirror article giving ab overview of UK beer and pubs. As, at the time, the two were inextricably linked.

Here's how the brews measure up in in our great guide
Bottoms up, folks! British beer is in very good heart — and it’s getting better.

But getting value for money is a matter of where you live and where you drink.

After travelling thousands of miles in our search for the finest pints of draught bitter in Britain we found that, on average:

  • Southern beers are STRONGER than Northern beers. The strength of the Southern beers we sampled had an average original gravity of 1040.6 compared with 1037.78 in the North.
  • A Northern beers are CHEAPER than those in the South. We paid an average of 28.9p a pint in the North compared with 36.9p in the South.

Drinking in pubs is the second most popular pastime in Britain — after watching TV.

Statistics show that three million people visit a pub every day.

Two out of five of all adults make at least one weekly visit to the local. And an astonishing thirty million people visit a pub at least once a month.

Altogether, we drink 31,500,000 pints of beer (including lager) every day.

To put those number into context, in 1978 average OG was 1037.5º.* Then why does even the northern average come out higher? Because 12% of sales were Mild Ale, which was almost always under 1037º,** The beers in the sample were, with one exception, all Bitters.

It should also be noted that those averages weren't of the beer sold. But the average gravity of the beers they sampled. In the South, for example, Kingsdown Ale at 1059.5º, was given equal weight as Whitbread Trophy at 1035.5º. Even though the latter would massively outsold the former.

There were fewer strong Bitters from the North, with only a handful over 1040º. Far more higher-strength Bitters were produced in the South. Bit the biggest sellers everywhere were beers in the Ordinary Bitter range of 1036º to 1038º.

I've no doubt that beer was considerably more expensive in the South. Though the average has also been distorted by expensive, but low-volume beers. The average price for a pint of Bitter in 1978 was 29p.*** Almost exactly the average price quoted for the North.

I'm sure that pub visits today are well down on the 1978 numbers. 40% of adults going to the pub once a week and around 80% once a month. Impressive figures. But you need to remember that beer was almost exclusively drunk in pubs in the 1970s. Something like 90% on consumption.

* Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2005, page 7.
** “The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1988” page 15.
*** "Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2003", p. 44.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I go to the pub weekly