Tuesday 25 July 2023

What was on sale in a 1970s pub?

We've had a look at some of the draught and bottled beers available in the 1970s. But it didn't include every type of beer. For example, there were no Stouts. The aim here is to take a look at what was on sale in a pub. And through what better means than a contemporary price list.

Whilst looking for something completely different, I tripped over a series of images for pub price lists from the 1970s. The first thing that struck me was how short some of them were. A couple of draught beers and half a dozen bottled ones. A far narrower offering than in pubs today.

The price list we're looking at today is from John Smith. It doesn't say that on it, but it's pretty obvious from the beers. One word of caution. This looks like a generic list, rather than from a specific pub. Not every pub would have sold the full selection of draught beers in the list. Many would have had just a Bitter, Mild, Lager and a Keg Bitter.

This is before John Smith discontinued cask beer and I assume that's what the "draught beers" are. Or possibly bright or tank beer. Light and XXX look like Pale and Dark Mild, respectively. The other two beers being Bitter and Best Bitter.

The presence of draught Guinness also has be thinking this is a generic list. While every single pub sold bottled Guinness, the draught version was much rarer. I can't remember seeing it on the bar vert often. None of the Leeds pubs I regularly drank in stocked it. Not even the Irish pubs.

Domino has got me scratching my head. Given the price, the first thing that comes to mind is Keg Mild. Golden I know was a Keg Bitter. A reasonably strong one at 1039º.

Moving on to the bottled beers, I was surprised to see the Pale Ale for the Belgian market listed. I didn't realise it was ever sold in the UK. It was a reasonably strong beer of 5.5% ABV.

You may be asking yourself "Why are there both draught and bottled versions of Magnet and Harp?" Probably because this is a generic list. I'm guessing that pubs sold either one or the other of them. This is a point when draught Lager was by no means universal.

Double Brown is an interesting one. It's of the rare type of stronger Brown Ales. While Con Nut looks like the more common watery version of the style. Magnet Old Ale was, as you might expect, a strong dark beer. That's why it's in nips. Milk Maid Stout? Well, that's what my Mum drank. As the name implies, it was a Milk Stout.

Note how short the list of other drinks is. A few basic spirits along with port, sherry and vermouth. But look at the price differential between spirits and draught beer. The prices are for one sixth of a gill (quarter pint). Or about 2.4 cl. A double whisky was more triple the price of a pint of Mild, and contained a similar amount of alcohol. 

Public bar price list
Draught Beers
  Pint Half Pint  
Light 10p 5p  
XXX 10p 5p  
Bitter 11.5p 6p  
Magnet 12.5p 6.5p  
Keg Beers
  Pint Half Pint  
Domino 11.5p 6p  
Golden 14p 7p  
Guinness 16p 8p  
Harp 16.5p 8.5p  
Bottled Beers
  Large Small Nip
Belgium Export - 10p -
Magnet Pale Ale 15p 8.5p -
Milk Maid Stout 14p 7.5p -
Double Brown 14p 8p -
Magnet Old Ale - - 8.5p
Lght Ale 13p 7p -
Cob Nut 13p 7p -
Guinness 17.5p 9.5p -
Harp Lager - 11p -
Carlsberg - 11p -
Spirits and Wines
  Per Measure    
Whisky 16p    
Gin 16p    
Rum 16p    
Vodka 16p    
Brandy 19p    
Port 12p    
Sherry 12p    
Cream Sherry 13.5p    
Vermouths 12.5p    


Andy Holmes said...

John Smiths did reintroduce cask Bitter and Magnet somewhere around 1982 to 1984. So it's entirely possible that the draught beers listed here weren't cask.

And yes, I remember seeing generic lists in John Smiths (and other) pubs in the early 1980s. The pub just filled in the prices for the beers they had. Wasn't there tougher regulations on displaying price lists back then?

Bribie G said...

It was common to have the bitter, mild and lager as the only three on offer, with a keg.

In Newcastle at a S n N pub a typical line up would be Exhibition ale, McEwans Scotch (equivalent of a mild), Harp Lager and Tartan keg.

The first two were bright tank. Sometimes a weak pale IPA would turn up if they had enough tanks and as the 80s progressed a few new kegs would appear such as Keg Amber and eventually McEwan's Lager.

Bribie G said...

Andy as a Geordie I had Yorkshire family and my recollection from the early to mid 70s was that John Smiths was generally served as a bright tank beer via electric pump. One click for a half and a second for a pint. Poured into the same oversized glasses with a level mark etched in, as familiar with on Tyneside, through a swan neck with a restrictor for a creamy head.

Anonymous said...

My Dad used to say that your heart would sink on a round when someone would ask for a whisky back then, long before the days of doubles bars. Worse still was asking for a whisky on someone else's round then getting a pint for yourself on your own. Oh the shame!