Sunday, 7 March 2010

Strong Ale ca 1955

No end in sight to what I can plunder from Andrew Campbell's excellent book. It'll be strange to have to go back to thinking up stuff for myself. What a disaster.

The following text gives some further clues as to the reasons behind the domination of the market by low-gravity beers. You can sense the frustration that the author must have felt when trying to discover what interesting beers might be on sale. Unfortunately, such experiences are still not unknown, even in these days of heightened consumer consciousness.

"Strong Ales
Strong Ales have a limited public, which is all the more reason that the seller should be fully informed and ready to tell his customer about them. Unfortunately, absolute ignorance is a much too general rule, and there is apt to be little or no choice between brews, even in the best-run bars. The barmaid at a large, well-run establishment in the East End of London, asked for a strong ale, proposed best bitter or Burton. It took quite some questionning to discover that the brewery had a barley wine. In the wine department of a large London department store the question, 'have you any atrong ale?' produced the offer of Double Diamond. When the customer placed a bottle of Benskins' Colne Spring Ale on the counter and said, 'Have you nothing similar to this?' there was much searching and ferreting in the rear part of the store and a bottle of Ind, Coope and Allsopp's Arctic Ale was eventually produced.

One can only suppose that strong ale is a line that sells rather slowly, costing rather a lot for beer, and therefore something in which the barman and counter-hand take very little interest. rarely does one see the display or really energetic promotion given to a strong ale that is devoted to light ale and stouts. Strong ale is a strong drink, strong enough to limit the average consumer to two or three half-pints at a sitting. It may be right and proper to drink mild and bitter by the pint for refreshment, but strong ale is to be sipped - the aroma, the flavour and substance enjoyed as wine. The publican can make more money, with less chance of inebriation among his customers, if they stick to the weaker beers. Nevertheless the strong ale is the king of all ales, and a bottle of the very should be treated with the care that would be given to the handling of a new-born baby."
"The Book Of Beer" by Andrew Campbell, 1956, pages 90-91.

So there we have it: publicans couldn't be arsed to promote strong ale because they made more from the watery stuff. Which had the added benefit of not getting the punters pissed. I wonder what the beer landscape would be like today if the the strong stuff had been more financially attractive?

Don't worry. The tables will soon be back. I'm asssembling a couple of really special ones. Or rather will be assembling them. I'm a bit busy at the moment.

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