Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bentley's beers 1930 - 1959

You've probably got used to my butterfly mind, flitting from one pretty flower to the next. It's Yorkshire that's distracted me this time. Leeds to be specific.

Mentioning Bentley's Yorkshire Breweries got me thinking: surely I must have details of some of their beers? Unless you haven't bothered reading the title, you know the answer.

Bentley's conjours up odd emotions. It closed just about at the moment I started drinking beer, in 1972. It had been bought by Whitbread in 1968, presumably purely for its pubs, as they already had a brewery in Leeds, the Kirkstall Brewery. It owned 380 pubs, which would have made it a nice, juicy takeover target*. (I wonder where they all were? I can't remember there being many Whitbread pubs in West Yorkshire.) I also remember seeing the brewery from the train line when I lived in Leeds in the mid-1970's.

Considering how recently it had closed in my early drinking career, it had left remarkably few traces. I can't remember ever seeing an old Bentley's window or other signage.

Enough of my dull (in bothe senses of the word) recollections and on with the beers.  First point: note how little the gravity of the Dinner Ale fell between 1930 and 1959. That's more an indication of how low the gravity was in 1930 than anything else.

Strong Ales called Old Something were common in Yorksire in the 1950's. Bentley's OldTimothy is fairly typical - a gravity in the 1070's and dark brown in colour. Oddly, the Dinner Ale, which I would have expected to be a sort of Light Ale, is also dark. Whereas the Mild is only barely darker than a Bitter and Paler than Newcastle Brown.

The overall level of attenuation is pretty high, with the lowest being 74%. It's particularly striking that the Old Timothy is 80% attenuated. Much more than you'd expect for a dark Strong Ale.

Time now to pass you over to the numbers.

Bentley's beers 1930 - 1959
Year Beer Style Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1930 Dinner Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 0.06 1005.3 1033.9 3.76 84.37%
1931 Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 0.06 1009.1 1040.6 4.14 77.59%
1953 Old Timothy Old Ale 1/3d nip bottled 0.07 1014.7 1075.6 15 + 40 8.07 80.56%
1959 Old Timothy Strong Ale 15d nip bottled 0.06 1015.1 1074.5 65 7.43 79.73%
1959 Special Pale Ale Pale Ale 11d half bottled 0.04 1006.2 1038.5 26 4.04 83.90%
1959 Eshald Ale Dinner Ale 12d half bottled 0.04 1004.4 1031.8 60 3.43 86.16%
1959 Bitter Pale Ale 16d pint draught 0.04 1010.2 1039.5 19 3.66 74.18%
1959 Mild Mild 13d pint draught 0.04 1005.4 1032.9 30 3.44 83.59%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002

There used to be some of Bentley's brewing books in the Whitbread Archive at Chiswell Street. Where did they go when that collection was broken up? Somewhere safe, I hope.

* "The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records" by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, pages 67 - 68.


Tandleman said...

"I can't remember ever seeing an old Bentley's window or other signage."

I have a Bentley's mirror in my kitchen. Hunter's Ale. Tower Brewery, 1-10 Tower Road, York

Ed said...

I drank Bentley's Yorkshire Bitter out of 3L bottles in my local park as a teenager in the late 80s. It was cheap so probably 3% ABV, it didn't really get you pissed anyway.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, the cask version wasn't bad and definitely stronger than 3% ABV.

I wonder where they brewed it in the late 1980's? That's after the closure of the Kirkstall Brewery.

Tandleman said...


Tower Brewery, 1-10 Tower Rd, York.

I'll get my coat.

Simon said...

I've asked the question here:

There are also some good resources relating to Melbourne and Tetley pubs there when you get around to them.

Barbarrick said...

"I can't remember ever seeing an old Bentley's window or other signage."

I can't account for 380 of them but Whitbread houses that had been BYB houses had been common in my area Knottingley/Pontefract around 1970. Knottingley was packed with Whitbread houses as Carter's Knottingley Brewery and their pubs had ended up in Bentley's hands in 1935 and thence Whitbread hands by 1972. The Knottingley I grew up in was awash with keg Trophy Bitter.
A well known BYB house Ron was the New Peacock right outside Elland Road football ground which used to have that characteristic "BYB" roundel and line "There's no better beer than BYB" on the gable end.Nice pic here:

Ron Pattinson said...


I never drank around Knottingley, so I wouldn't have seen those. I can't remember any Whitbread pub in Leeds city centre. There was one in Armley, I think, that had that round BYB thing.