Monday, 22 April 2013

Mitchell & Butler Strong Ale and Stout 1926 – 1954

More M & B. I forgot to mention that these are all beers that were brewed at Cape Hill which, in the 1980's, was the largest producer of cask beer in the world. Long gone now, of course, having closed in 2002. Though the name Mitchell & Butler lives on as a pub chain.

Stout. There's loads of rubbish been written about British Stouts after WW I. Mostly about them all being sweet. M & B's Stouts show how wrong that generalisation is. In the 1920's and 1930's, with attenuation over 80%, M & B's Stouts would have been drier than Guinness. The attenuation fell a bit after WW II, but was still mostly hovering close to 80%.

There's limited data, but it looks to me like we've an example of style splitting with Nourishing Stout and Extra Stout. The date where Extra Stout appears is important, 1932. That's in the chaotic period of an unwise jump in beer tax between 1931 and 1933. It was a disaster all round. Brewers dropped gravities to keep the retail price the same and the tax collected fell.

What some breweries did, when they perceived a demand for a beer at the old strength, was to introduce a "new" product, that was basically the old beer, just with a new name. Barclay Perkins did this with their Mild, introducing XX Ale at the same strength as X Ale had been before the gravity drop. Extra Stout looks like one of these beers. Look how the gravity of Nourishing Stout fell from 1048º to 1043º and Extra Stout appears at 1049º.

I'm astonished to see that M& B's two Stouts not only survived the war, but remained at pretty much the same gravities. I'm struggling to think of any other beer - export versions excepted - where that's true.

That Amba is a funny one: a pale Old Ale. Old Ale was popular in the West Midlands before WW II - still is to some extent. But it's usually a dark beer. Always, really. It would be great to know more about the beer's history.

And blow me if there isn't another beer that's the same gravity either side of WW II, Strong Ale. (I've just thought of another example. Seeing that 1106 OG has reminded me: Barclay's Russian Stout. That managed to navigate both World Wars with no drop in gravity.) It's a pretty powerful beer, with a decent attenuation for such a high gravity

You're probably thinking (hoping?) that this series is over now. It isn't, there's more M & B to come.

Mitchell & Butler Strong Ale and Stout 1926 – 1954
Year Beer Style Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1926 Nourishing Stout Stout 8d pint bottled 1048.7
1929 Nourishing Stout Stout 8.5d pint bottled 0.07 1006.3 1048.4 5.5 86.98%
1931 Nourishing Stout Stout 9d pint bottled 1005 1046.1 5.4 89.15%
1932 Nourishing Stout Stout 9d pint bottled 0.06 1006.7 1043 4.7 84.42%
1932 Extra Stout Stout 8d pint bottled 0.06 1006.8 1049 5.5 86.12%
1951 Nourishing Stout Stout 1/5d pint bottled 0.04 1007.4 1042.8 1 + 10 4.6 82.71%
1951 Extra Stout Stout 10.5d half bottled 0.04 1009 1048 1 + 9 5.1 81.25%
1951 Nourishing Stout Stout 1/6d pint bottled 0.07 1007.3 1042.1 1 + 12 4.5 82.66%
1953 Nourishing Stout Stout 10d half bottled 0.06 1006.5 1039.2 1 + 11 4.3 83.42%
1953 Extra Stout Stout 1/- half bottled 0.05 1008.2 1049 1 + 11 5.3 83.27%
1953 Extra Stout Stout 1/- half bottled 0.05 1009.8 1046.2 21 B 4.7 78.79%
1954 Extra Stout Stout 1/- half bottled 0.05 1011.2 1049 1 + 14 4.9 77.14%
1962 Extra Nourishing Stout Stout 13d half bottled 0.05 1012.2 1037.1 275 3.1 67.12%
1960 Export Lager Lager 16d half bottled 0.02 1010 1039.7 7.5 3.7 74.81%
1958 Amba Pale Old Ale Old Ale 15d nip bottled 0.04 1012.4 1056.3 18 5.5 77.98%
1932 Strong Ale Strong Ale 10d half bottled 0.12 1023.9 1108 11.1 77.87%
1935 Strong Ale Strong Ale 9d half bottled 0.11 1022.7 1109 11.4 79.17%
1953 Strong Ale Strong Ale 2/4d half bottled 0.19 1026.5 1106 6 + 40 10.5 75.00%
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


Matt said...

I watched the Morse prequel Endeavour last night. In one scene, the young Morse is dead on his feet and the inspector offers him a glass of brandy but his wife overrules him and fetches a bottle of stout from the cupboard to "build him up".

Anonymous said...

Ah, "Nourishing Stout" !
How long before it's classed as a style by the BJCP and BA ?

Ron Pattinson said...


probably never. Bit too obscure for them. I should get in first and write up some guidelins of my own.

cercle said...

The second brewer at Tetley Walkers in Warrington told me their brewery was the largest ale brewery in the UK in the early nineties and that was pretty much all cask. Do you have any figures for the two breweries?

Ron Pattinson said...


you're right to call me out on that one, because I don't have a proper source for that claim. It's just something I remember from What's Brewing or the Good Beer Guide.

Figures for output per brewery in the UK aren't that easy to come by. I should know, I hunt these things. Even with those numbers, working out how much cask was brewed wouldn't be easy, unless the brewery itself kept track and the records are preserved.

Tetley in Leeds must have been well up there as well. They brewed a lot of cask beer.

Ed said...

Production figures for a lot of breweries appear in 'The Brewers Handbook' produced by the Brewers Guardian. Don't know how long it's been around though.

Thom Farrell said...

What exactly do you mean by Old Ale?

Ron Pattinson said...


any idea where I could get hold of a copy of 'The Brewers Handbook'?

Ron Pattinson said...


in this period I'd expect an Old Ale in the West Midlands to have been like a strong Dark Mild.

Anonymous said...

I have got a bottle m b strong ale