Thursday, 5 September 2013

Change in the public taste

While I'm obsessing about bottled beer, I thought a quick search of the newspaper archive would be in order. It threw up this intriguing article.

Presiding at the annual general meeting of Messrs. Watney, Combe. Reid. and Co.. Limited, at the Westminster Palace Hotel, S.W.. Mr. H. Cosmo Bonsor said their profits salts were down notwithstanding the sale of 18,000 more barrels of than in 1910. This was a feature that must continue, he added. The change of fashion was very apparent. People now drank beer in bottles instead getting it in jugs, and the profit was much less.

Inquiries among leading brewers confirmed Mr. Bonsor's statement that bottled beer was finding more favour with consumers than draught beer. One of the reasons advanced for the change was that since four quart crates had been introduced working men preferred to buy these rather than send out for a jugful at a time.

"There is not much difference in the quality," said the secretary of one brewing company "It is the expense of bottling and delivery that diminishes the brewers' profits."

"There no dietetic reason why bottled beer should be preferred to draught beer," said a medical authority. "It is purely a question of taste — bottled beer being perhaps more 'brisk' than draught beer."
Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 05 August 1911, page 7.

Western Daily Press, Wednesday 03 May 1916, page 3.
Crate beer seems to have been all the rage just before WW I and, according to advertisements I've seen, lasted until at least 1940.

You can see from the advertisement to the right that flagon (the name for a quart bottle) crates were a very economical way of buying bottled beer. For example, AB Old cost 2/- a gallon when bought in casks and just 4d more for a crate of flagons. Similarly, a gallon of Porter in cask cost 1s 10d and 2s 2d - again 4d more - in a crate. It makes it seem quite believable that, as Cosmo Bonsor said, breweries made less profit on bottled beer.

Except, having seen Barclay Perkins brewing records, I know that the draught and crate versions weren't necessarily the same strength. In 1917 they started brewing a special version of XLK, their Ordinary Bitter, for crates. You can see from the table that it was a good bit weaker than the trade (draught) version.

Fetching jugs of draught beer from the pub (or off-licence) didn't completely disappear. Ever. Though it did become much less popular.

By "more brisk" they obviously mean "fizzier", which is true.

There will be more newspaper articles to follow. How many depends on how long my current obsession lasts. It could just be a crush.

Barclay Perkins XLK variants 1917 - 1920
Date Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
8th Aug 1917 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1049.7 1013.3 4.82 73.25% 6.74 1.34
8th Aug 1917 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1036.1 1008.3 3.68 76.98% 6.74 0.96
19th Mar 1918 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1049.8 1012.2 4.98 75.53% 6.21 1.25
19th Mar 1918 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1035.8 1008.0 3.67 77.56% 6.21 0.89
16th Apr 1918 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1040.4 1009.7 4.06 76.00% 6.24 1.04
16th Apr 1918 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1025.5 1007.2 2.42 71.76% 6.24 0.65
31st Jul 1918 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1040.5 1008.9 4.19 78.11% 6.49 1.13
31st Jul 1918 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1028.4 1006.1 2.95 78.54% 6.49 0.77
18th Mar 1919 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1043.4 1010.5 4.35 75.75% 6.48 1.14
18th Mar 1919 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1030.3 1006.6 3.13 78.06% 6.48 0.80
3rd Jun 1919 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1043.5 1008.0 4.69 81.53% 6.74 1.18
3rd Jun 1919 XLK (bottling) Pale Ale 1037.5 1006.4 4.12 83.01% 6.74 1.01
3rd Jun 1919 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1030.5 1005.3 3.34 82.74% 6.74 0.83
19th Aug 1919 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1047.2 1015.0 4.27 68.31% 7.49 1.45
19th Aug 1919 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1034.4 1006.4 3.71 81.48% 7.49 1.05
27th Jul 1920 XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1047.3 1017.5 3.95 63.11% 7.99 1.45
27th Jul 1920 XLK (crate) Pale Ale 1034.7 1010.5 3.20 69.67% 7.99 1.38
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/606 and ACC/2305/01/607.


Matt said...

H. Cosmo Bonsor is a great name.

Ron Pattinson said...


it is, isn't it? The only other person I can think of named Cosmo is a cartoon character.

Oblivious said...

Its interesting to see that they had casks of AK bitter and pale ale,

I wonder what the difference was?

Was pale ale aged where the bitter was a running beer. AKK is listed might suggest it was a stronger bitter and the increased price of pale over AK might suggest at difference of strength and or ageing?

Just my random thoughs :)

Jeremy Drew said...

I used to get the "Sir Cosmo Bonsor" train from Tattenham Corner on occasions, when I worked in Southwark a few years ago. I struck me then as a great name!

Ron Pattinson said...


originally AK snd AKK would have been Running Bitters and PA a Stock Pale Ale. Though that wasn't necessarily still true by 1916.

Stock Pale Ales, at least in the 19th century, were sold at a premoum, that is for a price higher than for other beers of a similar strength.

I'd estimate the gravities of theose Roger's PAle Ales to have been something like this in 1914:

LBA: 1045
AK: 1050
AKK: 1055
PA: 1060

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeremy Drew,

I used to get the train going the other way back when I worked in Surrey in the 1980's. Never noticed a "Sir Cosmo Bonsor" train back then.

Matt said...

Here's the train. Bonsor was chairman of South Eastern Railways as well as Watney, Combe & Reid.

Rod said...

Love the Beasley's advert - it would be my local brewery if it was still there.....

Ron Pattinson said...


I didn't realise that. It explains why he has a train named after him.

That's way more modern than the trains I took. They were the old slam door type.

Ron Pattinson said...


did I mention that I have some photos of Beasley's brewing records? Just the final brewing book, but better than nothing.

Jeremy Drew said...

One thing that used to brighten up the journey was when they coupled it together with the Caterham service. sometimes they really had to slam the two together for it to work.

Always used to make me think of dinosaurs humping...