Saturday, 14 September 2013

Whitbread Mild Ales 1945 - 1973

I've just finished a mammoth sweep through Whitbread's post-WW II brewing records. It's taken quite a while. Though you may well not have noticed, it's been occupying much of my time since my last visit to the London Metropolitan Archives in June.

Whitbread's Mild Ales were of particular interest to me. Why? Because I still consider myself principally a Mild drinker, despite living out of its reach for most of the last 30 years. That's why Marks & Spencer reopening a shop in Amsterdam was such a big event for me. It's given me a steady source of Mild. OK, it's bottled, but better than nowt. Knock out the excess carbonation and you can hardly tell it's not cask.

There's another reason for my interest in Whitbread Best Mild in particular. It's a beer I drank. I was a little too late to catch the Chiswell Street-brewed version, but not by much, just a few years. I guess the keg Best Mild I had came from Luton, a brewery I don't remember being much mourned at its passing. It wasn't the greatest beer. Being keg did such a low-gravity beer no favours. Not that it could have been sold in cask form, given that me and a bloke in his seventies were the only people in the pub drinking it. But it's a real link with Whitbread's brewing past, for me at least. The recipe probably didn't differ much from the final brews at Chiswell Street.

There will be weeks of tables to come, but, at the moment, I'm just standing back and admiring the numbers, all neatly lined up in a spreadsheet.

It was a surprise to see how late Tankard and Trophy turned up: 1970 for the former and 1972 for the latter. The pedigree of Trophy is particularly odd, stretching back to 1899, across a couple of name changes. I won't spoil it by giving away the surprise now. But I expect anyone who ever drank Trophy to be shocked.

Best get back to my putative point, a quick overview of the Milds brewed at Chiswell Street after WW II. Mostly just things around 1030º or less, apart from the attempt to introduce a stronger Mild, XXX, in the mid-1950's.

Whitbread Mild Ales 1945 - 1973
name introduced OG discontinued OG
XX Jul 1940 1031.5 Jun 1949 1027.5
Best Ale Jun 1949 1030.4 Jan 1967 1030.1
Best Mild Jan 1967 1030.5
MA Sep 1954 1030.8 Feb 1955 1030.2
XXX Jan 1954 1037.3 Jan 1955 1034.4
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/107, LMA/4453/D/01/113, LMA/4453/D/01/117, LMA/4453/D/01/121 and LMA/4453/D/01/122.

I haven't filled in a discontinued date for Whitbread Best Mild because it may still exist, brewed god-knows where.

The real fun will be starting soon.


Martyn Cornell said...

Luton-brewed dark mild, in the 1960s and 1970s, was called, strangely, AK - under JW Green at the beginning of the 20th century, AK was a light bitter, as it was elsewhere, but at some point it darkened up. I must have drunk Chiswell Street-brewed beer at some point, but it wasn't until about the time the brewery closed that I really started paying attention to where my beer was coming from, I'm afraid ...

Matt said...

Having drunk gallons of Whitbread Trophy in my teenage, pre-CAMRA years, I'll be interested to see what it started life as.

Ron Pattinson said...


the direct ancestor was, I believe, W. It's when you go further back it gets more interesting.

Ron Pattinson said...


that's facinating. Never come across a Dark Mild AK.

I keep kicking myself for not really bothering much with the beer brewed in London by the Big Six in the 1970's. When there were still several large breweries in the city. Truman's is about the only one I ever drank much of.