Friday, 31 January 2014

Charrington Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1923

I'm definitely going to run this how-well-kept-was-Mild-in-the-twenties theme right into the ground. I know. I'm merciless.

Charrington's brewery on the Mile End Road was still standing the first time I lived in London, back in 1979. I lived not that far away, in Bromley By Bow. So went past it a few times. It had stopped brewing in 1975, but they hadn't got around to demolishing it. The former Mann's brewery just down the road was still open, but closed that year.

If I'm honest, that bit of London was pretty depressing. The scariest pub crawl I've ever done was down the Whitechapel Road. It included the Blind Beggar, the Mann's brewery tap. Horrible in just about every way. What I'm trying to recall is why I did the crawl more than once. What was I thinking?

Charrington was one of the big winners in London in the 19th century. Originally a specialist Ale brewer, it was well-positioned to profit from the switch from Porter to Mild. From a modest 20,000 barrels a year in 1818, it ended the century as one of the largest breweries in the city. Starting as a shark in the swimming pool of 1950's takeovers, it ended as whitebait, gobbled up by Bass.

Not all of the Charrington's brewery has disappeared. The southeast corner - it looks like the offices - remains. The rest of the site is a car park and Computer World. Not sure what that says about modern Britain.

Detailed OS maps from the late 19th century have been a revelation. Especially when transposed on a modern satellite view. The foundries, mills, breweries, distilleries, glassworks, maltings and every other imaginable form of industry have been replaced by car parks and supermarkets.

I'm rambling off again. Dodgy Mild. That's what I'm supposed to be on about. Whoops, giving the game away.

As a specialist Ale brewer, you'd expect Charrington's Mild to be top notch. Mmmm:

Charrington Brewery Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour  Score
1922 X 1009 1040.6 4.16 78.82% grey sour -3
1922 X 1008 1039.5 4.04 78.73% hazy poor -1
1922 X 1010 1040.4 3.96 75.50% cloudy foul off -3
1922 X 1007 1039.3 4.23 82.70% fairly bright going off -2
1923 X 1008 1040.6 4.29 81.28% bright fair 1
1923 X 1008 1040.8 4.29 80.88% bright fair 1
1923 X 1010 1042.6 4.29 77.46% piecy going off -2
1923 X 1009 1040.2 4.03 77.11% cloudy good 2
1923 X 1009 1041.4 4.16 77.29% not bright fair 1
1923 X 1010 1042.5 4.22 76.47% bright thin -1
Average -0.70
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Feeling equivocal now. I'm disappointed that Charrington's Ale was so shit, but relieved that Barclay Perkins' wasn't the worst.

Only 3 out of 10 were bright. That's not good. Grey - I think I've occasionally had pints like that. In that Davenports pub in Birmingham. A long time ago. I knew so little about beer. I'd take it back now. "piecy" doesn't sound appetising, like it has lumps you could chew.

"Foul off" - great isn't it, how you can conjure up so much about a beer in just two words. It makes me think of a pint of pure Sarson's, so much acetic acid you really could sprinkle it on your chips in an emergency.

I've not gone through all the breweries yet. I don't know who will come out best, and who the worst. But Charrington have thrown down a marker. They're the brewery to beat for last place.


Bailey said...

On your pub crawls, do you recall ever visiting the White Hart, aka Murphy's?

Ron Pattinson said...


I don't, I'm afraid.

Gary Gillman said...

What was so bad about the Whitechapel pubs, Ron? I used to pop in them in the 80's, mind you it was during the day (I was on holiday) so there wasn't much happening. They seemed fairly normal for non-West Side.

This brewery seems the worst so far. I can't imagine it was like this in the later 1800's. If it was, I will have to revise my ideas about the greatness of English beer.


Ron Pattinson said...


full of scary, unfriendly people.

Barm said...

You do wonder how the publicans managed to get their beer in such terrible condition. The turnover of beer couldn’t have been the problem, as in many pubs there wasn’t anything else much to drink.

Possibly there was a lot of watering and recycling of slops going on, so they were continually re-infecting their fresh beer with bad.

Willie said...

Ron, we are only on to C and they are all pretty crap so far, waiting for some better scores

Mike Austin said...

I remember somewhere in your writings a policeman quoted saying that Charringtons beers were very much to be recommended over Smith Garratt's.
Smith Garratt's must have been rough - or perhaps that's to come?

nh said...

I remember the breweries! As for why you were pub crawling in whitechapel, particularly the blind begger: could the nurses and the medical staff of the London ever be beat for company :):)!! just teasing!