Sunday, 28 May 2023

London Bitters in 1978

And here we are. In the capital and at the final region in this survey of 1978 Bitters.

Once again, I drank all these beers, bar one. That being Export Ben Truman. Why did I never try that? It was a keg beer. I wasn't going to waste my time drinking evil keg. It doesn't look like I missed much "Bland, slightly sweet, characterless beer.". Yum.

In 1979, however, I did drink Truman Tap Bitter, their first cask beer in a while. They sold it at the Tenterden, a Truman's tied house on Devon's Road. Not far from the squat I was living in at the time. It was around the same OG as Export Ben Truman, so may well have been a cask form of it. How good was it? So great, I usually mixed it with bottled Guinness.

The average score is pretty high at 9.5. Not sure I would rate them the same way, based on my memories. I'd rate London Pride top. Then the two Courage beers. Followed by Ordinary and Special from Youngs and ESB. I never cared for Fined Bitter. Maybe it was just never looked after properly. Watney's landlords hadn't seen cask for a long time.

Just pipping the Southeast, the average price is the highest, at 36p. But that's an average for just three of the eight samples. The three weakest samples. The real average price would have been much higher. Though, in terms of value for money, London averages slightly better than the Southeast.

Boosted by the presence of many Special Bitters, the average OG is a heady 1043.1º. The highest of any of the regions.

Are we finished? Are we hell. Next there will be an overview of the regional Bitters.

Then we'll move onto the Lagers. Don't you just love the 1970s?  

London Bitters in 1978
Brewer Beer Price º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation score Flavour
Fullers ESB       1052.3 1012.9 5.12 75.33% 10 A powerful beer with » kick in every sip.
Youngs Special Bitter       1047.1 1014.2 4.27 69.96% 9 A nice heavy malty brew.
Courage Directors Bitter       1046 1012.8 4.31 72.17% 11 A classic, strong, genuine beer.
Watney Fined Bitter       1043.6 1006.3 4.87 85.67% 10 Well flavoured. Clean, tasty. Nice bite.
Fullers London Pride       1041.8 1007.5 4.46 82.06% 9 A good well flavoured beer with a slight bite.
Courage Best Bitter 35 1.11 0.11 1038.7 1008.8 3.88 77.26% 10 A fine, well-flavoured, distinct bitter.
Truman Export Ben Truman 40 0.96 0.10 1038.5 1008.9 3.85 77.01% 7 Bland, slightly sweet, characterless beer.
Youngs Bitter 33 1.11 0.11 1036.6 1007.7 3.76 79.10% 10 Lightish bitter with pleasant, tangy taste.
Average   36 1.06 0.11 1043.1 1009.9 4.32 77.32% 9.5  
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 17 September 1978, pages 22 - 23.


Anonymous said...

My grandfather loved Young’s special when he lived in London in the 1960’s to the very early 1970’s

Anonymous said...

Directors turned all the way up to 11? Was it served at The Spinal Tap?

Ron Pattinson said...


the scores are out of 12 for some reason.

John Lester said...

I lived in south west London at that time, and drank all of these (with the exception of Ben Truman). I wasn’t very impressed with Watney’s Fined Bitter (pretty sweet and rather an odd taste), though it was better than the various keg beers on offer in Watney’s pubs at the time. I first tried it in the pub next to the office, where it was served through push button free flow electric pumps. Some of the later Watney’s beers were much better – in particular, Combe’s Bitter, which I thought was the best beer ever to come out of Mortlake Brewery. I wasn’t very keen on Tap Bitter either – again, the later Truman’s draught beers were better (though not hugely to my taste). Of the other bitters mentioned, I suppose London Pride and Young’s Bitter (in no particular order) would have been my preference, though I regarded them as OK rather than something I would make a point of seeking out. London-brewed Courage never impressed me at all (I used to travel to Shepperton and Chertsey to drink the Reading-brewed version – the closest places to home where it was obtainable (in my view, the best beer Courage ever brewed)). My favourite London-brewed beer in the early 70s was Whitbread Trophy from Chiswell Street (at least until the recipe was changed a year or so before the brewery closed); I much preferred it to the Wethered’s that replaced it. I also liked Charrington’s IPA from Mile End before that brewery was closed, which was completely different from the substitutes from Cape Hill and Springfield – much darker and a lot more bitter. But both of those had gone by 1978.