Thursday 25 May 2023

Southeastern Bitters in 1978

We're now in the bottom right hand corner of the UK. In the prosperous Southeast.

I can confidently say that I drank every one of these beers except one: Paine EG. They only had a handful of tied houses and I don't remember their beer turning up very often at beer festivals.

There are some cracking beers in this set. Lots of classic Southern Bitters: Harveys, Morland, Adnams, Hook Norton, Brakspear. And my favourite of the lst: King & Barnes. Their beers were so good, It still upsets me that those bastards at Hall & Woodhouse closed the brewery.

Want to know what Southern Bitters tasted like in the 1970s? Drink Harveys. There were lots of distinctive and idiosyncratic ones about. Sadly, most have either since disappeared or become much blander.

What a surprise. This is the most expensive and worst value for money set so far.

The average OG is a touch higher than the national average at 1038.1º. While the 79% apparent attenuation is around much the same mark as elsewhere.

London next time.

Southeastern Bitters in 1978
Brewer Beer Price º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation score Flavour
Greene King Abbot Ale       1048.3 1014.1 4.43 70.81% 8 Strong fruity & sweet. A distinguished beer, but too sweet for me.
Paine EG 34 1.34 0.14 1045.7 1008.9 4.79 80.53% 11 Good, strong, fruity taste. Honest & full-bodied
Harvey Best Bitter 38 1.00 0.11 1038.1 1006.9 4.06 81.89% 8 A pleasant real ale with a sweetish flavour.
Shepherd Neame Master Brew Bitter 40 0.92 0.10 1036.9 1006.3 3.98 82.93% 9 A satisfying hoppy beer.
Whitbread Fremlins Trophy 32 1.11 0.11 1035.5 1007.4 3.65 79.15% 7 Pleasant bitter but rather thin.
Morland Best Bitter 34 1.04 0.11 1035.4 1006.9 3.70 80.51% 10 A good, pleasant, clean, light well-rounded ale.
Adnams Best Bitter 40 0.89 0.10 1035.4 1005.9 3.84 83.33% 11 An excellent light beer with a fruity flavour.
Hook Norton Best Bitter 34 1.04 0.11 1035.3 1006.9 3.69 80.45% 9 A bright “beery” dryish ale.
Brakspear Pale Ale 36 0.98 0.09 1035.3 1010.5 3.21 70.25% 11 Pleasant, tangy, clear genuine English beer.
King & Barnes Best Bitter 34 1.03 0.11 1035.1 1006.1 3.77 82.62% 9 A good tasty beer which slips down easily.
Average   35.8 1.04 0.11 1038.1 1008.0 3.91 79.25% 9.3  
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 17 September 1978, pages 22 - 23.



Anonymous said...

I very much agree about Harveys: I am fond of saying that it seems to me to taste much the same these days as it did fifty years ago. In the early 70s, it didn’t stand out in the way it does today: it was just one of a number of excellent beers in the area. King and Barnes was one of my favourites as well, though sadly it had become much blander and less distinctive long before the brewery was closed. I can’t now recall when the rot set in, but it may have been connected to the building of a new brewhouse, which opened in 1980. Incidentally, the Sunday Mirror appears to have misdescribed the names of some of these bitters: there was no such beer as King and Barnes “Best Bitter”, nor Adnams “Best Bitter”. There was a Morland’s Best Bitter, but (given the OG quoted) the table appears to be referring to Morland’s Bitter – another of my favourites.

Bribie G said...

How accurate are those ABV figures? I drank Abbot ale on several occasions in Cambridge during the 1970s and was under the impression that it was a strong beer, over 5% ABV and in the same "stable" as Courage Directors and Fullers ESB for example. Currently it's 5% bang on.

Chris Pickles said...

Greene King Abbot, but not their regular bitter IPA? The list is a bit incomplete!

I remember being worried in the late 70's and early 80's that many CAMRA types were fixated on the extra special category of beers while the bread and butter offerings of ordinary bitter and mild were being overlooked. People were raving about Fullers ESB for example while Fullers Hock was disappearing because nobody was drinking it or promoting it.

Back in those days I thought GK IPA was a splendid standard bitter. One of my most memorable pints was a lunchtime GK IPA I had in Ely. I didn't have it often but was always happy when I did. Nowadays I wouldn't cross the road for it but thats another thing.

I think we could all make up a long list of great regional beers that became nationally promoted and maybe had an initial surge of success but really it was the kiss of death. Boddingtons was perhaps the most famous case but you could include Stones, Tetley's, Websters, John Smiths just off the top of my head.

Question: are there any beers that have made the transition from popular local brew to national brand successfully, and not crashed and burned as a result?

Marquis said...

Greene King IPA is a beer which I tend to ignore where there are other beers on cask. But when I do drink it I am surprised by how much I enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

With regards to beers being overlooked in Ireland that is true of red ale and single stout and even double stout in favour of American style IPA’s. One of the joys of mine is trying and appreciating the differences between breweries red ales and single and double stouts from different breweries.