Thursday 22 June 2023

UK Lager in 1978

Now I'm done with all those travel posts, I can get back to where I was. With my head stuck firmly up the arse of the 1970s. 

Many thanks to the Sunday Mirror for also analysing a load of Lagers in 1978.Well, you aren't going to find gravities in the Good Beer Guide for these beers.

First we're going to look at the Lagers which were UK brands. Or at least ones brewed by UK regional brewers rather than large national or international concerns. OK, Scottish & Newcastle are in there. But McEwans Cavalier was very much a UK-only brand. AT least that's my excuse.

There's a good deal of variation in strength, ranging from 1030º to 1045º. Approximately very Ordinary Mild to Best Bitter. Though the majority are in the mid-1030ºs. 

The rate of attenuation is mostly pretty high, averaging almost 85%. A good bit higher than the Bitters we looked at earlier, which for most regions averaged out around 79%. Which is important when we look at value for money.

You probably don't remember this, but Bitters averaged out at 1.17 degrees of gravity per penny. Quite a bit better than Lager's 1.05. But in terms of % ABV per penny, Lager is only just behind at 0.12, compared with Bitter's 0.12.

But look at the variation. Federation Ace of Clubs scores as well as some of the best value Northern Bitters. While S & N's Cavalier is one of the worst value beers of any type.

Of course, most of these were Lager-like liquids rather than beers which had been cold fermented and lagered. And were pretty dreadful. One of the people at Robinsons described Einhorn as "A beer we're not particularly proud of." Praise indeed. The Sunday Mirror tasters agreed, as it gets a pretty poor score of just 7 out of 12.

Speaking of scores, they are generally worse than for the Bitters, whose average was over 9. Though, weirdly, watery Cavalier was the only beer to score a perfect 12 out of both the Bitters and Lagers.

During the 1970s, most regional brewers decided that they needed a Lager in their portfolio. But mostly had neither the equipment, nor the inclination, to brew them properly. Which might explain why virtually none of the beer listed still exists today. The exception being Tennent's Pilsner. Which came from a brewery properly equipped for brewing Lager.

Things have sort of come full circle. Some of the current large-selling UK Lager brands are fermented warm with a top-fermenting yeast. Not naming any names.

International Lagers next time.

UK Lager in 1978
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation score
Cameron Icegold 33 1.16 0.13 1038.4 1005 4.35 86.98% 9
Federation Ace of Clubs 27 1.29 0.13 1034.9 1007.2 3.60 79.37% 10
Hull Top Score 38 1.00 0.11 1037.9 1005 4.29 86.81% 8
Sam Smith Alpine Ayingerbrau 40 0.90 0.10 1036.1 1004.3 4.14 88.09% 11
Vaux Norseman 34 1.14 0.13 1038.7 1005.9 4.27 84.75% 8
Greenall Whitley Grunhalle 33 1.11 0.12 1036.7 1005.4 4.08 85.29% 8
Hydes Amboss 35 0.99 0.10 1034.7 1008.55 3.39 75.36% 7
Lees Gold Medal 36 0.94 0.11 1033.7 1002.7 4.04 91.99% 7
Matthew Brown Slalom 30 1.24 0.14 1037.2 1004.75 4.23 87.23% 8
Oldham Brewery Rheingold 30 1.17 0.12 1035 1007 3.64 80.00% 7
Robinson Einhorn 34 1.06 0.12 1035.9 1004.1 4.14 88.58% 7
Thwaites Stein 37 0.94 0.09 1034.6 1007.8 3.48 77.46% 8
Scottish & Newcastle McEwans Cavalier 33.5 0.90 0.10 1030 1003.95 3.39 86.83% 12
Tennent Pilsner 32 1.16 0.12 1037 1006.55 3.96 82.30% 8
Shepherd Neame Hurlimann 48 0.94 0.00 1045       9
Hall & Woodhouse Brock 36 0.90 0.10 1032.4 1005.5 3.50 83.02% 7
Palmer Shilthorn 40 1.04 0.12 1041.4 1004.7 4.79 88.65% 9
Average   35.1 1.05 0.11 1036.4 1005.5 3.96 84.54% 8.4
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 08 October 1978, page 4.


Matt said...

I've been on the tour round Robinson's Unicorn Brewery in Stockport a few times (Einhorn is German for unicorn) and even the guides joke about how bad a beer it was. The bar in the visitor centre there used to sell Veltins as they didn't brew a lager, although they've since introduced two, a Pils and a Helles.

Anonymous said...

Is Ayingerbrau still going? Used to drink it in London 00-10.

Chris Pickles said...

Out of that lot, Slalom wasn't a bad drink. Brewed at Workington, I believe. Though I preferred Jennings by far, Matty Browns had a couple of good eating pubs in Keswick and Slalom became an option.

Rob Sterowski said...

The original Ayingerbräu in Bavaria is still going, but the licensing arrangement with Sam Smith’s expired so it’s not sold in the UK any more except in specialist retail.

S&N spent millions advertising McEwan’s Lager but it was never able to make much headway against Tennent’s (except when it was the only lager available). The Cavalier name didn’t last long publicly but its brewhouse name stayed MCL.

The top-fermented “lager” is particularly ironic because I am told there are also a few highly regarded “real ale” breweries whose beer is in fact fermented with what is technically a lager strain.

Anonymous said...


Looks like Alpine and Tennants are the only two still around.

Anonymous said...

Oh go on, tell us which are warm fermented - I want to know which friends I have can slag off about their choice of lager!

Anonymous said...

Interesting as Kinnegar are the opposite top fermented beers brewed in a German style system.

Rob Sterowski said...

As well as Einhorn, Amboss means Anvil and Grünhalle of course means Green Hall. I think this is a nice touch in the naming. We could have had Dachs (badger) from Hall & Woodhouse too. But McEwan’s and Camerons might have got into trouble with actual German brewers if they’d called their lager Ritter or Löwe.