Monday 31 July 2023

Midlands Bitter in 1971

Surprisingly, averaging 14.1p per pint, this is one of the most expensive sets, only beaten by London. Though it does also have one of the highest average OGs and the second highest average ABV.

Some of the examples are very highly-attenuated at over 80%. Which must have left Draught E, and Banks and Marston's Bitter very dry. Forming quite a contrast with Kingpin Keg with only 67% attenuation.

Best value by quite a way was Marston’s Bitter. Though it looks to me like they’ve got the Pedigree and Bitter the wrong way around. According to the 1977 Good Beer guide, Pedigree was 1043º and Bitter 1037º.

The three worst value beers are all from Big Six brewers: Ansell and M & B. Springfield Bitter wasn’t brewed at Cape Hill in Birmingham, but at M & B’s other brewery in Wolverhampton. I drank a fair bit of it in the early 1970s. It was a lovely, light Bitter, far superior to Cape Hill brewed Brew XI. Obviously, they closed the brewery making the better beer.

Looking over the set, I drank quite a few of them. Ansell’s Bitter wasn’t great, either. Not a patch on their Mild. Pedigree was a farty delight. A classic Burton Pale Ale. I never realised that there had been a cask version of Worthington E. Pretty sure that was later rebadged as Worthington Best Bitter. 

Incidentally Worthington E is another beer with its roots as an IPA. E is, in fact, short for EIPA and was Worthington's flagship IPA in the 19th century.

Midlands Bitter in 1971
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Ansell Kingpin Keg 14 2.43 0.21 1034 1011.1 2.96 67.35%
M & B Springfield Springfield Bitter 13 2.88 0.27 1037.5 1010 3.57 73.33%
Ansell Bitter 14 2.78 0.27 1038.9 1010.2 3.72 73.78%
Marston Pedigree 13.5 2.67 0.28 1036.1 1007.1 3.77 80.33%
Worthington E Keg 16 2.36 0.24 1037.8 1008.5 3.81 77.65%
Worthington E Draught 15.5 2.37 0.26 1036.8 1006.4 3.95 82.61%
Banks Bitter 14 2.87 0.31 1040.2 1006.6 4.38 83.58%
Marston Bitter 12.5 3.38 0.37 1042.2 1007.1 4.57 83.18%
Average   14.1 2.72 0.28 1037.9 1008.4 3.84 77.73%
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 21 March 1971, page 25.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Beer Festivals in the 1970s

The age of modern beer festivals began with CAMRA’s Covent Garden Beer Exhibition in 1975. At least that’s how I remember it, I’m sure it was the first to be anything like national scope. It made an impression on me. And I think many others.

I went down to London with my school friend Martin Young. Also, a CAMRA member. We had to queue for a while to get in, which surprised me. As I think it did the organisers.

How many beers did they have? Fifty or sixty? I doubt that it was any more. It still seemed enormous to me. More beers than I could possibly hope to get around. I went for Mild and hard to get. Embodied in the only beer I can remember drinking: Yorkshire Clubs Dark Mild.

Why do I remember that? Because soon after the brewery was bought up and closed. A shame. The Mild was pretty much black and from what I can recall, fairly nice.

It was like a wonderland of beer for someone living in a town where only three cask beers were available. Not having travelled much, pretty well all the beers on offer were new to me. Most of all, it was a demonstration of the richness of the UK’s brewing culture, despite the best efforts of some in the Big Six to destroy it.

Covent Garden was the template for future CAMRA festivals. It morphed into the Great British Beer Festival and inspired scores of local events.

Do you have memories of early beer festivals? Then get in touch.

Saturday 29 July 2023

Let's Brew - 1925 Barclay Perkins Oatmeal Stout

Another beer making a reappearance was Oatmeal Stout. No surprise, as it was a popular kind of beer, at the time

Most brewers just threw a handful of oats into their standard Stout and labelled some of it as Oatmeal Stout. Barclay Perkins took a different approach. They brewed it separately, in a tiny batch (just over 24 barrels). So, did they use more oats? Of course, they didn’t. A mere 30 pounds.

There are a lot of ingredients. A bit of flaked maize here, a little crystal malt there. Roast barley for colour this time. The sugar is described as “Martineau BS”. I would have assumed that meant something like No. 4 invert. But that would make the beer way too dark. No. 3 gets it around the right colour.

Just four steps to the mash. Perhaps because of the small volume they didn’t bother with a second sparge.

Mash number barrels strike heat mash heat mins stood tap heat
mash 1 9 152º F 147º F 30  
underlet 2 183º F 151º F   145.5º F
mash 2 5 172º F   30 153.5º F
sparge 16 172º F     158º F

Only two hop types, both Mid-Kent, one from the 1923 harvest, the other from 1924. Both stored cold.

More Martineau BS was added as primings, raising effective the OG by 2º. I’ve added more No. 3 invert to account for this. 

1925 Barclay Perkins Oatmeal Stout
mild malt 5.50 lb 49.13%
brown malt 0.50 lb 4.47%
amber malt 1.25 lb 11.17%
crystal malt 60L 0.75 lb 6.70%
roast barley 1.00 lb 8.93%
flaked maize 0.50 lb 4.47%
flaked oats 0.02 lb 0.18%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.50 lb 13.40%
caramel 500 SRM 0.175 lb 1.56%
Fuggles 120 min 1.25 oz
Fuggles 60 min 1.25 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.25 oz
OG 1053
FG 1017.5
ABV 4.70
Apparent attenuation 66.98%
IBU 44
SRM 32
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 172º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 63.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This recipeis one of 270-odd in my new book on London Stout. Get your copy now!

Friday 28 July 2023

Drink driving

Something which, thankfully, has become far less fashionable than it once was. I can remember being driven around by someone who had knocked back four or five pints. Well over the limit.

How common was drink driving? It’s impossible to really know. Anecdotally, plenty seemed to be up to it. But not going crazy. Either in the amount they drank or their driving. On the other hand, I knew plenty of people who either didn’t drink at all when they drove, or only had a couple of pints.

Did the introduction of the breathalyser have an effect on behaviour? I’m not sure these numbers make us any the wiser:

Is the fall in the percentage of positive tests a sign that drink driving was less prevalent? I’m not sure that it is. 

Breath tests administered in England and Wales
Year Initial Breath Tests—Positive Initial Breath Tests—Negative Initial Tests Total
  Number % Number % Number
1968 26,429 54.9 21,731 45.1 48,160
1969 31,770 57.7 23,313 42.3 55,083
1970 39,393 57.1 29,585 42.9 68,978
1971 56,293 61.7 34,881 38.3 91,174
1972 69,718 61.9 42,977 38.1 112,695
1973 77,334 62.6 46,267 37.4 123,601
1974 69,946 60.7 45,245 39.3 115,191
1975 70,386 57.2 52,644 42.8 123.03
1976 57,186 46.7 65,235 53.3 122,421
1977 53,363 45 65,639 55 119,002
1978 59,068 46.2 68,862 53.8 127,930
1979 69.449 46.8 78,795 53.2 148.244
The Brewers' Society UK Statistical Handbook 1980, page 72.

I would really appreciate anyone's memories of drink driving in the 1970s. Was it common? Was it reduced by the breathalyser?

Thursday 27 July 2023

Want to talk about beer in the 1970s?

After being told many a captivating or informative tale by a brewer, I decided to make sure that this aspect of the brewing industry, the human one, wasn't lost.

I kicked off with the legendary Derek Prentice, knowledge of London brewing is unique. And he has a way better memory than me. I've about two hours of him talking about Truman recorded on Zoom.

My appeal is:

If you've worked in the trade in the 1970s - in a brewery, whatever function, or running or working in a pub. Or, if you were a drinker then and have something to say. If you don't mind being recorded via Zoom (you don't have to show your face if you don't want to). Get in touch via the "Get in touch" gadget in the left margin.

I'm trying to build some sort of oral history archive before people start getting too old.

As for my recording of me and Derek, does someone know a free way to convert speech to text?

Is there someone who would know how to edit my raw video to something useful?

Northern and Scottish Bitter in 1972

No, I've not finished with this shit yet. There's still a way to go.

I'm putting a lot of thought into how I'm going to organise the book I'll base on these posts. Not like most of my other books, anyway.

I've lumped together the Northwest, Northeast and Scotland. Just because of the number of samples. They average out to exactly 1037º. Which is a tiny bit more than London Bitters. Though the average ABV is a tiny bit lower due to a slightly lower rate of attenuation.

The average price is 13.4p per pint. Which is 0.5p more expensive than the London average. Meaning the beers in this set are generally better value.

Most the beers look like classic Ordinary Bitters, with gravities in the mid 1030ºs. The exception being Vaux Samson, which has a Best Bitter strength.

Worst value is Greenall Whitley Festival. Which, given the very similar gravities, looks like it could be a keg version of their Bitter. At 15p, it's the most expensive beer, too. It's closely followed by Younger's Tartan.

Best value, in terms of gravity, is Vaux Sampson. Which is also the srtongest. Not sure what that says. The other Vaux beer is significantly worse value. Based on the name, my guess is that it's a Keg Bitter.

Cheapest beer, costing just 12p, was Jennings Castle. Which is 3p less than Festival, despite having a slightly higher ABV.

Still more of this to come. 

Northern and Scottish Bitter in 1972
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Greenall Whitley Festival 15 2.40 0.24 1036 1008.3 3.60 76.94%
Younger, Wm. Tartan 14 2.56 0.26 1035.9 1007.4 3.70 79.39%
Greenall Whitley Bitter 13 2.72 0.30 1035.4 1005.4 3.90 84.75%
Vaux Gold Tankard 14 2.81 0.26 1039.4 1011.6 3.60 70.56%
Theakston Best Bitter 13 2.83 0.28 1036.8 1009.1 3.60 75.27%
Jennings Castle 12 2.87 0.31 1034.4 1006 3.70 82.56%
Vaux Sampson 13 3.17 0.30 1041.2 1011.1 3.90 73.06%
Average   13.4 2.77 0.28 1037.0 1008.4 3.71 77.50%
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

London Stout 1910 -1920

To call WW I a monumental shock to UK brewing is no overstatement. Though, while it may have put the boot into Porter, Stout managed to struggle through the war, albeit at a greatly reduced strength.

Not that Stout was brewed without interruption throughout the war. Some brewers discontinued their Stout and simply sold their Porter as Stout. Once the most draconian limits on gravity were loosened, Stouts were on the menu again. Though obviously at a much lower strength than in 1914.

After the war, Porter in London went into terminal decline, limping through until WW II. While Stout continued to be brewed in large quantities. Though even it was becoming rarer on draught.

Over on the South bank of the river, Courage managed to brew their Stout right through the war. In contrast to Fullers, who dropped their Stout, but continued with their Porter. Courage did the exact opposite, discontinuing their Porter in early 1918 and not bringing it back until 1920.

Though if you look at Courage Stout in 1918, with its puny gravity of 1036.5º, it looks more like a Porter.

I’m surprised that Courage were able to brew a beer over 1060º as late as January 1918. Lucky devils who got to drink it. After surging over 1050º in late 1919, the gravity settled down in the mid-1040ºs right up until WW II. While many brewers opted to brew their Stout as an 8d per pint beer, Courage plumped for a 7d beer.

The hopping rate per quarter (336 lbs) of malt, other than a brief rise in 1915, was in decline throughout the war. Between 1914 1nd 1918 the fall was almost 25%. 

Courage Double Stout/Stout 1914 - 1920
Date Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
21st Oct 1914 Double Stout 1078.9 1033.2 6.05 57.89% 7.20 2.33
10th Mar 1915 Double Stout 1078.9 1033.2 6.05 57.89% 7.23 2.37
22nd Sep 1915 Double Stout 1075.9 1032.1 5.79 57.66% 8.09 2.62
1st Dec 1915 Double Stout 1075.9 1025.5 6.67 66.42% 7.13 2.28
10th May 1916 Double Stout 1068.7 1024.9 5.79 63.71% 7.26 2.24
3rd Jan 1917 Double Stout 1071.7 1028.8 5.68 59.85% 6.11 2.16
24th Oct 1917 Double Stout 1063.7 1023.3 5.35 63.48% 5.98 1.87
16th Jan 1918 Double Stout 1063.7 1021.1 5.64 66.96% 5.85 1.82
2nd May 1918 Stout 1035.5 1008.0 3.63 77.34% 5.52 1.00
2nd Jul 1919 Stout 1048.5 1011.1 4.95 77.14% 5.34 1.22
1st Oct 1919 Stout 1053.7 1014.7 5.17 72.68% 5.95 1.50
21st Jan 1920 Stout 1043.8 1013.3 4.03 69.62% 5.51 1.28
Courage brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/08/247, ACC/2305/08/248, ACC/2305/08/249, ACC/2305/08/250 and ACC/2305/08/251.

This is an excerpt from my new book on London Stout. Get your copy now!

Tuesday 25 July 2023

What was on sale in a 1970s pub?

We've had a look at some of the draught and bottled beers available in the 1970s. But it didn't include every type of beer. For example, there were no Stouts. The aim here is to take a look at what was on sale in a pub. And through what better means than a contemporary price list.

Whilst looking for something completely different, I tripped over a series of images for pub price lists from the 1970s. The first thing that struck me was how short some of them were. A couple of draught beers and half a dozen bottled ones. A far narrower offering than in pubs today.

The price list we're looking at today is from John Smith. It doesn't say that on it, but it's pretty obvious from the beers. One word of caution. This looks like a generic list, rather than from a specific pub. Not every pub would have sold the full selection of draught beers in the list. Many would have had just a Bitter, Mild, Lager and a Keg Bitter.

This is before John Smith discontinued cask beer and I assume that's what the "draught beers" are. Or possibly bright or tank beer. Light and XXX look like Pale and Dark Mild, respectively. The other two beers being Bitter and Best Bitter.

The presence of draught Guinness also has be thinking this is a generic list. While every single pub sold bottled Guinness, the draught version was much rarer. I can't remember seeing it on the bar vert often. None of the Leeds pubs I regularly drank in stocked it. Not even the Irish pubs.

Domino has got me scratching my head. Given the price, the first thing that comes to mind is Keg Mild. Golden I know was a Keg Bitter. A reasonably strong one at 1039º.

Moving on to the bottled beers, I was surprised to see the Pale Ale for the Belgian market listed. I didn't realise it was ever sold in the UK. It was a reasonably strong beer of 5.5% ABV.

You may be asking yourself "Why are there both draught and bottled versions of Magnet and Harp?" Probably because this is a generic list. I'm guessing that pubs sold either one or the other of them. This is a point when draught Lager was by no means universal.

Double Brown is an interesting one. It's of the rare type of stronger Brown Ales. While Con Nut looks like the more common watery version of the style. Magnet Old Ale was, as you might expect, a strong dark beer. That's why it's in nips. Milk Maid Stout? Well, that's what my Mum drank. As the name implies, it was a Milk Stout.

Note how short the list of other drinks is. A few basic spirits along with port, sherry and vermouth. But look at the price differential between spirits and draught beer. The prices are for one sixth of a gill (quarter pint). Or about 2.4 cl. A double whisky was more triple the price of a pint of Mild, and contained a similar amount of alcohol. 

Public bar price list
Draught Beers
  Pint Half Pint  
Light 10p 5p  
XXX 10p 5p  
Bitter 11.5p 6p  
Magnet 12.5p 6.5p  
Keg Beers
  Pint Half Pint  
Domino 11.5p 6p  
Golden 14p 7p  
Guinness 16p 8p  
Harp 16.5p 8.5p  
Bottled Beers
  Large Small Nip
Belgium Export - 10p -
Magnet Pale Ale 15p 8.5p -
Milk Maid Stout 14p 7.5p -
Double Brown 14p 8p -
Magnet Old Ale - - 8.5p
Lght Ale 13p 7p -
Cob Nut 13p 7p -
Guinness 17.5p 9.5p -
Harp Lager - 11p -
Carlsberg - 11p -
Spirits and Wines
  Per Measure    
Whisky 16p    
Gin 16p    
Rum 16p    
Vodka 16p    
Brandy 19p    
Port 12p    
Sherry 12p    
Cream Sherry 13.5p    
Vermouths 12.5p    

Monday 24 July 2023


 Yes, I've finally finished my "quick" book. It's only taken me seven months.

What is it? A history of London Stout, from 1700 to the 1970s. There are lots and lots of tables, as you would expect in a book of mine. Along with 277 home brew recipes. Surely enough for even the most avid Stout fan.

Get your copy now!

Whitbread Double Stout 1880 - 1914

I've just finished my book on London Stout. This was the last section I wrote. I just couldn't resist putting in one last table.

The last couple of decades of the 19th century were happy times for brewers, as can be seen in the increase in Whitbread’s output, which more than trebled between 1880 and 1910.

What were the trends in grists in this period? Well, let’s take a look at what was happening at Whitbread again.

The obvious trend is a decline in the content of pale and brown malt and an increase in that of sugar and black malt. Then there’s the sudden appearance of quite a considerable quantity of amber malt in 1895. I wonder why that was?

Caution should be taken with the colour and bitterness numbers as they have been calculated with brewing software. Though I think that there was a clear decline in the bitterness, even allowing for possible errors in the calculations.

It’s not so clear with the colour. Especially as the 1900 colour was in large part dependent on a sugar I’m not 100% sure about. Perhaps getting a touch darker. 

Whitbread Double Stout 1880 - 1914
  OG IBU SRM pale malt brown malt black malt amber malt sugar
1880 1080.3 103 35 67.19% 19.20% 3.84%   9.77%
1885 1081.4 88 36 64.44% 22.22% 4.44%   8.89%
1890 1083.1 89 34 68.18% 20.20% 3.54%   8.08%
1895 1085.3 74 37 54.05% 15.32% 4.20% 18.02% 8.40%
1900 1086.7 69 45 51.25% 13.75% 5.00% 20.00% 10.00%
1905 1086 71 39 52.27% 12.73% 5.00% 17.73% 12.27%
1910 1080.4 60 39 51.91% 12.84% 5.74% 16.94% 12.57%
1914 1079.7 61 39 51.44% 13.00% 5.42% 16.79% 13.36%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/09/075, LMA/4453/D/09/080, LMA/4453/D/09/084, LMA/4453/D/09/090, LMA/4453/D/09/094, LMA/4453/D/09/099 and LMA/4453/D/09/104.