Sunday 10 December 2023

Light Ale in the 1970s

Time to look at some Light Ales in more detail. That most unfashionable of styles.

There’s not a great deal of variation in the gravities: only just over 3º. Which isn’t a great surprise in beers of such a low gravity. Though there’s a way larger spread in ABV, due to hugely differing degrees of attenuation: from 66% to 91%.

This leaves alcohol levels varying from 2.6% ABV to 3.9%. Which, considering the beers were a similar price, means some were way better value than others. With the weakest being barely intoxicating.

A lacking of consistency is also evident in the hopping rates. The highest, 7.5 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) in the Adnams example, is Almost double that of Eldridge Pope’s beer. Though that isn’t totally reflected in the IBU level.

Speaking of which, the values in the table are calculated with brewing software and so should not be taken as gospel, more a general indication. As there are too many unknown variables in some brews, such as the variety and age of the hops.

Similar caution should be taken of the colours, most of which, again, are calculated via brewing software. Only the Boddington and Truman values were taken from the brewing record. 

Light Ale 1968 - 1984
Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl colour IBU
1977 Adnams LBA 1032.0 1011.0 2.78 65.63% 7.56 0.81 22 24
1971 Boddington Bod 1032.5 1003.0 3.90 90.77% 5.71 0.90 13 28
1984 Eldridge Pope BAK 1032.7 1005.0 3.66 84.75% 4.00 0.54 24 25
1968 Fullers LA 1032.2 1010.2 2.90 68.13% 6.08 0.86 22 30
1972 Shepherd Neame LA 1029.4 1009.5 2.63 67.65% 5.19 0.66 35 16
1969 Truman LK 1030.7 1004.7 3.44 84.68% 5.32 0.63 21 17
  Average   1031.6 1007.2 3.22 76.93% 5.64 0.73 22.8 23.3
Adnams brewing record held at the brewery.
Boddington brewing record held at Manchester Central Library, document number M693/405/134.
Eldridge Pope brewing record.
Fullers brewing record held at the brewery.
Shepherrd Neame brewing book held at the brewery, document number 1971 H-5O5.
Truman brewing record held by Derek Prentice.


Richard said...

Some of these brews could become popular again with the new UK tax break at 3.6%

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that label says minimum 9 ounces, which I assume means if it was over that volume it wouldn't be much more.

I can see why high ABV beers would be sold in small bottles, but it's hard for me to see why light ale would be.

John said...

Anonymous - sometimes people used to have a bottle of light ale with a half of cask, if it was a bit ropey and needed livening up.

Bribie G said...

Anon, a lot of light ale was sold for "Light and Bitter" where a wee bottle of light would be poured into a half pint of draught bitter but in a pint glass.

Considering the frankly nasty nature of a lot of post war UK ordinary cask bitters at the time this was a way of livening up a bland flat beer.

In the 70s small bottles of Guinness were popular for the same reason to produce the "black and tan" which was one of my own favourites when faced in a pub with a grim weak cask or keg ale and no best bitter available.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanations, that's something that wouldn't have occurred to me.

Anonymous said...

One of the fellas in my local used to do something similar with the local Perry’s beer in Rathdowney when he was there in the late 1950’s to mid 1960’s.