Sunday, 19 April 2015

The 1950’s Inn

The pub as draw for foreign tourists is nothing new. Back in 1950 it was already a theme.

Which may seem odd. Why was Britain so keen on attracting tourists? Because the economy was buggered. And Britain needed hard currency to buy imports. The need to acquire dollars is a recurring theme in the 1950 Brewing Trade Review.

The Inn
Speaking to delegates at the annual meeting of the Home and Southern Counties District of the National Trade Defence Association in London on 12th December, Mr. A. G. Bottomley, M.P., Secretary for Overseas Trade, described the nation's inns as "centres of human fellowship,' and said that the characteristics of our inns were being extensively advertised overseas. "They are among the best things we have to offer in our drive to attract tourists, and thus earn dollars," he continued. "In doing my job, therefore, I shall be doing everything possible to sell your goods, because I believe that you who have charge of our inns can and do make a contribution to the solution of the great problems the nation is facing."
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

The Trade Defence Association had been set up before WW I to counteract the pressure on the pub trade by temperance groups. I wonder when it finally folded? By this point teetotallers were no longer the enemy. Their campaign had pretty much fizzled out in the war years.

Tourism, with the pub at it centre, was a crucial way of accumulating much needed foreign currency. It all sounds very 1970’s to me.

Living up to the advertising. That’s a common problem:

“It is, of course, perfectly true that the British inn constitutes one of the greatest attractions of this country to the foreign tourist, and the Travel Association has not been slow to present this particular selling feature to the prospective visitor from overseas, in its widespread advertising campaign, examples of which we have published in these pages. It is equally true that the industry, wholesale as well as retail, is fully alive to the service which it can render, and is rendering, to the national interest in this direction in its efforts to see that the inn and the tavern really do live up to the advertisements of them. But the keying up of the service in the inn for the especial benefit of the foreign tourist is not the only direction in which the industry is serving the national interest. Its service to the home public is just as important. Fortunately, emphasis on the one does not imply any need to sacrifice the other. Bather the reverse — the accent on good service which arises from the urge to attract the overseas visitor is all to the good in bringing up the general level of service to the British tourist in his own land, and to the regular customer in his local pub.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

The level of service in the British hospitality industry is something else that keeps poppoing up across the years. The clear implication is that it’s never been up to scratch.

“This emphasis on a high level of service to the public really involves two elements, the first the personal one which must always depend mainly upon the efforts of the licensee and his staff, and the other the material one of improvement of the building itself and its equipment which falls mainly within the sphere of the wholesale side of the trade. The two are largely interdependent. No amount of structural improvement will achieve the desired result unless the human service offered is on the required level, and conversely a licensee who really does make a determined effort to see that his staff offer a cheerful and efficient service is sadly hampered if the facilities at his disposal are not as good as they should be.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

A lot of pubs had become run down over the war years, when no building materials were available to maintain them.

But staff were also a problem because of complicated employment rules introduced during the war:

“On the licensee's side, he is having to contend with very real problems in the matter of staffing. The filling of vacancies which inevitably occur is by no means easy, and the facilities which are now being promoted all over the country to train entrants to the trade are a vital necessity if this problem is to be removed. Even so, it is clearly going to be a considerable time before it is entirely removed. Then there are the difficulties arising out of the Catering Wages Orders, particularly in the case of the true inn which, having a number of bedrooms for letting, comes within the complicated provisions of the Hotels Wages Order. The industry will welcome the announcement by the Minister of Labour that an inquiry is to be made into the ramifications of these Orders, to see whether the enormous difficulties which they entail cannot be removed. “
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

Though it sounds like some improvement in the physical condition of pubs was happening:

“On the side of public house improvement, it is disheartening to have to reflect that except in a comparatively few cases the real work of rebuilding and modernising is still held back by the lack of building labour and materials which keeps in being the inhibitions of wartime though the war has receded four years and more into the past. On the other hand, good progress is undoubtedly being made in catching up on the arrears of wartime maintenance repairs ; and the very fact that many licensed houses are now presenting a bright, newly decorated appearance is all to the good.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

Next time we’ll take a look at one of those adverts trying to tempt foreigners to Britain with pubs.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

British-brewed bottled Lager in the 1950's

Yes, I’m still dodging draught Mild. Look, I’ve still another four posts to bash out so I’ve my trip to the US covered. I haven’t the time to take on anything too complicated.

And you know me and my relationship with British Lager. Never drink the stuff, but keep writing about it. This is a fascinating period for Lager in Britain. When it starts breaking into the mainstream. That’s very evident from a glance at the brewers in the table.

Some are the pre-war pioneers, who went out on a limb to build specialist Lager plant as a time when demand was very limited. I’m thinking here of Tennent, Barclay Perkins and Red Tower. Graham’s probably belongs in that list, too, as I’m pretty sure that was being made at the Alloa Brewery at this point.

Then you’ve got Charrington and Flowers, large regional breweries clearly keen to get in on the Lager act with their own branded products. I’m not so sure either had the equipment to properly bottom ferment at this point.

Carling Black Label is an example of another trend, an emerging national group bringing in a foreign brand. Despite billing itself as Canadian Lager, the example in the table was brewed in Sheffield.

Once again, the examples neatly divide themselves into two groups: 1030º - 1037º and 1040º - 1050º. Interestingly, the whole group comes out with an average OG about identical with the average for all beer consumed in the UK: 1037º.

British-brewed bottled Lager in the 1950's
Date Brewer Beer Price Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1957 Graham's Golden Lager Pilsner Lager 0.04 1030.4 1007.3 3.00 75.99% 11
1956 Red Tower Pilsner Lager 32 0.03 1031.2 1005.9 3.29 81.09% 10
1954 Steel Coulson Lager Beer 30 0.04 1032 1004.3 3.60 86.56% 11
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 30 0.04 1033.6 1006.3 3.55 81.25% 13
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 42 0.02 1033.8 1010.9 2.96 67.75% 13
1958 McEwan & Younger MY Export Lager 50 0.05 1034.3 1010.5 2.97 69.39% 9
1957 Barclay Perkins Pilsner Lager 36 0.02 1034.3 1006.1 3.67 82.22% 6.5
1957 Barclay Perkins Pilsner Lager 0.04 1035 1006.3 3.73 82.00% 9
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 0.04 1035.2 1007.3 3.62 79.26% 13
1957 Charrington Pilsner Lager 34 0.05 1035.5 1006.2 3.81 82.54% 4.5
1957 Graham's Pilsener Lager 40 0.04 1035.6 1007.2 3.69 79.78% 9
1957 Charrington Pilsner Lager 42 0.04 1036 1005.8 3.93 83.89% 5
1955 Tennent Lager 30 0.04 1036.1 1007.7 3.69 78.67% 9
1959 Carling Black Label 0.04 1036.5 1004.4 4.18 87.95% 80
1956 Flowers Lager 36 0.04 1040.4 1014 3.41 65.35% 9
1957 Tennent Lager Beer 66.7 0.04 1040.6 1008.6 4.16 78.82% 11
1957 Flowers  Lager 36 0.04 1045 1017.9 3.50 60.22% 9
1956 Flowers Lager 42 0.04 1045.3 1014 4.05 69.09% 9
1957 Flowers Flowers Lager 0.04 1050 1017.5 4.20 65.00% 14
Average 36.7 0.04 1036.9 1008.9 3.6 76.67% 13.4
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

It’s hard to say much about attenuation, other than that the ones specifically called Pilsner tend to be more highly attenuated.

In terms of value for money, Lager was very poor. The average OG for this set is about the same as Ordinary Bitter, 1037. But that averaged just 16.8d per pint, as opposed to 36.7d per pint for Lager. Even taking into account the difference in price between bottled and draught beer, Lager was still way more expensive than Bitter.

The very low level of acidity is a dead giveaway that these beers were pasteurised. And dead as a door nail in the bottle. Um, yummy boiled sweets flavour.

Imported Lager next, perhaps.

Friday, 17 April 2015

War and austerity

The years immediately after WW II were tough ones in Britain. The country was bust and the supply situation was even worse than in the war years.

I’ve been getting a good impression of the crap brewers had to deal with in the late 1940’s. As I’ve finally got around to looking at some of the post-war Brewing Trade Review volumes I bought in an IBD auction.

I’m quoting an article about the “The Report of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise for the year ended 31st March, 1949”. It’s basically a load of statistics. Just my sort of thing. But the text says a lot about the problems brewers faced just after the war.

As so often, the tax on beer was increasing:

“Beer.—The basic Excise duty on beer before April, 1948, was £7 19s. 9d. per barrel plus 5s. 11d. per degree. The Budget raised the duty to £8 18s. 10d. per barrel up to a gravity of 1027 degrees, plus a surtax of 6s. 7.5d. per degree above that strength. Corresponding changes were made in the Customs duties on imported beer. The increase in duty was approximately equivalent to 1d. per pint on beer of average strength.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

That price increase put up Mild from 11d to 12d per pint. Quite a large percentage rise.

Raw materials were no easier to get hold of in peacetime:

“The shortage of cereals and other brewing materials made it necessary to continue during 1947-48 the control imposed by the Ministry of Food on 1st May, 1946. Up to 31st December, 1947, the permitted rate of output of each brewer was equivalent in terms of standard barrels to 85% of production in the year ended 31st March, 1946. In order to save sugar the permitted rate of output was further reduced to 82% on 1st January, 1948. Owing to an uneven demand for beer during the summer months a redistribution of production was necessary and this was achieved by reducing from 1st January, 1949, the permitted level of production of each brewery to 78% of its standard barellage in the corresponding period of 1945-46 and arranging centrally for the balance of 4% to be allocated to brewers who could not meet their demand within 78%.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

Note that they were restricting beer output to a percentage of the 1945 figure. Which itself would have been fixed as a percentage of production in the last peacetime year. It must have been depressing for brewers to have their output still limited years after war’s end.

Unsurprisingly, there was a considerable fall in the amount of beer drunk:

“As a result of all these factors the quantity of home-produced beer retained for consumption in the United Kingdom in 1948-49 amounted to 27.05 million bulk barrels compared with 30.01 million barrels in 1947-48, the average strength being about the same as in the previous year. The quantity and strength of imported beer changed very little between the two years; imports from Continental countries continued during 1948-49 and substantial supplies continued to come from Eire.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

The accompanying tables tell us something about the strength of the beer imported and exported. Because they list both bulk and standard barrels. Meaning it’s simple to work out the average gravity.

First imported beer:

Imported Beer
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities retained for Consumption Net Receipts
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels £ average OG
1939 838,269 793,516 3,210,822 1052.1
1940 822,678 780,129 3,593,330 1052.2
1941 789,787 726,614 5,603,976 1050.6
1942 1,047,374 877,840 7,307,597 1046.1
1943 837,788 670,521 8,017,919 1044.0
1944 572,389 436,179 6,430,268 1041.9
1945 765,602 615,361 8,854,345 1044.2
1946 929,028 749,795 10,797,531 1044.4
1947 860,161 650,365 9,369,294 1041.6
1948 863,855 651,275 9,943,145 1041.5
1949 875,548 690,090 12,639,747 1043.3
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

The vast majority of that was Guinness from Ireland, especially during the war years. Post-war, increasing amounts of Lager from the Continent came into Britain.

Now exports:

Home-made Beer : Exports
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels average OG
1939 276,757 266,634 1053.0
1940 303,488 290,093 1052.6
1941 244,436 215,045 1048.4
1942 205,009 172,860 1046.4
1943 71,220 59,608 1046.0
1944 109,564 87,947 1044.1
1945 77,862 62,769 1044.3
1946 158,500 124,190 1043.1
1947 168,121 133,800 1043.8
1948 126,580 103,365 1044.9
1949 222,047 195,580 1048.4
* Excludes beer deposited or consigned under military control for H.M. Forces overseas.
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

Note that the average OG of exports and imports were quite similar at the outbreak of the war, but by 1949 the OG of exports was 5 points higher. Both were still higher than the OG of beer brewed and consumed in the UK, which was 1041º in 1939 and 1033º in 1949.

Some more tables next, I think.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Old Ale in the 1950’s

The triumph of sloth means we will indeed be looking at Old Ale this time. You’re lucky I can be arsed at all.

It’s Easter weekend but I’m, chained to my keyboard, trying to pump out enough posts to cover for next week when I’m in the US. This week, when you’re reading this. That’s what I get for insisting on having a new post every day.

This is getting repetitive, but it’s true. Old Ale is yet another beer designation which is used in an arbitrary way. Stronger ones could easily be called Barley Wine. Weaker ones could be just Strong Ale. There’s no way I can think to define them other than what the brewer called them.

I realise that there are many who prefer the world of beer styles to be neater. But it isn’t. Especially not in the UK, where inconsistencies go back 150 years or more.

At one time I wouldn’t have been so reticent. I’d have said pale colour = Barley Wine or Strong Ale, dark colour = Old Ale. I realised a while ago that wasn’t really true. Though Old Ale is mostly dark, there are also dark Barley Wines. In fact in the 1950’s, as we’ve already seen, most Barley Wines were dark.

And, just to make everything complicated, there’s one beer clearly labelled “Old Ale” that’s pale, M & B Amba Pale Old Ale. It’s a bit awkward with the colour because Whitbread changed system. The older ones are in Lovibond, red and brown cells. The later ones are EBC. I’ve done a sort of rough conversion to EBC and I get an average colour of 82.5 EBC. Which is dark brown. The Gale’s and JW Green examples are significantly paler than the others.

Old Ale in the 1950's
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1959 Websters Old Tom 26 0.05 1045.1 1012.5 4.23 72.28% 150
1958 Mitchell & Butler Amba Pale Old Ale 45 0.04 1056.3 1012.4 5.49 77.98% 18
1955 ????? Stingo 29 0.04 1058.1 1022.2 4.64 61.79% 90
1953 Duttons O.B.J. Old English Ale 32 0.07 1060.9 1013.7 6.15 77.50% 11+40
1953 McMullen Old Time Ale 45 0.06 1062.1 1015.1 6.12 75.68% 16+40
1953 Greene King Suffolk Ale 36 0.05 1062.8 1020.7 5.46 67.04% 4+40
1953 G?????? Stingo 45 0.07 1065.8 1017 6.35 74.16% 20+40
1953 Courage Double Courage 45 0.06 1068.4 1016.4 6.78 76.02% 19+40
1953 John Smith Magnet Old Ale 39 0.07 1068.5 1024.5 5.70 64.23% 11+40
1953 John Smith Magnet Old Ale 42 0.06 1072.5 1022.9 6.44 68.41% 11+40
1953 JW Green Dragon's Blood Old English Ale 48 0.06 1073.4 1024.5 6.34 66.62% 4+40
1953 JW Green Dragon's Blood 45 0.05 1073.6 1028.1 5.88 61.82% 56
1953 Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs Old John 54 0.06 1075.2 1025.3 6.47 66.36% 10+40
1953 Bentley Old Timothy 45 0.07 1075.6 1014.7 7.98 80.56% 15+40
1953 Steward & Patteson Old Ale 48 0.06 1080.3 1011 9.13 86.30% 10+40
1953 Bullard Old Ale 48 0.06 1080.5 1026.2 7.06 67.45% 7+40
1959 George Gale Prize Old Ale 0.07 1089.3 1006.9 10.95 92.27% 56
Average 42.0 0.06 1068.7 1018.5 6.54 72.73%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

In terms of strength, diverse is all I can say. Gravities range from 1045º to 1090º and the ABV 4.25% to 11%. Though the vast majority are over 1060º, which was pretty strong for the day.

My guess is that many recipes were just beefed up versions of the brewery’s Dark Mild. That’s certainly what Fullers did. Their Old Harry was parti-gyled (OG 1052º) with Hock (OG 1032º). I’m sure they weren’t the only ones. Which reminds me. I really should put together some recipes to go with this series.

By this time Old Ale didn’t really mean an aged beer. I doubt many of this set were aged. Though there’s one obvious exception: Prize Old Ale. With attenuation of over 90%, looks to me like Brettanomyces had been time for a leisurely meal.  That was possibly also the case with Steward & Patteson’s.

That’s me done for now. I think I might go for Brown Ale next time. Or at least one sort of Brown Ale.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1954 Lees Golden Brew

Yes, the 1950's are still alive and kicking. At least here.

I hope you're enjoying these solo recipes. I know Kristen throws in more brewing notes. But these are better than nothing. Which is what the alternative is.

I must admit that I've an ulterior motive in starting this series of 1950's recipes. Two ulterior motives, really. Not sure I'm ready to tell you them both yet. That's just the secretive sort of twat I am. I've started to accumulate so much stuff from the 1950's that I feel a book coming along. It seems ages since my last.

Not totally worked out all the details yet. I'll probably cover 1945 to 1960. It's a fairly interesting period. It's when the beers I drank as a young man coalesced into the form I recognise. The working title is "Victory!". Though that may change.

Right, on with Golden Brew. It ties in quite nicely with some of the stuff I've written about the Strong beers of the 1950's. It seems to have appeared at the classic time for post-war strong beers: the 1953 Coronation. The colour, too, as it belongs to the new breed of pale Strong Ales or Barley Wines. Though just checking back on Gold Label, that only seems to have become pale in 1955.

This is a dead, dead simple recipe. Pale malt and sugar and that's it. This is going to be quick. The sugars are a combination of invert and proprietary sugars. I've simplified it down to No. 2 invert. Once again, I've no idea of the hop varieties. Anything English you fancy, really.

Er, that's it.

Over to Ronald . . . .

1954 Lees Golden Brew
pale malt 13.25 lb 82.81%
No. 2 invert 2.75 lb 17.19%
Northern Brewer 90 min 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.00 oz
OG 1078
FG 1020
ABV 7.67
Apparent attenuation 74.36%
IBU 41
SRM 11
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III

Wyeast have a weird idea of British geography. London ale III is Boddington's yeast. By no stretch of the imagination in the London area.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Light Ale in the 1950’s

I seem to have stumbled into a series on the 1950’s. Not quite sure how that happened. Now what could I call the book? I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner with one-word titles. What about “Victory!”? Then I can use a Barclay Perkins Victory Stout label on the cover.

I’m a bit surprised at how few examples I have. Light Ale was incredibly popular in the 1950’s, odd as that may now seem. The reason was the dubious quality of much draught beer. Bottled beer was more reliable, but also more expensive. Mixing bottled Light Ale with draught Bitter was a compromise many drinker hit upon.

Boys Bitter, as I called it, averaged out slightly stronger than these Light Ales, but averaged just over 16d per pint – more than 6d per pint less than the Light Ale average. You can see why so many opted to mix rather than drink it straight.

In my East London squatting days I used to drink a rather posher version of Light and Bitter: a half pint of Draught Bass topped up with a bottle of White Shield. I know, I’m a total pisshead.

I’ve one explanation for the paucity of examples. Not that many beers actually had that in their names. And, as there’s no real way of splitting apart a low-gravity bottled Pale Ale and a Light Ale, many beers that were probably considered as Light Ales I’ll have lumped with the Pale Ales.

Of course, in Scotland light Ale meant something completely different, Counter-intuitively, it was a dark beer, the Scottish equivalent of Mild, even though it was parti-gyled with Bitter. And, come to think of it, pre-WW II Whitbread had a beer called Light Ale that was a low-gravity Dark Mild. See how tricky the world of beer classification is?

Light Ale in the 1950's
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1955 Ballingall & Son Angus Ale 22 0.04 1028.1 1008 2.60 71.53% 55
1959 Flowers Light Ale 20 0.04 1029.6 1003.6 3.25 87.84% 14
1956 Flowers Light Ale 20 0.04 1030.1 1005.3 3.22 82.39% 17
1959 Devenish Light Ale 18 0.02 1030.6 1010.7 2.49 65.03% 23
1955 Tennant Bros. Light Dinner Ale 18 0.04 1030.8 1006.9 3.10 77.60% 23
1953 Norman & Pring Light Ale 18 0.05 1031 1011 2.58 64.52% 17
1956 Dunmow Family Ale 20 0.04 1031.6 1010.9 2.68 65.51% 25
1956 Rayments Pelham Ale 19 0.04 1031.7 1006.9 3.22 78.23% 23
1959 Bentleys Eshald Ale 24 0.04 1031.8 1004.4 3.43 86.16% 60
1953 Duttons Green Label Light Ale 18 0.06 1032 1006.8 3.27 78.75% 24
1953 Flowers Shakespeare Ale 54 0.06 1032 1006.8 3.27 78.75% 5 + 40
1953 Young & Son Light Victory Ale 17 0.05 1032.1 1007.6 3.18 76.32% 30.5
1956 Mitchell & Butler Cape Ale 30 0.04 1032.7 1008.5 3.14 74.01% 31
1959 George's Georges Light Ale 24 0.02 1033 1008.7 3.15 73.64% 18
1958 Ushers Light Ale 30 0.04 1033.3 1007.2 3.26 78.38% 16
1953 Mitchell & Butler Family Ale 15.5 0.05 1033.4 1007.3 3.39 78.14% 33
1954 Mitchell & Butler Cape Ale 18 0.05 1033.5 1007.7 3.35 77.01% 28
1953 Mitchell & Butler Cape Ale 17 0.06 1033.8 1007.3 3.44 78.40% 33
1959 W. Butler Light Ale 24 0.02 1034.7 1009.6 3.14 72.33% 19
1954 Tetley Family Ale 24 0.04 1035.1 1007.2 3.62 79.49% 57
1957 Charrington Export Light Ale 30 0.05 1035.4 1008.3 3.52 76.55% 18
1955 Worthington Dinner Ale 18 0.04 1036.1 1007.8 3.68 78.39% 20
1959 Camerons Ebor Light Ale 24 0.04 1036.8 1011.9 3.11 67.66% 24
Average 22.7 0.04 1032.6 1007.8 3.18 75.94% 27.7
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Of course, few breweries brewed something specifically as a Light Ale. Mostly it was just the bottled version of their weakest Bitter. Or maybe a parti-gyle with Bitters. Though I know Courage Light Ale – one of a handful of survivors of the style – was brewed specifically. Because I’ve records from Beasley just before they closed in the early 1960’s and they seem to have spent much of their final days brewing it for their owners.

Light Ale as a term seems to be a abbreviation of an earlier term, Light Dinner Ale, which was much used in the first half of the 20th century. Along with lots of similar terms such as Luncheon Ale, Family Ale, Dinner Ale and many more I can’t quite remember at the moment.

What of the beers in the table? The one common feature is a very low gravity.  Colour and attenuation are all over the shop. The combination of low gravity and poor attenuation in some cases making for pretty much non-intoxicating beer. Personally, I consider anything below 3% ABV as shandy.

That’s it for now. Old Ale next, I think. Not too many of those.