It's often assumed that Pale Ale, or Bitter as it was known to drinkers, quickly rose to prominence in the early and mid 19th century, ousting Porter as the favorite of the British public. But hang on - what about Mild? Where does that fit into this story?
There was a big change in tastes around the middle of the 1800's. But it was Mild Ale that was the new object of drinkers' affections. Pale Ale remained an expensive niche product until the introduction of cheaper Bitters towards the end of the century. Only in the 1900's did Bitter really become a drink of the masses.
Let's look at Whitbread's Ale output in the years 1881 to 1933.
In 1881, the three Mild Ales, X, XL and XX accounted for over 90% of the Ales Whitbread brewed. PA was a measly 5%. By 1891, with the help of the lower-quality 2PA and FA, Bitter had doubled its share to 10%. In 1901 the tide was definitely turning in Bitter's favour - it was up to 30%. By 1910 Bitter was snapping at the heels of Mild, trailing by just 11 points. Between the wars, Bitter takes the lead.
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