Monday, 16 June 2008

Courage Mild, PA and Burton 1939 - 1966

Time to continue with another of the large, not-originally-Porter breweries of London. Courage, in this case. Though it hasn't brewed for a couple of decades the Courage brewery, well most of it, is still standing. It's on the south bank of the Thames right next to Tower Bridge.

You probably asking yourself "Why does he keep publishing this stuff? Who's interested?" If just one person finds this useful or intriguing, then it's worth it. That's what I reckon. If I don't publish it, who will?

Courage is a good example because, in addition to Bitter and Mild, I have a few analyses of Burton.


Courage PA was a pretty decent strength - over 1050 - at the start of WW II. Though the gravity was whittled away a bit during hostilities, it was still a very respectable 1044 in 1945. One phenomenon is particularly apparent with Courage - the big gap in gravity between Bitter and Mild in the 1940's. At the beginning of the decade Courage Bitter was 1051.4 and Mild just 1033.5. That's a gap of around 18 points. Put another way, the gravity of Bitter was 54% higher than Mild. By 1945 the gap had closed a little, but not much. Bitter's gravity then was still 47% higher.

But in the 1950's that differential was much smaller. In 1950 Mild was 1032.4 and Bitter 1035.1. That's much more like the relationship I remember from the 1970's and 1980's. What has happened? Whereas in WW I Mild bore the brunt of gravity reductions, in WW II and the postwar austerity years it was the turn of Bitter. Though, to be honest, with a gravity already in the low 1030's, there was little room for a further large reduction in Mild gravities.

In 1939 Mild had a gravity of around 1036. Postwar it was around 1033. Not much change there. In fact, not much change right up until the present. It's a different story with Bitter. Before the war that had a gravity of 1048-1050. By the 1950's it was 1036-1038, a reduction of around 25%.

For the sake of completeness, here's an accompanying table of the price per pint in a public bar over the same period:


The difference in price remained pretty steady at 3d to 4d per pint. The cost of Mild nearly tripled (6d to 15d) while Bitter merely doubled in price (9d to 18d).

It's interesting to note that Burton seemed to dodge the trend and retained a relatively high gravity into the 1950's. This was reflected in the price which was 2d to 4d more per pint than Bitter.

So which beer was best value for money? Well, it varied. The following table shows how many gravity points you got for an old penny:


For most of the war, Bitter was better value. Postwar, Mild was better. Fascinating, isn't it?

The source of all information is, again, the Whitbread Gravity Book.

9 comments:

Zythophile said...

The bitter/PA, of course, was probably brewed at the Courage brewery in Alton, Hampshire (where Watney's also had a pale ale brewery, and where Coors still has one, making lager) rather than at the brewery by Tower Bridge. I still have bottles of Imperial Russian Stout brewed at the Tower Bridge brewery, where it was made in a parti-gyle with Velvet Stout ...

Ron Pattinson said...

I'm not sure. There was one sample that was identified as Alton which I left out.

Zythophile said...

Ach! How different was it from the rest? (And assuming that Whitbread was taking the samples from Courage pubs, where it seems unlikely the company was flagging the beers as coming from different breweries, I wonder how they knew that one was Alton, unless they asked the landlord, of course ...)

Ron Pattinson said...

The beer is identified as "Alton PA". For the others it mostly just says PA. The Alton beer had an 0f 1037.7, pretty much the same as the others.

Tom Fryer said...

Any reason you can think of for the short-lived but significant (about 7 points) increase in mild gravity in 1940? Probably trivial, but it caught my eye.

Ron Pattinson said...

tom, not sure what that means. Mann's Mild makes a similar sudden jump. In the Truman Gravity Book there's a Taylor Walker Mild in 1940 that was 1042. There must be a reason.

Tom Fryer said...

Intriguing. A short-lived wartime tax break seems unlikely, and in any case it wouldn't explain why the pale ale wasn't affected. Maybe mild ale malt (or another darker malt used in mild but not pale ale) briefly became cheaper or more readily available for some reason.

Tom Fryer said...

Just noticed a little jump in your Charrington's figures too, in June 1940.

Ron Pattinson said...

tom, I need to look into this. If it was just one, I would think mistake. But there are a few.