Thursday, 23 August 2012

Graham's Golden Lager / Skol 1933 - 1994

I never dreamt when I first got interested in beer seriously in the 1970's that one day I'd be writing about Skol. Stuff I wouldn't have baited a slug trap with.

The beer had a far more interesting history than I could have imagined. And one that winds in and out of a few obsessions of mine.

Where does the story begin? At the end of the 19th century in Burton, of all places. Allsopp, deciding that Lager was going to be the next big thing, bought a state of the art Lager brewery from the USA. It opened in 1899, just as Allsopp was starting to get into serious financial difficulties. They did have a degree of success with their Lager, especially in export markets, but their Pale Ale trade collapsed. Between 1900 and 1910 Allsopp's sales fell by 40%. By 1911 a receiver had been appointed to run the business.

In 1912, John Calder of Calder's Brewery in Alloa was brought in to run Allsopp. This forged a link between Allsopp and Alloa that was to play a key role in the later formation of Allied Breweries. It also brought Lager brewing to Alloa, for in 1921 Allsopp's Lager plant, which had lain idle in Burton, was moved to Arrol's Brewery, where John Calder was also a director. In 1927 a new beer was brewed in Arrol's Lager brewery - Graham's Golden Lager.

It was a big success. As Arrol's were brewing all their Lagers, it's no surprise that Allsopp's took a controlling interest in the company in 1930, even before their 1934 merger with Ind Coope. Arrol's was completely bought out in 1951 and the brewery converted to a Lager-only plant.

In 1959, Graham's Golden Lager was rebranded ads Skol, though for a while it had the ungainly name of Graham's Skol Lager. It became the main Lager of Ind Coope and later the whole Allied Breweries group. Allied Breweries set up an international consortium in 1964 to brew Skol abroad and soon it was being made in more than a dozen countries. And, though British Skol went to the great cellar in the sky, it's still brewed in several countries.

That's got the history out of the way. Now we can get onto the beer itself. Luckily, I've quite a few analyses from across the years.


Graham's Golden Lager / Skol 1933 - 1994
Year
Brewer
Beer
Price
size
package
Acidity
FG
OG
colour
ABV
App. Atten-uation
1933
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Golden Lager

pint
bottled

1010.5
1044.5

4.42
76.40%
1939
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Golden Lager


bottled
0.04
1008.6
1045.2
8.5
4.77
80.97%
1950
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Golden Lager
15d
half
bottled
0.05
1010.6
1040.6
9
3.89
73.89%
1952
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Golden Lager
15d
half
bottled
0.04
1014.3
1039.2
15
3.22
63.52%
1957
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Pilsener Lager
20d
half
bottled
0.04
1007.2
1035.6
9
3.69
79.78%
1957
Alloa Brewery
Graham's Golden Lager

half
bottled
0.04
1007.3
1030.4
11
3.00
75.99%
1960
Alloa Brewery
Skol Pilsner Lager
18d
half
bottled
0.04
1007
1033.4
8
3.30
79.04%
1961
Ind Coope
Grahams Skol
20d
half
bottled
0.03
1007.2
1033.6
9.5
3.30
78.57%
1961
Ind Coope
Grahams Skol
20d
half
bottled
0.03
1007.2
1033.6
9.5
3.43
78.57%
1962
Ind Coope
Skol Export
24d
half
bottled
0.04
1008.3
1035.4
8
3.52
76.55%
1962
Ind Coope
Skol Pilsener
19d
half
bottled
0.04
1006.4
1033.9
7
3.57
81.12%
1963
Ind Coope
Skol Pilsener
21d
half
bottled
0.04
1006.5
1033.6
8.5
3.52
80.65%
1972
Allied Breweries
Skol
15p
pint
draught

1007
1033.2

3.40
78.92%
1994
Ind Coope (Burton)
Skol Lager

pint
bottled




3.60

Sources:
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15
The Best of British Bottled Beer

The first thing that strikes me is the gravity. Up until 1952, the gravity is above the average for all beer brewed in the UK. Soon after the complete takeover of Arrols by Ind Coope (coincidence?), the gravity drops below the average and remains around 11% below it.


Skol OG and average OG
year
Skol OG
average OG
difference
1933
1044.5
1039.52
11.19%
1939
1045.2
1040.93
9.45%
1950
1040.6
1033.88
16.55%
1952
1039.2
1037.07
5.43%
1957
1035.6
1037.42
-5.11%
1957
1030.4
1037.42
-23.09%
1960
1033.4
1037.25
-11.53%
1961
1033.6
1037.41
-11.34%
1961
1033.6
1037.70
-12.20%
1962
1035.4
1037.70
-6.50%
1962
1033.9
1037.70
-11.21%
1963
1033.6
1037.70
-12.20%
1972
1033.2
1036.90
-11.14%
Sources:
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48
Brewers' Almanack 1971, p. 45
Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2005, p. 7


To give some idea of just how bad value for money Skol was, in 1962 a half pint bottle of Double Diamond cost 15d, 4d less that Skol though its gravity was 13 points higher at 1047º. remeber that Double Diamond was a heavily-promoted, premium product. A pint of Ind Coope Mild Ale, with a gravity almost exactly the same as Skol, cost just 14d that year. Or less than half the price for the same amount of alcohol. It makes you realise why large breweries pushed Lager and neglected Mild.

Which has prompted me to think of another reason beer styles decline and die. When a style becomes the most popular, it's very difficult to keep selling it as a premium price. It's new types of beer, fashionable ones, that can demand a higher price. So there's a clear financial incentive for brewers to push the new at the expense of the old.

10 comments:

Bryan the BeerViking said...

The Skol gravity drop is also post-WW2, which could be relevant.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bryan, I'd have expected the drop in gravity to be earlier, in the period 1940 to 1949. That's when the gravity of most beers fell significantly.

Bryan the BeerViking said...

Kind of a two-stage drop though, isn't it? Around 1045 pre-war dropping to ~1040 post-war, then dropping again to ~1033 once it becomes Skol.

Methinks a graph is needed... (-:

Arctic Alchemy said...

Ron,
I had found some Limited Edition strong Lager Skol QEII 1977 in the basement vaults at the Allsopp's brewery in Burton. Next time were together, let's try it. Wondering if you had any gravities on that brewing? Strong Lager probably in the 8% abv range I am guessing.

Ron Pattinson said...

Arctic, no, not got that one. Only something called Skol Extra Strength 1080 which was around in the 1990's. That was 8.5% ABV.

I wonder how the QEII is drinking now?

Barm said...

You can see the same phenomenon happening again today, with keg versions of some beers selling for substantially more than the cask version. Can't say I blame the brewers. If I were them I'd also want to be in the segment of the market selling beer for £4.50 a pint rather than the one selling it for £3 a pint.

What I have always wondered is who Graham was?

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, according to "Alloa Ale" by Charles McMaster:

"The name 'Graham's' was supposedly derived both from Colonel Graham, who was at that time Allsopp's agent in London and the South East, and Willie Graham, the erstwhile Town Clerk of Alloa!"

Not sure I believe that, but it's the only explanation I have.

Mac said...

Could the name Graham not be that of Charles Graham 1836-1909, a chemist who lectured on the science of brewing ?

Ron Pattinson said...

Mac, I'd wondered about that. Because he kept banging on a bout how much better Lager was than British-style beers.

Anonymous said...

Bryan,
Thank you very much!!!
a few days looking for the origin of Skol International Ltd., and it was a labyrinth. Now I can finally know that the origin was a lager produced by Arrol's brewery branded as Graham's Golden Lager and rebranded ads Skol. After that, everything is clear, the union of breweries in Allied Breweries, etc...

Miguel