View Full Version : Shut up about Barclay Perkins - Headington and Sons beers in 1903

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02-01-2013, 07:16
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More Mild Ale. Sort of. In an odd oblique way. We'll be looking at a price list from 1903 to see what it tells us about changes happening in British brewing.

Here's the price list:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Vuslic5e-xA/UOFPPbLGJ7I/AAAAAAAAPKA/_nGTRogshkY/s1600/Headington_1903_2.jpg (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Vuslic5e-xA/UOFPPbLGJ7I/AAAAAAAAPKA/_nGTRogshkY/s1600/Headington_1903_2.jpg)
Reading Mercury - Saturday 21 March 1903, page 10.

I'm going to take the beers that cost 36s per barrel as my base line. They should have been around 1050º at this time. And you know what's dead interesting? That there are two beers cheaper than 36s per barrel: Harvest Beer and X Light Dinner Ale.

The Harvest beer can't have been over 1040º at that price. The X Light Dinner Ale can't have been much over 1040º. But what sort of beer was it? A very Light Bitter, would be my guess. Though it could also have been a weak Mild.

Mild is where this price list fascinates. Because there's only one (perhaps two if X Light Dinner Ale is one as well). Yet yesterday we learned that Mild was about two-thirds of all beer brewed in Britain. It seems hugely under-represented in the price list. Especially if you know what a price list from the 1860's or 1870's looked like. You don't? Well here's one:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ofe6DsPZGdo/UOFRht_oSdI/AAAAAAAAPLs/wQnrkUT1PD8/s640/Bicester_Brewery_1867_2.jpg (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ofe6DsPZGdo/UOFRht_oSdI/AAAAAAAAPLs/wQnrkUT1PD8/s1600/Bicester_Brewery_1867_2.jpg)
Bucks Herald, Saturday 6th July 1867, page 8.

Look at all those Mild Ales. Six in total. The Pale Ales and Stouts look very similar. Just the Porter is missing.

It highlights a strange paradox. Usually when a style becomes popular, more varieties of it appear. The opposite happened to Mild at the end of the 19th century. The number of Milds a a brewery's range declined, even though the style was gaining poularity.

I've already written about this phenomenon amongst London brewers, who went from brewing four - X, XX, XXX and XXXX - to just one Mild Ale between 1840 and 1890. Stronger Milds disappeared and only the weakest X Ale remained, reigniong supreme in the public bar. Though you could argue that Burton took the place of stronger Mild.

Another point is the disconnect between bottled and draught beer names. Cooper, Nourishing Stout and Double Brown Stout are obviously the same beers as Porter, Single Stout and Double Stout. Why the change in names? Cooper is especially interesting. That's really the name for mixed draught Porter and draught Stout.

That leads me on to another point. Why popular beers like Porter and Mild were rare in bottled form. Either they weren't bottled at all, or like the Cooper above, were given different names when bottled.

Finally the Pale Ales. As you've probably already noticed, the IPA is the strongest of the bunch. My guess would be that Family Pale Ale was about 1050º, Pale Ale 1055º and IPA 1060º.

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