Visit The Pub Curmudgeon site

My recent post about bottled Butcombe Bitter raised the long-running issue that many beers are significantly stronger in bottled form than they are as draught real ale. Butcombe is 4.0% ABV on cask and 4.5% in bottle. Jennings Cumberland Ale has a 0.7% difference – 4.0% versus 4.7%, and Young’s Bitter goes one point further with 3.7% against 4.5%. Other “offenders” (if such they are) include Marston’s Pedigree, Fuller’s London Pride and Deuchar’s IPA.

I fully understand why brewers do this – draught beers in the pub are meant for “sessioning”, while premium bottled ales are generally consumed in ones or twos in front of the telly and and the fire. They’re different environments, and drinkers are looking for different things from their beer. There are plenty of PBAs around the 5% mark, but ales of that strength don’t sell well in pubs, whereas few bottled ales come in below 4%. Undoubtedly a 4.7% beer will differ significantly from a 4% one, but is there a slight element of deception involved? And which is truly the “authentic” brew?

Brains SA, one of my favourite bottled beers on the more “malty” side of things, is the same strength in bottle and cask – 4.2%. In the olden days, a beer of that strength was nicknamed “Skull Attack” in Cardiff, but in the PBA stakes it now seems something of a lightweight.