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I'd expected Mild to be popular in 1930's Bolton. Hoped even, as a committed Mild drinker myself. But I hadn't expected the near total domination of Mild. Basically all the men drank either Mild or Best Mild. It really does bring a tear to my eye, thinking of all those flat caps, glasses of Mild and spittoons.

This barman wrote "There is so little demand for bitter and draught stout that difficulty is experienced in obtaining them in the meaner quarters of the town".

Some landlords' statements about the relative quantities of beer drunk are:

(a) "I should reckon 93 per cent—no, 92 per cent mild."

(b) "We have plenty of women at night—they drink stout, Guinness, or Brown Pete. I should reckon 60 per cent of the women drink Guinness. Some men drink Guinness as well, but not many." ..." No best mild; we mix the mild and the bitter."

(c) "I should reckon 60 per cent drink mild."

(d) "The people here drink more best mild than mild—only women drink the Guinness—and port—very little I.P.A. and strong ale drunk—whiskey when they can get it."

(e) "Re proportions of various drinks consumed, I think 90 per cent mild, the other 10 you can work out, but I should give Guinness 5 per cent. You see, the heavy drinker is the man in the vault and taproom, and he consumes 200 per cent more than the customer in the best rooms."

The Brown Pete referred to above is the usual term for Walker's Brown Peter, a bottled brown ale. Their light ale is called Falstaff, and popular with Worktown Irishmen; and they also sell a bottled stout. Magee's bottled beers cover a similar range, the light ale being called Crown. Landlords are not supposed to split pint bottles between customers (prices being 7.5d. a pint bottle, 4.5d. a half bottle) but it is often done.

The general estimate of about 90 per cent mild is borne out by all our observations. The gill is the common unit of drink, the only Worktown term for a half-pint.


Choice of brand and type of beer is limited. Most pubs stock only mild, and bottled ales and stout. And most people live within walking distance of only Magees' or Walkers' pubs. (Later we show that 90 per cent of pub regulars don't walk more than 300 yards to get to their usual pubs.)

That most people drink the cheapest beer points to price rather than taste or quality being the deciding factor of their choice. At week-ends, when drinkers have most money, more bottled beer is drunk. We have plenty of observations on men starting off their Saturday night drinking with a round of bottled Crown or Falstaff, before going onto draught. And nationally the consumption of bottled beer has gone up 300 per cent in the past ten years. This shift has tended to alter brewery work, and is an increasing factor in pub organization. So far in Worktown, bottled beer has made no major inroads on the dominance of draught.

Men are guided by price first. Women, who often have men pay for them, go more for taste and the externals. It is more "respectable" for women to drink bottled beer, mostly bottled stout or Guinness, seldom mild. Brewers have found nationally a preference for beer in amber bottles, rather than green bottles. They don't know the reason. An important factor is the tradition of beer, tradition's drink, as amber-coloured; looking green through the bottle, it isn't absolutely beer. In a random count (May), 43 per cent women were drinking beer or spirits, 57 per cent bottled stout or Guinness.
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), pages 33 - 34.
Some of the drink choices do surprise me. I'd have expected the Irish workmen to drink Guinness, not Light Ale. And who would have thought Guinness would be principally a woman's drink? The standard measure being a half pint was unexpected, too. A sign of lack of money, I suppose.

The domination of a town by a couple of brewers I can remember from the 1970's. It was John Smiths who owned all the pubs in Newark. Though they did offer a little more than draught Mild and bottled Stout. Walker is Peter Walker of Warrington, later part of Allied Breweries. I've drunk beer from that brewery. Tetley's Mild, probably, in the days when they brewed that. Magees disappeared too long ago, into the black pit of Greenhall Whitley, for me to have try their beers. I'm getting all intrigued now. Brown Peter. I do have a couple of analyses of that, from 1951 and 1952. It was mid-brown in colour, OG 1039º, 4% ABV. That's quite strong for the period. In the early 1950's, most Brown Ales were below 1035º. The 1930's version would almost certainly have had an OG of at least 1045º.

Interesting that the 1930's boom in bottled beer passed Bolton by. Shortage of cash was probably the main reason. As borne out by men drinking bottled beer when they had more money.

Brewers don't know the reason why beer was in amber bottles? Course they bloody did. And it wasn't for aesthetic reasons. This is an illustration of a point which will come up frequently as I analyse this book. The authors seem incredibly ignorant in some areas. Not just beer, but other aspects of working class life, too.