A Lightplater while waiting for a train

Young's Light Ale

With our train due in an hour,we wandered out of the station in a small inland Cornish town in search of a pub. The first we came across was busy and smart enough; on entering, a cheery-looking landlady greeted us and engaged in a little light banter. She then served us two pints and a half of the warmest, dullest bitter we’ve had in a while.

This seemed a perfect time for a little experiment. “Is that Young’s Light Ale in the fridge?” we asked, spotting the label from several metres away. It was, so we bought some, and used it to (a) reduce the temperature of our pints from lukewarm to cool; (b) put some fizz in them; and (c) lift the bitterness. They weren’t great pints thereafter, but were at least pleasant enough to finish.

All of this reminded us of (sorry) yet another passage from Richard Boston’s Beer and Skittles (1976) in which he lists various ‘traditional’ beer mixes:

  • Lightplater – bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law — old and bitter. (Oh dear. Bernard Manning much?)
  • Granny — old and mild.
  • Boilermaker — brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith –stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.

If you’re compelled to mix beers in an emergency as we were, or just fancy a change, these all sound like they might create something drinkable.

Bailey’s dad, of course, never complains about bad beer. If it can’t be rendered passable with the addition of a bottle of Mann’s Brown Ale, then it’s time to move on.

21 thoughts on “A Lightplater while waiting for a train”

  1. Still regularly drink mixed in Holts houses… bitter and dark mild

    Also bitter and Manchester Brown Ale split

  2. A variation on the “mother-in-law” joke (“stout and bitter”) can be found in the Daily Express for Thursday, August 2, 1900, so it’s more than 112 years old, at least. Ahem, not that antiquity excuses ageism and sexism, of course …

  3. I was in the Dolphin in Dartmouth a couple of weeks ago – they always have at least a couple of really good scrumpies in boxes on the bar.
    However one pint of something I had was so sharp it rattled the fillings in my teeth as it went down.
    So calling for a second I asked for a 90-10 % mix with the top being from the standard cider … Stowford Press.

    ” Ah, I see you’re going off-piste ” said the friendly landlord.

    First time I’ve heard that one but it made me laugh.

  4. The first pints I ever drank in pubs in the 1970s were “brown over bitters”. But it’s very rare now to see anyone drinking splits. There was a time when “lion bi’er” was virtually the staple drink in pubs across large swathes of the South.

    1. I had one in a back-street pub in Kennington a couple of months ago. The barman didn’t know what I was talking about. Keg Worthington and a Courage light ale. Some Young’s pubs still have bottled light ale so you can have it there, too, but it does seem to have died out. Sam Smith’s took their bottled light ale out of their London pubs in 2006.

    2. As normal, lazy usage of “the South”. I never saw anyone mix draft an bottled bbeer as a young man in Seventies Dorset. It’s an urban habit, not a north/south thing. Yawns at Viz-style stereotyping…

        1. Er, then your Dad would have been very much the exception that proves the rule in my younger day in Dorset.
          Still lazy to say “the South” when you actually mean “London and the Home Counties”. There are still quite a few pubs in South east London that keep Youngsters Light Ale, as a matter of fact.

          1. Obviously I mean Youngs – I’m on hols and my BlackBerry is doing prescriptive…. On Ron’s blog it just made me say platoon when I meant plato.

        2. First – your Dad “grew up” in Somerset, but is that where he actually learned the habit of mixing bitter and light ale?
          Secondly – in my admittedly limited experience, Somerset in those days could be a bit, well, atypical…
          For example, in 1977 I had to spend four days in a recording studio in Bridgewater (don’t ask), and naturally, after a hard day’s overdubbing, my mates and I would hit the nearest pub. The weather was extremely hot, and the one handpump had a beer on it that failed our taste test (it might have been Ushers?) and was warm. Actually warm. This gave us a problem, since we didn’t drink keg bitter and didn’t fancy cider.
          However, we noticed that they had bottles of Dutch-brewed Heineken in the fridge, and ended up drinking that as the best of a bad job.
          To put that in perspective, I can’t think of a single pub in Bournemouth or Southampton where you would have got Dutch Heineken.

          The moral of the story is that, due to the quirks of the British licensed trade, it is dangerous to generalise, but light and bitter was certainly a very rare sight in the south west in the 70′s and 80′s.

  5. Of course the real plus of mxing your drinks, at least when I was an impoverished student, was always the hope of a generous half of bitter in the unlined galsses to add your bottle of Courage light ale to – we used to frequent one pub in Reading specifically because the barmaid could always be relied upon to pour at least 2/3 pint, which by the end of the evening meant we’d had 2 free pints..

  6. I went through a Black & Tan phase a while back; what I liked about it then was the way you seemed to end up with a drink that was all body and no flavour. Never known how you’d order one in Ireland, though.

      1. Although if you’re a tourist with €10 to spend they’ll happily spoon some Bailey’s into a black coffee and called it an Irish coffee, the robbing bastards.

        1. Wikipedia has enlightened me – in American usage a “Black and Tan” is apparently a kind of beer Tequila Sunrise with the Guinness balanced delicately atop the bitter. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go to all that trouble. What I’m talking about is a half of bitter in a pint glass, made up to full measure by pouring a bottle of Guinness into it.

          1. Oh right. Well in that case you have a bigger problem before the nomenclature: finding a pub that serves something called “bitter”.

            The nearest equivalent, when I was a kid, was a pint of Smithwick’s with a Guinness head. It probably still exists in some rural pubs and GAA clubs. The local name for it is “A pint of Smithwick’s with a Guinness head”.

  7. I used to drink light and bitter in the 70s in a Ridley’s pub. You always got a generous half so it looked like good value. Then a friend of a friend pointed out that light and bitter at 24p was actualy less good value than a pint of bitter at 20p, and the light ale was the same as the draught bitter which, he said, was REAL ALE. I asked what he meant and 2 hours later I was a CAMRA member! November 1976, oh what a night!!
    Only lightplater I’ve had since has been with keg bitters when decent bitter was hard to find. It was the only way to nmake keg Ben Truman almost drinkable, as adding in the light ale actually took a lot of the gas out.

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