The magazine of the Consumers’ Association was only three years’ old when, in August 1960, it published its first report on the state of British beer.
Covering seven full pages, the article covers 25 draught bitters, 16 draught milds, and around 80 other beers in bottles and cans:
With about 300 brewers making nearly 4,000 different brews, a full, or even representative, coverage of every area has been impossible. We have, however, chosen all the nationally distributed beers, together with a selection from the larger regional breweries throughout the country.
Original gravity (OG), alcohol by volume (ABV), percentage of unfermented matter (PUM), hop bitterness (HB) and price are recorded for each.
Three years before the founding of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood (SPBW), no particular attentions is paid to distinguishing between kegged and cask-conditioned beers, and filtering, pasteurisation and method of dispense are not among the various quality criteria considered:
People drink a particular beer largely because they prefer its flavour and quality to that of other brews which may be available in the district. Habit and, to some extent, fashion, also influence their choice.
All the bitters were between 3% and 4.6% ABV; the cheapest cost 6½d per-half-pint, the most expensive 11d. The best value for money bitters, Which? concluded, were from Ansell’s of Birmingham, the Carlisle State Management brewery and Friary Meux. Flower’s Keg was notably poor value being the most expensive per half-pint but with a measly 3.4% ABV.
The draught milds all cost between 5½d and 6½d per-half-pint; the weakest was Watney’s at 2.5%, the strongest Hammond’s Best Mild, from Bradford, at 3.6%. The latter seems to have been an unusual brew: not only was it relatively strong but was also more bitter even than most of the bitters with 37 HB, and a PUM of 29 which suggests it was also fairly light-bodied and dry. The milds with most poke-per-penny were from Ansell, Carlisle SM, Charrington and Fremlins.
Looking at the bottled beers, it begins to seem obvious why kegged Guinness draught (kegged) stout had such a solid reputation among beer geeks: it was by far the most bitter beer measured at 62 HB, 30 PUM. By way of comparison, the most bitter of the bitters managed only 40 HB.
It’s a shame other beers beloved of early beer geeks aren’t listed, though — we’d love to see hop bitterness stats for the legendarily intense Boddington’s and Young’s Ordinary as they were in their prime.