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High Speed Death

We’re always delighted to find out that a beer has a nickname. Recently, we were told by a barman that St Austell’s HSD (Hicks Special Draft) is commonly known as “high speed death”.

That reminded us of the story that Brains’ S.A. (4.2%) is sometimes referred to as “skull attack”.

We think these nicknames reveal a previous generation’s attitude towards beer. Bailey’s dad describes any beer stronger than 4.5% abv as “bloody strong” and HSD is 5%. Most beer geeks or, in fact, anyone who’s grown up with 5%+ lagers in the pub, would probably think it a pleasant-enough (or, possibly, boring) brown, mainstream bitter.

Do you know anymore nicknames like these? And can you think of any beers that used to be known for their strength but are now considered nothing special? (Like the end of an episode of Kilroy, that bit.)

31 replies on “High Speed Death”

It’s already got a nickname!? Or is that a general one for strong beer?

As drunk at the Sheffield Tap, “TMF” (train missing fluid) might be more appropriate.

I know a few people who use FDF specifically to refer to Jaipur. I was going to mention Millstone True Grit as well, which was re-named Old Git by punters at the Wellington in Sheffield.

“Wife beater” for Stella obviously. I’ve also heard HSD called “High Speed Diesel”. Round my way Friary Meux bitter was known as “Friary Muck”.

Ah, yes — can’t believe we forgot Wife Beater (though it’s not quite as endearing as the others).

St Austell themselves are sometimes referred to as “St Awful”, which works if you pronounce St Awe-stell properly.

Yeah I heard High Speed Diesel and the St Awful name was very common before Roger Ryman came along — back in Cambridge in the 1980s, a mix of Abbot and St Edmunds Ale was known as Braindeath, even though the latter was only 5.5%.

Summer Lightning is “frightening”, and Oakleaf’s Hole Hearted is known as “foul farted” – we learnt that one from Ed, their brewer.

Young’s Bitter is “ordinary”, of course; that’s not so much a nick name as the normal way to order it in a Young’s pub, where the alternative is Special.

This all harks back to the days when most drinking was done in pubs, and most of it was “ordinary bitter”. Drinkers would have their “ration”, which they knew they could cope with, and anything stronger was recognised as causing a potential problem.

Around here, Robinson’s Best Bitter (now Unicorn) was, at 4.2%, a bit stronger than the general run of bitters around 3.8%, and many people said they didn’t like it because “it gave them a headache”.

The same complaint was made when Bass introduced Draught Bass to some previously keg-only pubs where Stones Bitter was the staple drink. That almost seemed to be an experiment designed to fail.

Always interesting to have your input on this kind of thing.

We’ve got a post half-written about how drinking in volume (ten pints at a time) changes your relationship with beer, and influences your perspective on price and strength. Still thinking it through, but what you say above might feed into it.

That reminds me of hearing older guys at work referring to Robbies’ as ‘fighting beer’ – supposedly there were more fights at closing time at Robbies’ pubs, and it had to be the beer that was doing it.

I think you’ll find that that’s “feelin’ foul” – which only really works if you don’t know how it should actually be pronounced…….

In Seattle, Rainier Brewing Co. used to make a Rainier Ale that was nicknamed “Green Death.” The rationale I heard was that it caused especially nasty hangovers, along with the fact it was sold in green-colored bottles. And, from personal experience with the hangovers, I’d say they’re right… 🙂

I’ve heard Thornbridge Kipling be called “Crippling”.Suppose it is if you drink enough,which is remarkably easy to do.

In the leafier parts of Dublin Heineken is called Ken or Heino, in more down to earth places it often referred to as Hydrogen.

Cider is often called Jungle Juice.

With reference to the strength of beer older generations would drink Smithwicks Ale when “on the dry” ie not drinking stout.

Another one that’s occured to me is Shipstone’s in Nottingham being called (for obvious reasons) “straight-through Shippo’s”.

Marston’s once had an advertising campaign for Pedigree with the slogan “If you can’t get Pedigree where you live, move!”

Then this was backed up with beermats saying “Pedigree. Have you moved yet?”

Given the beer’s alleged laxative properties, the answer was almost certainly “Yes”.

To my father’s generation (born 1922), when its beers were not perhaps as generally high-quality as they are now, a well-known West London family brewer was known as Fulla shit’n’turds.

The Burton brewer Allsopps (Kirsty’s family) was inevitably known as All-slops.

And great fun could be had Spoonerising Whitbread Tankard.

Quite a few years ago after a long evening session in Poole I found out that Tanglefoot was also known as Manglebrain. I realised why the morning after.

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