Beer history Generalisations about beer culture

When Did Lager Become Ordinary?

Another nugget from the BFI pub documentary collection: “When lager first appeared in quantity in this country in the early sixties, it was regarded as a luxury drink, and expensive drink,” says a voiceover in A Round of Bass (1972). Not very much more expensive than any other drink, and not just for women, he adds.

Watch the clip from a 1974 episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads above (from 3:25). Terry (James Bolam) is down-to-earth and resolutely working class; Bob (Rodney Bewes) is a well off office worker struggling upwards into the middle classes. Terry drinks bitter while Bob, of course, has a bottle of lager. So, at this point, lager was still the classy choice — a symbol of Bob’s social status.

The first recorded use of the phrase ‘lager lout’ appears to have been in about 1988. At some point in between, lager lost its ‘posh’ reputation. Stella Artois managed to cling on to ‘poshness’, we reckon, until about 2000.

With the emergence of Greenwich’s Meantime and, more recently, Camden, posh lager is back, but we don’t think that, these days, a person’s broad choice of lager, bitter or wine says as much about their social status or aspirations as it used to forty years ago.

Maybe these days, the distinction is between those who choose brands and those who (think..?) they don’t.

Hmm. Ponder ponder.

16 replies on “When Did Lager Become Ordinary?”

If by posh we mean £4.50 a pint then Meantime certainly are luxury. I really don’t see how the justify the price, particularly in their own Greenwich bars. Bloody nice lagers (and other styles), though.

That’s clearly not what people mean when they say that, though. Everyone who sells anything sells it at a price where they think it will sell (stop me if this is getting too technical). When we talk about justifying a price we’re talking about something more – something to do with ideas of a “just price”, an implicit duty to play fair with the punters. The question isn’t “how have they come up with that price?”, it’s “how can they charge it and look themselves in the eye?”

Ah, could be — though hard to tell for sure when he just asks for ‘pint’. (Unless that pub is run by Marble…?)

Funnily enough, when they did remake it, with Ant and Dec, they were both drinking bitter…

“Maybe these days, the distinction is between those who choose brands and those who (think..?) they don’t.”

I think everyone buys brands regardless of the manufacturer and I am fairly sure that there are very few “craft” beer drinkers who aren’t also into the whole slow food thing. Looking at the bigger picture I wonder at times if the “craft beer revolution” isn’t in fact just the alcohol based version of the rejection of industrial sustenance.

Al — or, to put that another way, beer is finally catching up with food in recovering from the post-war “wonderbread” processed food era. We’re not into slow food, as far as I know, but we do like nice bread. (That doesn’t always mean artisanal bread from the deli, though — that’s usually stale.)

As to brands, we’re still working out what we mean on this, but maybe it’s the difference between Goose Island the brewery and Goose Island the Inbev sub-brand. (See also Sharp’s in the UK.) The beer is the same, but the relationship with the consumer can’t be. Maybe by brands we mean BIG brands which have become divorced from specific people (brewers) or places (breweries)? Carlsberg in the world of beer, Jacob’s Creek in the world of wine? (We don’t know much about wine. Hopefully someone who does will correct us/add to that.)

They re-made The Likely Lads with ANT and DEC !!!!

When did this happen ?

It must have been during that period when I was drinking too much
( roughly anytime between 1980 and the present day. )

Lager should cost more than ale in most cases. We produce most of our standard ales in around 7 days, whereas our lager has taken 5 weeks to make. During the ‘lagering’ phase we have to keep the lager at 0º, and that costs money!

There is a time and a place for a good lager, and unfortunately the costs involved introducing it in small quantities are high.

In 1973 lager – draught and “packaged” – was 14.8% of total UK beer sales, bitter/pale ale 54.5%, mild/brown ale 17.8%, stout 11 per cent.

By 1994 the figures (on-sales only) were 44.7% bitter/pale ale, 43.1% lager (lager had 66.8% of off-licence beer sales). However, while the C2DE social category (working class, basically) made up 50.5% of the population, they made up 65% of lager drinkers – against 58% of bitter drinkers (and 80% of mild drinkers – most of those in the poor/unemployed/retired category).

Since he’s in the public bar, and we’re still probably just about in the era when the standard public bar drink WAS mild, and looking at the colour, I’d say mild … Bob appears to be drinking bottled Harp …

Have you tried the video with automatic captioning turned on? Hilarious. “Have I ever not paid you back” comes out as “however not pager that”.

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