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 © 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. You don’t. I can’t think of a sin­gle bar­man who’d be will­ing to drop beer into a glass off a spoon for you, what­ev­er name you called it.

      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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