Hot Pubs, Cold Beer?

allsopps_pilsner_1920s

Here’s an explanation for the rise in popularity of cold beer, especially lager, that we’ve not come across before: pubs got hot.

Why did Guinness equate room temperature with 57 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit [13-17ºc] when it was obvious that the room temperature of pubs… could be higher than that?… I requested that Benson’s various resources go into action. We had long held the Blue-Band Margarine account, and that gave us a view on desirable room temperatures. I also asked the Brewers’ Society how many pubs had installed central heating… The answers were revealing. The room temperature of Public Houses had risen by at least 10% over the previous few years while the preferred ambient temperature of everything from Coca-Cola to canned beer in the home had gone down…

That’s from ‘Cool Guinness’, a short article by advertising man Brendan Nolan published in The Guinness Book of Guinness in 1988.

Could it be as simple as he suggests?

It certainly seems more plausible than the idea that people picked up the habit on holiday in Spain or doing National Service in Germany.

4 thoughts on “Hot Pubs, Cold Beer?”

  1. I thought beer got colder because refrigeration technology got smaller and cheaper. Most people, who aren’t really much bothered about flavour, will prefer the colder, more “refreshing” drink to the warmer one.

    Lager happened because it became possible to keep it cold in summer without massive ice blocks.

    1. That’s one possible explanation, or maybe part of the answer, but I couldn’t be as confident as you without more evidence. What’s quite nice about Mr Nolan’s idea is that he does provide something to back it up. Or maybe it’s just that pubs had to get warmer because everyone was drinking such cold beer…

  2. There might be something in that, but I can’t believe it’s the major reason for the rise of cold beer. As Matthew says, improvements in refrigeration technology were the key to making it possible. Before then, even if you wanted a chilled beer, pubs couldn’t provide it.

    Heating in pubs has certainly improved, though, along with the rise of central heating in houses. I remember pubs often feeling a bit cold in the 70s, especially the big, monumental ones. And, in pre-central heating days, anything indoors over 60ºF was considered warm in winter.

    I also see I was moaning about overheated pubs back in 1998.

  3. Can you track the same suggestion through photos of pub customers decade by decade? I am thinking of those images of London skittles players in the 1950s wearing wool trousers and jackets indoors.

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