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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