Beer in Pubs, 1951

Spread from LHATM.

It’s always exciting to come across specific notes on how beers of the past looked and tasted, especially when those notes are from someone inside the industry.

Through a foot­note to a foot­note in some­one else’s book we recent­ly came across Licensed Hous­es and Their Man­age­ment, a three-vol­ume guide­book pub­lished in mul­ti­ple edi­tions from 1923 onwards and edit­ed by W. Bent­ly Cap­per. It’s made up of a whole series of essays and arti­cles by dif­fer­ent authors cov­er­ing every­thing from book-keep­ing to ‘han­dling female staff’. We’re going to post a few more bits from it in the Bits We Under­lined for­mat at some point but, for now, the stuff on beer seemed too inter­est­ing not to share in its own right.

The sec­tion is called ‘Ales and Stouts and Hints on Cel­lar Man­age­ment’ and is cred­it­ed to an anony­mous ‘A Brew­ery Cel­lars Man­ag­er’. (Worth not­ing, maybe, that the accom­pa­ny­ing pics are from Fuller’s.)

First, we should say that, through­out, it is made clear that beer should def­i­nite­ly pos­sess ‘bril­lian­cy’, i.e. must be com­plete­ly clear. We’ve col­lect­ed lots of exam­ples of peo­ple not mind­ing a bit of haze in their beer, or even pre­fer­ring it, but there was cer­tain­ly a main­stream con­sen­sus that clar­i­ty was best by the mid-20th Cen­tu­ry.

There are three types of dis­pense list­ed: straight from the cask, via beer engine and ‘the Scot­tish method of draw­ing’ – that is air or top pres­sure. (The cause of so much strife in CAMRA dur­ing the late 1970s.) There is also a love­ly men­tion of what are now known as sparklers:

With the beer engine, there is some­times a dif­fi­cul­ty dur­ing the win­ter months of pro­duc­ing a good head on the beer… To com­bat this there are sev­er­al excel­lent fit­tings on the mar­ket in the shape of ‘noz­zles’ or ‘sprin­klers’ which are fit­ted to the spout of the engine. These agi­tate the beer as it pass­es into the glass and pro­duce a head, with­out affect­ing the palate in any degree.

Right, then – time for the main event: BEER. This sec­tion begins by high­light­ing the impor­tance of choos­ing good beers and the strength of ‘local con­di­tions and prej­u­dices’:

In Lon­don, for instance, one class of beer will find favour in one dis­trict, whilst in anoth­er part of the town the same beer would not be appre­ci­at­ed. The same thing applies through the whole of the coun­ties…

The author then very use­ful­ly breaks it down by style:

Mild Ales… In some parts a dark, sweet ale must be served. This must be as fresh as pos­si­ble and quite bril­liant. In the indus­tri­al cen­tres this beer will be in very great demand… In the res­i­den­tial or sub­ur­ban areas, a mild ale of a lighter colour is more in favour…

Ron Pat­tin­son has explored the dif­fer­ence between urban and coun­try milds but we love the idea of Metroland Mild!

Bur­ton… is a heavy-grav­i­ty ale, very red in colour, and with a dis­tinct dry-hop flavour. There is a very steady demand for this beer all the year round, but in win­ter-time the sales in some dis­tricts equal those of mild ale… [It should be] nei­ther too bit­ter nor too sweet, but [have] a round, full-bod­ied flavour.

Colour and flavour notes! Red ale – sounds quite trendy, doesn’t it?

Bit­ter… Bit­ter ales form the great part of the saloon and pri­vate-bar demand. These beers are the most del­i­cate and sen­si­tive of all brewed. The colour must be as of bright pol­ished amber, and the pun­gent aro­ma of the hops must be well in evi­dence. It is very impor­tant… that the palate is quite clean as the great charm of bit­ter ales lies in their del­i­cate palate flavour… There is lit­tle doubt that the Bur­ton-brewed ales are the best of this vari­ety, although great progress has been made in oth­er parts of the coun­try by brew­ers and com­pe­ti­tion is very keen in this beer.

In case you don’t know how social class mapped to bars, the saloon and pri­vate-bar were the rel­a­tive­ly posh ones. Bit­ter was a pre­mi­um prod­uct, the craft beer of its day, drunk for flavour as much as alco­hol con­tent or nour­ish­ment. (There’s more from us on the his­to­ry of bit­ter here.)

Stouts… are brewed from high­ly roast­ed malts and are there­fore dark brown in colour. The palate should be full and creamy, but not too sweet. Avoid stouts that are not in con­di­tion or that have too bit­ter a flavour. There is lit­tle doubt that among the best stouts the best are those brewed in Lon­don…

An ear­ly use of creamy to describe beer, there? From long before nitro was a thing, too. But what is the dif­fer­ence between stout and porter?

Porter… is a light-grav­i­ty black beer which is usu­al­ly much sweet­er than stouts.

There you go. Sort­ed. Sort of.

There are many more edi­tions of LHATM stretch­ing back 25 years from this one – if you have a copy from before World War II, per­haps you can check whether this advice changed over the years?