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.