‘Beer Gets the Connoisseur Treatment’, 1968

For the Observer Magazine published on 7 July 1968, Cyril Ray (who we wrote about yesterday) assembled a crack team to taste beer.

Cover of The Observer Magazine, 7 July, 1968.The tone of the feature as a whole is a little uncertain: Mr Ray’s text argues that beer is really worthy of respect only to be undercut by an illustration (Watney’s pale in a wine basket) and sub-headline (borrowed for this post) which suggest there is something faintly ridiculous in the exercise.

Because he didn’t think it would be fair to ask professional tasters from brewery quality control departments to take part, he recruited Michael Broadbent, head of the wine department at Christie’s auctioneers, and Douglas Young, a professional tea-taster.

Michal Broadbent learned after a couple of lagers… to taste in mouthfuls rather than in his customary sips, realising that beer is meant to be quaffed, and that this is how it best shows its character. Douglas Young was soon isolating specific characteristics of each beer, and asking the brewer who looked after us, in Whitbread’s hospitable tasting-room, for the brewers’ phraseology with which to define them.

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Limited Edition Beer Madness, 1968

In 1968, the Observer‘s wine critic Cyril Ray wrote about an exciting new limited edition beer, Eldridge Pope’s Thomas Hardy Ale.

The headline was A POUND A PINT, with an exclamation mark implied:

[Its] high strength caused loss from excessive frothing during fermentation, and this, together with the extra duty and long maturing in oak, is why it costs £1 a pint. I have bought some myself to put away — it will pay for keeping — and there may still be some left, in pints, half-pints or nips, at pubs and off-licences in the Hardy country…. Supplies, though, are limited, and I do not suppose that this remarkable beer will be brewed again — not yet awhile, anyway.

Along with the Coronation beers we wrote about here, this has to be one of the earliest examples of this phenomenon, and that’s certainly one of the earliest instances we’ve come across of a wince-inducingly high price (about £16 in today’s money) being justified by reference to the costs of manufacturing, the difficulties of a limited run, and so on.

It would be interesting to know whether the board at Eldridge Pope ever considered absorbing the costs and selling at a more reasonable price given that this was essentially a one-off marketing exercise.

In the same article, Mr Ray also made a recommendation for ‘amateurs of strong beer’ with less cash to splash: Tennant’s Gold Label, which he says is ‘lighter in colour and crisper in style’ but

one must not be deceived: the under-taste is rich and full, and the six-ounce nip packs the punch of two and a half whiskies.

The article appeared in the 14 July edition of the Observer if you want to read the whole thing, though it is only short.

Main image adapted from ‘Thomas Hardy’s Ale’ by Bernt Rostad from Flickr under Creative Commons.