The Decline of Mild

“I think that lighter beers… people used to drink with their eyes — if one person lifted a pint and looked through it, everybody did. Another stepping stone was the introduction of lager. When we talk about mild drinkers, they’re probably the lager drinkers now. Didn’t like bitter beer, enjoyed the mild beer, and now gone on to lager.”

Don Nixon, pub landlord 1960-1989, in Public Houses, Private Livesan oral history of Life in York pubs in the mid-20th century. (With some corrections to punctuation.)

The Social Attractiveness of Pubs, 1901

“[Public houses] are, as a rule, brilliantly lit, and often gaudily, if cheaply, decorated. In winter they are always kept temptingly warm. The company is almost entirely composed of young persons, youths and girls, sitting round the room and at small tables… Every one is drinking, but not heavily… In a round of the public-houses [of York] which the writer made on Saturday evening in May 1901, the fact of their social attractiveness struck him very forcibly. It points to the need for the establishment on temperance lines of something equally attractive in this respect.”

Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree in Poverty: a study of town life (1908 edition) apparently liking pubs more than he wanted to.

Ian Nairn on Ward’s Irish House

“This is a basement under the angle between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street. It is not trying to be Irish; it just is. A big, bare room with a central zinc-topped bar; no concession to comfort, but on the other hand some of the best draught Guinness in London… It has surely got the fairies on it, though mentioning fairies in this rough, shabby, real place you might get some strange looks.”

Ian Nairn on Ward’s Irish House, in Nairn’s London, 1966.

(NB. before it was Irish, it was German…)

Counterfeit Grätzer, c.1881

“At the brewery where I washed bottles during my last year of school, beer that had come in kegs was put into bottles, marked with counterfeit labels of brands like Pilsener and Grätzer, and sold as genuine bottles of these beers… I could give examples of dozens of such tricks and prove by them how even poor people are cheated.”

Franz Bergg (1866-1913), originally in Ein Proletarierleben, 1913, translated in The German Worker, ed. Alfred Kelly, 1987.

Overheard in a Craft Beer Bar

“I’ve just ordered a pint of that Lagu- Laga- La-goo-NYE-tas IPA. I’ve got no idea what it is! I wanted Adnams’ Bitter, really — that’s what I normally drink — but I panicked. I mean, you don’t come to a place like this and order Adnams’, do you?”

A young man explaining his choice of beer to friends at the Pelt Trader, City of London, last Friday.