Monday, 13 August 2012

War is the health of the state

But it's certainly not healthy for your pint.

My long fascination with beer history started with the Durden Park Beer Circle's "Old British Beers And How To Make Them". Though in the age of the internet the booklet now looks a little lacking, there's a lot going for the point they make that the First World War ended the golden age of British beer. Average beer strength dropped from around 5.2 to 3.0% ABV and pub's opening hours were cut. The horrors the war inflicted on beer still resonate today. The beer drinking culture ingrained in my soul that leads me to knock back modest strength pints until I'm pissed at 11 pm is the result of First World War restrictions on beer strength and pub opening hours.

Though after the war average beer strength recovered slightly to 3.8% ABV it never got back to what it was before. Such a hefty cut, not the mention the restrictions imposed on pub opening hours, is not something that could have passed unnoticed. Now I know that people weren't happy about weak war time "government ale" but what about afterwards, when weaker beer continued to be the norm? Surely people will have been grumbling into their pints?

Though I've long suspect this to be the case,  I now have a quote that backs up my suspicions. Professor H.E. Armstrong, a Fellow of The Royal Society, friend of Horace Brown, and apparently an old curmudgeon, took a dim view of what beer (in particular Bass) was like in 1921:

"the world renowned red triangle ...must now be ashamed of being paraded before the public ...the action taken by the Government during the war ...has rendered beer little short of worthless as a drink".

I don't think he was impressed with the changes. I wonder what his views on afternoon closing were?


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