How strong was beer in the 1960s and 1970s?

A visitor to the website asked me about the strength of John Smith's Bitter in the 1950s. I was able to find out that it was 3.4% ABV in 1960. Today it is 3.6%.

So what about other beers from the 1960s and 1970s?

Draught bitters, 1960

Beer ABV% Original Gravity Price (½pint)
Bristol Brewery Georges Bitter 3.4 1030.9 6½d
Ushers Bitter 3.0 1031.9 6½d
Friary Meux Bitter 3.6 1034.9 6½d
Greenhall & Whitley Bitter 3.7 1034.4 7d
Carlisle & District Bitter 3.9 1038.2 7d
Vaux Best Bitter 3.8 1034.8 7½d
Wilson's Bitter 3.9 1036.1 7½d
Greene King Bitter 4.0 1037.0 7½d
Ind Coope Bitter 3.8 1037.7 7½d
Hammonds United Best Bitter 4.1 1035.5 8d
Daniel Thwaites Bitter 3.8 1035.8 8d
John Smith's Best Bitter 3.4 1036.8 8d
Truman Hanbury Buxton Bitter 3.9 1037.6 8d
Tennants Best Bitter 4.2 1038.3 8d
Whitbread Bitter 3.6 1037.4 8½d
Courage & Barclay Bitter 3.9 1040.3 8½d
Ansells Bitter 4.5 1045.3 8½d
Tennants Queen's Ale 4.3 1041.7 9d
Bass Worthington 'E' 4.6 1041.8 9d
Bass Red Triangle 4.5 1043.1 9d
Younger's Bitter 4.3 1043.9 9d
Charrington IPA 4.1 1044.9 9½d
Watneys Special Bitter 3.7 1043.1 9½d
Fremlins Best Bitter 4.6 1044.7 10½d
Flowers Keg Bitter 3.4 1039.1 11d

Source: 'Beer' published by the Consumers' Association Ltd, in 'Which?' August 1960

Draught beers, 1972

Beer ABV% Original Gravity Price (pint)
Double Diamond 3.5 1037.4 15-18p
Ind Coope Super 3.5 1036.2 11-16p
Worthington 'E' 4.0 1037.8 14-18p
Bass Charrington IPA 3.8 1039.8 11-16p
Courage Tavern 3.8 1037.6 14-18p
Courage Best Bitter 4.3 1039.9 12-16p
Younger's Tartan 3.7 1035.9 14-18p
Younger's Scotch Ale 4.2 1041.3 11-16p
Watneys Red 3.7 1037.9 14-18p
Watneys Special Bitter 3.4 1036.0 12-16p
Whitbread Tankard 3.8 1038.5 14-18p
Whitbread Trophy 3.4 1034.3 11-16p
Guinness 4.2 1039.2 16-20p
Harp Lager 3.3 1032.8 17-19p

Source: 'Keg Bitter' published by the Consumers' Association Ltd, in 'Which?' April 1972

How does beer strength compare to today?

Bitter is a lot less popular than in the 1960s. In a YouGov survey of the most popular beer and cider brands, bitter is behind cider and Guinness. The most popular bitter is Tetley's at number 16 in the survey.

Tetley's is 3.6% ABV. This puts it around the middle of our 1960s and 1970s brews. John Smith's is also 3.6% and Boddington's 3.5%.

We have developed a taste for some stronger brews. Old Speckled Hen (6.5%) and London Pride (4.7%) are at numbers 18 and 22.

Guinness was always popular and it topped YouGov's poll. It is exactly the same strength in terms of ABV today as it was in 1972.  Although in 1960, it was 4.4% ABV.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history