Beers from the past

Double Diamond Works Wonders!

There were more than 4,000 different brews available in the 60s, so we cannot list them all. This is a list of the most important ones.

Keg bitters on draught

Draught bitters

These are some of the draught bitters available in the 1960s and their regional distribution.

BeerDistribution (1960)
Ind Coope BitterNational
Whitbread BitterNational
Bass Red TriangleNational
Mitchells and Butler's Brew XIMidlands
Bristol Brewery Georges BitterBristol & SW England
Ushers BitterSW England
Friary Meux BitterLondon & Home Counties
Carlise & District State Management Scheme BitterCarlisle & District
Vaux Best BitterNorth England
Wilson's Best BitterManchester
Green King BitterEast Anglia & East Midlands
Hammonds United Best BitterN England and Midlands
Daniel Thwaites BitterE Lancashire
John Smith's Best BitterN England
Truman Hanbury Buxton BitterS England
Tennants Best BitterYorks, Derby, Notts & Lincs
Tennants Queen's AleYorks, Derby, Notts & Lincs
Courage BitterLondon and S England
Ansells BitterBirmingham
Younger's BitterScotland, N England and London
Charrington India Pale AleS England
Watneys Special BitterLondon and S England
Fremlins Best BitterLondon and SE Home Counties

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

Retrowow reader Nathaneal remembers the TV adverts for Whitbread Trophy:

I have a strong memory of the advert on telly about "Whitbread, Big Head, Trophy Bitter, the pint that thinks its a quart. It's got the body, the body, that satisfies - It can't be modest, no matter how it tries!" Aye, those were the days, lad!

See UK television commercials 19551985 for the full text and some other classic adverts from the 50s to the 80s.

Draught milds

Most breweries in the 50s and 60s offered a mild. There were offerings from Green King, Greenall & Whitley, Charrington, Watneys, Whitbread, Courage, John Smith's, Ind Coope and Ansells amongst many others. One particular favourite for Midlands' drinkers was Mitchells and Butlers (M & B) Mild.

Whitbread Pale Ale, what other luxury could you buy for 8p in 1971?

Best pale ales (bottled)

Bottled best pale ales were growing in popularity in the 50s. To a certain extent this growth was brought to an end when keg bitter was introduced. It offered similar characteristics for a cheaper price.

Brown ales (bottled)

Light ales

  • Wilson's Wembley Ale (Manchester)
  • Stouts

    Strong ales

    Often sold in nip bottles (one third of a pint), strong ales were gaining a following in the late sixties and early seventies. These are some favourites from the past.

    Thanks to Mr L Prior for Ind Coope Arctic Ale:

    "It was a rival to Gold Label and very similar. I just thought I might mention it. Ind Coope vanished like a lot of our famous breweries. My family used to work for them in Burton on Trent back before World War II. They took over Benskins in Watford in the 60s and I lived there and saw the demise of Benskins. I'm told the old Benskins best bitter recipe lives on in a micro brewery in Devon and it's known as Vale Best Bitter."Mr L. Prior

    Lagers

    Lager gained in popularity throughout the 60s, but did not challenge draught bitter until the 70s. These are some of the lagers available in Britain in the 60s.

    Löwenbräu was available in the UK via in importer, Aktienbraueref Zum Löwenbräu based in the Gamage Building in Holborn, London from the early twentieth century. The company was wound up in 1916 as part of a crackdown on 'enemy businesses'[1]

    Löwenbräu returned to Britain in 1936 via the small ads in The Times. Supply was again interrupted in 1939, but Löwenbräu was back in 1957 via importers J C MacLauchlin of London. It was still an expensive and specialist beer.

    By the 70s you could also get

    Tastes that we think of as belonging to the 1980s began in the 1970s.

    Immigrant communities were bringing their local beers with them. Red Stripe, a lager brewed in Jamaica and sampled by James Bond in Dr No, was a favourite in Britain's West Indian clubs. [2]

    In the 1960s you could find Foster's or Swan Lager at the Ifield, Ifield Road, Earls Court, the Zambesi Club, also in Earls Court, or the Surrey, Surrey Street WC2 [3]. Frenchmen could find Kronenbourg in the West End and in Chelsea.[2]

    In the early 70s, imported continental lager was Britain's trendy drink. In many cases the more expensive the better.

    By the 70s Löwenbräu was West Germany's largest beer exporter. They advertised the brew in the UK as 'The World's most exclusive and expensive beer'. Löwenbräu had opened 29 'bierkellers' in London by 1971 and charged 35p for a pint of Löwenbräu (£3.53 in today's money).[2]

    Stella Artois was Belgium's biggest selling beer in the UK in 1971. Whitbread introduced draught Stella Artois some of their houses in London as early as 1970. They introduced it in the rest of the country from 1971.[3]

    Whitbread added two more lagers to their range in 1979; Heldenbrau and Kaltenberg. Heldenbrau was an in-house brand. Kaltenberg was a genuine Barvarian lager. It was originally brewed by Prince Luitpold van Bayern in his castle. Robin Farrington, the Managing Director of Whitbread International, examined over 2000 Barvarian brewers before settling on Kaltenberg.[4]

    The popularity of these latter brews increased substantially in the 80s and in some cases the 90s.


    Can you buy it today?

    Keg bitter

    As far as any of the more popular 60s keg's are concerned, the answer is no.

    Bottled beer

    A good number of the most popular bottled pale ales are still available. Worthington White Shield IPA is available, as is Bass Red Triangle. I have also read that you can buy Double Diamond at Morrisons (although I have yet to find it!).

    The one great discovery for me doing this research was Whitbread Gold Label Barley Wine. It is a strong beer sold in small cans (the cans were introduced in 1975). It has quite a sweet taste and is very pleasant - perfect for a night cap.  Whitbread Gold Label Barley Wine is available in Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons and some local Co-ops.

    Lager

    Most of the popular brands from the 60s and 70s are still available in the supermarkets. I have seen Skol, Carlsberg, Carling (without the Black Label) and Harp.

    Mild

    Mild has continued to decline in popularity and there are few available now. Whitbread still do canned draught mild and you can also get Sainsbury's own brand.

    References

    [1] 'Enemy firms wound up', published in 'The Times', 24 May 1916, page 3

    [2] 'From darkness into light', published in 'The Times', 26 April 1971, page 29

    [3] 'The New London Spy', by Hunter Davies, published by Blond, 1966, page 258.

    [3] 'Glenfiddich whisky up 3s 1d' published in 'The Times', 7 January 1971 page 16

    [4] 'An uncommon brewer - the story of Whitbread' by Berry Richie, published 1992, page 129.

    Your comments

    

    "Sad to see you list Whitbreads (Flowers) brewmaster in the same sentence. We had Flowers Brewmaster delivered to our home once a week. One week we were supplied with Whitbreads Brewmaster, It did not bear any resemblance to the Flowers version, we cancelled our order the next day." Peter Boothroyd 16/11/2017

    "Looking for a small keg of whitbread light.. can you help?" Amanda clowes 31/01/2018

    "About six years ago I found myself in a pub near Dartmouth, I can't remember the name, but they had Whitbread Trophy on draught. For memories sake I had to try a half. But oh dear, however I used to drink that stuff by the gallon I'll never know." Andrew Hillier 19/02/2018

    "could not see stones bitter on the list , quite popular in 70/80s in northwest england , also my drink of choice in a bass house was toby light ." billy holmes 21/07/2018

    "Castlemaine XXXX was the lager of choice for many in the mid-80s. Mine was the heavier Tennants Extra. Loved it. Both were superior in my opinion to a insipid pint of Carling Black Label. -Until they meddled with their alcohol content. Now sadly, they cease to exist. Progression eh??
    Nowadays, we are more likely to be Pbooking weekends in Budapest or leasing a new car, than walking from the bookies to bar. Progression eh? -Maybe." Richard Fuller 11/09/2018

    "I lived in The Butchers Arms York Way London N7 in the 1960s, it was a Courage house and the beer was brilliant then. I would drink a light and bitter, never drank mild as I knew what was tipped into it." Gerard Matthews 22/06/2019

    "Who was the Cornish chap who spoke rather odly in a strange Cornish language to advertise Flowers brewmaster beer on TV in the 1960s???" Brian Allen-Ross 03/09/2019

    "Could anyone tell me the strength of John Smiths bitter in the 1950's? Has it always been 3.6%." Duncan Woodhouse 15/10/2019

    "In 1960 John Smith's Best Bitter was 3.4% alcohol by volume and 1036.8 OG." Steven 23/10/2019

    "Can't remember the brand of Best Bitters I sampled when I was in the Yorkshire part of the UK for Christmas of 1987 which we celebrated New year's Eve. All I can remember is that it came in plastic liter "jugs" and had someone's "proper" name before "Best Bitters"." ken nelson 01/11/2019

    "One of the best strong ales of the 1960s and 1970s was Little Bricky from Brickwoods in Portsmouth. Only sold in nip bottles - six and two third fl. ounces, I think" Ray Rowsell 25/01/2020

    "I used to enjoy Bass special at our local working mans club.
    also, can anyone remember the short lived arctic light? I think that was a lager?
    other brands which I don't know if they were just local to Staffordshire was parkers, which was swallowed up by Ind Coope, and Joule's Stone ale. this company has been revived in recent years." BOB BYRNE 17/02/2020

    "What about Old Tom,that was an early to bed beer haha" Terry 26/04/2020

    "We were both sales engineers at Marconis. We used to drink in tha old kings head in Stock.
    This would have been 1983/4/5. It was a Truman house and offered red & green bitter, which was dry hopped, at the pub.
    Lovely stuff. Any modern beer kits offer similar taste?C" Martin Gebel & Roger Worland 20/05/2020

    "You list Courage Bitter as available in the 60s in London and South East. Courage have never sold Courage Bitter. In the late 60s they sold 3 bitters in the south :EIPA in Bristol and the West, SIPA in Reading and APA in London and the South East. Courage Best Bitter replaced EIPA and APA and was sold alongside SIPA from about 1975 and was advertised with Chas & Dave ("Gertcha" and "Wife" in the late 70s." Andy Simmonds 09/06/2020

    "No mention of Newcastle Brown, or Wrexham Lager!" David Prothero 12/06/2020

    "First London pub I was in was The Mitre a Whitbread House located in Lancaster Gate 1961. Bottled light ale and Whitbread Tankard were my preferences then but in truth the keg beers were'nt great. Real ales came on stream in later decades which was an improvement. Courage,Charrington,Truman,Watney,Whitbread and Young were the big hitters in 60s London." Henry Thomson 29/06/2020

    "Some fine enjoyable drinking savering a glass of Lowenbrau larger" Roger 10/10/2020

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