Jubilee beer – news of the brews

15 June 2012 by
Jubilee beer – news of the brews

Beer, brewers and pubs look set to play a big part in the Diamond Jubilee. Educational beer website beergenie.co.uk looks at how trends in beer have changed in 60 years, and what special brews will be on offer for the big event

The UK public is expected to sink around 60 million extra pints of beer during the Jubilee weekend - almost one per head of the population.

That estimate by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) proves that beer and pubs are just as big a part of UK culture now as it was 60 years ago. But the styles of beer that drinkers enjoyed in 1952, as well as the environments in which they drank, while similar to their modern counterparts in some respects, also bore significant differences.

While lager is now the most popular beer sold in the UK, making up almost half of the beer market, it accounted for less than 1% until 1960. This was despite the fact that it had been brewed in Scotland for over a century and was offered in pubs as early as the late 1800s. And it was not even available on draught until 1963, having previously appeared only in bottles and cans.

Instead, traditional cask beer was the beer of choice in 1952. Mild - the weak, sweet beer available in both light and dark forms - was the most popular beer with working men in the public bar, while bitter was the more popular drink among middle-class drinkers.

One problem of the time, though, was that draught beer had become weaker and therefore trickier to keep, so quality was variable. One solution used by publicans to counteract this was to mix the more expensive but livelier bottled beer with flat drinks to create drinks such as "brown and mild" (bottled brown ale and draught mild) or "light and bitter" (bottled light ale with draught bitter).

In fact, bottled beer, which dates back to the 17th century, was undergoing something of a post-war revival now that bottles and labels were more readily available. The swing to bottled beer was so rapid that by 1952, The Statist magazine declared: "It is probable that within a decade draught milds and bitters will no longer make up the major part of brewery production."

As it turned out, this did not happen, owing to the advent of keg beer and canned beer, and the 1950s were the high point of bottled beer sales.

Social segregation

One of the big differences between pubs in 1952 and pubs now was the social segregation. Working-class men still tended to go into the public bar, where beer was one or two pence cheaper per pint, and where the floor was probably just bare boards. Meanwhile, if you were middle class you went to the saloon bar, which would probably be carpeted. This distinction did not die out until some time in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, working men's clubs were popular as they had more liberal opening hours and better facilities, such as snooker tables. Beer was also cheaper in working men's clubs than in pubs.

Darts was also a very popular game, with several thousand teams playing regularly in leagues organised by the breweries. Games such as dominoes and shove ha'penny were popular and generated high levels of gambling.

The choice of alcohol also varied according to your position on the social scale. The working class largely drank only beer, while the aristocracy drank everything available, which included wine, cocktails and Champagne.

Overall alcohol consumption was lower than it is today, and beer drinkers were thought to be conservative in both their drinking habits and behaviour, with episodes of drunkenness reported to be relatively rare.

Gender differences

Although the war had some impact, women who went into a pub in 1952 rarely did so unless in the company of their husband or boyfriend, particularly during the week. The typical drink a woman would order was half a shandy. And in some areas - South Wales, for example - women would not be allowed in some pubs at all. Even if they were allowed in, they were likely to be subject to certain rules about where they could go. The public bar was often off-limits but there was often a snug where they could sit.


Pubs were not renowned for food in 1952 - certainly far less than they are today. Generally, the only food available was likely to be in the form of pork scratchings, pickled eggs, and some crisps - although there would occasionally have been stalls outside pubs on a Friday or Saturday night selling pies, eels or shellfish, depending on the region of the country.

1952 and 2012: what has changed

Average price of a pint
1952 ninepence
2012 £2.80

Number of pubs
1950 73,500
2012 52,000

The three main types of glassware in 1952:

â- The 10-sided (fluted) handled glass pint mug
â- The dimpled beer mug

Special Jubilee ales

There were 135 known special brews or special edition beers in 1953, made to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II. Most of them were strong ales, but they also included stouts, barley wines, sweet stouts and pale ales. In fact, of the 550 breweries operating then (there are more today but many are much smaller), one in four made a coronation brew.

That tradition has continued with the Diamond Jubilee, with a large number of British brewers and pub companies deciding to mark the occasion with commemorative beers. They include:

Red, White & Brew (cask only) 4% abv, available nationwide June to August, brewed in celebration of summer 2012
Queen's Jubilee ale (bottled only) 6% abv, a one-off beer in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, brewed with Sovereign hops and a late addition of Saphir hops. Only 1,500 bottles brewed. Available in all Wadworth managed houses.

Sovereign ale 4% abv, single-hop beer brewed with Sovereign hops from Stocks farm on the Worcester/Gloucester border.
Jenning's Queen Bee 3.6% abv, a golden ale brewed with honey
Pedigree Diamond Jubilee A limited-edition 5% abv beer celebrating not only the Diamond Jubilee but also the 60th year of Pedigree.

Theakston Royal Salute 5% abv (cask)

Elizabethan Ale
In bottle (7.5% abv) and in cask (5% abv), this beer echoes Harvey's 1953 Elizabethan Ale. Stuart Highwood, the original hop supplier for the coronation ale, will once again be supplying the hops.

Diamond Ale 4.1% abv brewed with Pale Ale and Premium Cara malts, with Sovereign hops and locally-sourced honey. It is available in 5-litre mini-casks.

Donnington Brewery
Diamond Queen 4% abv (cask)

Queen's Tipple 4.5% abv (cask). Brewed using Maris Otter Malt, Sovereign Hops, Cascade Hops (a floral American hop) and Cluster Hop (another American hop, to add spicy blackberry notes).

Shepherd Neame
Spitfire - Glorious 2012
4.5% abv special edition bottle of Shepherd Neame's well-known Spitfire brand, emblazoned with the words "Keep Calm and Celebrate".

JW Lees
Diamond Jubilee 4.2% abv (cask and bottle)

Diamond Jubilee 4.8% (cask). A copper ale with a burst of tropical, citrus flavours and a crisp bitterness through the use of English-grown Bodicea and Northern Brewer hops.

McMullen & Sons
Jubilation 3.6% abv (cask)

Hop Back
Cherry Diamond 4.6% abv (cask). A bittersweet blush-coloured bitter with natural dark cherry flavours balanced with zest hops.

Elgood & Sons
Royal Pageant 4.3% abv (cask)

Chiltern Brewery
Jubilee Sparkling Ale 6% abv (bottle). An unfiltered and unpasteurised Champagne-style amber ale with creamy honey notes and hints of citrus - bottled with its original yeast.

Wells & Youngs
Diamond Jubilee Ale Pub company Stonegate is partnering with Wells & Youngs to offer this 4% abv beer in its pubs, which once again will be brewed with Sovereign hops.

60 years of British food >>

Jubilee hotels - a royal rave-up >>

NACC jubilee - a meal fit for the queen >>

Getting the royal seal of approval >>

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