I was set to thinking by Southport Drinker, when in a response to Stonch, he mentioned that old classic drink, "brown bitter". When I played in various Darts Leagues in Liverpool, it was inevitably keg beer in the Social Club League in which I played for St Anthony's of Aigburth and mostly cask, as most beer was then, in the Merseyside Civil Service Darts League. Most of us, cask ale men in the main, when in social clubs, consequently drank brown bitter, which was indeed a very popular mix in Scousley. (I believe in the Midlands a brown bitter was unattractively called a "brown split". I don't think I'd fancy asking for one of those!) The bottled brown ales all had their differences in terms of body and sweetness, though all were inevitably on the sweet side of the brewing spectrum with the possible exception of Higson's Double Top. In those days you knew where you were with beer. Each pub or club sold the beer of one brewery, with many selling Mann's Brown Ale in addition.
Greenall's had "Bull's Eye Brown" a pretty good beer as I recall, Whitbread had "Forest Brown", Tetley and Walker's pubs had the excellent "Walker's Brown Peter" and Mann's, Bass I think just called their effort "Bass Brown Ale". To add to the variety available, there was on occasion in Tetley pubs, Ind Coope Brown Ale. Some deviants even added Jubilee Sweet Stout to their keg bitter! One advantage this drinking habit had was that the half pint of bitter was poured by eye and usually gave you a bit extra, which in these impoverished days, was a welcome bonus. You measured this simply by how much ale remained in the bottle after topping up your half pint while gleefully or dolefully looking at the measure others had got. Happy days. It was therefore good to read Stonch's review of Mann's, which, with a few notable exceptions in some regional breweries such as Harvey's and Holt's, is a survivor and in its own way, despite its peripatetic career, a genuine piece of brewing history.
Perhaps less well remembered, but worth recalling are other beer mixes. "Golden" was a lager/bitter mix and "fifty" was a mix of mild and Guinness. I used to drink this in the Park Hotel in Tuebrook for a bit. Mild and Bitter was I think the same as it is now - A pint of mixed. It survives still. I poured quite a few on Saturday when I was working at the pub. I say survives, it clings on here and there where draught mild is available, but is a splendid reminder of how, when breweries produced little by way of variety, the drinker found a way to individualise his beer, though of course there were other more sinister reasons, historically at least, why bottled beer was added to draught. That's for another time though.
Now with all the variety available, I miss the simple act of being able to make a bad beer taste better by the addition of a bottle of brown. I fact, I miss all these brown ales and all these breweries. Am I alone in thinking this? I hope not.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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