Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Great Days of Keg

Inspired, not by morons, but by a look at some old stuff, I was drawn back in time to my early days working in the pub in Scotland. I can remember the beers. Hell I can remember which order the fonts were in. Nearest the door, Lorimer's Dark Heavy, a malty brew. Then Younger's Tartan Special, then McEwan's Export. In between them was Norseman Lager, Guinness and Tennents Lager, the biggest seller. We sold a lot of Tartan too. And Guinness before the "theatre of the pour" had even been thought of. These days it was way thicker, blacker, denser and took forever to settle. People ordered Guinness in advance then.

We had some interesting bottles too. Large pint "screwtops" of McEwan's Pale Ale and Whitbread Pale Ale, smaller bottles of McEwan's Double Century Strong Ale and of course, Fowler's Wee Heavy. We even sold bottles of Belgian Stella. The Boss called it Stella Artoys. The keg beer came a long way from a "cellar" on the same level and fobbed like a bugger. Bar staff did all the jobs from cleaning the toilet's, re-stocking the shelves, sorting the bottles, wiping the bottles, polishing the gantry and all the spirit bottles and hoovering the carpets. There was never a second when you were allowed to do nothing and the place was like a new pin. There was no cleaner employed and the pub had to be ready for the next session when we left. There wasn't much time to skive anyway. The pub was generally heaving until ten o'clock (later eleven) when we threw them all out, sometimes physically and always accompanied by a screaming electric bell to emphasise the point.

On a Sunday it was worse. All pubs were closed in Scotland then (1974 ish) and the only places open were hotel bars and "bona fide inns" such as us. It was absolute mayhem for the two lunchtime opening hours.

After they all went and we'd readied the place there was a blissful hour drinking Export and playing pool. I didn't work on Sunday night. No-one but the Boss could face two such sessions.


Of course all our wages went straight back over the bar.

My favourite beer in these days was Diamond Heavy, or at a pinch, the Export, brewed by Ind Coope (Alloa). We didn't sell it, but the nearest bar to work did. I can still remember its taste. I'd never heard of cask ale.

13 comments:

The Southport D said...

Some fond memories of Mcewans export and Youngers and strangely of the old opening times, playing footu on the car park waiting for the pub to reopen

Paul Bailey said...

Can remember drinking Youngers Tartan when we thought it was the Dog' Bollocks. Was barely 18 at the time and keg was king in those days!

Paul Garrard said...

Harp lager was the big one around my neck of the woods in the 70s. Some Greene King pubs also hard a lager that I seem to remember was called Polar - it was ice-cold and tasteless, truly tasteless, more so than today's standards.

Barm said...

Things hadn't changed that much by the time I started drinking in about 1990. The pace of change since then has been much more dramatic.

Norseman Lager and Lorimer's had disappeared by then. You could still definitely tell who owned a pub. A Tennent's pub would have Tennent's Lager, Tennent's Special, Tennent's Light and Tennent's 80/–. An S&N pub would have McEwan's Export, Younger's Tartan Special, McEwan's 60/– and McEwan's Lager, which was invariably outsold by the much more popular Tennent's Lager the market forced them to stock as well.

Bottled Whitbread (heaven knows who actually brews it now) is still stocked in those few pubs where it hasn't been removed in favour of Peroni or Krusovice. McEwan's Pale Ale staggered on until about 2003, and I last saw Fowler's Wee Heavy about two years ago. Of these old style bottled beers, only Sweetheart Stout continues, seemingly immune to the passage of time.

John Clarke said...

Funnily enough though, one of the finest pints of cask beer I have ever had dates from the mid-70s. It was in a pub near Newark (and (I was taken there by David Pattinson, the brother of the well known blogger). The beer? Youngers IPA. Still memorable almost 35 years after the event.

Tandleman said...

Barm - I'd forgotten about Sweetheart Stout. We sold it in bottles for on trade and cans for take away.

McEwans Pale Ale in pint bottles wasn't a bad drink then.

Bailey said...

Sweetheart Stout is one of those beers that's in Michael Jackson's 500 Beer book, but which I've never seen for sale. Is it even made any more? What's it like? Sickeningly sweet, I'm guessing?

Barm said...

It's still made and I am told it still sells reasonably well. It tastes somewhere in between flat cola and German Vitamalz, if you've had that.

Tandleman said...

You know that sounds like an almost perfect description of it.

Bailey said...

I see. So, not one of the 500 great beers, then...?

Barm said...

No. But possibly one of the 500 great labels.

Tandleman said...

It is rather nice.

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