Saturday, 2 May 2020

Lost Beers

There are plenty of good beers out there. Something for everyone, but for us older types there is always that nagging feeling of loss when you think back to the beers that you used to drink and that are no more. Some of them maybe weren't  classics; some in fact might be considered downright bad if you had them to savour now, but each has a place, not only in beery history, but in the hearts and minds of those that drank and enjoyed them.

It is common, I believe - well it is a point of view that many people somewhat mistakenly hold - to think, that before the micro brewing explosion, we were all bored shitless by samey milds and bitter. Boring old brown beer if you will. But actually, those of us who were devotees of the old neck oil were back then, actually very discerning in what and where we supped. If you drank draught beer - and did so in the mid seventies to the early nineties - then you may not have realised it, but you were more likely than not to be drinking cask conditioned bitter or mild. Trad beer as the trade called it.  When the big breweries ruled the roost, backed up by large regional breweries and some local ones - certainly in large chunks of the country - though less so in London - traditional beer was the norm.

When I lived in Liverpool, my first local sold cask Greenall Whitley Bitter and Mild, via electric slider pumps dispensed into oversize glasses. You could see the beer  as it slid through the mechanism.  It was cask and I quite liked it, though it had its detractors.  When I moved home, it was next door but three to a Tetley House, but here it was handpumps and Warrington brewed Tetley Bitter and later, when they converted it, Walker's Bitter.  All cask beer.

All around were other breweries pubs. My beloved Higsons; Bass pubs selling Brew Ten, Worthington and Draught Bass, Burtonwood from St Helens and more. It was rare not to have cask, but of course into each life a little rain must fall. And fall it did with Whitbread, that old bête noire of CAMRA, who, with their start/stop real ale policy and a general disdain for cask were to be avoided.  People cared about beer alright. When you suggested meeting someone in a pub they didn't know, or a pint after work was proposed, the first thing asked was usually "Whose ale is it?"

Believe it or not though, I grew up on keg beer in the West of Scotland - a bit like most people there still do.  They just have better keg now, by and large. So back to where I started. This lockdown has got me thinking about beers I have had, loved and which, as they aren't brewed any more, I can in all probability never have again. Some maybe me seeing the past through rose-tinted spectacles. Well maybe so, but nothing wrong with that. Defunct beers are like former girlfriends. Every one was a stunner in retrospect.

So here is my top five "lost" beers in time order:

McEwan's Pale Ale

Always in pint screwtop bottles. I used to drink this in Dumbarton when in certain pubs.  McEwans Pale Ale was also the first beer I ever tasted. Darkish, not too sweet and hardly strong at all. A great thirst quencher. And I liked pints bottles. Sometimes it was a Belhaven Screwtop or if flush Whitbread Pale Ale.

Ind Coope Alloa Brewery Diamond Heavy

I loved this. I can still taste its crystal malt flavour and its slightly sweet finish. I used to have one pint - well sometimes more - each night at five'clock after work, entering the pub just as the bolt was drawn back.  I quite liked Diamond Export too, which was I believe, Double Diamond brewed in Alloa. You can see the original fonts in this advert. They changed after I left Scotland
Higsons Bitter

It is my favourite beer of all time. I loved this beer. Bitter, hoppy and once you got the hang of it, the finest beer to drink. I miss it very much. Higsons pubs were also great; never too big and always welcoming. My blog has many references to them.

Tetley Walker Tetley Bitter

 Brewed in Dallam, Warrington,  this always seemed to me to be lighter and more complex in taste than the Leeds version, which was always to my mind, served that bit flatter too. I drank many, many gallons of this all over Liverpool and would recognise a pint of it even now. That slightly sourish finish was so appealing. I mention it here in the context of the Leeds Brewery closure.

Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale

Mostly I drank that in Leeds when I worked there. Floral, aromatic, hoppy and deadly. Always drank a bit above its strength. A former Champion Beer of Britain and deservedly so. Criminal that this beer was allowed to die. I wrote about it here.

So there you have it. I'm not claiming each was the best, but for me it was at the time. Beers that I wish were still around today and if they were, I'd drink them in a heartbeat. 

Do let me know your favourite lost beers.

Another one that just missed the list was Boddington brewed Oldham Bitter. Tasted nothing like the original, but had a lovely lactic finish and great mouthfeel.
My list contains three beers from what was Allied Breweries. They were by far the best of the Nationals in my view.


Matt said...

Wilsons Mild for me, I can still taste the caramel thirty years later.

doubleshiny said...

My brother misses having Spendrups in cans from IKEA,they stopped production apparently. I will likely never have Mad Hatter's tzatsiki sour again, I will miss a lot of their beers

Edd The Brew said...

For Me ;
1 ) Burtonwood Bitter & their other beers especially the Mild .
2 ) Greenall`s : Mild ; Still remembered 25 + years later
3 ) Morrell`s Bitter
4 ) Tetley Light Mild
5 ) Tetley`s Imoerial

Ed said...

Burton's the one for me. And though the mourning will officially end in two years I'll always miss it. :-(

Stretton Ale House said...

Great to see three Allied beers listed as an ex Allied employee North West and South. I still have some affection for the Burton brewed Benskins Bitter, reintroduced to the Northern Home Counties in 1980, and for St Austell Tinners Bitter, a beer from my youth eventually killed off in the relaunches which introduced Tribute and, later, current favourite Proper Job.

Tandleman said...

Allied brewed some really good beers all over. Shame it all went tits up.

@WestBromEL said...

I think I've tweeted you before about how much I miss Hanson's Mild.

Simpkiss beers from Brierley Hill are another I'd like to taste one more time, apparently when they were taken over by Greenall Whitley every cask going through its primary fermentation was emptied down the drain.

Is Ruddles County still brewed? Probably the first non West Midlands beer I ever drank.

Tandleman said...

Interesting choices Edd. Used to drink Greenalls Mild mixed with Guinness in Liverpool occasionally. Pint of 50 then. Plenty Warrington brewed light mild around too. Burtonwood-decent beers.

Tandleman said...

Hanson's Mild was a fine beer. I believe the Simpkiss story to be true.

Tandleman said...

PS. Don't think so.

Malcolm Nicholls said...

Amen to that.

John Clarke said...

This is an excellent topic: For me (in no order really)

1. Ruddles Barley Wine (from a cask on the bar of Kirrages in Newark, Christmas 1975)
2. Home Bitter (a really bitter beer - first properly made its mark for me at the Newcastle Arms in Newark in the mid-1970s)
3. Hardy Hansoms Kimberley Bitter )almost downed a pint in one at the Kings Arms in Newark around in the mid/late 70s and it remained a favourite until they closed the brewery)
4. Gwynedd Brewery Mild (sampled at Stoke Beer Festival around 1981 - me and a pal of mine still remembers how good it was)
5. West Coast Green Bullett (everyone remembers Dobbin's Sierra Nevada/Yakima Grande but this was a sessionable, floral and aromatic wonder brewed as a house beer for the Crown, Heaton Lane, Stockport).

Citra said...

Always Thought Ringwood 4X Porter was a great beer, don't think it's still in production, certainly haven't seen it for years.

Birkonian said...

Burtonwood Mild is sadly missed. Also Greenall Whitley's Wem brewery. Morrell's is a good shout, the strong Varsity was wonderful. No one's mentioned proper Manchester Boddington's.

Tandleman said...


Tandleman said...

Interesting list John. Home Brewery beers were good. Ah yes Green Bullett. Had forgotten about that. Great choices.

SouthSideStory said...

Buttonwood Dark Mild and Peter Walker Mild.

stymaster said...

Holts Entire. Holt, Plant & Deakin. Introduced to it by colleagues when I was about 19/20. Converted me from lager.

Anonymous said...

I would say, from the years I travelled regularly to England, that these were the best beer;

1) Ruddle's County

2)Courage Director's Bitter

3) Ind Coope Burton Ale

4) Young's Special

5) Fuller's ESB.

Some are still available but they are not as I remember them.

Gary Gillman

Paul Bailey said...

Fremlin's Bitter, from Whitbread's Faversham brewery. Based on the old Fremlin's Three Star Biter, and confusingly badged as Trophy Bitter for a while, this 3.7% brew was the perfect session beer.

Plenty of malt body, off set by a thirst-quenching hop bitterness - I can still taste it now!

Brakspear's Special, when it was still brewed at Henley. There was almost a honeyed note to it, and when served southern-style, without a head, it was pure class in a glass!

Young's Special, from Wandsworth. I enjoyed many happy sessions supping this beer at the Leather Bottle in Garratt lane, just up the road from the brewery, back in the late 70's.

Other commentators have mentioned Morrells Bitter, along with Hardy & Hansons Bitter. I have fond memories of both.

ABrewHaHa said...

I didn't even know it at the time, but frequenting Manchester all of 43 years ago I had a fantastic choice of beers to drink, and I did, but probably without any appreciation. The first beer that I drank that made me savour the flavour was Barnsley Bitter (original) at The Boys Head in Peterborough, drank many pints of it in the 6 months I spent there.
A few sadly long gone beers would be Tetley Imperial, Kitchen Raisin Stout & the superb Sam Smiths Museum Ale.

Jake said...

Holts Entire. I would love to try that now and see how it stacks up against my current faves. A micro brewery set up by a macro - what a novel idea!

Andrew said...

Mine would be:
- Greenall's Bitter & Thomas Greenall's Original. If there was one beer I could bring back, it would be Greenall's Bitter. It even tasted "green" to me.
- Flowers IPA. An under-estimated beer.
- Dogbolterfrom Firkin. A great way to end the night at the Finch & Firkin (Brook House)
- Walkers Winter Warmer. The best of a the Walkers range
- Friary Meux. Often criticised but a tasty session beer

Curmudgeon said...

@Andrew - Greenalls Bitter was the beer I learned to drink on, and when well kept it could be far better than often given credit for.

I also used to like the products of Whitbread's Cheltenham brewery, Flowers Original as well. They had a distinctive full, rich mouthfeel.

When I lived in Surrey in the early 80s I drank a lot of Friary Meux Bitter and agree it was an underrated beer with a dry character.

John Lamb said...

1 Simpkiss Old
2 Bass No 1
3 Bullmastiff Ebony Dark in both 4.2% and 8.0% versions
4 Worthington Dark
5 Buckleys Dark
6 Brains Victory Ale
7 Wye Valley Dorothy's Big Bang
8 Freeminer Deep Shaft Stout

Curmudgeon said...

These are all beers that were never available on my doorstep in the various places I lived, so I always had to travel a bit to find them.

Border Exhibition Mild – a delicate, complex and unusually strong light mild, particularly enjoyed in the Old Custom House in Chester.

M&B Highgate Mild – this, for me, summed up Mild, rich, sweet and malty. Too many Milds nowadays are more like junior stouts.

Gales BBB – a highly distinctive bittersweet beer. Unfortunately the brewery had a yeast infection in 1984 and it was never remotely the same again.

Yates & Jackson Bitter – the classic pale and very hoppy bitter. But hoppy beers of that era totally lacked the citrusy character that is predominant today.

Wards Bitter – this had a truly unique flavour and could not be mistaken for anything else. Sadly lost when parent company Vaux was abruptly shut down.

Also an honourable mention to Greenall’s Wem Best Bitter.

I never got the chance to experience Boddingtons Bitter in its heyday, as by the time I moved to Stockport in 1984 it was well past its prime.

John A said...

Boddingtons Bitter
Cornbrook Bitter
Oldham Brewery Bitter

Tandleman said...

Some great suggestions there. Yates and Jackson for one. As for mild while M&B is a great choice, I'd go with Hanson's.

John Clarke said...

Oh, I forgot about Wards Bitter. That was one of the very few brewery closures I was genuinely upset about. Normally I like my beers very biter and/or hoppy and while Wards was certainly malt-accented it also had a deliciously dry finish. I'd cross the road for a pint of Wards, and frequently did.

Nick said...

In no particular order:

Simpkiss TNT
Simpkiss Old Ale
Higsons Bitter
Higsons Mild
Holt, Plant and Deakin Entire
Ind Cooope Burton Ale
Tetleys Bitter (Leeds; was never keen on the Warrington version)
Tetleys Imperial
Youngers No 3
Highgate Mild
Highgate Old Ale
Castle Eden Ale
Several of Whitbread's late 80s/early 90s seasonal brews
Draught Magnet Ale
Stones Bitter

All the above closed by megabreweries.

Wards Bitter
Yates' Bitter (the Lake District one)
Franklin's Bitter

Simon Davison said...

Butterknowle High Force.

Man Beach said...

Some of these are still available but the recipes have been changed, so -

Young's Special, as it used to be when I first moved to London in the 1980's
Greene King Abbot, as it used to be when I started drinking it, in the 1970's
Whitbread Pompey Royal
King & Barnes Sussex Old Ale (I remember visiting the brewery in Horsham & seeing the antiquated area where they brewed this)
Gibbs Mew Bishop's Tipple (when it was something like 6.5% ABV?)
And almost any of the 1/3 pint 'nip' bottles which used to be available, such as Young's Old Nick for example

Anonymous said...

Adnams Extra
Youngs Porter
Ind Coope Burton Ale


Nick said...

Yes, Bishop's Tipple was great, as was Abbott back in the day. And Eldridge Pope Royal Oak is another old Southern favourite long gone.

Nick said...

Oh, and Marston's Merrie Monk...

Ron Pattinson said...

There are so many.

Wem Bitter and Mild
Shipstone Bitter and Mild
Home Bitter and Mild
Any King & Barnes beer
Ansells Mild (the Bitter was crap)
Darley's Mild

Rob Sterowski said...

I’m too young for this, and that’s not something I get to say that often these days.

I guess the main one is Deuchars IPA, the way it used to be. It was a wonderful beer at one time. Glasgow CAMRA voted it Beer of the Year four years on the trot in the early 90s. It was widely available and it disproved the myth that a really good beer can’t also be massively popular. At some point they drastically reduced the hopping in it, which meant the other flavours in it came to the fore and rendered it a mess. The last time I had it they’d also apparently cleaned up the yeast, which was a mistake as that was the only thing left giving it any character.

I would like Maclays to still be around, but the truth is I never got to drink enough of their beer to remember what they were like.

If I wanted to drink McEwan’s 80/– or Younger’s No. 3, Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh produce very reasonable imitations of both.

A version of McEwan’s Pale Ale is still made, I think. It was the same beer as their 60/– on draught, which is extremely rare but still available as a keg beer in a vanishingly small number of pubs.

Chris Griffiths said...

I found my way over here from Boak and Bailey’s blog as I also had ben having thoughts about lost beers (and lost pubs, but that’s a subject for another time).

I’ll preface my list by pointing out that my formative drinking was in Manchester but subsequent moves have taken me via Staffordshire, London and Gloucestershire to Bristol. As we are talking about “lost” beers, they generally feature from the early part of this journey. Trying to keep the list to five(ish):

1. Chester’s Mild

2. Marston’s Merrie Monk

3. Highgate Mild

4. (To provide some respite from the darkness of this list so far.) Springfield Bitter

5. Mrs Lewis’s homebrew, All Nations, Madeley. I considered this to be a “second pint” beer. The first was always refreshing, but unremarkable. You really got the taste on the second (and subsequent). As it was very low gravity (not much more than 1030, I think) there could be many subsequent. But was it a light mild or a bitter? Discuss.

Other candidates included Wem Mild (Greenall’s), Boddington’s Bitter (c1975) and Young's Special (c1985). A few others have mentioned Burtonwood, but I never did get on with their beers.

Atticusfinch1048 said...

I remember in 1990 being taken to a pub in West Bromwich town centre on a Tuesday night it had one pump and one optic and was packed.

The beer on pump was Hansons Mild and it was such a beautiful drink

The optic was a bottle of bells, for the non-Mild drinkers from what I could see was nobody

Andy Cooper said...

Oldham Brewery Bitter, along with Lees bitter I grew up on OB.

Boddingtons in its pomp before the corporate clowns got at it.

Tetleys bitter from their Leeds brewery, again before it became all corporate.

I have to agree with you about the Higsons, much missed, a regular reliable and favourite tipple when we had meetings in Liverpool.

And this might seem heretical but I actually used to like Wilsons Mild.

@WestBromEL said...

Always the first pint of the night in The Old Hop Pole, Carters Green on a West Brom crawl, a tasty balance of malt and hops, dare I say not unlike Bass.

Axholmerob said...

I'm a little younger than some of the other comments, but remember finishing the last barrel of Wards Mild from a Theakston Mild pump! I understand it was the Darleys recipe and also sold as Vaux mild.
Anything from Yates in Cumbria, we ran a tied pub in Cumbria but sneaked in 3 pins on our first anniversary at the pub. They went in 24 hours!
I've tried Adnams Extra and Youngers No3 both cracking brews, I think the latter was a one off from Wells at the time though.
The Oakwell Bitter from RBNB at Red Lion at Horncastle were really sessionable.

Curmudgeon said...

Adnams Extra lives on as bottled Southwold Bitter, which is a different and stronger recipe from the draught product.

Anonymous said...

1. Hartley's XB (but only in Summer - needed tourists to ensure throughput).

2. St Austell HSD (Hicks Special Draught).

3. Morrells Light.

4. Vaux Sampson Ale.

5. Smiles Best Bitter.

8. Morland Bitter.

I would also go for Timothy Taylor Landlord of the 70s and early 80s. Had this in a pub that was demolished years ago in Manchester, opposite Piccadilly station. Hydes Mild in a pub on Portland Street was also very good.

Manx Ravens said...

One of your tweets the other day reminded me of a couple of old favourites from up my way.
Lorimer's best scotch
Newcastle Exhibition (The cask version was excellent when it occasionally appeared)
Younger's Number 3
A couple that still technically exist but are brewed by somebody else and have changed imo beyond recognition
Boddington's bitter
John Smith's Magnet

John A said...

One I forgot

C ale from Groves and Whitnall as served at the Fairview between Oldham and Rochdale.

Anonymous said...

Peter Dickinson. So many reminders of what we are missing, so many beers that I thought then,were very good. But no-one mentioned the Holts beers of the 70s, which are definitely not still with us, or Whitbread Special Cask Bitter from Trueman Street. I seem to remember that was excellent. But how many would stack up against the best
beers available today,; like the selection on most days at the Marble.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of balance, when I began to take an interest in the late 80s, there was an awful lot of real ale around that tasted like cold stewed tea, esp. in the SW and Wales. Generally brewers are more generous with the hops these days, even if they're the wrong sort of hops.

RedNev said...

Greenall's: I cannot say anything good about this beer. I was at Padgate College near Warrington in the mid-70s. Warrington was not far off being a one-horse town in beer terms: Greenall's. It was utterly mediocre with no discernible good points whatsoever. Our student bar had it, and every so often a big lorry would roll up to pour the slop into our bar's tanks. If you could find Greenall's in real form it wasn't too bad, but that was very rare. The demise of Greenall's was a blessing for beer drinkers.

Higson's: I used to tell my student friends how superior this beer was, but I found it hard to persuade them to go for a booze-up in Liverpool; they tended to prefer Manchester for somewhere different.

The modern Higson's has no relationship to the classic brew; the brewer simply owns the brand name and has created new recipes, which I thought were nothing special.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I failed at Uni in the late '70s thanks mainly to being in Lancaster when there were two breweries - Yates&Jackson and Mitchell's.
I always preferred the latter - dark amber,decent head, old-fashioned bitter ( I refuse to call it boring ).
Between those two and the occasional incursion into the town of Thwaites and Theakstons I was rarely sober for most of my undergraduate days.

Tandleman said...

Interesting choices there. Think Lorimers Scotch was sold as 70/- in Scotland. I have a Newcastle Exhibition cask poster. As new.

Tandleman said...

I remember the Trueman St brew Liverpool days. It was decent but didn't last.

Tandleman said...

Nice. Prof. I have quite a bit of Mitchell's stuff.

Ed said...

Yates' bitter is a good call. I'm at a bit of a loss when in the ODG now it's gone.

Phil said...

I'm not strictly speaking too young for this - I've drunk Mitchell's bitter and Firkin Dogbolter in my time - but I didn't really start taking an interest till this millennium, so I can't add much.

But I will say that West Coast's Tsingtao-alike was rather fine, and I have fond memories of their ginger beer. (I wasn't a hop warrior at the time, so most of Brendan D's beers that people rave about now passed me by.)

Oakwell only went down the tubes a couple of years ago - and I only had their beer a few times - but their Mild made a real impression on me.

Not a closed brewery, but I have very fond memories of a few long-gone beers from the very early days of Marble - particularly McKenna's Revenge porter and the strong Christmas seasonal Wee Star. But if we got started on contemporary breweries that have disappeared/changed ownership/changed direction/etc we'd be here all night.

John Clarke said...

Hi Phil - Oakwell Mild was a real surprise when I first tried it (at the New Victoria in Longsight). I was taken aback by how good it was.

Marble McKenna's Revenge Porter was an identical clone of Dobbin's Yakima Grande Porter. O know this because I was in the Arch with a friend and commented that the McKenna's was very like Yakima Grande - and who should pop up from the cellar but the man himself )as he had a big hand in the original Marble installation) - and he hold me it was in effect the same beer.

John Lester said...

In reality, I’d love to try again any of the beers I drank in the early seventies. That would be a pretty long list, so here are a few that I drank fairly regularly at that time and still miss:
London: Whitbread Trophy from Chiswell Street – probably my favourite beer in London. I much preferred it to the Wethered’s that replaced it.
Charrington’s IPA from Mile End, which was completely different from the substitutes from Cape Hill and Springfield – much darker and a lot more bitter.
South East England: King and Barnes Bitter; Whitbread Trophy (Faversham) – I agree with Paul Bailey’s comments; Gales Bitter; Shepherd Neame Bitter – hugely hoppy and nothing like today’s Master Brew; Courage Best Bitter (Reading) – a superlative beer (I used to travel from London to Shepperton and Chertsey – the closest places to home where I could drink it. In my view, the best beer Courage ever brewed).
Oxford area: Morrell’s Bitter and draught Light (my staple drinks as an undergraduate: Morrell’s draught Light at 11p a pint was excellent value even in the early seventies); Morland’s Bitter and Mild.
Manchester: Boddington’s Bitter – what more can I say?
Sheffield: Stones’ Best Bitter – another very pale beer and another cracking pint (the best beer ever brewed by Bass Charrington, in my opinion)
Shropshire: Wem Best Bitter and Mild.
West country: Ushers PA and West Country Pale Ale – two very weak beers that were ideal for an extended session.
A few years later, I liked Ind Coope (later Benskins) KK light mild, which had similar qualities; and, like others, I enjoyed the Romford-brewed revival of Friary Meux Bitter.

John Clarke said...

Hi John - that's a very interesting list of long-gone beers, many of which have always intrigued me. I've always thought Shepherd Neame beers must have been better, well hoppier and more bitter, than they are today and I'd loved to have tried them back then.

John Lester said...

Hello John. There is a theory, I think, that think some breweries toned down the bitterness or other characteristics of their beer to give it a more universal appeal. Shepherd Neame could certainly fit that bill - the hoppiness and bitterness was almost overwhelming on first acquaintance, and I can certainly see that it wouldn't have appealed to everyone. Faversham Trophy was also pretty hoppy, though not to the extent of Shepherd Neame. I suppose you might expect Kent breweries to put particular emphasis on hop bitterness; it would be interesting to hear whether thatw true of Tomson and Wotton, Cobbs and Mackeson, all of which stopped brewing a few years before I started taking an interest in beer.

Tandleman said...

Great stuff from a Southern perspective John. Fascinating list.

Steve The Beerhunter said...

Thwaites Best Mild. Twice Camra Champion Beer. ‘78 & ‘80. A wonderful beer, I only knew it in one pub in Bury, The Help Me Thro, luckily it was my regular pub (still going to this day).

Anonymous said...

Just a small pedantic point. Burtonwood brewery wasn't in St Helens, it was classed as Warrington.

Tandleman said...

Technically maybe. But it is just two miles to St Helens Junction Station and a lot more to Warrington.