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
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.
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.