Saturday, 25 December 2010

Do you remember a pint of Best?

I was too young to see these adverts first time round, and I suspect they weren't shown in Scotland in the still very regional set-up (in both brewing and commercial television) of the 1970s.

I can take or leave Chas and Dave, but just look at the detail in these ads. Everything is done with so much attention to detail you're left wondering if it isn't actually archive footage (I think some of it is). The clothes, the pub frontages and the ten-sided beer mugs.

But it leaves me wondering, should they really be drinking Best at all? Wasn't Mild the popular drink in this era? Edit: I love these ads but the more I look at them the more I realise that, despite the attention to detail in sets and clothes, almost everything they say or imply about the actual beer is essentially fiction. Courage was selling four times as much mild as bitter at the time. Most people drank mild. They wouldn't have been drinking bitter at all, and if they had, it would have been about 60% stronger than the product the ads were pushing.

An oddity, and the obligatory Christmas theme to this post, is this second video. It’s the Two Ronnies as Chas and Dave.

The interesting thing is that it's not a parody as such. It's just a pastiche, and they even manage to shoehorn in the Two Ronnies trademark, an unsubtle double entendre that you can see coming about ten seconds in advance. Otherwise it's a straightforward song that you could imagine Chas and Dave performing themselves, and mostly of note because it shows that the Courage ads were well known enough to be pastiched on prime time television. Well known in London anyway — who knows what people in the rest of the UK who hadn't seen the original ads made of it.


  1. Amusing adverts with, as you point out, a lot of attention to detail. However, most end with a picture of a keg fount, and did Courage actually call their beer "Best" back in the 1930's, or 40's when these adverts are supposedly set?

    Thanks for posting them though!

  2. Ron has a table for that:

    Courage PA was 1.052 in the 1930s, so whether or not it was called Bitter or Best in the pub, it was an awful lot stronger than what they were flogging under that name at the end of the 1970s!

    I think they are actually set in the 1920s though, there's a girl in a flapper dress in one of them and they're watching Rudolph Valentino at the cinema.

    Be that as it may, in 1930 Courage brewed around 160,000 barrels of mild and only 40,000 of PA ( So most people in the advert should by rights be drinking mild.

  3. Poor old Courage.

    Passed around like a parcel at a children's party.

    So many owners, takeovers, mergers etc.

    If only Courage had been born with a little more Courage.

    I love Directors, I really do, but I just can't reach for it any more. I feel like I'm being had.

    The last time I looked, Charles Wells was brewing it, which means it's being churned out alongside Red Stripe and Estrella Damm.

    Hardly what the 'Directors' legend would have use all still believing.

    Still, adverts were always there to bend our minds in the right direction.

    Bless us, we're all so deliciously gullible.

  4. I've never been keen on Directors or understood what people saw in it. But if you like it aren't you happy it's still being brewed somewhere? If someone got the rights to brew Russian Stout I'd be all over it no matter who brewed it.

  5. It should also be remembered that in the 1930's Courage brewed no Bitter of any kind at Horsleydown. Their PA was brewed in Alton.