“Mackeson is a strong stout.” In 1957 Mackeson was 3.9% abv. It seems as ludicrous as back in the 1980s when the likes of Red Stripe at 4.7% used to be marketed as “Strong Lager”. It was only strong in comparison to the watery “standard lager” pub drinkers were used to, such as the unlamented 3.0% version of Heineken.Bu
But even at 3.9%, Mackeson actually was stronger than most beer drunk in Britain at the time. This 1971 exchange from Hansard, prompted by the Sunday Mirror’s notorious exposé of the gravities of widely available beers, suggests that the strength of beer remained pretty much the same from the 1950s through to the 1970s:
3. Mr. Ashton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether 184 he will introduce legislation to control the alcoholic content and gravity of beer.184§ Mr. Anthony StodartI see no need for legislation. There is no evidence that the alcoholic content, or gravity, of beer has changed significantly since 1951. Nor is it evident that consumers are incapable of selecting a beer which meets their taste from the many on offer.§ Mr. AshtonHas not the hon. Gentleman seen the Sunday Mirror report, which is quite contrary to what he just said? If it is possible to have the proof written on the label of a whisky bottle and the octane rating on a petrol pump so that the consumer can have a proper choice, why cannot the same be done for beer? If the gravity is declared to the Excise authorities, as it must be, why cannot it be put on the beer pump or the beer bottle label?§ Mr. StodartThe hon. Gentleman has asked several questions. I have read the Sunday Mirror, but a comparison of its article with the article in Which? in 1960 shows no marked trend. If the House wishes, I will circulate the complete comparisons in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The average specific gravity has varied by only 0.2 in 20 years; it has gone up very slightly since 1951. As to the comparison with whisky and petrol, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that they are different. The hon. Gentleman will give just as good a performance on light ale as on heavy.§ Mr. StodartMy hon. Friend is entirely correct. There are other things that interest beer drinkers. There is colour and there is flavour, and alcohol content is not one that particularly interests me.§ Mr. Michael CocksDoes the Minister agree that it is regrettable that the House must rely for information on a survey in 1960 and a more recent report in the Sunday Mirror? Will the hon. Gentleman consider cutting through all the 185 objections raised on both sides by publishing the tax the drinker pays on a pint, so that the drinker can make his own comparisons?