Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The coolest bar you’ll never get to go to

This is not quite the post I expected to put up today, but I’d started so I’ll finish, as they say.

Earlier this year I posted about Grunting Growler, the growler station opened in Glasgow’s West End by Chicago native Jehad Hatu. Happily he had a good residency at the Bike Station with the hipsters of Kelvingrove flocking in. A second guest spot in up-and-coming Dennistoun followed at Dennistoun BBQ where the food is excellent (if you’re not yet fed up of barbeque), but didn’t last as long as hoped.

Jehad’s latest venture is in the unused space of the former Halt Bar, which is scheduled to become West on the Corner in the New Year. The old Halt had two distinct rooms, one the pub and the other for music events. Itself operating as a “pop-up” until they get around to refurbishing it, West are in the pub and Grunting Growler is operating in the former music venue. This must surely be the first pop-up within another pop-up.

It’s a nice space and is the closest Glasgow has yet got to the vibe of the railway-arch taprooms of East London, without any of the pretentiousness (actually, the East London places themselves are not pretentious either – that comes from the hype they get in the mainstream press).

At this stage, I was going to say that Grunting Growler is at 160 Woodlands Road for the rest of December and possibly the beginning of January (Wear warm clothes, because it’s freezing!)…

But you’ve missed your chance. As I heard yesterday, building work has started earlier than expected and the popup is already over. That’s the risk involved in attaching yourself to someone else’s project, I suppose. Hopefully Jehad will find another space soon.

Friday, 12 December 2014

T & J Bernard’s beer range in 1960

As we saw the other day, when Scottish Brewers took over Edinburgh rival T&J Bernard in 1960, Bernard’s were requested to supply details of their beer range, so that the most suitable substitute from the McEwan’s and Younger’s ranges could be found. Here’s the list they supplied.

Bernard beers in 1960
Bottled AlesGravitySize of Bottle
India Pale Ale103010oz 20oz
Brown Ale*103010oz
Special Export104310oz
Grouse Export104510oz
Double Brown Ale104310oz 20oz*
Strong Ale10686.5oz
Export Stout104510oz
Canned AlesGravitySize of Can
India Pale Ale103016oz
Export Beer104316oz
Grouse Ale104516oz
Export Stout104516oz
* Gateshead only

That looks like a pretty standard range for a Scottish brewer of the time. Weak IPA. A Strong Ale and a Stout. The theory of Northern and Southern English Brown Ale is further undermined, as we have a weak and a strong Brown Ale from the same brewer. What is puzzling me are the two Export beers with very similar gravities.

And the four canned beers, presumably the most popular, IPA, Export, Grouse and Export Stout. I can imagine some house parties fueled by those after pub closing time. Pubs closed earlier back then of course.

Draught Ale Qualities and Gravities
No 21036S.F. Priming at 1148º is added to both Qualities at the rate of 1pt. per brl. except during periods of warm weather e.g. July to end of September.
No 31031
Newcastle & District
Special (No 1)1046No priming added
No 21036"
No 31031"
Grouse1045Supplied to one customer only (Dunston Social Club, Gateshead)

In common with other Scottish brewers, there was a significant trade with the Newcastle and Gateshead area, with beer being produced specially for that market. Did you notice that? Bernard’s had more different draught beers for the North East market than they did in Scotland. And there’s the Double Brown Ale packaged in pint bottles for the Geordies. I wonder what that was meant to compete with?

Also, they didn’t trust the locals with their strongest draught beer, No 1. If you wanted to get steaming, you’d have to neck the odd bottle of Strong Ale or glass of whisky between pints.

No priming was added in warm weather, or when beer was going to tropical Gateshead. Which suggests, to my naïve mind, that they were using a poorly attenuating yeast which took a long time to reach final gravity. Or perhaps they were racking to casks above final gravity as brewers do nowadays.

One more point. The other day, when we saw sales reps being instructed to make it clear to publicans that the substitute beer they’d be getting was going to be “container beer”, or keg as we call it today, I said that implied Bernard were still selling cask-conditioned beer. This proves it. The talk of priming is proof that the draught beer was cask ale.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Colours of Bernard, Younger and McEwan beers in 1960

I posted this document before because of the information in it about the mysterious names McEwan’s gave their beers. It shows the remarkable extent to which both Younger and McEwan and their Edinburgh rival T & J Bernard sold basically the same couple of draught beers in several different colour variations.

At the time, I didn’t know the provenance or precise date of the document. Now I do. I also know where it comes from, why it was written and when. Which makes it all a lot more exciting.

When Scottish Brewers, as they then were, took over T&J Bernard in 1960, the sales reps of the doomed and soon-to-be-closed Bernard brewery needed to be informed of the McEwan’s and Younger’s beers that were going to replace their own. See post from the other day.

The colour of the beer was obviously very important to customers. That’s why all three breweries were in the habit of making up several differently coloured versions of each draught beer, and why Scottish Brewers had to produce this overview of the colours of their own and Bernard’s beers.

Here are the colours of the beers made at Younger’s (Holyrood) and McEwan’s (Fountain) as brewed:

But it doesn’t end there by a long chalk. Beer was also coloured up before being sent out to certain customers, to a surprising number of different shades:

While at Holyrood:

How were they doing things at Bernard? Well, when it comes to colour, Bernard’s were doing their fair share of colouring up – even more, actually, but at least using the Lovibond scale instead of a made-up one of their own like Fountain did.

Colour No 3 Ale
For easy reference colours are generally known as:–
Light Tint25
A shade of colour38
Extra Dark58
Tint 8080
Inverness Dark150

Amazing stuff. No 3 was Bernard’s lowest gravity draught beer at 1031, so would have been sold as Light. Like the Light that you can still find in a rapidly shrinking number of Scottish pubs today, it was dark. I don’t pretend to understand the Lovibond colour scale, but isn’t 32 already pretty dark? What was the point of colouring it up to 80 or 150?

Colour. The scale used is 52 Series Lovibond and is the tint determined in a 1" cell.

No 2 Quality (Scotland) Tint 16. This colour is general in Scotland although there are some exceptions but not many. Newcastle Tint 25.

No 3 Quality
Colours vary according to the district.
3 customers in Dundee & one in Aberdeen25
East Coast45
Glasgow 25%45
12 1/2%80
12 1/2%150
* Newcastle only

Here’s the consolidated table listing all the variations the three breweries produced between them:

Colours of Bernard, Younger and McEwan beer in 1960
Lovibond colourBrewerOld trade nameNameTypeRemarks
16BernardNo 2No 2Pale AleAs sold in Scotland
21YoungerP60/–XXPPale Ale/Light
21YoungerP70/–XXPSPale Ale/Heavy
21YoungerP80/–I.P.A.Pale Ale
24McEwan60/–5/aPale Ale/Light
24McEwanP70/–P70/–Pale Ale/Heavy
24McEwanP80/–P80/–Pale Ale/Export
25BernardNo 2No 2Pale AleAs sold in Newcastle
25BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/Light3 customers in Dundee & one in Aberdeen
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightDundee
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightEdinburgh
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightNewcastle
45BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightBorders
45BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightEast Coast + a couple in Glasgow
47YoungerP60/–XXPQPale Ale/Light
56McEwan60/–G5/aPale Ale/Light
58BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightFife + a couple in Glasgow
80BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightOne or two customers in Glasgow
88McEwan60/–D5/aPale Ale/Light
150Bernard No 3No 3Pale Ale/LightInverness + one or two in Glasgow

Each brewery seems to have had its own internal colour scale. At Fountain it was no different. Note the remark “Every effort should be made to take beer as brewed.” Which suggests to me that the demand for darker beer was from the customers, not the brewers.

Very few people living in Scotland can possibly remember Light beer being anything other than very dark. The BJCP, however, claims Scottish Light is an amber to copper beer. With the colour ranging between 21 Lovibond (Younger’s) and 150 (Bernard’s sold in Inverness), the reality in the heyday of Light was evidently more complicated than either scenario. Bernard used four different shades for Glasgow alone. If you bought your draught beer from T & J Bernard’s, you could get it pretty much any colour you wanted!

More seriously, we are probably seeing here the beginning of the period when Light moved to being dark generally.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Pub sells real ale for the first time in 54 years – and here's why it stopped

I’ve written a little about the Imperial Bar just off St Enoch Square before. I rather like it there, and have often wished that it sold cask beer.

The Imperial a couple of years ago

Well, sometimes wishes come true, but not exactly as you wanted them to.

For a couple of months ago, hand pumps appeared on the bar. But when I first tentatively asked for a pint from the unlabelled pump, it was vinegary and unpleasant, and it was only because I’d recently returned from Belgium that I was able to force it down. On my second visit the cask was equally poor and I had to content myself with a bottle of Old Peculier from the fridge. When I went in for the third time I finally got an acceptable glass of beer.

The Imperial since its recent refurb. The leaded glass panels have been
safely relocated inside the pub.
But here’s the sad part: I’m not sure the beer will ever get better than acceptable, because it comes from the Caledonian Brewery. Normally I wouldn’t cross the street for their beer, because the quality has declined so much. It’s a terrible shame, because Deuchars IPA was once a marvellous beer and one I was happy to drink anywhere.

I can’t fault the pub: it’s a brave step but they are tied to Heineken and have to sell what the Heineken-owned Caley produces. Indeed, the pub has been in the hands of Heineken, and Scottish & Newcastle before them, as far back as I can trace. And that’s what makes this particular story interesting: because we can state with an unusual degree of confidence exactly when the Imperial last sold real ale.

It was the autumn of 1960 — 54 years ago! – and Maitland’s Bar, as the pub was then, belonged to Edinburgh brewer T & J Bernard. In that year Bernard and its Edinburgh Brewery was taken over – and closed down – by Scottish Brewers of McEwan’s and Younger’s fame (the merger that formed S&N was still to come).

There was none of the nonsense you see today about continuing to brew the brands at another location. The first thing the new management did was send their sales reps round all their pubs to tell their tenants that in future they were going to get McEwan’s or Younger’s beer, as this memo to the reps shows:

Strictly Private and Confidential.

Instructions to Representatives of T. & J. Bernard, Ltd.

The following instructions are to be complied with on and after 22nd August, 1960 and not before that date.


Each representative will be given a list of his present customers and will notice that against each bulk customer is marked in ink a Y or an M or M/Y or Y/M.

Y denotes Wm. Younger & Co’s Bulk
M     " Wm. McEwan’s Bulk
M/Y or Y/M  " either brand

On and after 22nd August, 1960 each representative will visit his customers and advise them that production will cease at the Edinburgh Brewery shortly. He will then tentatively suggest the proposed new beer, Y or M as marked on his list. If the customer agrees to the suggestion, the change can take place immediately. If, however, the customer objects and insists on the opposite beer:–

(a) In the case of free customers, the customer should be allowed his choice.

(b) In the case of loan customers, the representative should hedge and report back for further instructions.

(c) In the case of tenanted properties, the customer must accept the beer offered.

When the beers have been substituted the representative will require to state the shades when giving orders and, if necessary, he may submit samples to the Abbey or Fountain Brewery.

The following table is for reference when suggesting the substitution of beers.

No. 3XXP 60/–
No. 2XXPS70/–

Only filtered and carbonated beer is supplied by Y and M in 11 gallon containers with the above qualities.


No discount is to be given to any customer in cash. Discounts will be deducted from accounts except in certain cases when six-monthly cheques will be sent. Discount is limited to 3/–d. per barrel. In certain cases which will be specified to each representative concerned only 1/6d. per barrel is allowed.


(1) The retention by Scottish Brewers of the maximum possible proportion of existing Bernard’s Bottled Beer trade is just as important as the retention of draught beer trade.

(2) There is here no question of any particular emphasis on Y brands. The applicable ruling is that where there are duplicate qualities (e.g. Export, Strong Ale, Pale Ale, etc.,) the emphasis and preference is M qualities, since these are in all cases the better sellers. Every effort should also be made to substitute Younger’s Sweet Stout for Bernard’s Stout.

(Source: Scottish Brewing Archive, document TJB 6/1/2/4)

A very revealing document which gets down to the nitty gritty of how Scottish Brewers worked to push their own beers to publicans, complete with details of how to tackle reluctant customers and how much leeway the sales reps were allowed to give them.

In the last paragraph we see that there was a policy of pushing the McEwan’s brands rather than Younger’s – I don’t know exactly why.

The curt note “Only filtered and carbonated beer is supplied by Y and M in 11 gallon containers with the above qualities.” is the key. “Container beer” – or keg as it later became known – was all that was going to be offered to Scottish Brewers’ involuntary new customers. This implies that Bernard must have still been supplying cask-conditioned beer – or “beer” as it was known then — to at least some of its customers.

Instructive is the table of what the brewery regarded as equivalent beers:

No. 3XXP60/–
No. 2XXPS70/–

Note the use of the word “quality” to distinguish different strengths of beer — I’m not sure if this is a particularly Scottish usage, but it is common in old documents, and I know of at least one brewery where it is still used today.

More details on the actual beers to follow.