Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Why is British lager so weak?

Ever wondered why British lager is usually so much weaker than it is in the rest of Europe? This might help explain it.

"In accordance with the announcement made in the House of Commons by the Minister of Food on March 24th, 1947, arrangements have been made for the importation of beer under individual licence from Continental countries. The maximum gravity permitted will be 1036 degrees (before fermentation). Importation will not be confined to pre-war importers and there will be no restriction on quantities.

"Re-exports will not be permitted except for ships' and aircraft stores. Importation for such re-export will not be restricted to a maximum gravity of 1036 degrees and separate applications for import licences should be submitted."
"The Brewing Trade Review 1947" page 367

Take a look at the table of Lagers below. See how the strength of Carlsberg sold in Britain fell between 1939 and 1950.

Heineken brewed a beer especially for the British market. The Pils they sold everywhere else had an OG of around 1048º and was 4.7% ABV. For Britain, it was 1032º and 3% ABV.

Did you like these numbers? These - and many more - are available for your delectation in "Numbers!", my latest Mini Book.


Andrew said...

Ron, good stuff as ever. I've added a bit from my Carlsberg sources over at www.lagerfrenzy.com
There's more to come on this as its quite a pivotal change.

Anonymous said...

I though that British lager's weakness (and for that matter the weakness of some ales) was related to some kind of tax/price control scheme that punishes strength except when it comes to cider.

Beer prices when I was in England were ridiculous, with Tetley's costing £2 for a 4 pack, Carling coming to £3.48, and Stella Artois 5% for £4.50 (unless I wanted full pints and then the 4 pack cost £5.50). I couldn't help but notice that price and ABV correlated strongly. Meanwhile in Germany, one can buy a 500 ml bottle 5.3% abv beer for 40 euro cents, or one euro if one wants to splurge on something fancy.