Sunday 18 May 2014

Nothing much changes

Nothing much seems to change within the discourse of beer as this fragment of a letter from an WA Thomson (who could be a brewer) to the Brewers’ Journal demonstrates. The date? October 15, 1921. 

‘The more one ponders the subject the more one is forced to conclude that public taste in beer is largely a matter of custom and usage. It is a subtle question if we really do like the very new beers we are supposed to demand today. The pendulum has swung from the old time beers that, being brewed in an unscientific age, were often cloudy and sour rather than healthily matured, right to the other extreme of raw newness, And the scientific effort of the up-to-date age is directed to getting these new beers clean and brilliant on the cheapest cost of production. So that in both ages, at both ends of the swing of the see-saw, there appears no very great wholesomeness of production, In the former case good and plentiful materials were unscientifically used; in the latter a difficulty is present that taxes even modern science — the warding off of disease in weak solutions of fermentable matter. 

There is, or there ought to be, a hygienic strong beer of fair gravity, of the nature of a liqueur beer, for the English public house trade. Beyond doubt such should be there when it is asked for. The price is of importance, but not of such importance as in the case of common qualities. Such a beer is guarded against disease by its own body and strength assisted by modern science. We have nothing further to say of this quality. But there remains the common Public Taste to be dealt with further.

Do people really care for the heavily-hopped bitter beers of former days? Even in the districts where a bitter hopped 9lb per qr is supposed to constitute the demand, it is an open question if the deeper senses, let alone the hearts and intelligence of the people, demand it. Custom again, for if we dropped the hop rate to 7 lb per qr, the consumer would kick for a while. Yet in the writer’s opinion, and attempting to view human nature of the day with some breadth and insight, the public would soon learn to prefer the lighter hopped article when it had become used to it. To the writer this question of hop rate is one of the most easily discerned and decisive points about modern Public Taste. The people themselves know it — if but subconsciously. 

Do they know or visualise what really is their ideal in beer? Does it not seem apparent that custom decides this, the custom of the districts, and of a conservative people? How are we to reconcile the taste for acidity, common or peculiar to the cider districts, with the taste for soft drinking mild, free from the slightest acidity, pertaining to the next county?’ 


  1. I think he's right. The reason is, the alcohol is the reason people buy beer. They will accept almost any type unless given an option. Perhaps not 100%, but most people, IMO.

  2. interesting point about alcohol there (says he drinking a 9% beer as he types…).