Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trial of strength

In response to reports of various beers having their strength reduced, I thought I would ask blog readers “What is your preferred strength for draught beer in the pub?” There were exactly 100 responses, broken down as follows:

3.5% or below: 2
3.6 – 4.0%: 26
4.1 – 4.5%: 31
4.6 – 5.0%: 26
5.1 – 5.5%: 6
5.6% or above: 9

Obviously those numbers translate exactly to percentages. So a strong clustering of responses around the usual strength range, with the biggest number in the 4.1 – 4.5% range which is where beers tend to be concentrating. Quite a number favoured the stronger beers, but there were very few of the archetypal “mild drinkers”.

A point I made in the comments was that possibly the clustering of beer strengths in pubs may have something to do with the breakdown of the tied house system. If you’re competing with other brewers on the bar, you don’t want to have your beer ruled out because it's too strong or too weak. On the other hand, in tied houses, you can afford to present a wider strength range to punters because they only have a choice of strengths, not of brewery. For example, in a tied house Fullers can offer Chiswick Bitter at 3.5%, Discovery at 3.9%, London Pride at 4.1% and ESB at 5.5%, but in the free trade or pub company outlets you’re far more likely to see London Pride than any of the other beers.

The poll, together with associated comments, can be viewed here, but I won’t be logging any further votes.