Saturday, 21 April 2018

Enjoy the Golden Age - while it lasts!

More than an advertising
slogan - a threat!
I recently read an article about a long-gone brewery, Gales of Hampshire, and was reminded of how I used to enjoy their beer when visiting family in the South. On one occasion in the 1980s, I was taken to a pub with a row of six handpumps, each serving a different Gales real ale. In those days this was an extremely rare sight and I said to the landlord, “A pub crawl without leaving your bar stool!” He replied that many had tried to drink them all but few had succeeded.

This incident came to mind when I was chatting recently to staff in a local pub that had ten handpumps serving real ale, and I thought how a bank of six handpumps, which had seemed extraordinary more than 30 years ago, was quite unremarkable today. I said that many years ago I had been a student at a college near Warrington where our beer choices were confined almost exclusively to mild or bitter, either from Greenall Whitley or Tetley Walker, and that their pub now had a greater choice of real ales than the entire town of Warrington back then.

Unlike other facets of life, for real ale there is no Golden Age to look back upon nostalgically. Fifty years ago (before my drinking career began), breweries were switching to mass-produced keg beers and many were phasing out their real ales, which at that time were mostly just mild and bitter. CAMRA, founded in the 1970s in response to this trend, is generally recognised as having saved real ale in this country. While we regret the closure of many old pubs – sadly, quite a few locally (Southport and West Lancs area) - and the loss of some favourite old brews, for real ale drinkers the Good Old Days are now. We can help keep it that way simply by continuing to enjoy the great variety of British beers now readily available.

Did I manage to try all six beers in the Gales pub? Of course. And for the record, the real ale scene in Warrington is much better nowadays.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Some previous articles are here.


  1. A real shame about Gales. It closed because some of the directors (all family members), wanted to cash their chips in.

    Fuller's bought the brewery and at first wanted to keep it open. They changed their minds when they discovered the place had been starved of investment, and it would cost a small fortune to put everything right.

  2. The old British disease: if it ain't broke, don't fix it, we've always done it this way, all excuses for a refusal to invest. It was the same head-in-the-sand attitude that caused British Leyland to sell cars in the 1980s with engines designed in the 1950s, not a mistake the Japanese made.

  3. Many years ago (c.1979) I was working on the outskirts of Warrington and the local pub was...a bit boring. A couple of us walked into (and just about through) Warrington looking for a pub that sold something other than Greenall's. EVentually, in desperation we asked a couple of police officers on patrol where we could try. They burst out laughing and pointed us up a couple of back streets to a small pub (i can't now remember the name) which had half decent beer (can't remember the beer either).
    After that we just stayed at our local as the walk was not worth the effort.

  4. I think I may know the pub you mean, although I can't recall the name either. The pub I'm thinking of was a Tetley house, but sold Walkers Bitter (a Tetley brand) under the Tetley name, and while it was better, it wasn't wonderful.

    If we fancied a decent pint, we'd catch a train and go a few stops towards Manchester to a Boddington's house.


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