Tag Archives: beer

What Made Milwaukee Famous

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

Hands up if you can remember your first trip to the pub?
And by pub, I mean a proper public bar, not the Beachcomber at Butlins in Ayr with your Mum & Dad.

I’m pretty sure mine’s was the Burnbrae bar in Bearsden in 1973. I went with a few pals, one of them, Jay, was a year older than the rest of us, and as he strolled nonchalantly up to the bar, the rest of us hid round the corner near the dartboard and tried not to squeak.

I’m not even sure I liked the taste of beer back then or knew what type of beer to order so when Jay said he was having a pint of ‘heavy’ we all followed suit, lowered our voices by several octaves and growled – “yeah pint of heavy for me too mate”.
What came back was warm brown liquid (probably slops reserved for undiscerning intruders like ourselves), and I realised heavy wasn’t for me, settling instead for lager and lime which lacked a bit of credibility but suited an unrefined palette, more used to Garvies fizzy pop at the time.

It’s interesting to reflect on our hierarchy of needs in those early days; the main priority of course was access – can we get into the damn place without suffering the ignominy of a knock-back, and the subsequent walk of shame .
This also encouraged a Darwinist, law of the jungle approach to proceedings, where some of your best mates got left behind because they had a baby-face or looked too young…. they weren’t too happy at the time but they’re probably laughing now!

Being an underage pub-goer took meticulous planning, for instance the ETA was critical – the pub had to be busy enough so as not to stand out but quiet enough that you could get a seat.

What entrance you used was important – if possible, a side entrance that didn’t face the bar.

Where you sat was also critical– out of sight of the bar if possible, and always with your back to the bar.
Close to an exit was preferable in case it got raided by the police and you had to get out pronto

So much thought and energy just to rush down a couple of watery Norseman lagers all the while sitting in fear of being chucked out.

Once we got a bit more confident (and older) then we started looking at other variables – pubs that offered better value, pubs that had a jukebox or played live music and then ultimately livelier disco-pubs like The Rooster or City Limits at weekends where you could mingle to your hearts content
Of course, the landscape has changed a tad from 1973 particularly the breadth of choices on offer.

Back in the day there would probably only be one draught lager on offer whereas now you can take your pick of multiple lagers and craft beers from around the globe (plus numerous bottled options).

Similarly, if you asked for a gin, it was probably Gordons (or a cheap supermarket version in a Gordons bottle) whereas today it can take 10 minutes just to present the various options.

Vodka? the same, – Smirnoff used to be the only game in town but now you can have any flavour you want – toffee, watermelon, passion fruit, the list goes on.

I don’t even remember if you could buy a glass of wine in a pub back then, but if you were lucky there was a house white and a house red.

One thing my friend Tabby reminded me of recently is that cordials used to be a big part of the offer – lime, orange, blackcurrant and his favourite, peppermint, all essential mixers and often laid out on the bar with lemonade and water, totally free of charge, nowadays it’ll cost you £2.50 for a bottle of Fever Tree to mix with your Gin and juniper berries.

Talking about prices, on my first sojourn to the pub a pint was 15p which is equivalent to roughly £1.55 in today’s money. A shot of vodka, rum, gin or whisky was 16p which is equivalent to £1.65 today.

To put it in perspective the average annual salary in 1973 was £2,000 or 13,300 pints of beer.
Jump forward to 2022 where the average salary is £32,000 and the average cost of a pint is £3.80… equivalent to 8,420 pints of beer.

Which means that we’re 4,880 pints worse off people!!

It’s true that our money used to go a lot further in those days, and when you tell youngsters today that you used to be able to have a great night out for the cost of a bottle of Fever Tree, they look at you the same way we looked at our parents when they spoke about collecting jam-jars in order to get into the cinema!

Public Bar price list 1971

It’s easy to get nostalgic about some of our old haunts and there’s a great Facebook group called Old Glasgow Pubs, which features some terrific images and memories about pubs from the 60’s, 70s & 80s in Glasgow.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/oldglasgowpubs

It’s mostly made up of punters reminiscing about their favourite pubs & bars in Glasgow, with people commenting on how they used to frequent said establishment, or in some cases how they worked there, or met their wife/husband there or in the case of the Bell Geordie in Bell St, a previous owner joined the thread to say he used to own the gaff.

As you go through the posts you realise just how many pubs there are or used to be in Glasgow, for instance according to the site below there are 579, yes, 579 pubs within 10 miles of Partick train station, sounds bizarre but you can check them all out on the link and start the biggest pub-crawl of your life.
I’ll see you in The Curlers!

https://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/results.shtml/tr/1663/

so beer, so far.

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – October 2021)

Be Prepared. The motto that has stood The Scouting movement in good stead for more than 100 years.

And while Boy Scouts founder Baden Powell would have been impressed with the high level of preparation put in by me and two pals one summer camp, he would have been less than chuffed if he knew what we were planning.

This was 1974 and our Troop had headed to Keswick in the Lake District for a week-long adventure doing stuff like putting up tents, collecting firewood, building campfires, digging latrines and, er, under-age drinking.

That last activity was why three 15-year-olds were standing in a car park just off Keswick’s high street a few blocks away from the Dog and Duck pub, or whatever it was called.

And the rehearsals going on there were as intense as anything you’d see at a run-through for a Broadway blockbuster.

There had been a lot of plotting and scheming before we got to this point – this sort of stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know.

With all the precision of planning a military manoeuvre, we had used the hike into town from the campsite to discuss ‘Operation Getting Served’ over and over again.

The devil is in the details so we talked through who would go first when we walked in the pub, who would ask for the drinks and exactly what we’d order.

Now, just like George Peppard’s Colonel Hannibal Smith character in the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together so a lot of preparation went into these three seemingly simple points.

In hindsight, maybe we over-thought it – but this was a big step-up from getting a few cans from an off-sales. Been there, done that…now it was time to play in the big leagues.

And as the in-form striker – well, I had been served in a dive of a pub back in Glasgow a few weeks before – the other two decided I was first name on the team-sheet.

This meant I was to be first in the door and the one who would be ordering the drinks.

Two down, one to go. What were we going to drink? We immediately ruled out three pints of lager and lime as being a dead giveaway for under-age drinkers and the same went for three snakebites.

So, and this is where the first bit of over-thinking came in, we plumped for a pint of heavy, a pint of light (well, we were in the Lake District) and a pint of lager with definitely no lime.

Three windswept and interesting young men with their own cultivated taste in beer. What could possibly go wrong?

To make sure the answer to that was nothing, we were holding our car park rehearsal.

One more time with feeling…

“Okay, we walk through the door as we agreed,” says I, “Then I order a pint of heavy and a pint of light and then what?”

“You ask me what I want,” says the baby-faced one of our trio.

If there was to be any suspicion about whether we were the right age, then surely it would fall upon the youngest-looking. That’s why he had a speaking part. 

“And you say?”, I prodded.

“I’ll have a pint of lager this time,” says Baby Face.

This time…genius that. It gives the barman the assurance you’ve been served before.

Anyway, the first part of Operation Getting Served goes exactly as planned and I’m face to face with mine host across the beer taps ordering a pint of heavy and a pint of light.

So far, so good. I turn to a nervous-looking Baby Face and – just as we’d rehearsed loads of times – ask him: “What do you want?”

Silence, nothing but silence.

I try to keep cool with a prompt: “Erm, so that’s a heavy, a light and a…”

“Medium,” blurts Baby Face.

Game over. Don’t you just hate it when a plan comes to…nothing?

beer sans skittles

Russ Stewart: London April 2021

“All right, brain. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but let’s just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”

The last pint I had in a pub was last autumn, as a member of the Twickenham Scotch Egg Appreciation Society.

It was a Birra Moretti, cost £5 and was about 5% alcohol. 
Contrast that with a mid seventies pint of Tennants, which cost 20p and was about 3.2% alcohol.

The UK average salary in 1975 was around £3,000 per annum… about 15,000 pints. 
The UK average salary in 2020 was around £38,000, which equates to about 7,600 pints. 

So, in the 70s as we shivered in our single glazed homes, took holidays on chilly Scottish shingle beaches wearing Harris tweed bathing suits, at least we could stupefy ourselves on cheap beer.

Unfortunately, at 3.2% alcohol it took at least a gallon of beer to attain a state where we thought we were witty and interesting. 

In those days beer marketing was focussed on the 6 pint “session” drinker.  
He was a chap in his early 20s who went to the pub with three mates, each buying two rounds.  

I worked as a systems analyst for Courage beer and they launched the “follow the bear” marketing for Hofmeister lager, probably the most recognisable session beer at the time. 


On the other hand, Tennants had the picture can strategy for the take home, carry-out market. 

The reverse of the tin featured a local beauty, typically Miss Rothesay 1962, sporting a West Palm Beach helmet hairstyle, with the intent of prompting your subconscious to increase your thirst. 
Personally a packet of salted peanuts worked better for me.

The Burnbrae in Bearsden was my local then and McEwen’s lager was my preference. 

The Allander was an alternative, and it served Tennants. 
That pub was a temple to Formica.
It was brightly lit and cunningly utilised light wavelength to expertly highlight the plooks on underage drinkers, of which there were many. 

Our other local – The Talbot Arms in Milngavie served Ushers.
It had a lounge bar and the beer was 1p a pint more, due to its lavishly appointed furniture and fittings. 
It attracted a slightly more discerning type of Milngavie Ned.


Pernod and blackcurrant tempted the jaded palates of some session drinkers.

Not for me… however it did contribute to a more fragrant and colourful type of vomit from the over-refreshed. 

Back to the 2020s….
Nowadays I rarely have more than two or three pints a session. 
The beer is too strong, perhaps it’s the impact of the marketing communications, that warn us of “irresponsible” drinking.  

In contrast to the Hofmeister Bear the messaging today is very aspirational.  


Guinness have focused on these ridiculous philosophical adverts, worthy of Eric Cantona at his most confused (I loved the existentialism embedded in his karate kicking of an errant fan). 

I was business systems manager for Guinness for a while and the story goes that they had specially trained rats that scoffed the spent yeast from the pipes in the Dublin brewery. 

Come to think of it, that would be a great commercial. 
The only problem is, that I’m not 100% sure of the veracity of that story, truth or urban myth?

If true, then life really is all ‘beer and skittles’, for some…

I’ll leave you with this beer related thought…..
“There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says ‘Good people drink good beer.’
Which is true, then as now.
Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer.
Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson