"A Pint of Bitter, Please."

Extollager

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So said Dr. Elwin Ransom (in Out of the Silent Planet) upon his return to Earth, when he walked into a pub.

I'm an American who would like help knowing just what the "bitter" beer here probably was. I imagine it as being a hoppy brew, perhaps like an India pale ale; as opposed to a notably malty drink. But -- ?
 

Dave

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Less hoppy and more malty than an IPA but similar in style. This CAMRA page on beer styles has some descriptions.


The 'Indian Pale Ale' was originally a very strong, very hoppy, pale-coloured beer, with a very long shelf-life that could survive the journey from the UK to India, and was then watered down upon arrival, before being served. But for the home market brewers wanted to produce beers that could be served in pubs after only a few days storage in cellars. So, Bitters grew out of pale ale but were usually deep bronze to copper in colour due to the use of slightly darker crystal malts and less hops were needed. Hops are a stability agent to help prolong the life of a beer.

Bitters were also usually weak in alcohol. The Strong Bitters and the American-style IPAs that are available today as craft beers, are generally much stronger in alcohol and will include many more ingredients as flavours and a wider variety of different hops.

Beer styles have changed over time due to taste and fashion. At the time that book was written, a Bitter was just a weak, bland, everyday beer, which could be drunk in large quantities without ill-effect, what is known as a 'session beer' today.
 

hitmouse

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Still my favourite beer by far. Preferably served flat, at room temperature. The rich variety of regional bitters is a delight, and a pub which knows how to keep them is a valuable find.
So called session beers can definitely cause a sore head.
 

Dave

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Hmm! I'm not sure if it would have been a fizzy, artificially pressurised, keg beer or a flat cask beer. The book was published in the UK in 1938 and in the USA in 1943. Keg beer only became popular in the 1960's, so my first guess would be that it was not. However, artificial carbonation was introduced in the UK as early as 1936, with Watney's experimental pasteurised beer Red Barrel.

C S Lewis may have sampled keg beer before 1938 as he definitely drank at the Eagle and Child in Oxford along with the other Inklings (including J R R Tokien) between the early 1930s and late 1949. Full Inklings list

Pasteurised beer has a much longer shelf-life, so even if it tastes terrible, it would be better suited to a space journey. However, a man returning to Earth and going to a pub to ask for a beer, that sounds like a man who has been missing the real thing.

I think there must be a book to be written about writers and beer, and the influences on their writing.
 

Finch

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Back in the dark misty past , all beer was freshly made and contained no preservatives. Hops was added as a preservative by the Royal Navy . It was safer to drink stored beer than water . The hops made the beer taste bitter , hence the name . Eventually, nearly all the beer brewed in the UK has hops added , so the distinction has been lost. But the name remains .
 
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Vince W

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Still my favourite beer by far. Preferably served flat, at room temperature. The rich variety of regional bitters is a delight, and a pub which knows how to keep them is a valuable find.
So called session beers can definitely cause a sore head.
Same here. Although room temperature today is warmer than it was a couple of decades ago. As long as the cellar where the kegs are kept are cool enough they should still be fine.
 

hitmouse

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My local has taps on barrels kept up on chocks behind the bar. 3 barrels resting, one on the go, all at ambient temperature. On a cold wet winter night the last thing I want is a chilled beer.
 

Danny McG

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They introduced minimum pricing per unit of alcohol in Scotland, this was intended (allegedly) to reduce 'binge drinking' and drink related health issues.
Now the Health Authorities are loudly and triumphantly proclaiming they have succeeded, they've reduced individual alcohol intake by - wait for it - a half pint of beer a week.
 

Dave

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It was safer to drink stored beer than water.
I think the more important point is that when it has a bacterial infection, then it tastes of vinegar and is recognisably bad to drink, as opposed to a water supply from a well, that could be contaminated with all kinds of pollution from wastewater - cholera, typhoid - but might taste perfectly fine. So, from a health point of view, it was a great boon.

And we are probably getting well off the point of the original post, but this medicinal benefit would still be true for second brews or "runnings" from the same mash. This "weak beer" could then be drunk like table water.
 

Extollager

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I think I read somewhere that Lewis liked beer that was "drawn on the wood." What's that mean?

My hunch is that Ransom, who'd just narrowly escaped a miserable death from suffocation in a smelly, small spacecraft, would've drunk puddle water if nothing better was available. But if he'd walked into a rural pub that brewed its own beer well, he'd have been especially happy.
 
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Extollager

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Still my favourite beer by far. Preferably served flat, at room temperature. The rich variety of regional bitters is a delight, and a pub which knows how to keep them is a valuable find.
So called session beers can definitely cause a sore head.

Ah! What does" flat" mean as you use it here? For Americans, beer that has gone flat is beer that's been left out, opened, till the carbonation is gone.
 

hitmouse

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uncarbonated. No fizz. No head. Stored in unpressurised barrels. Either hand pumped or gravity-fed from a tap on the barrel.
 

Dave

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This thread is making me thirsty.
Me too. We are overdue for a London Chronicles meet-up at a pub.
I think I read somewhere that Lewis liked beer that was "drawn on the wood." What's that mean?
It means what I thought. A 'real ale' drawn from a wooden barrel (just as @hitmouse says, rather than an artificially carbonated, pasteurised beer from a metal keg.)
Ah! What does" flat" mean as you use it here?
uncarbonated. No fizz. No head. Stored in unpressurised barrels. Either hand pumped or gravity-fed from a tap on the barrel.
A 'real ale' is not flat though. It is still 'alive' and the yeast that will have made CO₂ and alcohol and the barrel is pressurised naturally. It just isn't fizzy. When you open it with a tap and spire you release the pressure. You then need to drink it within four days or else it will go flat and start to taste bad. The keg beer is 'dead' due to the pasteurisation and needs to be artificially carbonated.
 

Venusian Broon

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They introduced minimum pricing per unit of alcohol in Scotland, this was intended (allegedly) to reduce 'binge drinking' and drink related health issues.
Now the Health Authorities are loudly and triumphantly proclaiming they have succeeded, they've reduced individual alcohol intake by - wait for it - a half pint of beer a week.
The figure for consumption is an average, the change in total alcohol sold per pop, so no need to be negative to score points for humour.

A fall in alcohol consumption like this could potentially save 100s of lives each year.

I haven't seen any statistics on whether binge drinking has dropped off explicitly because of this specific change. However there is a general trend of it dropping anyway - given that there are a large amount of teetotallers coming in from youngsters, and their drug usage changing as well.
 
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