Mild & bitter in 1944 London (as an American tasted them)
"Like mixing your beer with rainwater and sugar."
On 25 May 1944 —a fortnight before the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Normandy, France— overseas war correspondent Hal Boyle filed a story from London, England —one of many for Boyle, who would later win the Pulitzer Prize for his wartime dispatches. This particular dispatch described the condition, and often lack thereof, of booze in wartime London.
Gary Gillman, at his blog "Beer et. Seq.", summarized the account, in his post —"Blondes, Taxis, and the West End." He recounts Boyle's humorous description of what he and many American GIs thought of British milds and bitters.
"In 1944, a mordant piece by Hal Boyle appeared in the Free-Lance Star, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, newspaper still published. Boyle, a top wartime correspondent, examined the shortages in London for spirits and wine. He said beer was more easily obtained but had comments in its regard as well. [...]
Seeking to explain mild ale and bitter beer to Americans, Boyle said mild is like mixing your beer with rainwater and sugar. And bitter is like mixing it with rainwater and quinine. (Today he might say the IPA that is the rage around the world is like mixing Bud with vodka and grapefruit juice).
Given that American lager in this period was still fairly bitter, it shows that English beer – pale or bitter ale – easily outstripped it. Since no unusual bitterness was detected in mild ale, one can assume its bitterness was about equal to mid-century American lager.
The weakness of British beer was remarked on, something I’ve discussed before as noticed by an Australian journalist. He stated the government must have pondered long and hard to get the stimulant/austerity balance exactly right. The American soldier’s reaction was typically popular and idiomatic: it’s like our beer if you drink it and get hit in the head with the bottle."
▶ Read more at Beer et Seq. (7 June 2017): here.
▶ Image from Google News, Public Domain.
▶ Uploaded by Yours For Good Fermentables.com.
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