At Kraft Werks we often get asked why is “craft beer” so strong in alcohol compared to so called “traditional ales”. I think we have all seen so called traditional ales such as bitters, golden beers and milds now tend to be around 3.8% these days well this wasn't always the case. Beer strengths in the UK were much higher traditionally prior to the 1970's, things started to change slowly from the 1930's through to the 1970's with increased taxation on beer alcohol levels, homogenization and mass production.
Having taken a look at the fascinating beer blog Barclay Perkins, we've seen that traditional XX & KKK beers were the very popular with British drinkers and these beers were often 8, 9, 10% or even stronger.
As one well beer-informed customer told recently me the Victorians would have given 3.5% to their children at the dinner table. Also, prior to the 1960's, we would have been drinking beer more commonly in half’s rather than pints (probably a refection of those higher ABVs and changing tastes) with pints of beer being requested and not given as a standard in pubs. Another interesting fact is a lot of British beers historically were barrel aged for up to a year before serving in pubs and prior to WW1 beers were often blended in the pub for the customer (interesting as we now associate blended beers purely with the Belgium brewers). So the next time you're in Kraft Werks and you see a 9% Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Beer on draught, when it's served in a half pint, remember that’s a true “traditional” ale. A fact overlooked is that craft beer really can often be a more genuine representation of the historical British beers.