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The Session #88 – Beer Mixes

Jun 6, 2014

When I first read the announcement post for Session #88 on Boak & Bailey’s blog, to be honest, my heart sank. They suggested that in preparation for Session #88 that we, the bloggers, go out and drink some of the beer mixes from Boston’s 1976 list, namely;

  • Lightplater – bitter and light ale
  • Mother-in-law — old and bitter
  • Granny — old and mild
  • Boilermaker — brown and mild
  • Blacksmith –stout and barley wine
  • Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild

For all intents and purposes, for massive parts of the United states, draught (and often bottled) bitter and/or mild is simply not available, so this means that 5 of the 6 of the concoctions on the list were immediately out of my reach. As a result, and because I have never really been a fan of mixes from either a taste or a philosophical point of view, I decided that I would pass on the drinking and simply write about my experience of dealing with them when growing up in England.

The Session

The overwhelming thing that I remember about them was the different names that they were given depending on where you were in the country. I only really remember a couple of common ones from the Southwest, and I would love for others to chime in with their own, particular, regional names for these two plus whatever they remember.

  • Half a bitter and a bottle of light ale – A light split or light and bitter
  • Half a bitter and a bottle of brown ale – A dark split or brown and bitter

One of the tactics associated with these was that the drinker would be attempting to get more beer for his money. The idea was that the barman would pour half a pint of draught bitter into a glass and hand it to the the drinker. Then, the opened bottle would be passed to the patron. However, this was in the days when many pint glasses did not have the half-pint mark on them, so the barman had to guess the volume of the half. They often overestimated and as a result, the drinker got quite a bit more than a pint for his money. In fact, this became quite a common tactic where people would order these mixes just to get ‘more’ beer. In another economic twist, the pubs that I worked in used to simply charge the light and dark split drinker, for a standard pint of bitter. This was routinely cheaper than the half a bitter and bottle that they were actually getting, and again, favored the drinker.

I read the T.E.B. Clarke quote on the Boak & Bailey post with interest, since this was exactly what used to go on with real, farmhouse scrumpy in Devon when I was growing up. Most of the cider producing farms around Exeter would make two types of cider; sweet and dry. Those of you the know real cider (not the BMC equivalent that is so popular and pushed everywhere in the USA now), know that it is a mightily unforgiving drink, and those two varieties were often close undrinkable in their unmixed form. Combining them took the edge off the sweet and the dry, just enough to make convert the drink from your worst nightmare to the nectar that it is!

I know that Boak and Bailey wanted to avoid cocktails, and with good reason, but I wanted to list a few here simply for my own peace of mind and to try to educate the Americans on what Shandy really is. Not only do they screw up a lot of beer stuff (@sessionbeer for example), now they’ve now moved on to abusing cider and shandy – my life is a constant struggle! Anyway, here’s a few more that don’t qualify for Boak and Bailey’s purposes in Session #88 but that I wanted to put out there and list for my own completeness. I’d be curious if people at home have other names for these, too.

Lager Shandy – somewhere between half and three-quarters of pint of standard, draught lager topped up with lemonade (no, not American lemonade, British lemonade which is similar to Sprite)

Bitter Shandy – somewhere between half and three-quarters of pint of standard, draught bitter topped up with lemonade (no, not American lemonade, British lemonade which is similar to Sprite)

Note to America: Real Shandy doesn’t come in bottles, OK?

Lager Top or Lager Dash or (less common) Lager Splash – Standard pint of lager with literally a splash of British lemonade topping the pint off

Bitter Top or Bitter Dash or (less common) Bitter Splash – Standard pint of bitter with literally a splash of British lemonade topping the pint off

Lager & Lime – Standard draught lager with a dash of lime cordial added

Lager and BlackStandard draught lager with a dash of blackcurrant cordial added

Snake Bite – Half a standard draught lager and half a standard draught cider

Purple Nasty – Snakebite with a splash of blackcurrant cordial

Purple Nasty Special – Purple nasty made from a ‘premium’ (read, ‘high alcohol’) bottled cider such as ‘K’ or ‘Diamond White’ and ‘premium (read, ‘high alcohol’) bottled lager such as Holsten Pils or Kaltenberg Pils, with a double Pernod and Blackcurrant in the glass! GULP!




  1. Stuart Arnold

    Your Purple Nasty was my Diesel in Yorkshire.

    I lived in Liverpool for a while and a lot of the locals drank ‘Golden’ which was 1/2 bitter and 1/2 lager, bloody awful it was.

    I never got and still don’t get mixing beers.

    • Ding

      Yes! Of course! Diesel, I’d for gotten that. Never heard of ‘Golden’ though. Glad I hadn’t.


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