I think I understand some of the reasons why. First and foremost is that, unlike its 18th-century rivals Barclay Perkins, Whitbread and Truman, none of its brewing records survive. Fortunately, the brewery did hang around until the 1930's, which means I have details of plenty of their beers, courtesy of the Whitbread and Truman Gravity Books. Enough for several posts like this.
I'm going to start with the beer that made the Red Lion Brewery famous: Porter. It seems logical enough.
I'm lucky to have one analysis from the 19th-century. It looks pretty standard for that era: a gravity of 1050-something and about 75% attenuation.
Moving on to the 20th-century, I'm a bit surprised at how up and down the gravity is, ranging from 1031.9º to 1039.8º. Most Porter of the time were about in the middle of that, at 1034-37º.
For most of its life, Porter had about 75% attenuation. In the 18th century that was a pretty high rate of attenuation, better than most types of beer. It remained around that level through the 19th century, when other styles caught it up or even overtook it. That's why I'm shocked to see how poorly attenuated some of these samples are. Under 65% is lower than I would expect. In a couple of cases it looks like it's an attempt to compensate for a low OG.
Given the lowish degree of attenuation and modest gravity, it's only logical that the ABV hovers around the just about intoxicating level.
|Hoare Porter 1870 - 1930|
|British Medical Journal June 25th 1870, page 658.|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001|
|Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252|
What Next? Stout, perhaps.