A friend forwarded me a photo yesterday of the original Whitbread Brewery logo from 1742. Like the famous madeleine in Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, it triggered lots of memories of twenty and more years ago.
The first pub I drank in regularly in the late 80's was a Whitbread house. Between eighteen and nineteen, I spent pretty much every Friday and Sunday night in there with my mates. Drinking and enjoying - CAMRA forgive me - gallons of their keg Trophy Bitter. I think I probably enjoyed it because of its similarity to the cans of Shandy Bass I'd drunk before that and I even bought cans and bottles of Trophy to drink at home. (The pub also sold bottled Whitbread beers including Gold Label and Mackeson's Stout but I can't remember anyone under fifty ever ordering them). The other place I drank regularly then was the local Labour Club which was owned by Greenall Whitley and sold their keg bitter. The only cask beer I drank was Boddingtons Bitter in a pub we occasionally popped to in free periods in Sixth Form.
I drank in the Whitbread pub up until I went to college in 1990, in Stoke-on-Trent where I drank a lot of Banks's Original, Draught Bass and Marston's Pedigree as well as Worthington's keg bitter in the student union bar. But when I was home from college, I started going to what was known as the "old man's pub", an incredibly smoky Holt's house that served decent pints of their bitter and mild, and which eventually became my regular pub for the next few years.
But for better or worse it was with Whitbread that I started my drinking career and I still have a lingering and no doubt misplaced affection for the Trophy Bitter that I haven't seen let alone drunk for twenty or so years. As you can see, the 1742 stag's head logo is not that different to the one I remember from the late 80's, just before Whitbread were forced by the Monopolies and Mergers Commision to sell off much of their tied estate and a decade or so before they sold their brewing operations to what is now AB-Inbev.