Most amazingly in Spar though was the wine filling station at the back of the store, that housed a Beavertown Neck Oil growler filler next to it. Growler fillers – in Spar! The action most associated with brewery bars or specialist beer shops exists here in Spar. IN SPAR.
“Before opening time there is a beautiful, virgin aroma of freshness, an inimitable pub-perfume mixture of hops and malt, spirits and polish with perhaps a faint touch of violet-scented air-freshener. This is my boyhood nostalgia. Spilt ale, dried and sugar-sticky.”
Adrian Bailey in an essay for Len Deighton’s London Dossier, 1967.
A couple of years ago we suggested a few indicators of a healthy beer culture. Number eight on our list was the presence of a ‘must try’ regional speciality. Having been reminded of that post, we’ve been thinking about which UK regions have something that fits the bill.
Now, we’re not talking about which beers are best or most exciting but those which in some way reflect local history and tradition, in the same way a Maß of Helles tells you you’re in Munich.
Here’s a partial list, very much off the top of our heads:
Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire: pale ale — Bass, Worthington White Shield or Marston’s Pedigree.
Cornwall: strong (c.5%), brown, sweetish ale, e.g. Spingo Middle, St Austell HSD.
Edinburgh: 80/-. (It’s not unique to Edinburgh but it’s what we’d seek out if we were there for one day on a fortnight’s tour of the UK and were never coming back.)
Glasgow: Tennent’s Lager — brewed here since 1885, in a country which went over to lager decades before England seriously got the taste.
Kent: bitter with Kentish hops, e.g. Shepherd Neame.
London: porter. It died out, yes, but this is where it was born, and there are some fairly authentic local examples now available, e.g. Fuller’s.
Manchester: Manchester pale ale — historically Boddington’s, which was notably light in colour and high in bitterness; now Lees’ MPA or Marble Manchester Bitter.
Salisbury, Wiltshire: golden ale, specifically Hop Back Summer Lightning at the Wyndham.
West Midlands: Batham’s or Holden’s Bitter. We asked Tania, a noted fan, to summarise what makes these beers different: ‘It’s the subtle malty sweetness that kicks in at the end of each sip, once the restrained hop bitterness has refreshed your mouth, that makes Black Country bitters so easy to drink.’
In December 1989, 60-year-old, 20-stone Ronald Henry Fincham stripped naked and climbed into a vat of beer at the brewery in Romford, where he drowned.
He was celebrating 25-years service at the brewery and, according to one not-entirely-reliable source, The Weekly World News, had been out on the town with colleagues but crept back into the brewery after kicking out time, climbed a six foot ladder and slipped into 35,000 pints of beer that had been returned from pubs.
His wife, the WWN said, reported him missing the next morning and his clothes were found next to the vat. Under police orders, the tank was drained and Mr Fincham’s body was found at the bottom.
Walthamstow Coroner Dr. Harold Price recorded a verdict of death from natural causes. He didn’t think Mr Fincham’s death could be blamed on alcohol because Ron ‘was known as a man who could take his drink’, though he did observe that a few beers might have made him less cautious than usual.
This story still crops up from time to time in ‘It’s a Wacky World!’-type filler features and we assumed it was an urban legend until we found it recorded in the Guardian. Poor old Ron.