Before beer blogging, there was Boston on Beer

Detail from a poor-quality scan of Richard Boston portrait in the Guardian.

Richard Boston’s first weekly Boston on Beer column appeared in The Guardian on 11 August 1973. In an article marking its first anniversary (6 July 1974) he said a few things that might chime with beer bloggers.

This column has been going for nearly a year, and whereas when I started I thought I had enough material for about three weeks, having now written some 50,000 words I have enough to keep me going indefinitely.

He  also describes tottering stacks of ‘notes and rough drafts for articles on subjects ranging from canal-side pubs to beer glasses (why they have handles and dimples in the south and are clear and straight-sided in the north), as well as the results of the search for the best Gents’ and ‘amazing revelations about the awfulness of American beer’.

Every week, he came up with something to say, even if the occasional column seemed rather contrived under the pressure of a deadline.

Thirty years later (Guardian, 23 March 1989) he recalled the column’s success: ‘I had never heard of Camra… but just mentioning them in the Guardian and giving their address caused a surge in their membership so great that they had to take on extra staff in order to cope.’ This seems to be true: when his column went to print, CAMRA had c.2700 members; by September, it was approaching c.5000, by our reckoning.

In the same piece, he recalls why the column ended in 1975: ‘I became bored of the sound of my own voice going on about beer and pubs.’ Hmm. We know that feeling.

We’re ashamed to say we’d never read Richard Boston until Des de Moor told us about Beer and Skittles (1976), a book adapted from the Guardian columns. You can get a copy fairly cheaply through Amazon, or read the original columns in the online archive of The Guardian if your local library provides access.

See also: Orwell’s Beer Blog and this strange nineteenth century exercise in proto-blogging.

12 thoughts on “Before beer blogging, there was Boston on Beer”

  1. Yes, Beer and Skittles contains quite a long section on the different types of pub bores. Of beer bores, he says:

    “At their very worst, groups of beer bores form into herds that roam the country in search of inoffensive pubs where the beer is not of the approved kind, and then proceed to bully the landlord and customers. Such behaviour is intolerable.”

    You could say they have now metamorphosed into “tickers” ;-)

    “Can’t you just get me one from the cellar, then?”

  2. “Every week, he came up with something to say, even if the occasional column seemed rather contrived under the pressure of a deadline.”

    You know, that sounds exactly like you guys. Yeah, sometimes it sounds contrived. So what? Most of it is great, and nobody gets it right all the time.

  3. I have an original copy of Beer and Skittles – bought with Christmas money in 1976. A bit dog-eared and going brown, pages falling out. Still get asked by friends new to CAMRA to borrow. It is an excellent read, and shows how little things have actually changed in many respects.
    He had a great turn of phrase, for example describing Everards as returning to the path of righteousness when they started brewing cask ale again with Old Original – I remember it well as a student in Loughborough in the 70s being able to drink guilt-free in Everards pubs although a session on Old Original could lead to problems staying upright!

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