Living Beer and the Rhetoric of Whole Food

Wholefood store scanned from a 1970s cookery book.

We haven’t drawn any firm conclusions on this subject yet, but see what you make of these quotations. (Our emphasis throughout.)

“For this reason ‘whole’ corn meal, which contains the germ, will have a greater life-containing, life-giving quality than the ‘degermed’ cornmeal found in supermarkets. Whole cornmeal is a “live” food — it spoils when the oil in the germ becomes rancid. Degermed cornmeal is a ‘dead’ food, as it lacks the germ (of life). Hence, it can be kept on grocery shelves for months without spoiling, though like all milled grains it does become stale.” Edward Espe Brown, Tassajara Bread Book, 1970.

“…’natural foods’ now threaten to replace ‘gourmet cooking’ as the main topic of food conversations… More than just a revival of old familiar food fads, this is part of the general concern now felt about the deterioration of our environment. Boredom with too much smooth, bland, overprocessed and sweet food has helped to attract not only the expected faddists, hypochondriacs and axe-grinders, but at least a proportion of scientists, especially nutritionists and conservationists.” ‘From Cranks to Nuts’, The Times, 7 August 1971.

“We opted at first for a high strength bitter brewed just from malt, hops, yeast and water. As well as being more wholesome this would also be simpler to produce.” Martin Sykes recalling the founding of the Selby Brewery in 1972, Called to the Bar, 1991.

“…the adulterated sludge that is glorified under the name of keg.” Michael Hardman, CAMRA’s What’s Brewing?, June 1972.

“The first distinction that must be made by the discerning drinker of draught beer is between keg, top-pressure, and traditional (the Real Thing)… traditional beer is alive while keg ber, like most bottled beer, is dead.” Richard Boston, ‘The Quick and the Dead’, The Guardian, 25 August 1973.

“British brewers are practically free to tamper with their beer as much as they want, unlike their colleagues in West Germany, who are forbidden by law to use any ingredient other than malt, hops and water… Fortunately, many brewers in Britain have kept faithful to nature, and beer brewed and served naturally can be found in nearly every corner of the country.” Michael Hardman, Beer Naturally, 1978.

“‘Real ale’ is the popular name for traditional beer brewed for centuries in Britain from malted barley and hops, with hundreds of regional variations in recipe and taste… Many brewers, big and small, use adjuncts in the brewing process. Flaked maize, potato starch, pasta flour, rice grits, malt and hop extracts will probably do you no harm but they are detrimental to the flavour of the beer.” CAMRA Good Beer Guide, 1978.

Poor, faithful old sugar, written out of history

5 thoughts on “Living Beer and the Rhetoric of Whole Food”

  1. Might be worth seeing if The Good Life features any thing about ‘living’ beer, given its riff on self-sufficiency — did Tom and Barbara (?) drink real ale and Margo and Jerry (?) keg. The 1970s was also when John Seymour’s Handbook of Self Succiency was big, it had a chapter on brewing your own beer I think.

  2. I think you’re on to something here. I’d forgotten all about the Tassajara Bread Book, but it was quite a big deal at the time.

    The thing to bear in mind is that for every proper hardcore hippie there were ten people who were sort of interested in that whole sort of thing and fifty who thought there was some interesting stuff going on although they wouldn’t necessarily go the whole way with it. Say one vegan to ten vegetarians to fifty people who sometimes cooked vegetarian (even when there weren’t any vegetarian guests). Left bookshops spread this stuff; local campaign groups were a good environment for it, as were some churches (including my parents’!).

    So, while it wouldn’t be true to say that CAMRA grew out of the hippie scene – the hippie scene was never really into beer, and besides it wasn’t that big – it certainly grew in ground that had been prepared by the hippies.

  3. Camra always forget by the 70’s British brewer have been using flaked maize for over a century!!!

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