Category Archives: Beer history

The Village Inn, 1944

In 1944, Faber published, on cheap wartime paper, a short book by local government official C.H. Gardiner entitled Your Village and Mine.

C.H. Gardiner, Your Village and Mine, 1944.A pre-emptive strike in the debate about if and how British society should change in the wake of the experience of World War II, Gardiner devoted quite a bit of space to what he calls the ‘third oldest village institution’ after the church and the manor house — the inn.

Many of his comments show just how little debate has moved on in 70 years, sounding as if they might have come from a recent news article on ‘binge Britain’:

Generally, the village inn thrives, but sometimes in a way that is no good to the village. Instead of being a social meeting-ground for temperate and hard-working village men, it has become a drinking saloon patronized by men and women intent on consuming as much as they can in the shortest possible time before going home or rushing to another alcoholic place of call.

He doesn’t, however, advocate total abstinence — the dignified enjoyment of a ‘pint of cider or bitter beer’ meets his approval — but there is a sense that he sees serious boozing as a distraction from the really important functions of a pub: political debate, gossip and the playing of traditional games. Many village pub landlords, he observes, are teetotal and regulate the drinking of their customers.

The greatest threat to the integrity of this institution — he keeps using that word, and it’s an interesting one — is the influence of outsiders:

In war-time many inns have been temporarily ruined from a local and social angle by an influx of workmen engaged on government contracts and earning high wages. The shortage of beer and considerably reduced opening hours have had a bad effect in those places where the populations greatly increased. Both strangers and natives are inclined to drink more than is usual for fear that there will be none to-morrow. But as an elderly landlady said to me, ‘It’s just a phase’, and, with motor traffic off the roads, the pubs in remote villages have again assumed a leisurely local atmosphere…

He observes a tendency of pubs to separate different sections of the clientele with screens and side rooms, not along class lines, but based on ‘localness’. At one pub, he noted a small room reserved for ultra-locals who could trace family roots in the village back 200 years, and who would get up and walk out grumbling if a stranger insisted on entering. (Stammtisch?)

By this time, women, Gardiner suggests, were increasingly keen to visit the public bar and socialise with friends and neighbours, though many pubs still refused to admit them, which ‘raises questions of accommodation, particularly when a lawn or seats in a garden cannot be used’.

He concludes that ‘drinking in general has increased… [while] drunkenness has declined’, which he puts down largely to improvements in living conditions and the availability of alternative forms of entertainment, e.g. church-organised social events and the wireless.

His final recommendations are, first, that wartime licensing hours be removed in peace time but that early closing on Sunday lunchtime be retained: ‘Nobody appreciates this more than the village housewife who can now be certain of her menfolk returning to their Sunday dinner at a reasonable hour.’ He also suggests that the key to the survival of the village inn as an institution is the segregation of locals from visitors, who arrive by car in search of rural charm and something to eat:

The main bar should be reserved for the village men and facilities provided to enable them to play their innocent games of tippit, shove-halfpenny, crib, and darts.

We’re getting quite a collection of these slightly patronising, oh-so-worthy social observation studies. This one is no The Pub and the People, but it does provide a fascinating snapshot of a very specific point in British history.

QUOTE: Hooligan Beer

“The addition of information about beer strength to labelling was driven, I think, as much by government and the health lobby as CAMRA, though I could be wrong. Before then, you went into a pub and you learned which beers were strong. Hürlimann lager, in the sixties and seventies, was 5% ABV, when most of the others were 4% or less, and got to be known as ‘Hooligan’. It wasn’t advertised as strong, but people worked it out.”

Richard Harvey, PR for Allied Breweries in the 1970s, from an interview conducted for Brew Britannia.

Wood-Aged Belgian Brown White, 1861

Brown Beer, White Beer.

This is from a rather vague article first published in the National Magazine in 1861 entitled ‘German Beer’:

The beers of Belgium and Germany, in general, may be divided into two classes — the brown, and the white, or yellow… The brown differs from the other in taste… The colour may be said to be chiefly owing to a more advanced carbonization of the extractive substances. It must be prepared from the best strong hops, in the proportion of 550 to 642 grammes to the hectolitre of beer. This will do for that manufactured from winter barley. Summer barley requires but 420 grammes… The white beer is prepared from pale malt.

In the rest of the piece, the anonymous author rambles through a list of beer types he or she has come across on their travels, not always specifying clearly whether they are brown or white/yellow.

On the subject of adulteration and fraud, the author has a Belgian brewer called ‘Berhardt’ describing a ‘harmless trick’:

I employ… in the manufacture of my brown beer the following substances, which give it the colour and taste of the ordinary brown beer. I evaporate in a well-tinned cauldron a part of the liquid even to the consistence of a syrup. I keep it in motion on the fire continually until the syrup becomes a burnt and deep-coloured sugar; with that addition alone I am already in a condition to make my brown beer equal to the best of the sort. But as all brown beers have a slightly astringent taste, I give it to the ordinary brown beer by the addition of the bark of oak or mahogany.

In other words, he’s brewing a white/yellow beer but making it look brown with the addition of caramel. That’s still frowned upon today — not very ‘craft’ — but the wood trick is quite the done thing, and we think Berhardt’s beer sounds pretty tasty.

If you fancy a break from brewing black IPA, why not give ‘Belgian brown white’ a go?

Watney Mann quality control manual, 1960s.

The Kegronomicon

Yesterday, we received something special in the post: a Watney Mann quality control manual covering the period 1965-1971.

It’s on loan to us from a former Watney’s brewer who we got in touch with on the suggestion of Dominic Driscoll at Thornbridge. (Thanks, Dom!)

Watney Mann quality control manual, 1965.

The contents of this black plastic binder was first printed in 1965 and includes every piece of information a brewer at any Watney’s-owned plant could have needed to produce their full range of beers, from Red Barrel to Brown Ale.

Ingredients, methods, measurements and materials are all specified precisely.

It also contains numerous inserts — letters, technical notes from head office, and scraps of paper with test results written on them. There are numerous handwritten amendments to the original recipes, presumably made in response to orders from on high.

Detail from the Watney Mann Quality Control manual.

Most importantly, for us, at least, there are several sheets of typed instructions for brewing Watney’s Red, the beer that replaced Red Barrel in 1971.

We’re going to digest the manual carefully and share some key information here in a series of posts. We’ve also got the owner’s agreement to make scans to share with other researchers. There might be a way to make it available publicly online — at archive.org, for example — but that will probably require permission from Diageo. We’ll look into it.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting nugget: prescribed carbonation levels for Watney’s Red Barrel from 1965, with an amendment we’d guess is from around 1968.

Watney's Red Barrel pressure instructions,  1960s.

And then for the new Watney’s Red:

Watney's Red pressure instructions, 1971

The lads in the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale weren’t imagining it: keg bitter really was getting ‘fizzier’.

Beamish & Crawford's Cork Porter Brewery.

GALLERY: Brewing in Ireland c.1902

The invaluable and labyrinthine Internet Archive (archive.org) recently made available millions of public domain images from old books, searchable by keyword, on Flickr.com.

This gallery comes from a 1902 book called Ireland: industrial and agricultural which has a substantial section on brewing in Ireland.

(We’ve tidied the images up a bit and flipped them all the right way round.)