Category Archives: Beer history

How Old is the Phrase ‘Lock In’?

The Oxford English Dictionary research team is asking for help identifying the origins of the phrase ‘lock in’ in relation to pubs.

The earliest verifiable usage they’ve found is from as recently as 1991, which they’re sure can’t be right:

The elder members of the OED’s staff know from personal experience that this practice existed before 1991, but we have been unable to find earlier verifiable evidence of this term for it. Can you help us find earlier evidence of lock-in referring to a period after closing time in a bar or pub when customers already inside are allowed to continue drinking?

(Via @JamesBSumner, via @WilliamHaydock.)

Our instincts are that it must be much older — post-WWII, probably — and so we got out some books and logged into a few newspaper and magazine archives to nose around.

Online, once we’d worked out how to filter out references to people called Lock, and Enfield Lock, and lock picking, and so on, we found… nothing.

Nor did we find anything in hard copy books — pub guides, Michael Jackson, publicans’ memoirs — from the 1930s through to the 1980s.

There are various convoluted ways of referring to what is obviously a lock in along the lines of ‘the licensee closed the door and invited certain guests to remain for a “private party” with the curtains drawn’, but the phrase ‘lock in’ is not used.

When we found this clip from 1986 we thought we’d got something:

…but they don’t actually say ‘lock in’ in the sketch — it’s referred to as ‘an after hours session’.

We’re currently reading through every single issue of the London Drinker from the 1980s (as you’ll have noticed if you follow us on Twitter…) and compiling an index as we go. We reckon if ‘lock in’ is going to turn up anywhere, it will be in a publication with an informal tone aimed at serious pub-going drinkers, but, so far (we’re up to 1981) it hasn’t shown up.

We’ll keep looking but if you happen to know of a documented usage of the term, please let the OED team know, and/or comment below.

Bristol’s Top Taverns, 1815

There are many readily available old books and articles about London drinking establishments but other cities had their notable boozers, too.

Here, for example, is a handy list from an 1815 guide to the inns and taverns of Bristol:

Text: "There are many excellent and accommodating Inns and Taverns in the City, among which the following are the chief, viz. Bush, Corn-street; White Lion, White-Hart, Broad-street; Talbot, Bath-street; George and Saracen's Head, Temple-Gate; Full-Moon, Stoke's-croft; Greyhound, Broad-mead; White-Hart, Horse-fair; Rummer, All Saints' Passage; Montague, Kingsdown Parade; Bell, White Lion, Three Kings, and Three Queens, Thomasstreet; Queen's-Head and Angel, Redcliff-street; Hole in the Wall, Princes-street, and many others which would be too numerous to insert."

(In the original that text runs across a page break but we’ve stitched it together.)

The author was probably more interested in their hospitality (rooms and food) than in the drinks on offer but, still, it’s something to chew on.

Continue reading Bristol’s Top Taverns, 1815

Artyfacts from the Nyneties #2: World Beer Menu, 1993

Front cover of the 1993 Great British Beer Festival Bieres Sans Frontieres menu.
The front cover.
“Welcome to the most exotic bar in the whole festival… This year’s star feature has to be the USA. Thanks to months of work by Jonathan Tuttle… Rick’s American Bar has probably the widest selection of beer and beer styles ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean from West to East.”

From Alistair Boyd’s introduction.

Continue reading Artyfacts from the Nyneties #2: World Beer Menu, 1993

Artyfacts from the Nyneties #1: Lemon Ale

Whitbread (Flower's) advert, 1995: Colonel Pepper's Lemon Ale.

In Chapter 10 of Brew Britannia we wrote about the craze in the mid-1990s for interesting one-off seasonals.

Some were single-hopped, others were spiced and/or infused with fruit beers. This beauty from Flowers (Whitbread) launched in 1995 is typical.

As luck would have it, what appears to be the original press release is lurking in the depths of the internet:


Whitbread has revived the use of one of brewing’s oldest ingredients, black pepper and added a relatively new one into British beer making, lemon, with the launch of Colonel Pepper’s Lemon Ale – the ideal thirst-quenching pint for those long, balmy summer days!

Colonel Pepper’s (5.0% ABV) is a wonderfully refreshing beer, unusually light and golden in colour for an ale, with a spicy aroma – the lemon peel and ground black pepper added into the brew give it a clean and fresh ‘tingle’ for the drinker’s palate.

Continue reading Artyfacts from the Nyneties #1: Lemon Ale

Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester

Manchester seems to have got a supply of Dreher’s Vienna Beer only a few months after it first arrived in London, in 1868, but it doesn’t seem to have quite taken.

Though the focus of our short e-book Gambrinus Waltz is London, during our research we picked up a few nuggets about the progress of lager beer elsewhere in Victorian Britain.

Here’s the earliest mention we can find of Vienna on sale in Manchester, we would guess via the enterprising Andres Brothers of London:

Tuesday 17 November 1868 , Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.
Tuesday 17 November 1868 , Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.

Here’s what we assume is the Albion Hotel in question in a 20th century postcard from the Manchester History Net archive via Pubs of Manchester:

Albion Hotel, Manchester.
Albion Hotel, Manchester.

In 1869, it was also being advertised for sale at a weirdly unnamed ‘Cafe & Restaurant’ at 19 Oxford Street.

Continue reading Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester