Category Archives: Beer history

VIDEO: Trussing the Cooper, 1956

Filmed at Whitbread’s brewery in the City of London, and part of the vast British Pathé library available on YouTube:

Jim Elliott of Dagenham is put into a barrel and covered with dirty water and a barrel of “muck”. The workers hammer the sides of the barrel, laughing at the apprentice who is black from the water and muck… Women shriek with laughter as the poor boy is rolled around inside the barrel and generally mistreated.

Proper Job IPA: Cornwall Via Oregon

Several times in the last couple of years, we’ve said that we thought St Austell Proper Job began life as an homage to particular American IPA, but couldn’t for the life of us work out exactly where we’d got that idea.

So, last Sunday, we travelled up to St Austell and spent the day with its creator, Head Brewer Roger Ryman, and got the story straight from the horse’s mouth.

My friendship with Karl Ockert [head brewer at BridgePort Brewing, Portland, Oregon, from 1983 to 2010] is well-known and has been written about many times. 

In around 1999, I was invited to take part in judging for the Brewing Industry Awards. That’s the one that’s been running since the 19th century and, if you’re going to win anything, that’s the one you want – the players’ player of the year, judged solely by working brewers. You’re all cooped up in a hotel together for three days and you get to know each other. When we were leaving, we all exchanged business cards – “You must get in touch if you’re ever in town, let’s stay in contact,” – but you never expect to do anything about it. A couple of years later, I was in Denver with Paul Corbett from Charles Faram, the hop merchants, and I did actually give Karl a call. He arranged all these brewery visits for us – Anheuser-Busch, Odell, Coors…

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Pubwatching With Desmond Morris, 1993

When Dave Tweeted the above at us last week, even before responding, we had ordered a copy of the 1993 book in question from Amazon for £2.81, delivered.

Pubwatching with Desmond Morris. (Cover)Pubwatching with Desmond Morris, despite his name and face on the cover, was actually written by anthropologist Kate Fox, based on research commissioned by the Brewer’s Society. It packs a lot of observations into its 64 pages: there are notes on types of pubgoer, games, typical pub conversations and etiquette, among other subjects. Of greatest interest to us, however, was an attempt to categorise pubs as they were at the turn of the 1990s.

Even if no such attempt can ever be definitive, every time someone tries, it is illuminating in some way. If nothing else, such exercises provide a snapshot of a particular point in time, and a particular perspective, as with the academic paper on pubs and bars in British cities c.2001 we stumbled upon last year.

The Morris/Fox categories from 1993 were:

1. The Serious-traditional pub, where ‘greater importance is attached to the authenticity of the ales’, customers are ‘middle class, and in the 25-50 age group’ and include ‘students… social workers, teachers, university lecturers and other dedicated non-profit-making professionals’, some of them ‘members of CAMRA… who are drinking for a cause, as well as for the taste’.

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Book Review: Built to Brew by Lynn Pearson

English Heritage/Brewery History Society, June 2014, 256 pages, large format paperback, £25, ISBN 9781848022386

Just when you think there are no new angles from which to approach the subject of British beer, along comes Lynn Pearson with a book which focuses not on the products or the people, but on bricks and mortar, copper and iron, stone and steel. In so doing, she has created something which combines the rigour of a scholarly reference work with the ‘dippability’ of a coffee table book.

Built-to-BrewIt would be easy to overlook this volume – the cover features one of the least exciting images in the book, and English Heritage’s off-the-peg guidebook design template renders it rather bland. Inside, however, the barrage of arresting imagery begins at once with a photograph of a brewery worker tending to mash tuns at Shipstone’s in Nottingham c.1900, and doesn’t let up thereafter. There are multiple images on every page – plans, sketches, paintings, photographs. Because she has made good use of the English Heritage archive and her own original photography, most of them are new to us, despite the increasing availability online of major picture archives.

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RIP Draught Burton Ale

Roger Protz confirmed yesterday that Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale, launched by Allied Breweries in 1976, and for some time lately brewed under contract by J.W. Lees in Manchester, is no more.

This seems a fitting moment, then, to share an extract from our 09/04/2013 interview with Richard Harvey, who worked as a PR man at Allied when the beer was launched. Some nuggets of what he told us made it into chapter six of Brew Britannia, entitled ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, but here’s the section on DBA, unedited:

In the spring of 1976, the Marketing Director, Peter Bonham-Carter, came to me and said: ‘Richard, we’re going to be launching a new cask-conditioned beer. It’s going to be national, and we want to adopt the black cat approach.’ The black cat was the logo of Craven A cigarettes which they’d used in very subtle adverts – ‘black cats are coming’ and the logo. Similar to Silk Cut, with the famous slashed purple fabric. ‘Look,’ said Peter, ‘if we start taking big hoardings with “Draught Burton Ale” on them, CAMRA will say “Here’s a big brewery trying to force their latest product down people’s throats.”’ So, we used purely PR, no ads, emphasising the heritage of brewing in Burton-upon-Trent, initially targeting the south of England.

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