Half-and-half

In Charles Dickens’ 1850 piece “Three Detective Anecdotes”, the policeman Inspector Wield reports this attempt to get information from a witness:

When the play was over, we came out together, and I said, “We’ve been very companionable and agreeable, and perhaps you wouldn’t object to a drain?” “Well, you’re very good,” says he; “I SHOULDN’T object to a drain.” Accordingly, we went to a public-house, near the Theatre, sat ourselves down in a quiet room up-stairs on the first floor, and called for a pint of half-and-half, apiece, and a pipe.

What’s half-and-half? I asked myself.

Modern references (Beer Advocate, amongst others) say that half-and-half is a cousin or a variant of “black-and-tan”, and that it’s made by mixing pale ale and and stout. In fact, they specify a mix of Guinness and a “mild or bitter beer”. Dickens’ characters probably weren’t drinking Guinness, though.

An even earlier source – an 1820 treatise against the adulteration of food (Project Gutenberg e-text) – covers half-and-half in more detail. The author says that “every publican has two sorts of beer sent to him from the brewer… ‘mild’, which is beer sent out fresh as it is brewed; the other is called ‘old'”.

Half-and-half is a mixture of the two. So, instead of paying for a full pint of the “good stuff”, the consumer could shave a little off the cost by voluntary adulterating their beer. Presumably, they might also choose to do so because the aged beer was sour, and so a bit much to take on its own.

And it was in trying to come up with a quicker and easier way to serve mixed beer that London landlords invented “entire butt” (beer pre-mixed in the barrel, and coming from one tap) which in turn became the famous London Porter. Roger Protz and Graham Wheeler, in their excellent if eccentrically typeset Brew Your Own British Real Ale at Home argue that “the original London Porters were simply brown ales that were deliberately soured”.

So, how to simulate a pint of Victorian half-and-half? I’d guess that getting two similar beers (brown ales), souring one, and keeping the other fresh, is the best way to start. Failing that, a dash of something lambic in a brown ale might do the job.

I came across “Three Detective Anecdotes” in A Treasury of Victorian Detective Stories edited by Everett F Bleiler (Harvest Press, 1980), but it’s also available at Project Gutenberg for free.

1918 anti-brewing tract

I can’t find out much about Adolph Keitel, but in 1918, he wrote “Government by the Brewers?”. It was published in Chicago, and is an anti-brewery/anti-beer tract. It’s available from Project Gutenberg, the free etext archive.

His argument is a bit odd – he’s not anti-prohibition, but he’s annoyed that brewers were trying to convince people beer was less harmful than whisky. He says that beer is a habit forming drug (“It’s not a drug – it’s a drink” – Chris Morris) and not fit to be in the home. Brewers, he argues, are a sinister force for evil.

This point re: the quality of American beer is particularly amusing:

WHAT IS BEER?

In the well known European beer drinking countries nothing but hops and malt are permitted in brewing.

Here beer is a concoction of corn, rice, hops, malt, glucose,preservatives and other drugs–and, in most cases, it has nothing in common with real beer other than its artificial foam and color.

A leader of public opinion made the statement in the United States Senate that “Beer that is brewed in this country is slop. They say it is ‘good for the health.’ I never saw a man who drank it who was not a candidate for Bright’s disease or paralysis.”

The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery

William Henry Hudson’s Afoot in England (1909) is a memoir/guide book, which takes a snooty tone in places. This passage (from the Project Gutenberg etext) caught my eye because it mentions the Anglo-Bavarian brewery in Shepton Mallet, Somerset:

I went on a Saturday to Shepton Mallet. A small, squalid town, a “manufacturing town” the guide-book calls it. Well, yes; it manufactures Anglo-Bavarian beer in a gigantic brewery which looks bigger than all the other buildings together, the church and a dozen or twenty public-houses included. To get some food I went to the only eating-house in the place, and saw a pleasant-looking woman, plump and high-coloured, with black hair, with an expression of good humour and goodness of every description in her comely countenance. She promised to have a chop ready by the time I had finished looking at the church, and I said I would have it with a small Guinness. She could not provide that, the house, she said, was strictly temperance. “My doctor has ordered me to take it,” said I, “and if you are religious, remember that St. Paul tells us to take a little stout when we find it beneficial.”

“Yes, I know that’s what St. Paul says,” she returned, with a heightened colour and a vicious emphasis on the saint’s name,”but we go on a different principle.”

The Anglo-Bavarian brewery opened in 1864, making pale ale, but is really notable as the first brewery in Britain to make lager. It employed German brewers from 1873 onward, and won awards worldwide for it’s German-style beer. Of course, when World War I kicked off in 1914, they changed the name to “The Anglo”, but it was too late: the Bavarian flags and symbols all over the building led to it being trashed. It closed in 1920. The building is still there, but in bad shape (read more at English Heritage).

Nowadays, the most famous drink being made in Shepton Mallet is Babycham.