‘Some time ago,’ begins S. H. Evershed’s account of his travels, ‘I was commissioned by a gentleman who had bought a small brewery in Belgium to fit up the brewery with the necessary plant’.
You might recognise the name Evershed from old labels for Marston’s of Burton-upon-Trent. Evershed was a brewery taken over by Marston’s in 1905 and there were two generations of men called Sydney Herbert Evershed, father and son. We can’t be quite sure which of them is responsible for this account but our guess is that it was the Sydney Herbert the younger, born in 1886, who would have been in his thirties in 1924, and later, as MD of the company, went on to introduce Marston’s Pedigree, in 1952.
This detailed account of his Belgian jaunt appeared in the May 1924 edition of the Journal of the Operative Brewers’ Guild, an organisation based in the north of England which eventually became part of the IBD. The journal was written by brewers, for brewers, and generally explored minute practical details of the brewing process, including what to feed horses for the maximum efficiency, and the price of Isinglass on the world market.
The Belgian’s motive was simply to ‘brew under English conditions in order to get inside the Belgian tariff wall’ — that is, to provide English-style beer to Belgians who were thirsting for it without paying high import duties intended to keep out German goods in the post-war reconstruction phase. (Think of Boston Lager being brewed at Shepherd Neame.)
I found the brewery premises in excellent state — beautifully constructed — on the tower system — with tiled floors on every storey… Almost all the windows were broken, and half the roof tiles were off, while every particle of brass or copper had been removed by the Germans, including the copper, with its dome, mash tun taps and pipes, refrigerator, and every bearing form the shafting and boiler house fittings.
“These Soho dinners are excellently cooked and very cheap. Only the wine is dearer in England than in France. There you can get a carafon for a few pence, and good it is. But here the cheapest half-bottle is tenpence, and often disappointing. The wise drink beer. It is Charles Godfrey Leland who, in his jovial scrap of autobiography, ascribes all the vigour and jolly energy of his life to the strengthening effects of Brobdingnagian draughts of lager beer drunk under the tuition of the German student. It is good companionable stuff, and a tankard of it costs only sixpence, or less.”
The last time we tried Fantôme Saison was at Cask in Pimlico in 2010. Back then, we didn’t really get saison (here’s the moment where it began to click) and, anyway, as various people told us, Fantôme is notoriously variable. At any rate, as far as we can tell*, though we made it our beer of the week, we didn’t write about it at length, and don’t remember much about it.