1950s Beer Mats

We picked up these among a bundle of 16 for £4.99 inc. delivery on Ebay.

Gallery: London Breweries

Signs and livery for Watney’s, Charrington, Courage, Wenlock, Hoare’s, Truman’s and Taylor Walker.

Inside the Pub, 1950

Detail from an illustration by Gordon Cullen.
One of Gordon Cullen’s illustrations depicting an ideal modern pub.

Maurice Gorham’s best-known books on pubs are The Local (1939) and Return to the Local (1949), neither of which we have yet read. What we did acquire, thanks to a tip from Herb Lester, was a battered copy of Inside the Pub (1950), a pub designer’s manual which Gorham wrote with Harding McGregor (‘H. McG.’) Dunnet for the Architectural Press.

It’s an interesting book for various reasons but what leapt out at us were the opening lines of the introduction by J.M. Richards, on the subject of the alchemy of pub atmosphere:

If I were asked what are the qualities I would like to find in a pub I would say simply, ‘the right atmosphere’, and if asked to be a little more precise I would say that the right atmosphere is one which provides warmth, cheerfulness and a sense of seclusion and one in which the charm of the familiar is somehow combined with a sense of something intriguing just round the corner. A pub should make people feel at home and yet have the capacity to lift them a little out of themselves.

Later in the book, Dunnet says that many pubs built just before the war suffer from the lack of nooks and dividers, offering only a ‘large bleak interior’; they are sometimes ‘indistinguishable from post offices or banks’; they ‘deny the whole pub tradition and only succeed in discouraging the customer from joining his cronies round the kitchen chimney corner’.

We can think of a few pubs to which that description would apply.

The Power of a Good Pumpclip

Magic Rock brewing pumpclip

When we went to the Craft Beer Company with a not-especially-beery mate last week, we got to see the power of branding in action.

Faced with a vast array of pumps, slightly anxious at too much choice, and aware of the queue behind him, our chum made a snap decision: he went for Magic Rock Curious. Why? Because the design stood out as professional, stylish and interesting. Because it leapt off the bartop shouting: “Buy me!”

Sadly, there was none left, and he had to settle for another beer suggested by the barmaid. As it turned out, it was every bit as nice as Curious, but we’d never have known that if left to our own devices, because its pumpclip looked like something from an A level art portfolio c.2002 — Photoshop for Dummies, posterise-everything amateur hour.

Design can’t be an afterthought, because, in the current competititve climate, it can mean the difference between a beer either selling briskly or quietly turning to vinegar in its cask. We punters — especially those of us who simply drink beer rather than obsessing over it — are fickle, superficial, shallow creatures.

More Visuals: Beer Family Trees?

Extract from the Thornbridge Family Tree
Detail from the Thornbridge Family Tree (PDF link below)

After the more theoretical graphs and charts of the last couple of days (which required all our reserves of bullshit to navigate), today’s experiment is in an altogether woolier mode.

Pete Frame is rightly revered for his Rock Family Trees — vast, sprawling, beautifully hand-scripted charts showing the movement of bass, keytar and Moog players from one band to another, or within particular ‘movements’. This approach doesn’t just work for bands, though — Frame also used it to map the Monty Python crew, hangers on and chums.

Inspired by his approach, we’ve come up with a chart showing the comings and goings of brewers at Thornbridge (PDF, 76kb) and its place in British craft brewing in the last seven years. Is it helpful? Does it help makes sense of the connections between breweries? We think it does, actually — it highlights Italian and Antipodean connections; and not entirely surprising links between Meantime Brewing, Marble, Dark Star, Brewdog and Thornbridge.

But now we’d really like to see an even bigger version covering more breweries. (Narrated by the late John Peel.)


  1. We chose Thornbridge because they seem to have a revolving door, with people coming and going as often as members of Morrissey’s backing band and
  2. because they’re fairly open about who’s arrived and who’s leaving.
  3. With only their blog, press releases and Wikipedia for reference, we’ve probably made some mistakes — sorry in advance! We’re happy to fix them, but it’s the approach we’re really testing here.
  4. If you work at any of the breweries pictured, you’re probably feeling weirded out right now. Sorry. If it’s any comfort, at least you know how Peter Hook felt when he saw this.
  5. Updates: 09:45, 03/05/2012 — added James Kemp; changed David Pickering qualifications to mention Heriot-Watt; corrected spelling of ‘Heriot-Watt’.