More on the Revival of Magee & Marshall of Bolton

Our recent blog post about the revival of Magee & Marshall came to the attention of the reviver himself, Edd Mather, who got in touch with a bit more info.

The following is a straight transcript of a phone conversation with Edd, a native Lancastrian.

First, can you say a bit about yourself? What’s your background?

I’m 40-years-old. I’ve always been interested in beer – how it’s kept, how it’s brewed – and I was fortunate a few years ago to find a bit of unpaid work, if you know what I mean, with a local brewery, and out of that I developed a bit of knowledge.

I’ve also always had an interest in history – brewing history and local history in general.

I heard on the grapevine that the company that owned the rights to Magee & Marshall were going into liquidation. From 1853 to 1958 it was in family ownership, then from 1958 to 1970 it was owned and operated by Greenall’s group. The brewery shut down in 1970 but the brand and company was owned by Greenalls PLC up until 1999 when it became De Vere Group, and later Ereved Group Holdings. I did a bit of digging and found that the Magee & Marshall company was still active. I thought, right, if I can get it for the right price, I will, and took ownership in March this year.

Continue reading “More on the Revival of Magee & Marshall of Bolton”

Comfort Beers: Fuller’s, Young’s, Sam Smith’s

We were in London last week to pick up an award, see friends, work in the library, and look at pub architecture. That didn’t leave much time to drink beer.

When we passed the Red Lion on Duke of York Street at 6 pm it had burst its seams, spilling suited drinkers all over the pavement and road. We returned at 9 by which time it was quieter and we slipped into the coveted back room. It’s an amazing pub, the Red Lion — really beautiful, full of cut glass and mirrors and warm light. There’s a reason Ian Nairn gives it a whole page of soupy swooning in Nairn’s London. The woman behind the bar pulled the first pint, paused, and said, ‘I’m not serving you that. It doesn’t look right.’ She turned the clip round and suggested something else. Impressive. Oliver’s Island, pale and brewed with orange peel, continues to be decent enough without igniting any great passion on our part. ESB, on the other hand, seems to get better every time we have it — richer, more bitter, ever juicier. Same again, please. It gave us hangovers but it was 100 per cent worth it.

Continue reading “Comfort Beers: Fuller’s, Young’s, Sam Smith’s”

Green Beer and Gimmickry, 1946

Green Bottles Standing on a Wall

We spent Saturday at the London Metropolitan Archives where, among Whitbread press cuttings, we found a 1946 article headlined HALF OF GREEN, PLEASE:

Green beer is back. It was a craze in night clubs in the ’30s. I was offered a glass today, and if I had been drinking it in the dark I should not have been able to tell it from ordinary bottle dbeer. But it was bright green. Why?

I asked the Kent firm which brewed it. ‘It is simply a novelty,’ I was told. ‘Makes people talk. They want something different… The green is obtained by adding a harmless, tasteless vegetable blue dye to the beer directly it is brewed. Freshly-brewed pale ale is light yellow. Blue turns it green.’

The author goes on to explore whether other colours are possible, such as red. The answer is, yes, but green is easiest.

A hand-written note in the clippings book says it’s from The Star and appeared on 21 January if you want to look it up yourself. The same story seems to have gone global in the funny filler columnettes so there might be more sources out there, too.

We first had green beer about a decade ago, and there’s usually a little controversy about the practice around St Patrick’s Day, but we were surprised to discover that it had been going on as far back as the 1930s.

There’s also something interesting about that statement ‘They want something different’ which sounds more like a quote from the 1990s, with its seasonal guest ales and spices and fruit, than from austerity Britain.

Which Kent firm was it? We’ve dropped a line to Shepherd Neame as (a) our best guess and (b) the holders of a proper fully curated archive. We’ll update when we hear back.

UPDATE 11:36 15/05/2016

This is turning into a bit of a live blog. Here’s a story on the green beer craze from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 24 July 1931:

Green beer—the most successful novelty that the brewing business has known in generation —is now being followed by white ale. This is not a new invention as was green beer, but is the famous old milk-like product of South Devon where it used to be regularly served in wayside hostelries… Now, however, it is being re-introduced as a Mayfair novelty, and is served at parties as companion of green beer. Hostesses find that their women guests like beer—so long as it looks like something else. 

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 May 2016: haze, dive bars, Keith

Here’s all the beer- and pub-related reading that’s grabbed our attention in the past seven days, from the science of hazy beer to New York dive bars.

→ Let’s get brewery takeover news out of the way: Dutch lager brewing firm Bavaria (confusing, right?) has taken a controlling interest in Belgian concern Palm. The deal includes Rodenbach, itself taken over by Palm in 1998, but not Boon in which Palm has had a stake on and off for some years. We can’t find a decent English language source but here’s one in French which Google Translate seems to cope with well enough, and a brief piece in English from Retail Detail.

Moor brewery wall sign: 'No fish guts.'

→ Right, now down the good stuff. Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey has written a post we’ve all been waiting for: a measured, informed consideration of hazy beer. Emma is a scientist by profession and so, rather than give us a bunch of stuff that she ‘reckons’, she set out to test a hypothesis:

[My] rough hypothesis was: ‘haze = hop flavour’. I don’t necessarily see it as an exponential relationship, i.e. ‘>haze = >hop flavour’, but there is definitely a positive association between the two factors in my experience.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 May 2016: haze, dive bars, Keith”

QUICK ONE: The Young Americans

Beer bottles on shelves.
Shelves at Hops + Crafts pictured in October 2015.

A few weeks back we spoke to Chris Harper who runs Hops + Crafts, a specialist beer shop in Exeter.

Chris is an American, from Georgia, and among other things (most of which will turn up in our column in Devon Life magazine next month) he said this, shaking his head in astonishment:

I called up Northern Monk [Brew Co] to talk about buying some beer and the guy who answered the phone… He was from Georgia! From the same town! We went. To rival. High schools.

It struck us as weird back in 2013 that we could interview two Californian brewers 20 minutes apart across the Somerset Levels, and this is more of the same. (Brew Britannia, Chapter Sixteen, ‘The Outer Limits’.)

We tend to roll our eyes at people who complain about the Americanisation of UK culture for various reason, not least being that you only have to watch Brits awkwardly eating US-style barbecue at communal tables, elbows pressed to their sides, with cutlery, as we did in Bristol the weekend before last, to realise it’s not going to take.

But it does seem that a slightly higher proportion of people involved in craft beer in the UK (definition 2) are from the US than might be expected to have arisen by chance.

Maybe we ought to speak to some more people and write something longer on this.