Great scientific discoveries attributable to beer (part 1 of ?)

Did you know that James Prescott Joule, who gave his name to the SI unit for energy, was a brewer?

James Joule, image in public domain courtesy of WikipediaWe didn’t until watching an excellent BBC4 documentary, “Absolute Zero” (in turn based on a book called “Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold” by Tom Schachtman). Apparently this documentary is scheduled for broadcast in the US on PBS, whatever that is…

Anyway, the story goes that he (like other nineteenth-century industrialists) was interested in the relationship between heat and “work done”, which had very practical applications – how could you get the most “work” out of the least heat? He set about measuring the effects of this. Apparently, because brewers were unique in having highly sensitive thermometers, he was able to get very precise results from his experiments and was a key player in the development of modern day thermodynamics, influencing William Thomson, a.k.a Lord Kelvin.

There’s possibly some dramatic licence here (the Wikipedia article on Mr Joule downplays the brewery angle) but we liked it anyway.

Snacks to Beer — kepta duona

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Kepta duona frying in a pan.In Lithuania, most bars serve a selection of what they call “užkandžiai prie alaus” — literally, “snacks to beer”.

After a very nice tour of the country a few years ago, we got into the habit of referring to a whole range of peculiar foods you only ever eat with beer as “snacks to beer”.

This post is the first in occasional series on what we think are the very best nibbles to accompany booze. Expect to see pretzels, pork scratchings and a Spanish delicacy we call “chicken tikka fish” covered in the future.

But for now, it’s only fitting that we start with the original snack to beer — Lithuanian “kepta duona”.

It’s not remotely fancy, it’s not good for you, but it’s a great snack to beer for several reasons. Firstly, it’s salty and oily. Now, I know greasy is good is bad for your beer. It makes it go flat. But, frankly, who cares — it just works. Secondly, you can eat it with your fingers. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it soaks up booze…

If you fancy making what is, in effect, slightly burned garlic fried bread, our best attempt at a recipe is after the jump…

Continue reading “Snacks to Beer — kepta duona”

The Defunct Essex Brewery

brewery_tap_closeup.jpgThe Essex Brewery used to be on St James Street in Walthamstow, east London. It was demolished in 1975. But there are still signs of the brewery’s existence in the immediate area. A nearby pub — which seems now to be abandoned, having been a nightclub in recent years — bears the brewery’s name.

I’m keen to find out more about “Collier Brothers Essex Brewery”. For now, I’ve found this brief history, at the East London and City Beer Guide Online:

Only one takeover, apart from the Wenlock Brewery Co Ltd, has been made by a brewery outside London. This was when Tollemache Breweries Ltd of Ipswich acquired Collier Brothers, Essex Brewery, St Jamess Street, Walthamstow in 1920. Founded by Williams Hawes in 1859. Brewing ceased in 1972 and the brewery has been demolished.


There’s also this interesting trade advert at the British Library website.


And this from the amazing British History Online website:

A brewer was listed in 1848. (fn. 169) In 1859 there were two, one of them being William Hawes, who built the steam-powered Walthamstow Brewery in St. James Street. (fn. 170) The Essex Brewery Co. Ltd. was formed in 1871 to buy Hawes’s brewery, (fn. 171) but apparently failed to attract subscribers, for the brewery was acquired by Collier Bros., who operated it as the Essex Brewery, until 1922. It was then sold to Tollemache’s Breweries Ltd., to whom it still belonged in 1968. (fn. 172)

From: ‘Walthamstow: Economic history, marshes and forests’, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 263-75. URL: Date accessed: 26 July 2007.

Fictional Breweries

queenvic_pillar_large.jpgA minor fascination of mine is how dramas supposedly set in the real world routinely invent London Boroughs (Walford, Sunhill) or whole towns up north (Weatherfield, Wetherton). But, of course, I’m always particularly interested in fictional breweries.

Coronation Street has Newton and Ridley, while, in Eastenders’ Queen Victoria you’ll only ever get a pint of Luxford and Copley. In reality, the Queen Vic would be a Wetherspoons.

The amount of detail that producers devise for these breweries and the pubs they supposedly own or supply is astounding. There’s a web page here which seems to be on its last legs, but where, for the moment, you can see some of the care that goes into the Eastenders set. Luxford and Copley’s ales are, you’ll all be pleased to note, cask conditioned…

The weirdest of them all, though, is Emmerdale, whose fictional brewery “Ephraim Monk” seem to have missed out on the license to brew the soap’s official beer. Instead, it’s produced by Black Sheep.