The Devil Tavern

I saw this sign on an office building on Fleet Street in London, and was intrigued.
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You don’t see pubs called “The Devil” much these days, even though Britain is actually much less religious now than it was in the 18th century.

How did this long-gone boozer get its distinctive name? Well, it was originally called “The Devil and St Dunstan”, but St Dunstan got dropped. Samuel Pepys mentions the Devil Tavern several times in his diaries.

Here’s a bit on the history of the pub:

The noisy “Devil Tavern” (No. 2, Fleet Street) had stood next the quiet goldsmith’s shop ever since the time of James I. Shakespeare himself must, day after day, have looked up at the old sign of St. Dunstan tweaking the Devil by the nose, that flaunted in the wind near the Bar. Perhaps the sign was originally a compliment to the goldsmith’s men who frequented it, for St. Dunstan was, like St. Eloy, a patron saint of goldsmiths, and himself worked at the forge as an amateur artificer of church plate. It may, however, have only been a mark of respect to the saint, whose church stood hard by, to the east of Chancery Lane.

Quotation from: ‘Fleet Street: General Introduction’, Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 32-53. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45023 . Date accessed: 04 June 2007.

The June Session – attempt #1

I was so looking forward to our first Session. This month’s challenge was to blog about a local brewery or brew, perhaps to act as a guide to tourists or visitors to your town. Living in London, we have a great choice of beer brewed within 150 miles, and we could (we excitedly thought) even extend our options further by opting for somewhere near Bailey’s original manor (Somerset).
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Alas, it wasn’t to be. A tough day at work rounded off a stressful week, and before we knew it, we were in a middle-of-the-road pub (Greene King!!) drinking for the sake of drinking. OK, so I’m pretty sure it’s within 150 miles, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to tourists.

Still, this led naturally onto a friday night curry, which for us means a bottle of fantastic Lion Stout. I cannot get over how delicious this beer is. The most remarkable thing is the incredibly long and rich aftertaste, although I also find the dark beige head very appealing. It’s 8%, treacley without being sickly, roasted without being overly bitter – it’s dessert and coffee in one sweet decadent glass.

Of course, if you’re a Londoner you can’t get much less local than Sri Lanka…

lion stout
Find out about the origins of beer-blogging Friday on Appellation Beer


Link to Gastronomic Fight Club, host of this month’s session.

German beer prices up because of growth of biofuels

Ochsenfurter KauzenAccording to the Arizona Star, the price of beer in Germany is going up because barley farmers are turning their fields over to crops which can be used to make biofuels.

Helmut Erdmann, the director of the Ayinger brewery in Bavaria says:

Beer prices are a very emotional issue in Germany — people expect it to be as inexpensive as other basic staples like eggs, bread and milk

In my experience, beer really is considered an everyday essential. There’s barely any tax on beer, as far as I can tell – certainly nothing like the levels we have in the UK – and it’s possible to pick up a bottle of, say, Salvator for 79c in most German supermarkets.

Old article on London Stout

450px-truman_black_eagle_brewery_2005.jpgIn the November 1854 edition of Fraser’s Magazine, there is a fascinating article called simply “London Stout”. It paints a vivid picture of how a mid-Victorian London pub would have looked:

One of the earliest things to strike our country cousins is the universal appearance of the names of certain firms, painted in the largest letters upon the most florid backgrounds of the numerous public house signs of the metropolis. “What does ‘Reid’s Entire’ mean?” asked a fair friend of ours the other day, looking up with her brown eyes as though she had asked something very foolish, and pointing to the puzzling inscription on a neighbouring signboard.

Later, the writer describes a street porter-seller “with his little rack of quart mugs brimmed with the frothy liquid, or rattling the shiny pots against the rails by their suspended strap”.

The best section, to my mind, is a detailed description of the interior of the brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co at Spitalfield, East London.

After the process of mashing the wort is pumped up into a large copper, of which ther are five, containig from 300 to 400 barrels each, where the wort is boiled with the hops, of which often two tons are used in a-day. The boiling beer is now pumped up to the coolers. To get a sight of these the visitor has to perform a climbing process similar to that required get at the upper gallery of St Paul’s, and, when he has reached the highest point ladders are capable of taking him, he finds his nose on a level with a black sea, whose area presents a surface of 32,000 square feet.

Photo adapted from an original by , and used at the Wikipedia article on the Black Eagle Brewery, on Brick Lane.

Homebrewer’s recipe calculator – free toy!

Just a quick plug for an excellent product I found a few months ago and have been using ever since

Qbrew is a free-source homebrewer’s recipe calculator which you can download and use to formulate recipes. Basically, you can put in the quantities of malt (or extract) and hops you’re using, set your “efficiency” (i.e. how good you are at turning raw ingredients into alcohol) and end up with predictions as to the colour, bitterness and strength of your beer. There are a load of recipe “styles” you can compare your beer too and there’s even a handy hydrometer correction tool.

How do you work out your efficiency? Well, if you have a few brews behind you, you can put in the raw ingredients and play with the setting until you get Qbrew to end up with your end product.

Once you can get over the disappointment of being told you are only 60% efficient, it’s an extremely useful way to predict future brews. [Various snotty homebrew books say that “beginners should achive around 80% efficiency”! I blame London tap water]

I’m fairly new to homebrewing, so was surprised to find that there are a number of homebrewing programmes out there – though most of them you seem to have to pay for, and I’m not sure if the added features are worth it (“Hop Time Degradation” calculator, anyone?)

Boak