The Lost art of Drawing Pubs

In the nineteen-sixties and seventies, there was a flood of books about pubs, many of which included illustrations.

London Pubs by Alan Reeve-Jones (1962) has many lovely drawings by artist Miriam Macgregor, who went on to become a well-respected engraver. Her rendition of the Mayflower in Rotherhithe is below.

The Mayflower pub, Miriam Macgregor, 1962.

When Assheton Gorton provided drawings of pubs for the 1973 edition of Martin Green and Tony White’s Evening Standard Guide to London Pubs, he also tackled the Mayflower.

The Mayflower pub by Assheton Gorton, 1973.

Both of the above are interesting and entertaining books, which cannot, unfortunately, be said of The Alka-Seltzer guide to the Pubs of London (1976). Its illustrations, by ‘Myerscough’, are quite nice, though. He, she or it unfortunately ignored the Mayflower, but instead created a block print of the nearby Angel at Bermondsey.

The Angel pub, Myerscough, 1976.

As colour printing got cheaper, beer books and pub guides became home to a certain kind of tasteful, arty photography, and illustrations like these became less common. These days, they tend to be filled with free images, snapped by the author on a phone or digital camera, or borrowed from the internet. That seems a shame.

Note: we’ve reproduced the images above in low-resolution for, er, illustrative purposes, and will remove them if asked to do so by copyright holders.

West country beer tasting

We were down in Somerset for Bailey’s Dad’s birthday a couple of weekends ago and, as always, scheduled a visit to Open Bottles, the West Country’s premier eccentric beer shop.

The owner has had trouble getting some of the nationally known brewers to ship to Somerset but the result has been good for the shop. He’s now stocking many more local beers, including some real obscurities with homemade labels and “quirky” branding. Here are three we enjoyed:

Cheddar Ales Gorge Best

Gorge Best! Geddit? Geddit? Like “George Best”, the famous alcoholic, only it’s made in Cheddar with its famous gorge.

The branding on this one, dodgy puns aside, is pretty impressive, latching onto an essential truth: Gill Sans or variants thereof + screen printing = Britishness.

The beer itself is dark gold in colour, bottle-conditioned, and bitter as Hell. In a good way. Very cask-ale-like from the bottle and, all in all, an excellent beer.

Whistling Bridge, by Ringmore Craft Brewery (Devon)

It boast spices, cranberries and curacao orange on the charmingly amateurish label (sadly, no photo). We weren’t expecting this to work, but it did. It’s a pale colour, with a good head, and tasted fruity and refreshing. It also went surprisingly well with the roast dinner we were scoffing at the time. We’ll be looking out for more of their stuff.

Quantock Stout, by the Quantock Brewery

This was a very satisfying milky, creamy stout. Didn’t take any more notes on this one, but we liked it.

Open Bottles is at 131 Taunton Rd, Bridgwater TA6 6BD. It looks like any other offy from the outside, with megadeals on rubbish lager advertised in on bright paper, but it really is worth a detour if you’re in the area and want to sample stuff from local microbrews. You’ll have better luck there than in any of the pubs in town, sadly.