beer in fiction / tv

More ale in literature: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Courtesty of Anne Bronte:

‘I don’t take wine, Mrs. Markham,’ said Mr. Millward, upon the introduction of that beverage; ‘I’ll take a little of your home- brewed ale. I always prefer your home-brewed to anything else.’

Flattered at this compliment, my mother rang the bell, and a china jug of our best ale was presently brought and set before the worthy gentleman who so well knew how to appreciate its excellences.

‘Now THIS is the thing!’ cried he, pouring out a glass of the same in a long stream, skilfully directed from the jug to the tumbler, so as to produce much foam without spilling a drop; and, having surveyed it for a moment opposite the candle, he took a deep draught, and then smacked his lips, drew a long breath, andrefilled his glass, my mother looking on with the greatest satisfaction.

‘There’s nothing like this, Mrs. Markham!’ said he. ‘I always maintain that there’s nothing to compare with your home-brewed ale.’

‘I’m sure I’m glad you like it, sir. I always look after the brewing myself, as well as the cheese and the butter – I like to have things well done, while we’re about it.’

Nice to see that a good head was preferred on a pint even back then (although Anne was a northern lass, of course, so she would be that way inclined).  It’s also a good reminder of the fact that making ale was women’s work until comparatively recently.


Text courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

5 replies on “More ale in literature: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”

I shall be sure to inform my darling Ann next time the mash tun needs digging out, that it’s woman’s work!

I really don’t know where these southerners get the idea from that beer is spoilt by putting a head on it….

Goodness knows indeed but they’ll argue that it is the sparkler that they don’t like, not the head, which still doesn’t explain why most Southern pints look as flat as a witches tit!

It’s become a point of dogma for some southern drinkers — they know beer looks and feels rubbish without a head but (a) they want 1.5p’s worth of extra beer and (b) it would a be nasty northern habit to drink it any other way. One of our mates, who went to university in Sheffield, now sees drinking flat pints as an intrinsic part of his identity as a Londoner.


We’ve taken to asking for a head on our pints in our local, which they are happy to arrange. We did have to reassure them we weren’t planning to sue them or report them to CAMRA’s sinister full-pint enforcement squad, though.

It’s become a point of dogma for some southern drinkers — they know beer looks and feels rubbish without a head

“All Southern beer is flat” is as true as “All British beer is warm.” The head you want on a Southern pint should be loose, with medium-sized bubbles, and not necessarily long-lsting, but the pint itself should still have a reasonable amount of condition. That way you get the flavour the brewer intends you to find: if you pour a Southern pint through a sparkler, all the flavour gets knocked into the tight, creamy head and you don’t taste the actual beer the way it’s meant to be. Try two pints of, say, Young’s ordinary side by side, one poured through a sparkler and the other not, and see the diference.

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