There’s a ghoulish glee in reading about the grotty brewing practices of the past, especially when the product in question has a catchy brand name.
According to a correspondent of the Lancet in 1865, the people of South Staffordshire were particularly prone to getting legless on a by-product of brewing known as ‘klink’:
In the larger breweries there is always a varying amount of… strong ale which has become so tart or acid as to be unfit for ordinary sale. This strong ale is modified in various ways to make it palatable, and is then reissued at a very low price… In the district this liquor, known as “klink,” is sold at the low rate of twopence per quart, and being exceedingly strong, the above quantity is enough to intoxicate most men… It is not, however, the intoxicating power of klink beer which is its only bad property; but, from the development of certain acids, the effect upon the mucous lining of the stomach, upon the liver and kidneys, is most injurious, and those who are in the habit of drinking it are well aware of the effect. Unfortunately, too, this kind of beer has got largely into use as harvest drink… Probably neither brewers nor employers are aware of the amount of injury inflicted by this drink.
Every other mention of klink we’ve been able to find with an admittedly superficial search, including a piece in the British Medical Journal from 1869, seems to derive from this source.
So, it’s not very reliable. It might also be temperance campaign misinformation, or simply a misunderstanding about some aspect of the brewing process.
But, in the context of 19th century brewing practices, it doesn’t sound at all unlikely to us.
It made us wonder what it might taste like but, mostly, it reminded us how lucky we are that this kind of practice has all but died out…