Beer history

The Lilliput Beer Book, 1956

This short pamphlet given away with a men’s magazine in the 1950s is far from essential but, if you find a copy going cheap, it’s worth adding to your collection.

Lilliput magazine, December 1956.

We first became aware of it rummaging through a bin of assorted old magazines in a local retro-vintage emporium, where the word ‘beer’ leapt out at us from the cover of the December 1956 edition of Lilliput. Frustratingly, in that case, the booklet was long gone. We guessed, given the year, that it might be a promotional spin-off from Andrew Campbell’s Book of Beer, published in the same year, but couldn’t find any information online, and copies for sale on eBay were always rather too expensive to take a punt.

Last week, when we saw another copy on offer for £15, we decided to bite the bullet. It arrived tucked into a copy of the magazine, apparently untouched despite its age, with a bundle of original leaflets selling encyclopaedias and life insurance.

It has 20 pages and is about the size of a standard paperback novel, but wider. The cover features an extremely colourful collage of beer mats and the contents is as follows:

  1. Introduction — beer as a hobby — ‘This book, we hope, will leave you well placed in any bar room conversation.’
  2. Dates for drinkers — a fairly myth-free two-page rattle through the history of beer in Britain.
  3. Happy families — beer styles explained — ‘There are four main types, the Darks, Lights, Strongs and Lagers.’
  4. What Goes In — the common ingredients of beer.
  5. What Comes Out — a diagram and description of the brewing process.
  6. An ad for Whitbread.
  7. Beer Today — ‘How many breweries are left? Is beer strong enough? How much goes in tax?’
  8. What Shall I Ask For? — a two-page table listing most of the larger breweries and categorising their bottled beers (Stronger Pale, Stronger Dark, Stronger Stout, Strong Ale/Barley Wine).
  9. A Pictorial Map of England & Wales — a lovely full-colour centrefold map pinpointing each UK brewery.
  10. Over the Border — a review of the beer scene in Scotland.
  11. The Beerage — potted biographies of eight key figures in the story of British brewing from Charles II to William Bass.
  12. An ad for Jubilee from Sheffield’s Hope & Anchor.
  13. Beer Cheer — recipes for mulled beer, ale flip, buttered beer, and so on, in anticipation of Christmas.
  14. Ad for Guinness.
  15. Beer Cookery — suggestions for how to use beer in place of wine in common recipes.
  16. Bread, Cheese, and Beer — specifications for the perfect ploughman’s lunch, though it isn’t referred to as such.
  17. Why They Chose It — the stories behind some brewery trademarks.
  18. Keeping, Serving — ‘The refrigerator is not the place keep your beer.’
  19. Ad for Watney’s.
  20. Brewers’ Society ad: ‘Good Wholesome Beer — the best long drink in the world!’

At first, we struggled to find an author’s credit, but Martyn Cornell helped us out: right there, on page one, is Andrew Campbell’s name. The only obvious plug for his book is in a footnote on the piece about cooking with beer, which also recommends Beer and Vittels by Elizabeth Craig.

The beer style breakdown includes a hint of things to come with a reference to the perceived ‘all-malt’ purity of ‘light beers’ (meaning, in this case, bitter and light ale) and their popularity with connoisseurs, whereas mild ale is merely ‘the popular drink of the public bar’.

‘Beer Today’ sounds almost like embryonic Campaign for Real Ale manifesto material — the number of breweries is in collapse, beer is getting worryingly weak — but without any particular mention of cask-conditioning.

Detail from the map in The Lilliput Beer Book.

The booklet is nicely designed in that post-Festival of Britain style and, in some ways, being forced to condense and edit his material into a series of short articles makes Campbell more readable. The centrefold map and ‘What Shall I Ask For?’ section made us wish for an illustrated version of his more substantial Book of Beer with a magazine-style layout. (Which, we suppose, is more or less what Michael Jackson gave us in 1977 with his World Guide.)

It’s worth taking a moment to consider the context in which this little booklet originally appeared. Lilliput was not pornographic as its cover implied, though it did include a few pin-ups and an ad for a shop in Manchester selling frilly nighties. Most of its pages are taken up with stories by, for example, R.F. Delderfield, cartoons and hobby guides. Beer is, here, part of an aspirational manly lifestyle, along with table tennis, rock climbing, MG cars, Terylene™ socks, pipe tobacco and American fountain pens. Is that still broadly the territory beer connoisseurism occupies? The Daily Telegraph certainly thinks so, routinely filing anything to do with beer under ‘Men’.

2 replies on “The Lilliput Beer Book, 1956”

The “Men” category is one of my favourite things. I still get birthday cards from my mother in law with slightly unshaven ocean bound yachting types one year, all dark Browns with leather working fly fisher gear the next. There are still shops in malls in mid sized cities offering phoney leather cased travel cocktail sets and dice box game sets. Again with the dark leather. Colognes. No references to sports team fandom as that is what “guys” do. Who are these men?

Nice. It would be good if some sleuthing would uncover who Andrew Campbell was as it seems clear he was an important influence on Michael Jackson and indirectly the UK and U.S. beer renaissance. I think you (B&B) have speculated the name Andrew Campbell might have been pseudonym. If it was, this will make the task harder, but it would be good to know who this chap was and what other work he did.


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