Mass Observation on juvenile drinking, 1944

Mass Observation was a social research firm that made its name observing the habits of British people before and during World War II. In 1944, it published a report on a particularly interesting subject: to what extent did ‘juveniles’ consume alcohol? If so, what did they drink? And where?

The Mass Observation team set about their study during 1943. Here’s a chunk of the preamble to the report:

The object of this survey was to establish how, when and where young people consumed alcoholic drinks, how the habit of drinking and pub-going is established, and, at the higher age levels, how juveniles and youth behave in pubs. Two London areas were made the main subject of the survey, one in the South West, the other in the East End. Check studies were made in a South Coast port, Worktown and a Devonshire village, with some subsidiary observations on behaviour among the older age groups, in a docks area, the neighbourhood of a London Railway terminus and one of the London markets. Direct interviewing methods of the familiar questionnaire type were only used in certain parts of this survey. In obtaining children’s own accounts of their drinking experiences the subject was brought up in the course of conversation, on different topics, and introduced naturally into the context in a friendly manner. 200 verbatim statements were obtained in this way from children aged 7 to 18, individually engaged in conversation.

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Everything we wrote in February 2020

Will February 2020 go down as the most exciting month in this blog’s history?

Probably not. But we somehow managed to post 14 times, around side projects and day jobs, so not bad, all in all.

And we expect to hit our 3,000th post in March or April, by the way – bonkers, that.

Anyway…

We had Belgium on our brains in February and started the month with a post about the appeal of Belgian beer and Belgian beer culture to people just starting to get excited about beer:

When you first encounter Belgian beer, there’s an impression of boundless choice. Even the most basic bars have lengthy beer lists, usually with enough options to offer something different throughout a weekend city break. The beers on offer range from brain-dissolvingly sour to syrup sweet, and often come with tantalising, almost romantic descriptions.


Perhaps because storms kept us stuck in the house a bit more than usual, we spent a fair bit of time digging in online archives in the past few months, which is how we stumbled across an 1856 survey of London pubs. Apart from pointing people to the book, we wanted to highlight in particular the stats on mid-Victorian pub names:

“A wonderful display of tapsters’ ingenuity occurs in such signs as Blade Bone, Coffee-pot, Essex Serpent, Knave of Clubs, Lilliput Hall, Naked Boy and Woolpack, Old Centurion, Pickled Egg, Prospect of Whitby, Tippling Philosopher, Widow’s Son, Valiant Trooper, Sun in Splendour, Running Footman, Experienced Fowler, Good Man, Kentish Wag and World Turned Upside Down.”


You can’t judge a pub on one visit, we argued, perhaps with The Portcullis in mind, of which more later:

We think this is why it’s easier to judge places that have an identifiable guv’nor or guv’nors – that their personality, for good or worse, sets a fairly consistent tone for the place. And you can tell a lot by the regulars that they gather around them and the behaviours that are and aren’t allowed.


We shared details of a 1963 document from Guinness setting out the itinerary for a carefully managed press tour, including briefing notes on questions likely to be asked:

How can you expect to do well with beer now that wine and spirit drinking is a “done” thing?
It is true that wine sales are going up quickly but only a comparatively small amount is drunk by a particular section of the population.

What about failure of Common Market Negotiation?
This has not changed our picture. Our main trade within the European Common Market is with Belgium and France where Guinness has always been regarded as a speciality drink commanding a higher price than regular beers.


We put into words our feelings about The Portcullis, which at first we thought was a peculiar pub but eventually realised was actually a misplaced eccentric Belgian cafe:

On Saturday evening, we sat at a shelf, facing a canvas print of Prince, against a backdrop of red-rose boudoir wallpaper… We drank Belgian beers chosen from a printed menu, each served in correctly branded glassware – Chimay, Straffe Hendrik, Orval, De Ranke, with more on offer… Pink Floyd played softly in the background.


Next came a piece directly inspired by our visit to The Portcullis, on which we drank more than our physical limits would usually permit, but which, miraculously, we got away with:

Not too bad.

No instinctive shying from the light.

There doesn’t seem to be any nausea, although you won’t really know until you try to get up and do something.


We didn’t think we’d ever want to write about the origins or meaning of the term craft beer again but, having noticed conversations about it on Twitter, lately, felt the need to provide some raw information for reference. The post takes the form of a timeline running from 1883 to 1995, by which time the phrase was in regular use.


Molly Figgures lived and worked in the same Gloucestershire village pub for 50 years. Fortunately for we booze historians, she was given a nudge to write a short memoir – an eccentric volume full of amazing details. For example…

Sometimes the spittoons were turned into a form of entertainment when a well-known character, who had served in the Navy, would go down on his knees and slide them around the floor accompanied by an appropriate song. This was known as Holy Stoning.


We also produced five editions of our regular Saturday morning round-ups of news and links:


We posted some bits and pieces on Patreon, including a pub life vignette and notes on the controversy around people asking for samples in pubs. Do consider signing up.


Our newsletter was a whopper, covering our plans to index What’s Brewing, the necessity of nicheing and more. To get next month’s, sign up here.


And on Twitter, there was a bunch of stuff like this:

Now then – let’s crack on with March.

News, nuggets and longreads 29 February 2020: Mindfulness, mixed fermentation, Magee

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from mindful drinking to robotic noses.

First, an interesting bit of news: Beer Advocate, the business built around rating beer that isn’t RateBeer, has been acquired by the people who own beer ticking app Untappd. As Todd Alström, Beer Advocate co-founder, writes:

We’ve been struggling to keep the lights on for over two years, and we still face some challenges, but I’m confident that this is the best path for all of us. Next Glass is committed to not only helping BeerAdvocate, but passionate about protecting and cultivating our unique culture, identity, and community… I also have a lot of respect for what Greg Avola, Untappd’s Co-Founder and CTO, and team have built over the past nine years, and this next chapter is a great opportunity to explore new features and opportunities.

This is more evidence that global craft beer, as an industry, is now well into the consolidation phase.


A brain.

For Vox, Derek Brown has written about how ‘mindful drinking’ has changed his life and enabled him to continue a career in booze while curbing the worst of his relationship with alcohol:

Alcohol isn’t really all that good for you. It certainly wasn’t always good for me. Though I used to joke that without it I wouldn’t have a job, friends, or a hobby, I now teetotal most of the week and drink cocktails, whiskey, and wine infrequently… Everything about that goes against the way I make my living as a spirits and cocktail expert, author, and bar owner. I don’t think everything we do has to be “good for you.” Neither should everything we do lead us down a fiery path of ruination. Lately, I’m more than content with a few fingers of bourbon followed by a drink without alcohol. And, when I indulge, it’s still with the guardrails on.

Continue reading “News, nuggets and longreads 29 February 2020: Mindfulness, mixed fermentation, Magee”

Molly Figgures’ 50 years in a Gloucestershire pub

Molly Figgures was born Gwendoline Mary Barrett in Blockley, on the Gloucestershire-Worcestershire border, in 1907. When she was a child, her father, Ernest Alfred, took over the running of the Bell Inn at Blockley where she would live and work for the next 50 years.

We’ve often lamented the dearth of first-hand accounts of pub life in the 20th century.

Fortunately for us, Molly was encouraged by local historian Norah Marshall to write down her stories of life at the Bell.

What she wrote was published under the cryptic title Over the Bones by Blockley Antiquarian Society in 1978.

These local history publications aren’t always riveting, let’s be honest. This one is genuinely brilliant, though, not because Molly is a great writer but because The Bell, and Blockley, sound… mad.

Consider these two paragraphs in which Molly recollects some of the regulars from her childhood days:

We had some delightful old age pensioners who were customers. There was ‘Shover’ Eden, he came along to fetch his paper and always called for a drink every morning, which was a pint of bitter. He said that The Bell was the Doctor’s surgery and he’d come for his medicine! There was Ted Beachey who had a half of bitter. His wife was the local midwife. She made humbugs and aniseed sweets which were in ‘pennyworths’ wrapped in newspaper. Often halfway through eating one you would find a dead wasp in the centre! Ted frequently brought some along for us. You had to get the newspaper off too before you could eat them. However, we did not mind so long as we had sweets to eat! I only had 1d a week to spend so being free they were very welcome.

There was also a Mr. Freeman and he had a tame fox which he brought with him. Fred Hitchman was a very regular customer in the evenings and he always smoked a pipe so of course he was honoured with a spittoon which he proudly had between his feet so that he could spit in comfort! It was not a very pleasant job to empty these spittoons and we had to buy sawdust by the sackful from Butlers saw-yard at Draycott to put in them. Sometimes the spittoons were turned into a form of entertainment when a well-known character, who had served in the Navy, would go down on his knees and slide them around the floor accompanied by an appropriate song. This was known as Holy Stoning.

So, to summarise, we’ve got boiled sweets with wasps in them, a tame fox, and curling with spittoons – this is some real folk horror stuff.

A man outside a pub
The Bell Inn, AKA The Bell Hotel, in around 1950, via Over the Bones.

She also describes various moments of arguing and fighting, including the occasion when ‘Badgie Mayo’ got into a scrap with another customer. Because Badgie had lost an arm in WWI, the other man agreed to tie an arm behind his back so their dust up in the pub garden would be fair.

The very best part might be her account of throwing out a customer who was rude to her mother:

He called my Mum by a name of which I disapproved, so I ordered him out and made him go and I followed him and told him never to come in again, and he didn’t.* My Mum said this was the first time she had seen “Our Moll” in a temper, which goes to show what one can do.

* He is dead now. I hope he went to the right place!

There are some lovely details about the evolution of the pub. First, there’s the installation of what Molly calls a ‘snug’ but which sounds more like what would usually be called a lounge, with an electric bellpush for service and a penny surcharge per drink.

Then there’s the acquisition, after World War II, of a television, which caused great excitement in the village. One local, Molly says, became a fixture at the pub, lingering for hours over a half so he could watch whatever was on. Until he got his own TV, that is, when he stopped coming to the pub altogether. If we’d made that up, you might think it was a bit heavy handed.

There’s some great stuff about booze, obviously, lots of it a reminder of the freedom a remote village offered when it came to obeying the letter of the law.

For example, Molly’s mother made rhubarb wine while Bert, Molly’s husband, produced plum. Strictly against the law, you could order your cider ‘with’ and get a shot of wine added to the glass to give it extra oomph.

(Again, mixing and blending was absolutely normal until quite recently; it’s not a weird modern development.)

As for beer…

All the beer was drawn from the wood and it was twenty walking steps each way to the cellar to fetch each drink so of course some was spilt and sometimes my Mum would spill more than usual and there was usually someone who complained; but on the whole people were very good. Some would say “Mrs., my glass ain’t full” so my Mum would take a swig out of the glass and say “It is full now” and no more was said. I could carry four full glasses with handles in each hand and not spill much. My Mum refused to put pumps in until 1951 when my brother talked her into having them. Then she said that she wished she had had them installed years before! Unfortunately she only lived for two years after so she did not benefit much… Sometimes a customer would say the beer was flat, and Kate (my Mum) would take it back to the cellar to “change it” and all she did was make another head on it and take it back and the customer would say “Ah! that’s better” – So what!

That last point is yet more evidence of the confusion between foamy beer and beer in good condition.

One of the appendices provides a list of nicknames for pub regulars including Buffud, Chicken, Grunter, Gubbins, Jambox, Sneezer, Waggy and Yatty. Molly’s husband, Bert, was known as Pur-Pur because he had a stammer.

And the title? In 1970, after Molly’s retirement, the pub was converted into four flats and during building work, two skeletons were found beneath the floor. “It was fun really,” writes Molly: “I kept meeting people who pulled my leg and said they didn’t think I was like that!” The bones turned out to be of medieval origin, of course.

If you want to read more, Molly’s text is available as part of a collection called A Third Blockley Miscellany at £6.50 from Blockley Heritage Society.

Not this again: the birth of the term ‘craft beer’

As the question is in the air again, here’s our attempt to answer the question “Where did ‘craft beer’ come from?”

A decade or so ago, it seemed as if this was all anyone was talking about – what is craft beer? Is there a better phrase we could be using? Is it meaningless? An Americanism? A con trick?

We enjoyed the debate, formulated an opinion, and have stuck by it, more or less, ever since.

And in our 2014 book Brew Britannia we gave a brief account of the history of the term and how it took hold in the UK, drawing on research by Stan Hieronymus and others.

Since then, we’ve picked up a few extra instances of its use, or similar, and thought it might be helpful to everyone involved in researching and writing about beer to have a timeline at hand.

Timeline

1883 | “the great craft of brewing” – anonymous, Holmes’ Brewing Trade Gazette, 01/09/1883

1930s | “the craft of brewing” – Worthington Brewery advertising

1934 | “neither an art nor a science, but a traditional procedure” –  A. Drinker, A Book About Beer

1946 | “Maybe it can hardly be called a craft in the strict sense, but cider-making is an interesting old country work” – Norman Wymer, Country Crafts

1967 | “Craft Brothers” – Ken Shales, Brewing Better Beer

1973 | “In the last decade, brewing has turned from being a craft industry into a technology.” – R.E.G. Balfour, chairman and MD of Scottish & Newcastle, quoted in What’s Brewing, 08/1973

1977 | “craft-brewers”, “craft-brewed” – Michael Jackson, The World Guide to Beer

1982 | “A craft brewery down to the last detail.” – Michael Jackson, Pocket Guide to Beer

1983 | “The recent return to the craft brewing of ‘real ale’ as championed by the consumer group CAMRA…” – Elizabeth Baker, the Times, 07/03/1983

1984 | “craft-brewing scene,” “craft brewery”, “craft brewing” – Vince Cottone, New Brewer, 09/1984

1986 | “I use the term Craft Brewery to describe a small brewery using traditional methods and ingredients” – Vince Cottone, Good Beer Guide: Brewers and Pubs of the Pacific Northwest [SOURCE]

1993 | “They’re riding on the tails of the craft beer movement” – Steve Dinehart of the Chicago Brewing Company quoted in What’s Brewing 08/1993

1994 | “craft ale” – Ed Vulliamy, Observer, 27/10/1994

1995 | “independent craft breweries” – Roger Protz, Observer, 26/02/1995

* * *

A couple of those are new additions – the 1973 Balfour quote and the 1983 one from Elizabeth Baker.

Our view is this: the phrase ‘craft beer’ is a natural development after a hundred years or so of people talking about ‘the craft of brewing’.

And it’s not really any surprise it beat designer beer and boutique beer because they’re both, frankly, a bit wanky, while ‘craft’, per some of the examples above, has a simpler, more down-to-earth, traditional quality.

Getting away with it

You open your eyes, slowly.

Not too bad.

No instinctive shying from the light.

There doesn’t seem to be any nausea, although you won’t really know until you try to get up and do something.

You definitely need to piss, and your mouth feels powder-dry, but it’s possible you might be able to address those needs without last night’s mixed seafood basket resurfacing.

Bathroom, kitchen, a glass of water absorbed rather than drunk, and then you go back to bed, because you don’t want to push your luck.

After a brief doze, you find yourself actively craving a cuppa, and… is that actually a hunger pang? Tea first. See if that stays down.

Seems OK.

Can’t be, surely?

The Orval for round five was pushing it, and then you then stayed for a sixth, enjoying it with the grim knowledge of impending doom.

Than again, thinking about it, you had sense enough to stop at the chippy on the way home, and drink two pints of water before going to bed, and to take another pint up to bed.

Or perhaps you’re still drunk. Yeah, might be that. Take it easy. Brace yourself for the coming storm.

A few hours later, breakfast and lunch conquered, you start to dare to believe that you might really have got away with it.

The thought of a pint later that afternoon is not actually unappealing.

But perhaps, as the Hangover Gods have smiled on you today, you shouldn’t push your luck.

Photo by Manu Schwendener via Unsplash.

News, nuggets and longreads 22 February 2020: Lovington, Liverpool, Low-alcohol

Here’s everything in writing about beer and pubs that made us sit up and pay attention in the past week, from crowdfunding to dinner plates.

First, some local news, from a local newspaper: whatever happened to those plans for a new Wild Beer Company brewery site that made a big splash with crowdfunding a couple of years back? For Bristol LiveRobin Murray writes:

Wild Beer co-founder Andrew Cooper told Bristol Live the funds raised went towards purchasing a defunct brewery in Lovington, Somerset, as well as equipment so the company could increase its brewing capacity… He added they are working on finding a ‘large investment partner’ to help fund the project and are in discussions with people, details of which cannot be revealed.


University drinking society in action.
SOURCE: Ferment.

For Ferment, the promotional magazine published by beer subscription service Beer52, Katie Mather has written about university beer societies and the drinking habits of young people:

As someone on the older end of the Millennial generation scale, it worries me how easy it is to slip into the same slurs I’ve heard my contemporaries use. Generation Z are nerds. They don’t drink — they’re too busy making memes about depression. They don’t socialise because they’re all introverts. We have nothing in common. Don’t fall for any of these statements. They simply are not true.


Kutna Hora
SOURCE: Pellicle.

For PellicleAdrian Tierney-Jones shares the story of a Czech brewery we’ve never heard of, Pivovar Kutná Hora, which was loved by locals, closed by Heineken, and after social pressure, has now been resurrected:

Kutná Hora’s brewmaster Jakub Hájek has been at the brewery since it produced its first batch of beer in February 2017. He’s a garrulous chap, open and generous in the way he and the owners (who also have Pivovar Břeclav, based in the southern Czech region of Moravia, in their portfolio) foresee the future, a progress that sees them slowly but surely building up trade in local bars and pubs as well as restoring the brewery.


Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

In this piece on drinking habits and the market for low- and no-alcohol beer, Jeff Alworth expresses the appeal, in theoretical terms at least, of non-alcoholic beers:

An ideal session to me is three or four beers. That’s the amount of time it takes for me to settle in and enjoy myself. The trouble is, my body very much wants a limit of two beers, and punishes me when I exceed it. I’ve found non-alcoholic beers to be a perfect solution; I just alternate boozy and alkoholfrei. As a bonus, I’m actually limiting the damage of the two regular beers because I’m hydrating in between.


A Liverpool pub.
SOURCE: Kirsty Walker.

Kirsty Walker of Lady Sinks the Booze works in Liverpool but, by her own admission, doesn’t get out to explore the suburbs much. With her new pal Vinnie, though, she’s been getting adventurous, and writes about a recent pub crawl with her usual wit:

Vinnie met me at the Brookhouse, a massive studenty place which specialises in cheap food and drinks deals. There were two different sections of bar which as usual led to me standing at the wrong one for a good while before someone pointed out that there was no service in this bit and ‘there should be a sign’. I had a pint of Blue Moon, and they apologised for not having orange for it. Not like the student pubs I used to frequent where asking for a clean glass was greeted with eyerolls and led to you being nicknamed ‘the Duchess’ for three years.


The Fox, Dalston

For New Statesman, not typically a hotbed of writing about beer and pubs, Eleanor Peake has investigated the trend for converting pubs into flats and the cost to communities:

Originally from Ireland, Joseph and Patrick Ryan started renting pubs in London in the mid-2010s. By 2017, the brothers rented the Bear in Camberwell, the Fox in Dalston and the White Hart in New Cross, all from the Wellington Pub Company… In 2017, they received the first call from the company informing them of redevelopments. They were told that the Bear in Camberwell would have to close its doors to make room for renovations, as the company wanted to turn the upper floors of the pub into private apartments.


And finally, from Twitter:


For more good reading, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

The Portcullis, Clifton: peculiarly Belgian

It took a couple of visits for us to get The Portcullis in Clifton: as an English pub, it reads as peculiar, but it’s an excellent Belgian cafe.

It really does feel the kind of neighbourhood place you might find in some suburb of Brussels, or out along the route of the coastal tram from Ostend.

On Saturday evening, we sat at a shelf, facing a canvas print of Prince, against a backdrop of red-rose boudoir wallpaper.

We drank Belgian beers chosen from a printed menu, each served in correctly branded glassware – Chimay, Straffe Hendrik, Orval, De Ranke, with more on offer.

Pink Floyd played softly in the background.

The exterior of the Portcullis.
The Portcullis in 2013 – you want the cosy bottom bar, not the upper one.

‘Dogs on leads welcome’, says a sign on the door, and there were lots of dogs on leads, curled under tables or snarling at each other. One, a puppy,, broke a wine glass (“Bloody hell! Got any blue roll?”) then chewed through its lead and broke free, darting across the floor with a posh man in pursuit.

People knew each other’s names. A regular walked in (with dog) and the pulling of his pint commenced without a word being spoken. The hound received its usual order, too – a biscuit from the jar.

The licensees, Dee and Paul Tanner, were on duty, seeming to enjoy their own pub as much as the drinkers do.

Paul made a circuit offering chocolates from a box bought in Bruges only the day before, but otherwise perched on the end of the bar talking to a friend.

Dee was behind the bar, absolutely on it. Every time we ordered from the Belgian selection she said, quietly, things like, “Oh, that’s a fantastic beer,” and hurried off to find the right glass. Her method is to pour the beer at the bar and present both beer and glass with a logo forward. There’s something very Belgian – proud, a little fussy – in the subtle twist she gives the bottle to get it lined up.

“We like our Belgian beer, my husband and I,” she told us, as if it needed saying.

The Belgian beer isn’t cheap – £7 a bottle is standard – but of course there are good reasons for that. There’s also Leffe on tap at £4 per half-pint and ales from Dawkins and others at around £4.20 a pint.

As a little treat every now and then, an alternative to schlepping to Belgium at huge expense, it doesn’t feel outrageous.

We don’t plan to go often – we want it to stay a bit special, for days when we need picking up – but if you’re in Bristol and craving Belgian atmosphere as much as Belgian beer, it’s worth a detour.

News, nuggets and longreads 15 February 2020: Flagships, Norway, Introversion

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that’s grabbed our attention in the past week, from pub ticking to archive digging.

First, as we’ve failed to mention in previous weeks for some reason, it’s Flagship February when we’re encouraged to celebrate classics and standards. You can read a whole series of personal essays by notable beer writers at the FF website. If you’re bored of negativity and/or novelty-seeking, here’s your antidote. Check out this from Stan Hieronymus, for example:

Creature Comforts Tropicália represents American IPA evolution. It’s bitterness is softer than the IPAs of the aughts. It is juicy, but not like drinking orange juice and certainly not juicy/hazy. It’s more like biting into a ripe apricot. You almost feel like you need to wipe some juice off your face after you take a long drink. Per its name, Tropicália’s aroma is fresh and tropical, its flavor full of juicy (there’s that word again) fruits — take your pick of mango, banana or melon.

Continue reading “News, nuggets and longreads 15 February 2020: Flagships, Norway, Introversion”

Hobnobbing with Guinness, 1963

In June 1963, Guinness welcomed assorted members of the British press to Park Royal and then St James Gate on a three day tour (or bender) in the company of some of Guinness’s most senior executives and, of course, Norris McWhirter.

McWhirter was serving at the time as information officer for Guinness, as well as compiler in chief of the Guinness Book of Records. He led an, erm, interesting life.

Most of the main newspapers of the day were represented on the invite list for the press tour, including The Times, Financial Times, Guardian and Daily Mail.

The official press pack set out the itinerary for the three days, has biographies of key personnel and some distinctly corporate Fun Facts.

There is also a distinct focus on labour relations, highlighting that “all brewery personnel up to Foreman level are Union members” and setting out the sick pay policy in some detail. Was the idea, at least in part, to reassure investors that Guinness was not vulnerable to industrial action, as some other businesses, such as the UK branch of Ford, had begun to seem at the time?

Once the party had been flown to Dublin, things got even more highfalutin, with a dinner including the Taoiseach, the Governor of the Bank of Ireland and the President of the Dublin stock exchange.

The following day’s tour of the Dublin brewery included a “private interview” with the President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera.

Once all the obligatory hobnobbing concluded, our intrepid journalists had the option to stay on for a third day of shopping, touring and visiting the Navan races.

We don’t have any context for this document, so we don’t know if this was an annual affair or a one off and if so, what the reasons were for it.

We do know, thanks to an internal document of expected questions and answers, that they were expecting a wide range of questions on just about everything from production and sales to employment practices.

There were particular sections on Draught Guinness, Harp lager and continuous brewing, which were all new areas for Guinness, as well as questions relating to their acquisition of the Nuttall Confectionery Group in 1961. (A tour of Callard & Bowser was included in the Park Royal leg of the trip).

Below is a sample of the questions and prepared answers. The last one, be prepared, might seem slightly startling.

Is Guinness Really Good for you?
Yes, we have many thousands of testimonies from the medical professional as the value of Guinness.

How much do you spend [on advertising?
About one third of a penny per bottle overall.

Is Dublin stout brewed for Britain the same as Park Royal Stout?
Yes.

Do you contemplate another brew?
No.

A quick note: they’d just launched Harp Lager so this was about whether they planned to expand the range any further and launch, say, a mango IPA.

How can you expect to do well with beer now that wine and spirit drinking is a “done” thing?
It is true that wine sales are going up quickly but only a comparatively small amount is drunk by a particular section of the population.

What about failure of Common Market Negotiation?
This has not changed our picture. Our main trade within the European Common Market is with Belgium and France where Guinness has always been regarded as a speciality drink commanding a higher price than regular beers.

Why did you build a brewery in Nigeria?
Because it is more economical to brew and bottle locally than to import in bottle as we were doing previously. It is our biggest single overseas market.

Was it wise politically?
We have no reason to think otherwise.

You can read more about the Guinness brewery in Nigeria here.

It has been said that Harp lager sales have been disappointing – is this so?
All lager sales have been disappointing for the past year or two, but Harp distribution was right up to our estimates and sales were not far short.

Is this venture wise – you are now in direct competition with other brewers?
Our Harp lager venture has not in any way prejudiced our happy relations with other brewers.

Why are you selling SS Guinness? Has cross-channel trade declined?
Because it is 32 years old. Our cross-channel trade has NOT declined.

Does Guinness own a computer?
No.

If not, why not?
With our present volume of work, it is more economical to hire time than to own a computer.

Do you employ coloured people at Park Royal?
Yes, from time to time.

What was behind that final question? Were they expecting to be told off for employing black staff, or congratulated for it? That very brief, blunt answer seems designed to avoid the topic.

This is another item from the vast collection of Guinness documents Fiona shared with us last year. We’re slowly working through, digesting and sharing.