Brewing in the 1960s

As happens every now and then, someone has come across an old post and left a fascinating comment which we wanted to bring everyone’s attention to.

Tony used to work for Starkey, Knight and Ford, the West Country brewers, in the 1960s, working in the keg shop and later delivering beer. He says:

As a student I worked for Starkey`s each summer betwen 1965 and 1967. The first two years at the Fore St. site in Tiverton and the last at the new site. Bridgwater had closed by then and Tiverton was the only brewery still in action but under the aegis of Whitbread. I used to start off in the keg shop before fiddling my way out onto the lorries. In my last year our route covered from Ivybridge to Rooksbridge and from Seaton to Barnstaple the lorry was DPF 473B and still had the Bridgewater address on the side. As I remember Starkey`s had depots in Barnstaple and Plymouth, a firm called Norman and Pring were involved. When I was in the keg plant we mostly dealt with Tankard with occasional runs of mild. Each artic trailer held 187 10 gallon kegs and the 6 wheel Dennis 150 (I had to load these on my own!) I also remember during their independent days Starkey`s brewed a keg beer called “Tantivy.” Some years before I delivered papers to Tom Ford the Chairman. He drove an old Ford(!) V8 which used to misfire every so often.

Fascinating stuff — thanks Tony!

We’re imagining Tony’s experiences to have played out to a soundtrack of Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs, although we might be confusing reality with an episode of Heartbeat.

Why we're not going to GBBF

Don’t worry — this isn’t a rant about CAMRA or beer festivals — more of a sheepish explanation.

We’re probably not going to make it to the Great British Beer Festival this year because we’re doing other stuff. Boak is in Wales on a wee break (more on that soon). I’m working a lot and have a few long-standing social engagements which can’t be dodged, or relocated to an aircraft hangar in West London where there’s loads of beer.

Nothing dramatic or exciting going on; no big stand being made. Just crapness on our part.

Having said that, there’s surely something significant in the fact we haven’t managed to find the time to go to the most important event in the British beer drinkers’ calendar. Maybe we don’t really like beer very much?

If you’re desperate for coverage of GBBF, we’d recommend Stonch and Pete for a more sceptical angle; Tandleman for the insider’s perspective; Maieb if you want to know what the beer’s like; and Beer Nut for… well, he’s unpredictable, isn’t he? Whatever he comes up with will be good, at any rate.


Weird marketing from St Austell

A vicar in front of a pub

St Austell have taken to spamming us with press releases (a bit annoying, but we do like the beer, so what the hey).

The above photo is part of their latest weird attempt to generate interest in the beer. To cut a long story short, the local vicar did a service in a pub.

Frankly, Stella Artois might taste rancid, but their marketeers know how to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow’s ear. St Austell’s, on the other hand… their beer is fantastic, but now I’m thinking: “It’s what Cornish vicars drink. Great — that’s a lifestyle I aspire to!”

The really scary thing is, when the picture was taken, the vicar was on his own. Those people in the background only showed up when it was developed. He… he sees dead people!

The Rake — empty on a Friday!

The Rake near Borough Market was so busy last time we went on a Friday that it took almost 10 minutes to get a drink and we had to drink it crushed into a corner by a stack of handbags.

We happened to be in the area last night and thought it was worth a look, as we were craving something strong and weird. We weren’t hopeful of being able to get through the door, but didn’t have any trouble at all. It was still doing good business, but not crammed.

The afterglow of that Time Out review has evidently passed and the fickle drinkers of London have moved on, it seems, perhaps influenced by various people on the internet describing it as expensive, crowded and grumpy.

We’ve never found it grumpy. It is still expensive, though — especially anything Belgian, German or American. But British cask ales (Harviestoun Behind Bars, for example, which Ally didn’t like, but we thought was OK) are only about £2.70 a pint, so not that bad. They usually have some strange foreign brews on tap that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else in the UK — Boak had some 8.5% Oesterstout from the Scheldebrouwerij in the Netherlands, which sorted the strong and weird craving quite neatly.

The crew of the Great British Beer Festival international beer bar turned up near the end and had a very cheerful, animated conversation with the barman. You’d have thought they might be taking it easy before the big match, really…

Session #18 – anniversary beers

This month’s session is hosted by The Barley Blog, and we’ve been asked to knock back a limited edition anniversary beer and blog about it, perhaps explaining our choice.

Well, the reason for today’s choice is quite easy – the only candidate we had in was a Fullers’ Vintage Ale from 2005. Is it more common on the other side of the pond to have limited edition beers? I can’t think of many British breweries that do it.

The trouble with these limited edition, made-for-aging beers is deciding when to drink them. The longer you’ve had them in, the harder the decision gets. You need an occasion to justify it, and what better occasion than raising a glass to fellow beer-bloggers across the globe. Oh, that and the promotion one of us got this week.

The aroma of this 8.5% beastie was overwhelmingly of alcohol, specifically a sweet sherry or Pedro Ximénez. Like PX, it coats the tongue with sugar and fruits – we got hints of apricot and cherry. We didn’t notice a lot of bitterness at the end, and in fact the finish was a little on the sour side.

I’m not sure our tasting notes bear any resemblance to what Fullers say about this vintage, suggesting perhaps that it hasn’t aged that well — or that we, and the people we bought it from, haven’t aged it very well.

Still, it left a pleasant warming feeling in the belly.