Was Wellington a fan of IPA?

wellington.jpgOn June 12 1841, The Times ran a sto­ry about how the duke of Welling­ton was greet­ed by the staff and man­age­ment of the famous India pale ale brew­ery at Wap­ping.

On Mon­day last (says a cor­re­spon­dent) dur­ing the aquat­ic pro­ces­sion of the Trin­i­ty Board on the riv­er, the firm of Hodg­son and Abbot, pale ale brew­ers in Wap­ping, adopt­ed a nov­el mode of com­pli­ment­ing the Duke of Welling­ton, Mas­ter of the Trin­i­ty-house, as he passed their premis­es on his way to Dept­ford to be sworn in accord­ing to the annu­al cus­tom for the ensu­ing year. The riv­er frontage was dec­o­rat­ed with flags and ban­ners from the cor­ners of which hung bot­tles of India pale ale.

Lat­er:

A Par­ty of Con­ser­v­a­tive gen­tle­men in the draw­ing-room [of the brew­ery]… drank the health of his Grace when the shal­lop in which he was seat­ed was oppo­site the win­dow… in Her­culean glass­es of strong pale ale, each hold­ing a bot­tle and a half, and his grace appeared much pleased with the com­pli­ment, and bowed to the gen­tle­men assem­bled.

Those glass­es sound cool. How strong was the strong ale…?

Pimlico Ale – update

We found anoth­er book that men­tions Pim­li­co Ale, which I spoke about in this post a few days ago.

William Carey, in his weird, lim­it­ed edi­tion his­to­ry of the area, pub­lished in 1986, writes:

The most pop­u­lar ale drunk in Lon­don between 1570 and 1700 was ‘Pim­li­co Ale’ oth­er­wise known as ‘Der­by Red Cap’ from the pink tinge of its frothy head. At first pro­duced only in Der­byshire at a farm loca­tion named “Pim­li­co”, it was brought to Lon­don in huge bar­rels down the Watling Way.

This is very inter­est­ing. What makes the head pink/red? Fruit could, but the head on some impe­r­i­al stouts is red­dish brown. More research need­ed – in books on Der­byshire, per­haps…?

Pimlico Ale

UPDATE 15/12/2013: we wrote this post not long after we start­ed blog­ging and it has at least one embar­rass­ing his­tor­i­cal error (re: Hen­ry VIII). We’ll have to revis­it the top­ic now we’re old­er and wis­er.

Did you know that Pim­li­co, a dis­trict of Lon­don, is named after a beer that was the Spe­cial Brew of its day?

The offi­cial his­to­ry of Watney’s brew­ery, pub­lished in 1963, talks briefly about “Pim­li­co ale”. It tells us that Pim­li­co was brewed from the mid­dle-ages to the tudor peri­od, but doesn’t give much of an idea how it would have tast­ed. So, we con­sult­ed a cou­ple of oth­er books (list­ed below).

We found out a few inter­est­ing things.

1. Pim­li­co ale was strong – strong enough that it was con­sid­ered “wicked”. It was asso­ci­at­ed with real drunk­ards – the hard­core, if you like. The poem “Pim­ly­co, or runne Rec-cap” from 1609 is the most famous men­tion of the beer:

Strong Pim­ly­co, the nour­ish­ing foode
To make men fat, and breed pure blood;
Deepe Pym­ly­co, the Well of Glee,
That drawes up mer­ry com­pa­ny.

It was served at a pub in “Hogs­don” (now Hox­ton, in east Lon­don), run by Eli­nour Rum­min, “the Ale-wife of Eng­land”. A pub in West­min­ster, in south west Lon­don, bor­rowed the name to cash in on Mrs Rummin’s fame. And the area where the pub stood came to be known as Pim­li­co – it’s actu­al­ly named after the beer!

2. The beer itself was prob­a­bly very light­ly hopped, if at all, and had lots of unfer­ment­ed sug­ar. It would have been sick­ly sweet. It would also have been dark and prob­a­bly slight­ly smoked, giv­en the prim­i­tive meth­ods of malt­ing at the time.

3. The Watney’s book sug­gests (prob­a­bly erro­neous­ly) that it was “brewed by the monks of West­min­ster [Abbey]”. So, it might have been a British abbey beer!

If a his­tor­i­cal­ly mind­ed brew­er want­ed to recre­ate it, I’d advise them to throw authen­tic­i­ty aside and add some hops. Hen­ry VIII hat­ed them and banned them from beer, but their addi­tion could be jus­ti­fied, as they were grow­ing in Britain from 1428, and were a recog­nised ingre­di­ent in con­ti­nen­tal beers from the 9th cen­tu­ry. And it would cer­tain­ly make the stuff more drink­able…

Sources:
P. Math­ias, The brew­ing indus­try in Eng­land, 1700 1830 (1959)
A. Stout, Deep Well of Glee (1997)
H. Janes, The Red Bar­rel: A His­to­ry of Wat­ney Mann (1963)

Links

Medieval/Renaissance Brew­ing page

Curry and beer

The British Guild of Beer Writ­ers reports on a recent “tast­ing event” at the Bom­bay Brasserie in Lon­don. Emi­nent beer experts got togeth­er for a cur­ry and tried to work out which beers went best with spicy foods. Their rec­om­men­da­tions are here.

Rupert Pon­son­by, co-founder of the Beer Acad­e­my com­ments:
What this tast­ing hope­ful­ly shows is the poten­tial for Britain’s 8,500 cur­ry restau­rants to look seri­ous­ly at devel­op­ing beer lists to inspire their cus­tomers and to match with their cui­sine. This is a fan­tas­tic com­mer­cial and mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for them. Top Miche­lin-starred restau­rants such as Le Gavroche, Le Manoir aux Qua­tre Saisons and Aubergine have already tak­en the lead in cre­at­ing inspired beer lists, and it will be won­der­ful to see top Indi­an restau­rants doing the same.

On a vis­it to the Cin­na­mon Club last year, I was appalled to find that the only beer they had avail­able was Cobra lager. Cobra’s OK – nicer than you’d expect, is what I mean, for a mass-pro­duced lager made in Bed­ford – but sure­ly not any­where near as posh as the food, the wine or the wait­ers? Ms. Boak vis­it­ed one of Gary Rhodes’ restau­rants in the City of Lon­don last year, too, and was sim­i­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ed by the lack of any beer, nev­er mind a beer list.

Of course, my local cur­ry­house, which is very cheap and cheer­ful, is run by Sri Lankans, and they sell won­der­ful Lion Stout. It’s not a per­fect beer to drink with a cur­ry, but it’s a great one to have as a dessert. So, posh­er isn’t always bet­ter for beer lovers.