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.

The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery

William Hen­ry Hud­son’s Afoot in Eng­land (1909) is a memoir/guide book, which takes a snooty tone in places. This pas­sage (from the Project Guten­berg etext) caught my eye because it men­tions the Anglo-Bavar­i­an brew­ery in Shep­ton Mal­let, Som­er­set:

I went on a Sat­ur­day to Shep­ton Mal­let. A small, squalid town, a “man­u­fac­tur­ing town” the guide-book calls it. Well, yes; it man­u­fac­tures Anglo-Bavar­i­an beer in a gigan­tic brew­ery which looks big­ger than all the oth­er build­ings togeth­er, the church and a dozen or twen­ty pub­lic-hous­es includ­ed. To get some food I went to the only eat­ing-house in the place, and saw a pleas­ant-look­ing woman, plump and high-coloured, with black hair, with an expres­sion of good humour and good­ness of every descrip­tion in her come­ly coun­te­nance. She promised to have a chop ready by the time I had fin­ished look­ing at the church, and I said I would have it with a small Guin­ness. She could not pro­vide that, the house, she said, was strict­ly tem­per­ance. “My doc­tor has ordered me to take it,” said I, “and if you are reli­gious, remem­ber that St. Paul tells us to take a lit­tle stout when we find it ben­e­fi­cial.”

Yes, I know that’s what St. Paul says,” she returned, with a height­ened colour and a vicious empha­sis on the sain­t’s name,“but we go on a dif­fer­ent prin­ci­ple.”

The Anglo-Bavar­i­an brew­ery opened in 1864, mak­ing pale ale, but is real­ly notable as the first brew­ery in Britain to make lager. It employed Ger­man brew­ers from 1873 onward, and won awards world­wide for it’s Ger­man-style beer. Of course, when World War I kicked off in 1914, they changed the name to “The Anglo”, but it was too late: the Bavar­i­an flags and sym­bols all over the build­ing led to it being trashed. It closed in 1920. The build­ing is still there, but in bad shape (read more at Eng­lish Her­itage).

Nowa­days, the most famous drink being made in Shep­ton Mal­let is Baby­cham.