The Austrian General Haynau was notorious for the brutality with which he put down rebellions in Hungary and Italy. So… when the word spread that the ‘Hyena’ was in the brewery… he was attacked by draymen and brewery workers with brooms and stones, shouting ‘Down with the Austrian butcher‘. Haynau fled along Bankside pursued by the angry men and took refuge in the George pub… from which he was rescued by the police with difficulty, and spirited away by boat across the river. The Austrian ambassador demanded an apology, but the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sided with the brewery men, saying they were just ‘expressing their feelings at what they considered inhuman conduct‘ by a man who ‘was looked upon as a great moral criminal‘. Only after the intervention of a furious Queen Victoria and the threatened resignation of Palmerston was a more conciliatory letter sent to Vienna. Even then Austria was still so resentful that it sent no representative to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.
What’s an Imperial Burton Ale? Or a luncheon stout? They both feature on attractive historical beer labels from Essex brewery Ward’s available at the excellent Foxearth local history website. There are also some great historical photos of the brewery and its people from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A couple of people have recently commented on old posts because they’re trying to track down specific pubs as part of family history projects. We haven’t been much help, but there are some helpful resources out there.
You have to do something between beers when you’re on holiday in Prague. We ended up at the Czech National Museum because (a) we’re big swots and (b) it was open. Expecting grumpy staff, dusty trilobites and grubby old paintings, we were delighted to find instead a fantastic special exhibition on the history of the First Czechoslovak Republic, from 1918 to 1938.
The highlight for us, of course, was the room celebrating the traditional village pub.
Early 20th century beer bottles, glasses and advertising surrounded an antique bar with two pumps. Some of the brands on display are long gone; others are still around. There was a lot of German as well as Czech in evidence.
The accompanying text explains how village pubs worked. Tables were reserved for smallholders, who were VIPs. Allotment owners (the scum of the Earth, apparently) “sat in a corner somewhere”. There was no food, except perhaps a pickled sausage or pretzel. If you really needed to eat, the landlord’s wife would bring down leftovers from their evening meal. Bigger villages had different pubs, one for each social group.
It was not uncommon for smallholders to drink away the value of their farm in a session. Blimey. Big sessions? Expensive booze? Or just really crappy farms?
The Museum is that big grey building at the top of Wenceslas Square that looks as if it ought to be the seat of government. The exhibition runs until March 2009. Arguably the most astounding exhibit is a set of blood-spattered medals Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was wearing when he was assassinated, kicking off World War I.
We’ve been down on Badger beer since a holiday in Dorset last year where we struggled to find a decent pint of anything, and where even Badger’s own pubs in the area were serving dish-watery, boring, stale beer which made us feel a bit sad.
But the Mason’s Arms (recommended by Jeff “Stonch” Bell here) is a Badger pub which knows how to look after its ale. The seasonal beer, Pickled Partridge, is a dark, 4.6% ‘winter warmer’ and very, very drinkable.
The emphasis is on fruitiness and hop flavour, with very little bitterness — just enough to make it moreish. There might be some spices in there somewhere, but subtly done, with none of the overwhelming cinnamon and cloves that have ruined so many Christmas beers over the years.
In short: a nice cosy, quiet pub, and a very nice beer! Badger are back in our good books.