Egon Ronay’s 1990 guide to pub and bar food is a fascinating read, having become something of a historical document.
For each pub he includes, he lists the beer available, and many of the brands have now disappeared: Ind Coope, Watneys, Charrington, Usher’s and Eldridge Pope crop up repeatedly. And whatever happened to Fuller’s K2 lager?
One the whole, things seemt to have improved. Even the best pubs in the 1990 edition seem to be there largely because they offered two real ales rather than one, and there was a lot of Webster’s Yorkshire Bitter on offer. The White Horse was rated as the best pub in London but, by current standards, sounds pretty run-of-the-mill.
But this passage from the introduction still rings true:
Have you ever walked into a pub full of people and immediately felt totally isolated? This can happen when most of the clientele already know each other and may have unwittingly sat in old Joe’s favourite chair by the fire. Fine if you are a member of the ‘club’ but not so pleasant if you are a stranger… On their travels, our inspectors are invariably strangers and gauge a pub on how well they are received and looked after as such. There is no point in recommending an otherwise lovely old inn somewhere in the wilds if visitors to the area are not going to feel welcome once inside.
E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class opens with a very evocative quotation from the memoirs of Thomas Hardy, founder of the London Corresponding Society. He describes their first meeting, in the Bell pub off the Strand, in 1792:
After having had their bread and cheese and porter for supper, as usual, and their pipes afterwards, with some conversation on the hardness of the times, and the dearness of all the necessaries of life… the business for which they had met was brought forward — Parliamentary Reform — an important subject to be deliberated upon and dealt with by such a class of men.
I’d love to have porter and cheese for my tea every night and I’m beginning to wonder if my pub conversations are a bit trivial, given the hardness of the times.
All of the bits and pieces of brewery and pub marketing below were spotted in East or South London. I wonder if people in 50 years time will find remnants of Wetherspoons branding so evocative? Probably.
We spotted this on the site of the old Anchor brewery near London Bridge, round the corner from another plaque spotted by Jeff/Stonch a while back.
According to Thrale.com (“Anything and everything Thrale or Thraill”), here’s the story:
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.