Categories
Beer history bristol

William Herapath – Bristol’s crimefighting brewer-chemist

It’s amazing how often an innocent question leads to a brewery. In this case, it was wondering about the origins of the name of Herapath Street, not far from our new house.

It’s from ancient Greek, surely; Hera was the wife of Zeus, queen of heaven; and the suffix ‘path’ we know from telepath, sociopath, psychopath… Whatever it means, why on earth would a backstreet in a Bristol suburb have a name like this?

It turns out to have been named after one William Herapath, a local boy who made a big name for himself as a chemist. But he commenced his career in the family trade – as maltster, brewer and publican.

Before Herapath’s birth in 1796 his father, also called William, was the proprietor of the Horse & Jockey on Marybush Lane in central Bristol.1 In 1800 he took over the Packhorse Inn and its attached brewery. When he died in 1816, young William, at the age of 20, inherited the business.2

The Packhorse, Lawrence Hill.

Though The Packhorse has a fairly modest footprint today, maps from the 19th century show it taking up most of the block with a substantial brewery and/or malthouse behind. (We’ve known to look out for ‘P.H.’ to spot pubs on old maps for a while; we now know that ‘M.H.’ is ‘malthouse’, too.)

This might have provided quite a living for a young man but, according to an obituary notice from 18683, having been encouraged to study chemistry as part of his training as a maltster, he discovered a taste for it and decided to pursue it as a career.

He co-founded the Bristol Medical School, where he was appointed professor of chemistry and toxicology from 1828, and, in 1841, was one of the founders of the Chemical Society of London.

To normal people not obsessed with beer and brewing, the most interesting thing about Herapath’s career is his involvement as an expert witness in criminal cases. His particular speciality was identifying the victims of arsenic poisoning and finding traces of arsenic in foodstuffs and on kitchen implements.4

SOURCE: Know Your Place.

Despite Herapath’s illustrious career in chemistry he seems to have maintained an interest in malting and brewing. He gave lectures on the science of brewing, among other subjects and, in 1829, was a delegate of the Committee for the Protection of the Malt Trade, challenging the terms of an act designed to regulate the industry.5

He also ran a sideline in the chemical analysis of alcoholic drinks and as late as 1874, several years after his death, his name was invoked in a posthumous testimonial for a brewery in Devon.

SOURCE: Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5 January 1874, via the British Newspaper Archive.

It’s fascinating that someone routinely described as “the most eminent chemical analyst in this country” should be so little known. Barring a plaque on The Packhorse, installed by the local civic society in 2017 and, of course, obscure, unremarkable Herapath Street, there’s very little to remember him by in his own city.

We’re not even sure that street is named after him. His son William Bird Herapath was also a chemist and discovered Herapathite; he also died in 1868. And their cousin, John Herapath, was a noted physicist who – this is getting weird now – died in 1868, too.

When the street came into being (it’s not on maps from the 1870s, but is there by the 1890s) who knows which of them it was named for. That it was across the road from a giant chemical works must surely be a clue, though.

You know what would be a good tribute? If someone were to brew a beer in his honour and get it served at The Packhorse.

UPDATE 10.04.2021: Maybe don’t rush that tribute beer into production just yet… Pete Forster was kind enough to email us with some of the material he found when researching William Herapath – specifically notes of his 1853 court case. He was accused of forcing a kiss on a young woman, Mrs Wildgoose, who came to his office to discuss the sale of some property on behalf of her husband. You can read more in the Bristol Mercury for 2 July 1853, on page 8, if you’re keen to know more.

Main image: we think this is William Herapath – it’s reproduced all over the internet without source information, with his name attached. But it might well be William Bird Herapath, his son. Further information welcome.

  1. Matthews’ New History of Bristol or Complete Guide and Bristol Directory, 1793, via ancestry.co.uk
  2. ‘The Lives of Two Pioneering Medical-Chemists in Bristol’, Brian Vincent, The West of England Medical Journal, Vol. 116 No. 4, 2016.
  3. Western Daily Press, 15 February 1868.
  4. Numerous newspaper reports but notably a piece on the murder of Clara Ann Smith by Mary Ann Burdock, Bristol Mirror, 11 April 1835 – apparently his first criminal case.
  5. Various newspapers from June 1829, via The British Newspaper Archive. It feels as if we should know more about what was going on with malting in 1829 – reading suggestions welcome.
Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 3 April 2021: käsityöläisolut

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from track and trace to the wonders of the Finnish language.

As the reopening of UK pubs grows ever nearer, with all the trendlines currently pointing in the right direction, everyone is watching anxiously for details of how it might work in practice. This week’s big story was the news that everyone will be expected to sign in when they go for a pint, probably until as late as September:

All customers will have to sign in on entry, not just one member of the group like before. It is also unclear whether payment at the bar will be permitted… UK Hospitality said it would burden struggling pubs and staff and risk customers deciding not to go out… The government said it was providing as much flexibility as possible to venues… It also said it had removed other unpopular requirements such as drinking curfews.

Perhaps because we’re not in the habit of going to the pub in groups larger than, say, six, this doesn’t seem outrageous to us. And by autumn last year, signing into pubs had become really quick and easy anyway – a 20-second job.


When we wrote about our perception that some breweries had experienced a better 2020/21 than others, Ed Wray promised to investigate and provide further data. He’s now done that, offering notes on the four breweries based at the site where he works:

All of the breweries have done badly financially. For the two that are parts of larger companies I’m sure it’s a drop in the ocean compared to their overall financial performance (which will also be down lots for both). I don’t know any details about their money situation but both breweries are or will be soon increasing beer production, so don’t look like they’re having the plug pulled on them. The brewery that exports to the states definitely lost a chunk of cash but I believe now has a new importer so hopefully will be able to continue as before in the future. And as to my employer, it’s had to defer payment on some things (which will of course still become due for payment later) and take out a loan. Expansion plans have slowed, but not stopped entirely. One of the things put back is getting a canning line. Cans have done well during lockdown so there’s now a shortage of them and it doesn’t make sense to install a canning line if you can’t get cans.


For VinePair Evan Rail has written about the different meanings of ‘craft beer’ around the world, according to those in the trade:

It’s not easy to find the right equivalent for “craft beer” in Finnish, according to Suvi Sekkula, a journalist, service designer, beer lover, and the chair of Kieliasiantuntijat ry, a Finnish trade union for language and communications experts… “The question is a tricky one in Finnish, as there is no strong consensus,” Sekkula says. Currently, she says, three competing terms are being used in her country: pienpanimo-olut, meaning “beer from a small brewery,” käsityöläisolut, or “beer made by a craftsperson,” and erikoisolut, which means “speciality beer.”


At Oh Good Ale Phil has been blending Orval with Harvey’s Imperial Stout – a great, if terrifying idea. He seems to have enjoyed the experience:

That word ‘blending’ is the key: it seemed to combine three quite distinct flavours (none of them very ‘beery’), but in a way that seemed perfectly natural and without any incongruity. Full-bodied – almost but not quite to the point of drinking its strength – and smooth; really very smooth… Was it worth it? A cautious Yes, I think: the 3:1 and 1:3 mixes were terrific, even if the 1:1 left something to be desired. At least, it was worth it as far as the IEDS was concerned. The stout was very much in charge throughout: even at 3:1 Orval to IEDS, you’d never mistake what you were drinking for a pale beer. The ‘black and tan’ effect – where two very different beers effectively shave off each other’s sharp edges – took the roughness out of the IEDS, making it drink smoother and sweeter; but the Orval wasn’t smoothed so much as muted, losing the Brett and some of the bitterness.


For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Siobhan Hewison offers a handy summary of trends around nitro beers – something, we admit, we know relatively little about, though we do have one on the fridge waiting to be drunk right now. She says:

[Many] brewers have been attempting to ‘hack’ the chemistry of getting nitrogen into their beer without using widgets, by dosing the beer and/or the packaging with liquid nitrogen. This does however rely on drinkers using the ‘hard pour’ method in order to get the best drinking experience. This is a very specific way of pouring a nitro beer, which asks you to forget everything you’ve been taught about gently pouring your beer at an angle into your glass – you must first invert the can or bottle a few times (but don’t shake it!) to get the bubbles flowing, let it sit for a few seconds, then crack it open and angle at 180 degrees so the beer pours aggressively into your glass. Let the beer rest and the velvety, luscious head form, and voila! The perfect nitro beer, right in your hands. 


Last week, Kelly from Good Chemistry highlighted a post we’d missed, from (we think) Chris Rigg, landlord of The Bay Hop micropub in Colwyn Bay. It’s a detailed account of the ups and downs of the past year, including some really interesting details:

At the beginning of 2020 we had come up with a vague plan to expand the number of keg lines from three to five. While lockdown seemed like a strange time to expand the range of products, it made sense to bring those plans forward. Keg doesn’t have the same short shelf life of cask, and it would allow us to continue to provide a varied selection of beers throughout without worrying about wastage. So, with the first of the Government grants in our pocket we took the leap. Looking at what we needed to provide the same styles punters were used to on cask, we decided to go for seven lines rather than the original planned five. Mike Cornish of Beer Care was called in and the job was completed in just a couple of days… It is fair to say that increasing the keg lines was the best decision we have made in the past year. There is no doubt that it has made the takeaway service worth doing, and that without it we would have not operated at all or – in the worst case scenario – not been here at all now.


Finally, from Twitter, news of a podcast about pubs that might be worth a listen, with the first episode due in a week or so:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

Categories
bristol pubs

Because of lockdown?

The Bristol Post has produced a rundown of local food and hospitality businesses “that didn’t survive a year of lockdowns” – but is that a fair way to describe what’s going on?

For starters, there are several businesses on the list that haven’t actually ceased trading, as the article itself acknowledges.

The excellent Gopal’s Curry Shack, for example, has closed its retail unit, but is still operating as a delivery business, and will be attending markets and events when those start up again later this year.

Of course what particularly interests us is the fate of bars and pubs, and there are a few on the list. Again, though, we’re going to quibble – not least because lazily blaming lockdown means ignoring the long-term causes of pub closures:

  • Economics – you need a reasonable amount of disposable income to go to the pub regularly, and fewer people have this. 
  • Demographics and shifting trends – where are those that do have money going? Are new generations of pub goers coming through?
  • The ongoing persistence of the leasehold model for pub ownership, which makes it hard for publicans to make a living.
  • The value of pubs and the land on which they sit to developers.

To start with, one, Alchemy 198 on Gloucester Road, isn’t a closure but something of an upgrade, at least as far as beer lovers are concerned, because it became the Sidney & Eden craft beer bar last autumn.

The Windmill in Bedminster was actually put up for sale by its owners in the spring of 2019 and when we visited for our #EveryPubInBristol project in the autumn of that year was already the subject of a sadly unsuccessful local preservation campaign.

Another pub on the Post’s list is The Swan, not far from where we now live in Barton Hill, which closed for good in May 2020 and has now been bought for conversion by the community group next door. We never got to visit or, rather, chickened out of visiting because as we approached the door a very drunk bloke blocked it and made it clear we weren’t welcome. Now, perhaps we’re reading this incorrectly, but it looked like a pub on its last legs every time we walked past and even if lockdown was the final trigger, it’s hard to imagine it would have lasted much longer under any other circumstances.

The Three Blackbirds, one of the last pubs we visited before lockdown kicked in, is also on the list of supposed lockdown victims listed by the Post. But even their piece includes a statement from the landlady suggesting that the pub was in trouble before lockdown – and that’s certainly how it felt when we dropped in, and whenever we passed.

To be clear, we don’t doubt that there will be casualties from the last year once government support dries up completely – along with publicans’ savings and credit lines.

The Downend Tavern, also on the Post’s list, is perhaps one example. Famous as a pub rock venue and home of the Bristol Blues Club it always struck us as a lively local and seemed in passable health before 2020 came along. But that’s hard to package as a takeaway experience, especially if your clientele skews older and has less disposable income.

One pub not mentioned by the Post is another Barton Hill local, The Rhubarb, which may or may not reopen and is currently without tenants.

We’re still optimistic that people will be so hungry to go to pubs post-lockdown that there might be something of a renaissance. Closed pubs might reopen. Pubs that were limping along and scraping by under an old business model and veteran publicans might come alive with a new approach and new owners.

But the point is, really, that it’s too soon to tell how COVID-19 will affect the overall number of pubs. Let’s just wait and see – and, in the meantime, do what we can to support the pubs we love, either by ordering beer for delivery or donating to crowdfunders.

Categories
opinion

News, nuggets and longreads 27 March 2021: Ireland, New York, Lancashire

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that we felt moved to bookmark in the past week, from Manhattan to Clitheroe.

The big story this week is the flying of a policy kite around vaccine passports for pubs: no certificate, no entry. It’s triggered some passionate pushback from… Well, almost everyone, from publicans to those concerned about creeping authoritarianism. As always, there’s a lot of deflection and bad faith argument, such as people who don’t care about disability claiming that’s why they’re opposed to it, not because they’re dog-whistling at anti-mask, anti-vaccine types. Do we have an opinion? Oof. It’s probably a bad idea, even if we don’t relish the thought of finding ourselves sat next to some berk who didn’t have a vaccine as an act of defiance to the lizard people.


Harvey's bottled beers: Sweet Stout, Blue Label, IPA, Brown.

Yvan De Baets of Brasserie de la Senne has provided Craft Beer & Brewing with notes on the beers that have inspired him, hinting at an emerging super-canon of classics:

The first three beers I’ve selected are, for me, some of the very best examples of styles and beer cultures that influenced my approach to beermaking. As a Belgian, I have, of course, been influenced by the beers of my homeland (perhaps most importantly by lambic) but maybe even more so by traditional English bitters—with their low ABV and super-high drinkability—and by German pilsners, with their clean palate and the precision used to brew them. Those are the main causes of what my beers are today—or, at least, what I’m trying to do with them. Funnily enough, both those brewing cultures deeply influenced Belgian brewing in the second half of the 19th century.


SOURCE: Good Beer Hunting/Breandán Kearney

For Good Beer Hunting Breandán Kearney has written an overview of the growth of craft beer in Ireland over the past few decades:

When Tom Delaney was born, on Dec. 1, 1982 in Roscrea, County Tipperary, there was just one independent brewery on the island [or Ireland]: Hilden Brewery in Lisburn, Co. Down. Then, Ireland was a bastion of religious conservatism. Now, its younger generations lean progressive, particularly in the Republic, where they have led the fight for legislation in recent years in favor of equal marriage and reproductive rights, and support pro-European, left-of-center policy in the face of rising global nationalism… In beer, Ireland has experienced a change of an equally dramatic nature. In 2002, the year that Tom Delaney moved from Tipperary to Galway as a 20 year old, there were in the region of 15 independent breweries on the whole island. At the end of 2020, 18 years later, there were around 150 businesses producing beer. One source suggests 99 breweries operating with their own kit, and a further 51 companies producing beer on contract.

We saw this being fact-checked live on Twitter shortly after the link was first published; even if the numbers were up for debate (they’re always tricky to pin down) the story is what matters here.


Pete Brown took advantage of the birthday of William Morris to talk again about the origins of the concept of ‘craft beer’:

The word “craft” goes back to at least the 10th century, but its specific meaning today was invented by Morris. Before the Industrial Revolution, craftsmanship was just the way things were done, the way they’d always been done. Arts and Crafts arrived at a time when industrialised productions had become the normal way things were done. “Craft”, in its modern sense, is an alternative, a choice, a reaction against mainstream industrial production, against the way things are normally done.


SOURCE: Corto website.

Opening a bar during a pandemic – what are you thinking? That’s more or less the question Katie Mather has been asked point blank on numerous occasions in the past year. Now, for Good Beer Hunting, she explains exactly what she was thinking, laying out every step on the path towards opening Corto in Clitheroe, Lancashire:

“Did you know you can get down under the flooring?” our always-happy landlady beamed, on a final visit to sort the fire alarms. No. We did not know that. We’d agreed not to mention the storage issues for our sanity’s sake, clueless about how we were going to overcome the challenge of managing inventory in such a small space. Tom had only just stopped having nightmares about having to fill the entire ground floor with bathrooms. “The hatch is under the stairs, in the cupboard.” When she’d gone, we pulled back a plywood plank covering the hole, and shone our phone flashlights into the void. A poured concrete floor. We lowered a set of ladders in and Tom disappeared for a while. When he came back he was laughing. “It’s massive,” he said, climbing out of the hatch, covered in cobwebs. “A proper cellar! We kept the faith.”


SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons.

For VinePair Aaron Goldfarb has written about ‘Manhattan’s forgotten first wave of brewpubs’, reminding us that craft beer was once “yuppie beer”:

On a Thursday night in November of 1984, the Manhattan Brewing Company opened its doors on the third floor of a former Con Ed transformer station on Thompson Street in SoHo — “on a block that soaks up lots of bad vibes from cursing Holland Tunnel travelers,” according to New York Magazine’s David Edelstein — four blocks from where Torch & Crown currently stands… The 5,000-square-foot space offered six copper brew kettles, including one that was 14 feet high, purchased from traditional European breweries located in the Swiss Alps, Bavaria, and the Black Forest of Germany. On opening day, the Emerald Society of the Police Department played a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” as a memorial to all the Manhattan breweries that had come (and gone) before it.


For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 20 March 2021: Culmbacher, culture, counting

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from brewery numbers to Belgian postmen.

First, a bit of news that slipped out while we weren’t looking, but was picked up by our pal Darren Norbury: the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) has launched an enquiry into the health and future of the UK cask ale market. Now, this sounds a bit more exciting than it actually is – the APPBG doesn’t have huge clout; it’s basically the Parliamentary branch of CAMRA. But, still, they’re calling for evidence, will be debating the issue seriously, and should at least be able to ensure this issue gets five minutes of the Prime Minister’s attention at some point. To have your say, submit written evidence to Paul Hegarty, honorary secretary of the APPBG (paul@beergroup.co.uk) before 31 March.


Assorted brewery logos.

Another interesting story: The Brewers’ Journal reports that there are now more than 3,000 UK breweries, according to data from UHY Hacker Young, with many opening during 2020, despite the economic impact of the pandemic. This line is especially interesting: “The firm adds that the attraction of starting a brewery business in recent years has been influenced by the continuing stream of craft breweries being purchased by multinationals.” We don’t doubt that’s true.

Leeds-based brewer Mike Hampshire isn’t sure about those numbers at all, however, and cautions us not to interpret this as a sign that all is well in the world of brewing:

I expect like we saw last summer, people won’t be immediately rushing back to the pubs in numbers like we had before the pandemic, which means many publicans will opt for a “safe” and perhaps limited draught beer range. This means guest bar space for micro-breweries will be restricted for a while… In separate conversations with some of Leeds’ smaller brewery owners, they are already feeling squeezed out of bottle shops as more breweries compete for shelf space. This includes larger regional breweries who perhaps weren’t so bothered before… An interesting twist on the number of new breweries opening is that some are being run part-time, where owners and some employees have personal income from elsewhere. It’s a different kind of challenge for the full-time owners who will feel more personal financial pressure as well as the trading difficulties …My fear is, that although we have 3,000 breweries now, we will see many closures in the coming 12 months.

A pub offering a 'warm welcome'.

For Burum Collective Ellie King expresses a certain frustration with the lazy view that ‘pubs are for everyone’ or naturally welcoming, asking ‘Whose culture is pub culture?’:

The pub has long been considered a cornerstone of British culture… For the last year the simple pleasures of a pint have been stymied by covid as the crisis has wreaked havoc across the food and drink industry. Many of us are eagerly counting down the days until pints can be shared with loved ones, or enjoyed alone… However there are many people for whom a trip to the pub is not an enjoyable, comfortable or safe experience. Whilst I am hugely looking forward to that first pint of cask ale when pubs reopen, there are some never-to-be-forgotten anxieties I am not keen on facing again… As a woman drinking and working in pubs over the last 2 decades I have been patronised, ignored, gawked at, subjected to unsolicited physical interaction and been told to smile and wear something shorter/lower/tighter.

This is such a complicated issue and one we tried to tackle in the conclusion to our book 20th Century Pub. If what makes you feel relaxed and comfortable makes others feel on edge, and vice versa, are pubs doomed to be exclusive and excluding? Gawd, we hope not.


A German beer hall in New York

For Good Beer Hunting Michael Stein has investigated the history of Culmbacher, an obscure American beer style of the 19th century deriving from, but not the same as, German Kulmbacher:

According to source material, the original, Old World Kulmbacher was a dark beer. It had a pronounced malt flavor and a sweetish taste. For American brewers, it had Bavarian characteristics, in that it was brewed along the lines of a Bavarian Lager, with a strong starting gravity. Perhaps the greatest variation between the German original and the American adaptation is that U.S.-made Culmbacher was sometimes brewed to be a near beer—that is, high in extract and low in alcohol… But for all the ways that Culmbacher reflected the push-and-pull of German-American beer culture and identity, the style was not to last. Ultimately, the nativism and xenophobic sentiment that sprung up around World War I meant that German beer traditions began to fall out of favor.


A postman sorting post.
SOURCE: Ashley Joanna/Belgian Smaak

For Belgian Smaak Ashley Joanna continues a series of brief portraits of Belgian brewers, introducing us to Mario ‘Bolle’ Jates:

When Mario finishes his shift as a postman, he changes from his B-post attire to a collared shirt, one on which the logo “Bollecious” is embroidered on the upper left side. Bollecious is Mario’s side hustle beer business. The name comes from the nickname his friends gave him at University: Bolle. The nickname originated in the title of a song from a German band, J.B.O. – sometimes known in their home country as James Blast Orchester—the lyrics of which describe how you can turn negative situations into something positive and laugh through life even when times are tough.


Copies of the Good Beer Guide.

Duncan Mackay, AKA The Pubmeister, has decided to mark the 50th anniversary of CAMRA with some number-crunching with bonus boundary debates:

A while ago I mentioned that a crack team of analysts were mapping every pub ever to have appeared in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide… Capturing every pub ever included is harder than you might think so the final figures may still be subject to minor tweaking. Early editions were often vague about the precise location of pubs, usually a name and the briefest of description was provided. A pathological resistance to postcodes didn’t help – they were not incorporated until 2004, fully thirty years after their universal adoption… Local authority boundaries have also changed over the years so, for example, a batch of pubs placed in Berkshire in the 1974 Guide moved to Oxfordshire following enactment of Ted Heath’s local government act. The legislation also created new and largely unloved authorities such as Avon, Cleveland and Humberside that later disappeared.


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

For more interesting reading check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up. (Is anyone else doing a round-up we should know about? A few have come and gone in the past year.)