beer and food Beer history quotes

Carter’s Lunch, Manchester, c.1904

“Our local carters working the [Manchester] warehouses seldom took food with them. Public houses, avid for trade, put on some kind of a free snack with their 1½d ‘carters’ pints’. Certain pubs went further and supplied potato pie, cheese and pickles, a pint of beer and a piece of thick twist tobacco — all for 4½d. A carter had to prove his bona fides, though, by bearing a whip in hand or around his neck.”

Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum: Salford life in the first quarter of the century, Penguin, 1971, repr. 1974.

Beer history videos


To accompany the publication of Brew Britannia we’re producing a series of ten minute-long films featuring objects which reflect part of the story.

This fourth film is about the decline and revival of the traditional beer hand pump.

Blogging and writing News

News, Nuggets and Longreads 31/05/2014

Pint of beer illustration.

We’ve seen things… you people wouldn’t believe… Sambucas on fire off the Old Street roundabout… We watched EPOS systems glitter in the dark near the Arndale Centre. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like *koff* tears… In… Rain. Time… to round-up…

→ Saved to Pocket this week, an interview with Martin Hayes, founder of the Craft Beer Company chain of pubs and bars. On ‘craft beer’: “I kind of hate the term now.”

→ We’ve also saved this 1200-word piece from the New York Times on White Labs and the farming of speciality brewing yeasts. (Yeast in the NYT! And not bloody beard or underpants yeast, either — proper yeast!)

→ There’s yet more coverage of beer on the BBC news website with this profile of Croydon’s The Cronx brewery. It’s a weirdly uncritical, rather pointless piece that seems to have escaped from the Morning Advertiser but, hey, it’s beer on the Beeb.

→ Thornbridge and Waitrose have launched a national home brewing challenge: submit three bottles of your home brew to Thornbridge by 31 July for a chance to have it brewed professionally.

→ A follow-up to our Boddington’s Bitter post, how about this shot of a very modern pub, from c.1978? (Note the two young men trying to work out if their beer is ‘straw-coloured’ or just light brown.)

There’s a bit of a brouhaha brewing at Shepherd Neame, which offers an interesting glimpse into the tensions behind the running of a British family brewery.

→ And, finally, if you’re out and about in Cornwall today, the St Ives beer festival is on until this evening.

beer reviews bottled beer

Magic Rock & Lervig Farmhouse IPA


This is the second farmhouse IPA we’ve had this year, so we’re going to start referring to ‘FIPAs’ as if they’re a ‘thing’.

Magic Rock are on our list of trusted suppliers, and their Salty Kiss was our favourite beer of 2013. That, combined with rapturous comments from Connor Murphy and others, made us keen to track down a bottle of the FIPA they brewed in collaboration with Norwegian brewery Lervig during our time in Sheffield last week.

We found it just as we were leaving town, at the Sheffield Tap, which remains one of our favourite places to drink in the entire country. One 330ml bottle cost £5.25 which made us wince, but was soon forgotten when we tasted it.

It was startlingly good, and fantastically exciting.

Magic Rock & Lervig Farmhouse IPA.It reminded us of the first time we tasted Duvel Triple Hop, or perhaps even of our reaction to our first bottles of Goose Island IPA going on for a decade ago: somehow brighter, shinier and louder than everything else around. It was more complex then a standard hop-focused IPA, and less fusty than a standard saison. Greater than the sum of its parts.

With a train to catch and one eye on the clock, we couldn’t really give it the attention we wanted to, but kept saying ‘Wow!’ and ‘Cor!’ and, finally, dashing for our platform, ‘We need to get some more of that.’

Back home, we ordered four more bottles from Ales by Mail at £2.99 each, plus P&P. On Wednesday night, we opened one and found it… very good indeed, but not revelatory. Last night, we tried another, this time a little less chilled, and had the same reaction: it was delicious, but it didn’t make us faint in ecstasy.

Over the course of a few bottles, we found similarities with the Schneider Hopfenweisse, with tons of ripe strawberry, banana, and candied orange. Something in the aroma reminded us of Thai food, and we eventually decided on lemongrass and (perhaps unsurprisingly) coriander. We’re sort of done with ‘pairing’, but it certainly stood up to a sweaty soft-rind French cheese, with the beer gently doubling the funk. The final impression was of a long bitterness, which rides right on through all the cameo appearances by members of the fruit salad ensemble.

It’s also worth noting that we have yet to pour it anything other than cloudy. To us, this only made it look juicier and more appetising, but we realise not everyone has the same tolerance for heavy fog.

Magic Rock Lervig Farmhouse IPA, on balance, helps to make the case for specials and one-offs, which some dismiss as a distraction: a beer like this can only take you by surprise once, but, boy, is it fun while it lasts.

Beer history

The Early Days of ‘Craft Keg’

In October 2007, in an article in the Financial Times (13/10, p5), journalist Andrew Jefford considered an exciting new development in British beer: ‘craft keg’.

OK, so he didn’t use that exact phrase, but he did say this:

Spindrift keg font.Anyone who has ever sat and sipped the day away in a craft brewery in the US will have tasted the answer [to poorly kept ale]. Breweries such as Sierra Nevada… produce great ale in keg rather than cask-conditioned format… Keg ales have a tatty reputation in Britain. Why? They have usually been the work of big brewers who have produced timid, bland recipes using cheap ingredients.. The visionary Alastair Hook of the Meantime Brewing Company in London’s Greenwich is the only serious British small brewer to specialise in beers of this sort…

Jefford’s article wasn’t about Meantime, however, but a new beer from the rather conservative and revered Adnams’ of Southwold in Suffolk.

Adnams’ Spindrift hit the market when this blog was about six months old (we don’t recall ever tasting it) and when BrewDog, in operation for less than a year, was still producing ‘real ale’ and bottled beer.

It was trumpeted as a clean-tasting ale for those who preferred lager, with 28 bitterness units, First Gold and Boadicea hops, and pale and wheat malts. It was unpasteurised but sterile-filtered, with 1.8 volumes of CO2 — more than most cask ales, but less than most lagers. Its ABV was 5%, and it sold at £3.50 a pint. (About £4.20 in today’s money.)

Mr Jefford concluded as follows:

I think it could be one of the most significant British beer launches of the new millennium… So bring on the Spindrift. And bring on more competitors, too.

Spindrift did not, in the end, have a huge impact. It almost certainly suffered because, in Jefford’s words, ‘its heretical keg nature means that Spindrift is off the radar for cask-ale fundamentalists’, while the nascent ‘crafterati’ probably found it too timid — more Fuller’s Discovery than Anchor Liberty.

In around 2010 Adnams’ yanked Spindrift from their keg lines and reinvented as a bottled beer in distinctive blue glass, but there are now plenty of ‘posh keg’ beers from all kinds of British breweries, including Adnams’ themselves.

UPDATE: Spindrift is apparently still available on keg but now at 4%.