GALLERY: Home Front Beer, WWII

We recently discovered the Imperial War Museum digital archive which is (perhaps surprisingly) crammed with pictures of pubs, beer and brewing.

Here are some of the best shots of ‘everyday life’ on the home front during World War II shared under the terms of their non-commercial license. (Click the ID numbers to go to the IWM website for bigger versions and more info.)

A mixed group of uniformed men and a barmaid.
Allied soldiers in a London pub, 1940. © IWM (D 1725)
A dimly lit pub with soldiers in discussion.
Home Guard members in a pub in Orford, Suffolk, 1941. © IWM (D 4852)

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Brighton binge

It was a gorgeous sunny day yesterday, so we decided to go to the seaside. Brighton was the natural choice — it has a range of pubs and bars for everyone’s tastes, plus it’s only 50 minutes by train from central London.

Once we’d chucked some stones in the sea and played on the slot machines for a bit, we looked around for some refreshment and stumbled across the Bath Arms. This is a very good pub. It has a nice mixed crowd, extremely friendly staff, good food and five ales in tip-top condition. It’s not in our edition of the Good Beer Guide (2007). Not quite sure why. We suppose the beer selection might be criticised as conservative (Adnams, Summer Lightning, Pride, Sussex Best and Bombardier). Then again, there are a number of places that are listed in the GBG in Brighton which have a much less exciting selection (Greene King IPA, anyone?).

On to another good place not in the Guide — the Victory. We were attracted into this place by the offer of local Arundel ales. Arundel Stronghold was an interesting sweetish brown ale which I might have said had too much crystal malt if it wasn’t nicely balanced with the hops. Bailey had a rich, fruitycakey Theakston’s Old Peculiar. Again, the staff, though busy, were very friendly.

You can’t go to Brighton and not go to the Evening Star, the original outlet for the magnificent Dark Star Brewing Company. There are 10 handpumps, seven ales and three ciders. There are usually four Dark Star beers on, and three guests. This time the guests were from local brewery Rectory Ales. In addition to the cask ale, there is Blonde, an organic lager, and some pumps for kegged beers from Belgium and America. Then there are the bottles, some of which are world classics that are always on offer, others change with the seasons.

We started on the Dark Star offerings. The American Pale Ale was like a sweeter, fuller-bodied, more grapefruity version of their flagship Hophead, and very nice too. The Sussex Extra Stout mimics the Guinness branding, and it’s obvious that it’s targeted at Guinness fans who won’t drink anything else. It’s perfect for this purpose, tasting similar to Guinness but fresher and more chocolatey. Really, really good. “Critical Mass” is their Christmas special, a strong dark ale (7.8%) which contains spices , according to the spiel on their site. Unfortunately, we didn’t like this one — we can’t really put our finger on what was wrong with it, but there was too much alcohol and not enough other flavours. A brave effort, though.

American brewery Stone’s Ruination IPA was on tap, so we had to try it. This reminded us of a more heady Liberty Ale, and regular readers will know how much we love that. Onto the bottles, and we went for a Franconian Christmas theme — Christkindlmarkt beer from Tucher, and Weihnachts-Festbier from Forchheim brewery Greif. Both beers tasted a bit anemic next to the Stone, but the Greif offering was noticeably more flavoursome, and was exactly what we’ve always expected but rarely found in festbiers.

We finished on Bush Noel, also on tap. We like this one, and think it’s clever of them to make a beer so drinkable at 12%. It’s never going to become a regular beer for us at that strength, but it makes a classy nightcap, with all kinds of pleasant brandy and sherry aromas.

It would be easy to assume that, with a line up like this, the pub would be for beer geeks only. However, there was a very mixed crowd, and it was pretty busy from mid-afternoon onwards.

Could this be the perfect pub?