News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 December 2018: Slavery, Philosophy, Wetherspoon Museum

Here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from American history to donkeys in pubs.

First, pick­ing up on the top­ic of the day, the BBC’s Chris Bara­niuk has inves­ti­gat­ed the ques­tion of cash­less pubs and bars in some detail. This line seems like the key to under­stand­ing the trend:

Ikea found that so few peo­ple – 1.2 in every 1,000 – insist­ed on pay­ing in cash that it was finan­cial­ly jus­ti­fi­able to offer them free food in the shop cafe­te­ria instead.

Mon­ti­cel­lo by Mar­tin Fal­bison­er | Wiki­me­dia Com­mons | CC BY-SA 3.0

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Dr J. Nikol Jack­son-Beck­ham has writ­ten an absorb­ing piece about Peter Hem­ings, the enslaved man who actu­al­ly did the brew­ing with which Pres­i­dent Thomas Jef­fer­son is some­times cred­it­ed:

With sev­er­al years of expe­ri­ence, Peter Hem­ings came into his own as a malt­ster and brew­er, and may have taught these trades to oth­er enslaved men in Vir­ginia. On April 11, 1820, Thomas Jef­fer­son wrote to James Madi­son, “Our brew­ing for the use of the present year has been some time over. About the last of Oct. or begin­ning of Nov. we begin for the ensu­ing year and malt and brew three, 60-gal­lon casks suc­ces­sive­ly which will give so many suc­ces­sive lessons to the per­son you send… I will give you notice in the fall when we are to com­mence malt­ing and our mal­ter and brew­er is uncom­mon­ly intel­li­gent and capa­ble of giv­ing instruc­tion if your pupil is as ready at com­pre­hend­ing it.”

The Beach Bar

Mar­tyn Cor­nell has attempt­ed to tack­le the world’s thorni­est philo­soph­i­cal conun­drum: what’s the dif­fer­ence between a pub and bar?

In the New Town where I grew up, all the estate pubs had been built to look like New Town homes on steroids, fol­low­ing the ‘pub as a home from home’ idea, but their new­ness stripped them of any of the ‘sense of per­ma­nence and con­ti­nu­ity’ that all the pubs in the Old Town had drip­ping from every brick and beam, and they felt like zom­bie pubs, life­less and with­out char­ac­ter. A bar, in con­trast, nev­er feels ‘homey’: indeed, I’d sug­gest that the slight­est pinch, jot or iota of ‘a home-like char­ac­ter’ turns a bar into either a pub or a teashop.

Warpigs in Copenhagen.
SOURCE: The Beer Nut.

We were intrigued by the Beer Nut’s obser­va­tion that Copen­hagen has become ‘Mikkeller World’:

Last time I was in town, the brewer’s retail out­lets con­sist­ed sole­ly of the lit­tle base­ment bar on Vik­to­ria­gade; now there are over a dozen premis­es in Copen­hagen alone, with more world­wide.

And that’s not all – even flights in are awash with the stuff.

A side order of nuggets

Victorian illustration of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters.
Classics corner: Charles Dickens’s ‘dropsical’ inn

We promised to flag some famous bits of beer and pub writ­ing and this week’s piece – one of Jess’s absolute favourites – is the descrip­tion of a Lon­don river­side pub that appears at the start of Chap­ter 6 of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutu­al Friend:

The bar of the Six Jol­ly Fel­low­ship Porters was a bar to soft­en the human breast. The avail­able space in it was not much larg­er than a hack­ney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar big­ger, that space was so girt in by cor­pu­lent lit­tle casks, and by cor­dial-bot­tles radi­ant with fic­ti­tious grapes in bunch­es, and by lemons in nets, and by bis­cuits in bas­kets, and by the polite beer-pulls that made low bows when cus­tomers were served with beer, and by the cheese in a snug cor­ner, and by the landlady’s own small table in a snug­ger cor­ner near the fire, with the cloth ever­last­ing­ly laid. This haven was divid­ed from the rough world by a glass par­ti­tion and a half-door, with a lead­en sill upon it for the con­ve­nience of rest­ing your liquor; but, over this half-door the bar’s snug­ness so gushed forth that, albeit cus­tomers drank there stand­ing, in a dark and draughty pas­sage where they were shoul­dered by oth­er cus­tomers pass­ing in and out, they always appeared to drink under an enchant­i­ng delu­sion that they were in the bar itself.

Final­ly, here’s an old Tweet that’s new to us:

If you want more, check out Alan’s Thurs­day ‘beery notes’ and (thank­ful­ly back after a hia­tus) Stan’s Mon­day links.

Notable Pubs #1: The Eagle Tavern, London

The Eagle (Shepherdess Walk, N1) is known to generations of children from the nursery rhyme ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’: ‘Up and down the City Road/ In and out the Eagle’.

Charles Green as painted by Hilaire Ledru.
Por­trait of Charles Green by Hilaire Ledru, 1835, via Wikipedia.

On Mon­day 4 April 1825, the aero­naut Charles Green ascend­ed in a bal­loon from the gar­dens at the Eagle. After much trou­ble, he got air­borne at 5:30 pm and drift­ed away south. He returned to the Eagle for anoth­er ascent on a lat­er occa­sion, this time seat­ed on the back of a ‘very small Shet­land pony’ (Stam­ford Mer­cury, 01/08/1828).

Famous as the site of a the­atre and oth­er enter­tain­ments, The Eagle was the sub­ject of one of Charles Dickens’s Sketch­es by Boz (1833–1836) enti­tled ‘Miss Evans and The Eagle’:

[The] wait­ers were rush­ing to and fro with glass­es of negus, and glass­es of brandy-and-water, and bot­tles of ale, and bot­tles of stout; and gin­ger-beer was going off in one place, and prac­ti­cal jokes were going on in anoth­er; and peo­ple were crowd­ing to the door of the Rotun­da; and in short the whole scene was, as Miss J’mima Ivins, inspired by the nov­el­ty, or the shrub, or both, observed—‘one of daz­zling excite­ment.’

The present build­ing dates from around 1900.

Not to be con­fused with The Eagle, Far­ring­don, ‘the orig­i­nal gas­trop­ub’. There will be more on bal­loon ascents in a future post on The Star & Garter, Rich­mond. Main image: ‘The Eagle Tav­ern Plea­sure Gar­dens, from an old print’, from Dick­en­sian Inns & Tav­erns by B.W. Matz, 1922, via

Session #58: A Christmas Carol

Detail from John Leech's 1843 illustration for a Christmas Carol.
A detail from one of John Leech’s 1843 illus­tra­tions for a Christ­mas Car­ol.

This month’s ses­sion is host­ed by Phil Hardy of Twit­ter fame (@Filrd) who blogs at Beer­say.

There nev­er was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its ten­der­ness and fla­vor, size, and cheap­ness were the themes of uni­ver­sal admi­ra­tion.”

Peo­ple often mis­un­der­stand these lines from A Christ­mas Car­ol, and they’ve been mis­used a mil­lion times to accom­pa­ny images of plump roast­ed birds.

In fact, at this point in the book, Cratchit’s impov­er­ished fam­i­ly are sit­ting down to a mis­er­able Christ­mas meal, the cen­tre­piece of which is a scrawny goose that they’re mak­ing the most of. The point is that Cratchit is a good man who tries to find the best in things, includ­ing Ebenez­er Scrooge, and so has the true Christ­mas spir­it in his heart, regard­less of his pover­ty.

With that in mind, we were think­ing about how impor­tant it can be to put beer snob­bery to one side at Christ­mas.

If your eight year-old niece buys you a ‘Beers of the World’ selec­tion pack from BHS, chill down those 330ml bot­tles of Fos­ters and San Miguel and bloody enjoy them. It’s a thought­ful gift.

If your Uncle Bert offers you a bot­tle of Greene King IPA in a clear bot­tle, take it with grat­i­tude and show how much you appre­ci­ate it, because that’s some­one reach­ing out, ask­ing you to share a moment of good cheer, in the bleak mid­win­ter.

If your Dad takes you to a pub for a swift one on Christ­mas Day and all they have is keg John Smith’s, savour every drop: you’re with your Dad in a pub on Christ­mas Day, you lucky dev­il.

Just enjoy the Christ­mas present and maybe next year you’ll get a big­ger goose.