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.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield - Phiz original cover
David Cop­per­field – Phiz orig­i­nal cov­er

There’s half a pint of ale for you. Will you have it now?’

I thanked him and said, ‘Yes.’ Upon which he poured it out of a jug into a large tum­bler, and held it up against the light, and made it look beau­ti­ful.

My eye!’ he said. ‘It seems a good deal, don’t it?’

It does seem a good deal,’ I answered with a smile. For it was quite delight­ful to me, to find him so pleas­ant. He was a twin­kling-eyed, pim­ple-faced man, with his hair stand­ing upright all over his head; and as he stood with one arm a‑kimbo, hold­ing up the glass to the light with the oth­er hand, he looked quite friend­ly.

There was a gen­tle­man here, yes­ter­day,’ he said – ‘a stout gen­tle­man, by the name of Top­sawyer – per­haps you know him?’

No,’ I said, ‘I don’t think -’

In breech­es and gaiters, broad-brimmed hat, grey coat, speck­led chok­er,’ said the wait­er.

No,’ I said bash­ful­ly, ‘I haven’t the plea­sure -’

He came in here,’ said the wait­er, look­ing at the light through the tum­bler, ‘ordered a glass of this ale – WOULD order it – I told him not – drank it, and fell dead. It was too old for him. It ought­n’t to be drawn; that’s the fact.’

This is one of a num­ber of great quotes about beer in Charles Dick­ens’ David Cop­per­field. The hero is about 10 at the time, so it’s prob­a­bly a good job he did­n’t take the old ale. A year or so lat­er, he’s quite the reg­u­lar booz­er;

I was such a child, and so lit­tle, that fre­quent­ly when I went into the bar of a strange pub­lic-house for a glass of ale or porter, to moist­en what I had had for din­ner, they were afraid to give it me. I remem­ber one hot evening I went into the bar of a pub­lic-house, and said to the land­lord: ‘What is your best – your very best – ale a glass?’ For it was a spe­cial occa­sion. I don’t know what. It may have been my
birth­day.

Twopence-half­pen­ny,’ says the land­lord, ‘is the price of the Gen­uine Stun­ning ale.’

Then,’ says I, pro­duc­ing the mon­ey, ‘just draw me a glass of the Gen­uine Stun­ning, if you please, with a good head to it.’

The land­lord looked at me in return over the bar, from head to foot, with a strange smile on his face; and instead of draw­ing the beer, looked round the screen and said some­thing to his wife. She came out from behind it, with her work in her hand, and joined him in sur­vey­ing me. Here we stand, all three, before me now. The land­lord in his shirt-sleeves, lean­ing against the bar win­dow-frame; his wife look­ing over the lit­tle half-door; and I, in some con­fu­sion, look­ing up at them from out­side the par­ti­tion.

They asked me a good many ques­tions; as, what my name was, how old I was, where I lived, how I was employed, and how I came there. To all of which, that I might com­mit nobody, I invent­ed, I am afraid, appro­pri­ate answers. They served me with the ale, though I sus­pect it was not the Gen­uine Stun­ning; and the land­lord’s wife, open­ing the lit­tle half-door of the bar, and bend­ing down, gave me my mon­ey back, and gave me a kiss that was half admir­ing and half com­pas­sion­ate, but all wom­an­ly and good, I am sure.

A savvy cus­tomer for a pre-teen.

Boak

You can read David Cop­per­field for your­self at Project Guten­berg. Pic­ture cour­tesy of Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

A trio of East End riverside pubs (Wapping & Limehouse)

We love explor­ing Lon­don on foot, par­tic­u­lar­ly East Lon­don. There’s always some­thing to catch your eye in this area of con­trasts – the strange mix of the very rich and the very poor, incred­i­bly old build­ings pok­ing out between 1960s con­crete blocks, five-for-a-pound samosas next to £50-a-pop sea-bass restau­rants.

And if you’re inter­est­ed in beer, pubs and/or brew­ing his­to­ry, there’s stacks to see, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly to drink. About a year ago, we post­ed these pho­tos of old Tru­man, Han­bury and Bux­ton signs. This time, the theme of our walk was river­side pubs. We did­n’t plan a par­tic­u­lar route or crawl, we just head­ed for the riv­er around Wap­ping to see what we could see.

First­ly, we were intrigued to find our­selves on a Brew­house Lane, just off Wap­ping High Street, which fea­tured “improved indus­tri­al dwellings” from 1864 and Chim­ney court, com­plete with chim­ney. It def­i­nite­ly looks like an old brew­ery com­plex, but a bit of inter­net research has­n’t yet shed much light on which brew­ery, or when it was in oper­a­tion. John Roc­que’s 1747 map of Lon­don shows the street in exact­ly the same loca­tion. If any­one can shed any fur­ther light or even sug­gest where to go to get fur­ther infor­ma­tion, we’d be grate­ful.

Our first beer stop was the Cap­tain Kidd, on Wap­ping High Street, just behind Brew­house Lane. This Sam Smith’s pub looks like it’s been there for cen­turies, but appar­ent­ly only dates from the 1980s. They’ve made great use of the old build­ing in which it’s housed, with big win­dows look­ing over the Thames. There’s also a small beer garden/yard. The usu­al Sam Smith’s selec­tion is avail­able, plus food. All in all, a real­ly nice spot.

Wap­ping High Street con­tin­ues east and becomes Wap­ping Wall. There you’ll find the famous Prospect of Whit­by which dates from 1520 and claims to be the old­est river­side tav­ern. The place just oozes his­to­ry and has lots of prime river­side views. In the summer,the small beer gar­den under the mas­sive weep­ing wil­low is beau­ti­ful; in the win­ter, it’s a cosy place to look out onto the grey Thames and read your favourite East End Dick­ens scenes. The beer selec­tion is unex­cit­ing (Lon­don Pride and Greene King prod­ucts) but it’s in rea­son­ably good nick.

After the Prospect of Whit­by, we kept fol­low­ing the Thames Path east­ward. Wap­ping becomes Lime­house and on Nar­row Street we passed “The Nar­row”, once the home of the Tay­lor Walk­er “Bar­ley Mow brew­ery”, now a Gor­don Ram­sey gas­trop­ub. Maybe it’s nice, maybe it’s not. We did­n’t go in.

The Grapes, fur­ther along Nar­row Street, is claimed to be the inspi­ra­tion (or one of the inspi­ra­tions) for the “Six Jol­ly Fel­low­ship Porters” pub in Our Mutu­al Friend. We’ve got no pri­ma­ry evi­dence to sup­port this, but Zythophile is bold enough to repeat the sug­ges­tion. It’s def­i­nite­ly an old place (cur­rent build­ing from 1720), with a great atmos­phere and nice beers – among them, Lon­don Pride, TT Land­lord and a guest, this time Bate­man’s Valiant.

There’s a deck out the back where you can sit and hear (and occa­sion­al­ly feel) the Thames lap­ping up against the wall. It almost felt like we were beside the sea­side, par­tic­u­lar­ly with the stormy skies and chop­py water. Bliss. The first pho­to in this post was tak­en there.

Boak

Notes

The Cap­tain Kidd is at 108 Wap­ping High Street, E1W 2NE. Fur­ther west from here (no. 62) is anoth­er old pub, the Town of Rams­gate, which we found out about after­wards. That’s the dis­ad­van­tage of being spon­ta­neous and not plan­ning.

The Prospect of Whit­by is at 57 Wap­ping Wall, E1W 3SH. The near­est tube sta­tion for the Cap­tain Kidd and the Prospect of Whit­by would be Wap­ping, but it’s shut until 2010 for East Lon­don Line refur­bish­ment. Try Dock­lands Light Rail­way to Shad­well instead. Or have a bit of a walk from the City. You’re bound to see some­thing cool.

The Grapes is at 76 Nar­row Street, E14 8BP. Clos­est pub­lic trans­port is Lime­house DLR sta­tion.

We did­n’t have this walk­ing guide from the local coun­cil yes­ter­day. Might have been nice if we had!

Half-and-half

In Charles Dick­ens’ 1850 piece “Three Detec­tive Anec­dotes”, the police­man Inspec­tor Wield reports this attempt to get infor­ma­tion from a wit­ness:

When the play was over, we came out togeth­er, and I said, “We’ve been very com­pan­ion­able and agree­able, and per­haps you would­n’t object to a drain?” “Well, you’re very good,” says he; “I SHOULDN’T object to a drain.” Accord­ing­ly, we went to a pub­lic-house, near the The­atre, sat our­selves down in a qui­et room up-stairs on the first floor, and called for a pint of half-and-half, apiece, and a pipe.

What’s half-and-half? I asked myself.

Mod­ern ref­er­ences (Beer Advo­cate, amongst oth­ers) say that half-and-half is a cousin or a vari­ant of “black-and-tan”, and that it’s made by mix­ing pale ale and and stout. In fact, they spec­i­fy a mix of Guin­ness and a “mild or bit­ter beer”. Dick­ens’ char­ac­ters prob­a­bly weren’t drink­ing Guin­ness, though.

An even ear­li­er source – an 1820 trea­tise against the adul­ter­ation of food (Project Guten­berg e‑text) – cov­ers half-and-half in more detail. The author says that “every pub­li­can has two sorts of beer sent to him from the brew­er… ‘mild’, which is beer sent out fresh as it is brewed; the oth­er is called ‘old’ ”.

Half-and-half is a mix­ture of the two. So, instead of pay­ing for a full pint of the “good stuff”, the con­sumer could shave a lit­tle off the cost by vol­un­tary adul­ter­at­ing their beer. Pre­sum­ably, they might also choose to do so because the aged beer was sour, and so a bit much to take on its own.

And it was in try­ing to come up with a quick­er and eas­i­er way to serve mixed beer that Lon­don land­lords invent­ed “entire butt” (beer pre-mixed in the bar­rel, and com­ing from one tap) which in turn became the famous Lon­don Porter. Roger Protz and Gra­ham Wheel­er, in their excel­lent if eccen­tri­cal­ly type­set Brew Your Own British Real Ale at Home argue that “the orig­i­nal Lon­don Porters were sim­ply brown ales that were delib­er­ate­ly soured”.

So, how to sim­u­late a pint of Vic­to­ri­an half-and-half? I’d guess that get­ting two sim­i­lar beers (brown ales), sour­ing one, and keep­ing the oth­er fresh, is the best way to start. Fail­ing that, a dash of some­thing lam­bic in a brown ale might do the job.

I came across “Three Detec­tive Anec­dotes” in A Trea­sury of Vic­to­ri­an Detec­tive Sto­ries edit­ed by Everett F Bleil­er (Har­vest Press, 1980), but it’s also avail­able at Project Guten­berg for free.