Someone — we don’t know who — spent the week of 22-28 August 1908 visiting the capital of the British Empire and brought home as a souvenir a photo book called 350 Views of London.
They wrote the dates of their holiday on the inside cover in pencil. The book then spent at least some of the past century somewhere damp — an attic or shed — so that its cover buckled and the staples holding it together rusted away. That’s why we were able to by this relic for a couple of quid from the junk box in a secondhand bookshop in Bristol.
Among those 350 photos, some full-page, others fairly tiny, there are a handful that particularly grabbed our attention, for obvious reasons.
This is one of the clearest, most detailed views we’ve seen of the Spaten Beer Restaurant at Piccadilly — a pioneering London lager outlet that we obsessed over during the writing of Gambrinus Waltz. We still desperately want to see a view of the interior but this is nice to have.
The book contains two views of one particular pub, The King Lud at Ludgate Circus. This is interesting to us because Jess drank in it fairly regularly in its final years when it was branded as part of the Hogshead chain. It is now a Leon restaurant, but recognisably the same building.
The beer connection in this shot of the Royal Exchange is a little less obvious: look at those two omnibuses in the centre — they’re advertising Tennent’s Lager, as distributed in London by Findlater & Co of London Bridge. This is a reminder that Germany and Austria-Hungary weren’t the only countries importing lager to London in the years before World War I.
We haven’t seen this shot of Tottenham Court Road before, or any other from quite this angle. That’s Meux’s Horse Shoe brewery and the attached brewery tap to the right — the site of the famous beer flood. The sign above the brewery door advertises MEUX’S ORIGINAL LONDON STOUT. We’d like to know more about the Horse Shoe Hotel’s ‘American Bar’.
The Saracen’s Head was on Snow Hill in the City of London. We can’t quite pin down the precise location, even after looking at contemporary maps, aerial photos and the comprehensive Pubs History website. An educated guess is that it was destroyed during the Blitz — if you know otherwise, or can tell us exactly where it was, do comment below.
In our most recent email newsletter (sign up here) we challenged people to produce a 100-word bit of writing about beer or pubs under the banner #BeeryShortreads, as the antidote to #BeeryLongreads which is now only a few weeks away.
Here are all the entries we received, with the winner of a paper copy of Gambrinus Waltz and a set of badges named at the bottom.
Studying for the Beer Sommelier exam turns beer into homework. You drink the style you need to study rather than the one you feel like drinking. You taste four beers side by side in the middle of the day because that’s the only time you have free. But it’s the middle of the day, so you taste just enough and pour the rest away. It can be lonely, sat there obsessing over tiny variations in flavour. Drinking in a way most people wouldn’t consider. Nerding out over off flavours and food pairings. I love it though. This feels like me.
Remember when you could get a pint for less than three quid? Remember when pubs used to smell interesting? Remember when you could order a drink without being stuck behind people waiting for Gin cocktails? Remember when everywhere shut at 11pm? Remember when pubs closed in the afternoons? Remember when this place was heaving every lunchtime? Remember when I could drink six pints without needing a piss? Remember when she used to be in here with me every night? Remember when the police were called? Remember when this place got shut down?
Just me then?
I’ll have a lucky dip for tonight too….and some green Rizla.
‘Do you realise it’s really sour?’ asks the barman at ‘t Brugs Beertje. It is 2011. I’ve ordered my first ever sour beer – 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze. I have been in Bruges for a whole day and now I am ready. I have read about champagne flavours, tartness, beer-that-isn’t- like-beer. ‘Oh yes’ I say, confidently. I take a sip. My tongue shrinks, I worry my teeth might dissolve. It takes me an hour to finish it and I feel a little traumatised. Yet days, weeks later, I think about it. One stiflingly hot summer’s day I realise a cold, sour, cheek-puckering beer is the only answer, and I am right.
Pi Bar Altrincham. Or a Bar called Pi? Untappd seems to think so. By design or chance you can see right down the road. Big windows. Like a moving small town painting. Looks better when it’s raining. Gives it a watercolour sheen. Noisy. Especially THAT laugh. Dogs welcome, as are children. Staff who stick around. Chatty. The Boss always lets on, knows your name. Beer artwork. Boddingtons. Fancy American brewery. Belgian. All bases covered. Early drink after buying the veg from the market. The old couple are in. As they leave, ‘See you next week!’ Him: ‘I hope so’.
Mark Bailey (no relation)
100 words is a challenging limit,
To write a blog post with something interesting in it.
Carefully selecting a subject to cover,
something to appeal to the UK beer lover.
What can I talk about? I know, revitalisation,
It’s the latest buzz word issue, dividing the nation.
Only its a bit too intense to fit into some prose,
And my thoughts on the subject I think everyone knows.
I could talk about a cracking West Coast IPA,
But everyone does that, every day.
I need something controversial, make everyone shout,
I can write loads of words, except, wait, I’ve run out..
Why increase in size from schooners to size/strength combinations rarely available even in specialist bars?
Whether delicious or terrible I’d prefer smaller sizes when unable to share. Smaller mean more different beers can be tried. Smaller mean Fewer should miss out.
Is it even sensible to routinely sell Doubles, Triples and Imperials in 440 millilitres and larger?
I think not; but still I buy.
Time to choose between multiple glasses, a murky top-up or pouring some away.
<Grabs another schooner>
RUSHED HALF DOWN ORWELL’S MOON
What’s great about Orwell’s fantasy boozer?
The strawberry pint pots – bar service – minimalist menu? Lovely… but isn’t it quaint to the point of twee?
The scariest thing: George Orwell’s there. What does one say to the man? “Loved Animal Farm, but 1984 was a bit heavy…” – “tell us about the wars”? “Y’like Corbyn then”? I’d want to hear the man speak… but my banality would ruin the ambience for us both.
I’d find the presence of the literary giant intimidating. Orwell would spoil The Moon Under Water. I’d be happier, miserably, at Wetherspoons…
* * *
We’re really grateful to everyone for taking part (imagine throwing a party and nobody comes) but our favourite was by…
When Martin, Amund, and I were invited to visit Roar to explore the local beer style stjørdalsøl, Roar figured that he might as well make use of the three visiting beer ‘experts,’ and have us do a set of talks for the local home brewing association… They’d set it up as a rather grand affair, and the mayor himself came by to open the evening. I was a bit surprised by this, until the mayor started talking. He said a few words about the cultural importance of the local brewing, and then added that ‘Usually, when I do something like this I give the organizers flowers. But in this case I thought beer would be more suitable.’ At which point he took out a bottle and handed it to the chairman of the brewer’s association. It turned out that the mayor is also a farmhouse brewer, and since this is Stjørdal, he of course makes his own malts, too.
The most simple answer is that these paintings are the early modern version of searching for “dog who thinks he’s a human” on YouTube. They’re funny. Paintings of intoxicated monkeys were actually a sub-set of a larger genre of paintings known as Singerie, which poked fun at occupations ranging from drunkard to painter by portraying the participants as frivolous simians… [But] I think that what we’re missing when we simply see these as a form of social satire is that these are also paintings about addiction.
Great atmospheres are created with our ears as much as our other senses. Conversation and laughter emit from secluded seats, across bars and around rickety tables. Why is this? The simplicity of the everyday – the nicks and scratches and bare wood – isn’t trying to be more or any better. As such, more honest and heartfelt and open conversations are debated around pub tables… Informality and a certain lack of posturing put people at ease. If you want to hear the truth from someone, talk to them in the pub. The point they put their drink down and say: ‘Look, the truth is…’ you’ve figuratively helped them remove their armour.
We were regaling the bar staff about our quest to explore all 270 London tube stations when a bystander sauntered over:
‘I used to do a similar thing, but on the national rail network,’ he boasted nonchalantly.
We made noises of the noncommittal variety, half impressed and half mistrustful.
‘Yeah, me and the lads would stick a pin in the rail map on a Friday night and go out boozing all weekend. Glasgow was a great one – I had to buy myself some new clothes there mind you.’
Since working on Gambrinus Waltz we’ve been itching to taste an authentic recreation of a 19th century Vienna beer — what were they really like? Now Andreas Krenmair, who is working on a book about homebrewing historic styles, has some new information from close to the source:
I visited the Schultze-Berndt library located at VLB and curated by the Gesellschaft für Geschichte des Brauwesens… [where] I stumbled upon a Festschrift regarding 100 years of brewing Vienna lager, aptly named ‘Schwechater Lager’. While not having that much content, it still had some bits and pieces that gave away some information, including the beautiful water colour illustrations… One image in particular contained something very interesting: pictures of huge stacks of hop bales… These hop bales clearly show the marking ‘SAAZ’.
Brewery Takeover News
It’s been a busy week in the US: AB-InBev swooped in to acquire Wicked Weed of North Carolina. Good Beer Hunting partners with AB-InBev on various projects and takes a broadly positive line to such acquisitions these days but its story covers the key points well: Wicked Weed is a niche buy for AB; fans have reacted with particular irritation to this one; and other breweries are responding in various ways, including withdrawing from Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium Festival.
Then the following day Heineken picked up the part of Lagunitas it didn’t already own. This story was covered at Brewbound which generally takes an editorial line which seems to us moderately critical of big beer and AB-InBev in particular. Its editor seems to spend quite a bit of time bickering about disclosure and propriety with Good Beer Hunting on Twitter, too.
Two Saturdays hence (May 13), AB InBev is hosting a massively expensive party in Bend. They’re promoting it the way only one of the largest companies in the world can–with prizes, a big music lineup (including De La Soul!), and the kind of overheated marketing gloss the finest agencies supply. The occasion celebrates the founding of a brewery AB InBev purchased in 2014. Shockingly enough, this is not the way they’re talking about it… Indeed, the entire event is an exercise in disguising this detail.
But we’re with Jeff: a brand built primarily on the value of Independence is being dishonest, even exploitative of consumers, if it doesn’t actively disclose its change in status for at least a few years after acquisition.
There’s more paperwork and bureaucracy to work through now, but not a lot more. I’ve worked in this industry for a while, and the biggest thing I learned during that time is how jaw-droppingly loosey-goosey most breweries are and how little structure there is with most craft breweries. You’d be surprised how many craft breweries don’t even know their real margins. It’s just basic business things. So to answer your question about whether there’s more bureaucracy and oversight now, I’d say no more than your average company; it’s just that most breweries have so little.
The only problem with this anonymous account is that it’s exactly the kind of thing we’d authorise if we worked in PR for AB — broadly upbeat with the only negatives, like the one above, actually being backhanded boasts.
But maybe this is really how it is and all this intrigue is just making us paranoid.
And, finally, this seems like a good advertisement for the Tour de Geuze which is underway in Belgium at this very moment:
For his fictional composite Conrad borrowed a location from two real establishments, Darmstätter’s and the Tivoli, which stood near each other on the Strand, while its name would seem to be a reference to an entirely different establishment, Ye Olde Gambrinus, which we think is pictured above in a photograph from around 1902.
Most of the thirty or so little tables covered by red cloths with a white design stood ranged at right angles to the deep brown wainscoting of the underground hall. Bronze chandeliers with many globes depended from the low, slightly vaulted ceiling, and the fresco paintings ran flat and dull all round the walls without windows, representing scenes of the chase and of outdoor revelry in medieval costumes. Varlets in green jerkins brandished hunting knives and raised on high tankards of foaming beer.
‘Unless I am very much mistaken, you are the man who would know the inside of this confounded affair,’ said the robust Ossipon, leaning over, his elbows far out on the table and his feet tucked back completely under his chair. His eyes stared with wild eagerness.
An upright semi-grand piano near the door, flanked by two palms in pots, executed suddenly all by itself a valse tune with aggressive virtuosity. The din it raised was deafening. When it ceased, as abruptly as it had started, the be-spectacled, dingy little man who faced Ossipon behind a heavy glass mug full of beer emitted calmly what had the sound of a general proposition.
‘In principle what one of us may or may not know as to any given fact can’t be a matter for inquiry to the others.’
‘Certainly not,’ Comrade Ossipon agreed in a quiet undertone. ‘In principle.’
With his big florid face held between his hands he continued to stare hard, while the dingy little man in spectacles coolly took a drink of beer and stood the glass mug back on the table.
The editor, Tim Holt, very kindly describes it as ‘well written and superbly researched’ and suggests that we ought to continue the story at book-length. Perhaps it’s time to dust off that draft proposal for a history of lager in Britain and have another go at touting it round?
In the same issue (Winter 2014, No. 160) there is a complementary article about the lager brewery in Tottenham, North London, in which Mr Holt has compiled various pieces from 1880s editions of the Brewers’ Guardian. They confirm what we found to be suggested in census records — that the entire staff of the brewery was of German origin — and add much more detail besides, such as the fact that the brewery was kitted out by Noback Bros. & Fritze of Prague.
And here’s a comment on the beer from 1882 which goes some way to explaining the appeal of lager in Britain:
A bottle of lager beer has been confidentially shown to us, and we must admit that its brightness and clearness really surpasses everything we have hitherto seen about beers.
Any brewers wanting to produce an authentic historic 19th century London lager could do worse than start by mining these pieces for details of, e.g., mashing procedures.
“These Soho dinners are excellently cooked and very cheap. Only the wine is dearer in England than in France. There you can get a carafon for a few pence, and good it is. But here the cheapest half-bottle is tenpence, and often disappointing. The wise drink beer. It is Charles Godfrey Leland who, in his jovial scrap of autobiography, ascribes all the vigour and jolly energy of his life to the strengthening effects of Brobdingnagian draughts of lager beer drunk under the tuition of the German student. It is good companionable stuff, and a tankard of it costs only sixpence, or less.”
Artist Édouard Manet (1832-1883), a pioneer of impressionism, liked to paint Parisian street scenes, bars and cafés, and had a particular knack for capturing the look of light glinting from a cool glass of golden beer.
The frequency with which he depicted women drinking beer — positively chugging it — is also striking.
The gallery begins with a painting much over-used in books and articles about beer but which we couldn’t ignore. We’ve also pulled out a couple of interesting details for closer attention.
We referred to these pictures a lot while working on Gambrinus Waltz — it might have been the wrong city, but lager came to London via Paris, and the atmosphere of London’s lager beer saloons was similarly racy.