Here’s all the bookmarkworthy writing about beer and pubs that landed in the past week, from the mysterious behaviour of dads to corn syrup.
First, some depressing news from the north west of England, in a story that’s unfolding right now: Cloudwater’s much-anticipated Family & Friends beer festival has run into a licencing issue and may not go ahead today. In a statement issued first thing this morning, the brewery said:
The police have informed us that Upper Campfield Market is not, as we have been assured on many occasions by the managing agent acting on behalf of Manchester City Council, licensed for the sale of alcohol. The attending police officer earlier this evening, the two licensing officers, a licensing solicitor, and even the night-time tzar of Greater Manchester, appear to have exhausted every option to allow us to operate in Upper Campfield Market tomorrow. If we ignore the licensing team, and run tomorrow anyway, I risk an unlimited fine or six months imprisonment.
It’s a reminder of just how much behind-the-scenes bureaucratic battling has to go on to put on any event with booze, and gives a glimpse into why entrepreneurs so often seem to end up regarding local government as the enemy.
Via Twitter, we’ve been asked to provide more information on plans by the European Common Market in 1973 to “harmonise European brewing methods”, as mentioned in Fintan O’Toole’s book Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain.
Mr O’Toole quotes from a story in the Daily Mirror (25/06/1973) headlined EUROBEERMENACE:
A Common Market threat to British beer united labour and Tory MPs yesterday. The threat came in reports of a plan by Market authorities to ‘harmonise’ brewing methods in member countries.
Mr. William Wilson, teetotal Labour MP for South Coventry, and Tory Sir Gerald Nabarro both plan to raise the issue with Food Minister Joseph Godber “in the interests of the beer drinkers of Britain.”
Sir Gerald said: “This would be a disaster. Our beer is world famous for its strength, nutritional value and excellence.”
It’s not hard to work out what people thought harmonisation might mean: mild and bitter banned, German-style lager everywhere, by order of Brussels.
But there’s very little detail in the story and it reads like typical fuss-about-nothing tabloid reporting wilfully missing the point for the sake of causing outrage. (On the same page: NOWFRIEDONIONSAREBANNEDATWIMBLEDON.)
Sure enough, it didn’t take much digging to find a report from the Economist from two days earlier (23/06/1973) announcing that these proposals had already been abandoned by the time the Mirror ran its piece.
Beer geeks, however, were talking about at least one specific technical issue: in the discussion around harmonisation proposals, there was a suggestion that only female (seedless) hops ought to be used in brewing across Europe. In England, however, male hops were historically grown alongside female, and people had a vague sense that male hops… er… made our beer taste more virile? Or something.
Richard Boston wrote about this in his Guardian column for 29 September 1973:
You can imagine the consternation with which I received the ugly rumour that in order to conform with the practice of our Common Market partners the male hop was going to be routed out here too… I got straight on the blower to the Hops Marketing Board… and asked their spokesman if it was true… “Absolute balls,” he replied.
The Economist followed the Eurobeer story closely, reporting on its progress over the next few years, as in this particularly interesting piece from 2 November 1974:
Much nonsense is talked by European politicians about Brussels busybodies trying madly to standardise European food and drink. Britain’s Mr Harold Wilson is just about the worst offender. At long last it has provoked a European civil servant into putting the record straight. Anonymously, he is circulating a paper dissecting each complaint. Most are exposed as innacurate…
Plans for Eurobeer and Eurobread – now withdrawn for review – neither outlaw nor standardise national brews and loaves. The aim is rather to demolish protectionist barriers which impede the free sale of these products across national boundaries. Germany, for example, has strict rules which virtually mean that if a beer is not brewed in the German way it cannot be called beer. The Commission’s Eurobeer plan would make Germany open its market to imported beers, including British ales, which meet a common European standard.
In 1975, the UK Government held a referendum on continued membership of the European Community. The threat of Eurobeer came up repeatedly in referendum campaign materials such as this pamphlet from the Government itself. A Q&A with the Consumer Association in the Daily Mirror for 30 May 1975 answers our question head on:
Q: What does ‘harmonisation’ mean? Shall we be drinking Eurobeer?
A: Harmonisation means getting our standards in line with those of other countries to enable us to sell our products to them. There are two types in the Common Market:
TOTAL: When a Common Market law says that only products which comply with that law can be sold at all in the Common Market;
OPTIONAL: When individual countries can allow products which do not conform to the law to be sold in their own countries…
But if there is a regulation on beer or bread, this will almost certainly be optional.
Oddly enough, even though the EC/EU didn’t implement any such plan, by the late 1980s, lager was everywhere in England anyway, much of it brewed in the UK under the supervision of continental European brewers, and sold under continental European brand names. Market economics and consumer demand did what the EC didn’t.
We’re increasingly convinced that if you pick up most popular novels published between about 1945 and 1970 and start flipping the pages you’ll soon stumble upon an extended passage about beer and/or pubs.
Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fright gets straight down to business: within the first 10 pages the protagonist, Grant, hits the hotel bar in the desolate outback settlement where he teaches.
“Schooner, Charlie,” he said to the hotel-keeper, who emerged from his dark back room wearing, for some reason, a waistcoat over his drenched shirt.
Charlie pulled the beer.
In the remote towns of the west there are few of the amenities of civilization; there is no sewerage, there are no hospitals, rarely a doctor; the food is dreary and flavourless from long carrying, the water is bad; electricity is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are mostly non-existent; there are no theatres, no picture shows and few dance halls; and the people are saved from stark insanity by the one strong principle of progress that is ingrained for a thousand miles, east, north, south and west of the Dead Heart – the beer is always cold.
The teacher let his fingers curl around the beaded glass, quelling the little spurt of bitterness that rose when he saw the size of the head of froth on the beer, because, after all, it didn’t matter, and this poor devil of a hotel-keeper had to stay here and he was going east.
He drank quickly at first, swamping the dryness in his throat in a flood of beer; and then, when the glass was half empty, he drank slowly, letting the cold alcohol relax his body.
Wake in Fright has been adapted for the screen twice, mostly recently in 2017, and the most recent edition from Text Classics is a TV tie-in. Our edition is a Penguin paperback from 1967 and cost £2.50.
Arup is an architecture firm founded in 1946 by Ove Arup, born in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK to Danish parents in 1895, and educated in Denmark. Though he died in 1988 the company lives on, its name a byword for modernism.
In 1970, Arup was commissioned by Carlsberg Brewery Ltd to design a new plant in Northampton in the English Midlands, just as the lager boom was beginning to bite. The cost of the project was £15 million; Carlsberg supplied the brewery equipment and defined the necessities of the space according to production need; and Arup commissioned Danish architect Knud Munk to produce a design that would “express the best in modern Danish architecture”.
As well as lots of detail in the text the magazine also includes process charts…
…and lots of dramatic black-and-white photography of the brewery building at various stages of construction, set in the flat landscape against dramatic skies…
…which are either awe-inspiring or grim depending on your point of view.
It’s fascinating to think of this hulk appearing, with attendant talk of efficiency and automation, at just the exact moment the Campaign for Real Ale was taking off. This is about as far from all that imagery of wooden casks, old inns and pewter tankards as you can get.
And the emphasis throughout on the Danishness of the project – Danish brewers, Danish architect, officially opened by the Queen of Denmark – while canny in terms of underlining the authenticity of the product was also at odds with the growing sense that Local was somehow a sacred virtue.
We’ve been researching this building and Carlsberg’s arrival in the UK on and off for years and this showed up in one of our periodic check-ins. There are times we worry about the state of corporate archives and others when we feel like we’re living in the best possible age, with digitising getting cheaper and companies realising the value of their own history.
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 ORIGINALLONDONSTOUT. 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.