For those of us who feel sad whenever a pub vanishes, this is a sad life. Progress, reconstruction, town-planning, war, all have one thing in common: the pubs go down before them like poppies under the scythe.
Maurice Gorham, The Local, 1939
Early in 2012, regulars at the Ivy House, a 1930s pub in Nunhead, South London, were stunned when its owners, Enterprise Inns, gave the manager a week’s notice and boarded the building up.
Howard Peacock, a secondary school teacher in his 30s who regarded the Ivy House as his ‘local’, felt what he calls a ‘sense of massive injustice’:
[The] pub was one that should have been able to stay open in any fair trading environment. The small local pubco that was running it… had been making a go of it even with restricted stocking options and limited profit margins thanks to the beer tie…
But he and his fellow drinkers (Tessa Blunden, Emily Dresner, Stuart Taylor and Hugo Simms) did something more than merely grumble and begin the hunt for a new haunt: instead, they launched a campaign to SAVE THE IVY HOUSE!
Nowadays, the idea of a community campaign to save a pub hardly seems remarkable — they are seen as an endangered species, the cruel property developers’ harpoons glancing off their leathery old skin — but a hundred years ago, thing were very different. Then, a cull was underway.
It’s Saturday! But wait — before you rush off to bomb around the town centre on your BMX and buy Pick’n’Mix at Woolworths, here are a few things we’ve spotted during the week.
→ The picture above shows Marston’s new range of keg beers branded and sold under the ‘Revisionist‘ label. Though some will inevitably groan at a big player with a poor reputation among beer geeks ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, we can’t deny that we’re intrigued.
→ David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop has this week’s most inspiring home brew recipe. Well, not a recipe — just a germ of an idea, but a good one: the dankest beer ever. (Would 1001 Inspiring Ideas for Home Brewers be a good book?)
→ This week’s inspiring home brew recipeis from Ron Pattinson and Kristen England’s series of ‘Let’s Brew Wednesday’ posts: Tetley’s Mild, 1945. It’s interesting to see flaked barley among the ingredients — a hangover from wartime restrictions, Ron reckons. We’re definitely going to make this at some point.
But more than snacking, this audience joins Falstaff in drinking heavily, ordering up their ale and wine straight through the performance and the intermission… As Thomas Platter, a Swiss visitor to London, noted in his diary in 1599, “During the performance food and drink are carried round the audience, so that for what one cares to pay one may also have refreshment.” The distractions were many, not only from drunk patrons themselves: ale produced a hissing noise when tapped, and those opening it were shouted down by audience members annoyed by the sound.
You don’t have to link to us or mention us (though of course we appreciate it when people do), but you will want to use the Twitter hashtag #beerylongreads and/or email us a link if you want to be included in the round-up.
We have already agreed to review and edit another couple of writers’ posts, and have someone lined up to edit ours. If you’d like us to look at your post, give some advice on structure and generally help you polish it up, we can probably handle a few more if you can email your draft to us by Friday 28 February.
What we’re writing about
We’re going to attempt to write a capsule history of the pub preservation movement. If you’ve had a historic involvement in pub preservation, or think there are books and articles we ought to read, drop us a line at email@example.com, or comment below.
The Voice of America website has a long article on craft brewing in South Africa (via @beerhasahistory on Twitter). If you can ignore its offhand attempts to define craft beer, and the assumption that ‘craft beer’ is necessarily ‘good’, it’s an interesting glimpse into yet another burgeoning brewing scene. Highlight? This Afrikaans idiom:
“I think people think I’m a spoilt brat. I think that’s what a big part of it comes down to. You know: ‘Daddy gave her a brewery; sy’t met haar gat in die botter geval…’” [She fell with her bottom in the butter]
Not long after Geoff Larson dumped the thirteenth batch of what would eventually be the first brand Alaskan Brewing sold he poured out the fourteenth. Then the fifteenth, and the sixteenth… [read more at Appellation Beer]
As a beer geek it’s not uncommon to feel like the intruder at the party… My intention is not to mock but instead to point out that the ways of the devoted beer hunter can often seem quite foreign to virtually everyone else on the planet. [Read more at Beer Battered…][/ezcol_2third_end]
Alongside Mild, Bitter is the beer style that probably troubles people the most; the definition is broad, somewhat cumbersome and with no ‘sexy’ aspects to it. Yet Bitter defines a UK region like no other…. [Read more at The Good Stuff][/ezcol_2third_end]
When we say ‘longer than usual’, we mean 1,500 words minimum, but we’re aiming for 2,000+ this time.
As before, pro-writers might want to consider using this as an opportunity to give an airing to something from their back catalogue, or publish a piece that’s never found a home.
Our fellow bloggers might want to give their writing muscles a workout, perhaps by conducting research or interviews, and telling a bigger story than they would usually attempt. (That’s how we’re approaching it.)
Or, screw that — just have some fun with a stream of consciousness, personal memoir, a list — whatever.
Last time, we avoided suggesting a Twitter hashtag because, ugh, hashtags, but several innocent bystanders did suggest they’d have welcomed an easy way to find people’s contributions. With that in mind, how do people feel about #beerylongreads?
Now, with astounding arrogance, we present some tips and ideas…
If you pick a big subject, you’ll sail to 1,500 words.
Alternatively, pick a small subject, but go into ludicrous detail — perhaps tell the story of a single grain of malt.
Or go high concept: present a review of a single beer as a round table discussion between ten historical figures.
Go to the library and skim a few books or old newspapers. You’re bound to find a story worth telling.
Michael ‘Beer Hunter’Jackson’s first writing gig was a column called This is Your Pub in a local paper in Yorkshire — why not paint a portrait of your local pub, its history, regulars, and the publicans?
Struggling to make 1,500 words? Drop in one or two 100-word quotes. This is how Norman Davies gets his books up to the requisite fatness.
This post is an attempt to shine a light on just a few of the female brewers, campaigners and writers who have helped to shape today’s lively ‘alternative’ beer culture, and also to reflect on the challenges they’ve faced.
Part 1. Equally revolting
Women weren’t made to feel all that welcome in the early days of the struggle against the Big Six brewers.
The essentially backward-looking and conservative Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood (SPBW) founded in 1963 received its first application for membership from a woman in 1965 — an eventuality which had not been taken into account when the constitution was drawn up. After much debate, founder member John Gore proposed a compromise: that women be permitted to join as associate members.
When the Campaign for Real Ale came along in 1971, it borrowed some of its style and rhetoric from socially liberal protest groups, and its senior ranks were filled with young, open-minded people who had grown up during the sexual revolution of the nineteen-sixties. Though a streak of ‘robust’ (sexist) humour was, according to Roger Protz, a core part of CAMRA’s identity in those early days, the Campaign not only allowed but positively encouraged women to join.
In April 1973, Valerie Mason was elected to its ten-strong National Executive… as secretary, of course. Margaret Clark-Monks joined the NE in 1977 and served for seven years, though Chairman Tony Millns’ comment when she stood down is telling: ‘She was much more than the statutory woman…’
Christine Cryne, now a director at CAMRA, recalled the experience of being a female member in the Campaign’s first decade:
My grandmother used to drink beer including the bottled Worthington White Shield… [so] I had no preconceptions that women didn’t drink beer… I joined CAMRA in 1977 to attend AGM in Blackpool that year but I had been involved with the local branch (Reading) for about a year before then, helping out at the local beer festival… It was a much smaller organisation in those days and there was a good cross section of people of all ages and a real commitment to making a difference… My second branch was Bedford and, like Reading, there were a few women involved so that helped but I studied a science course and I was the only female on it so I suppose I was used to being in an environment that was male dominated (and having two brothers, both of whom I signed up to CAMRA).
Well into the nineteen-eighties, women within the Campaign continued, on occasion, to be treated as ‘totty’, pressed into service modelling sweatshirts in awkwardly-posed photographs on the cover of What’s Brewing.
When a full page of the 1985 Good Beer Guide was given over to a bawdy Bill Tidy cartoon (pictured), it was the final straw for member Michelle McBride, who wrote a letter of complaint:
I cannot be bothered to get angry… but must register my quiet disappointment that blatant sexism is still found amusing… It is difficult to believe that the possibility of increased female CAMRA membership is treated with such supercilious contempt.
This kind of issue fed into a greater anxiety about the Campaign’s fortunes: it was generally felt to be dominated by middle-aged, middle-class, boorish, boring men, and membership remained low compared to the late seventies. It needed to change if it was to attract new, younger members.
Though Christine Cryne does not consider it to have been a political decision, the appointment of Andrea Gillies as editor of the Good Beer Guide in 1988 nonetheless sent a strong signal. A 27-year-old English graduate who described herself as ‘a yuppie with principles’, Gillies oversaw a complete overhaul of the GBG, and her arrival was announced in the ‘How to use this guide’ spoof sample entry which opened the 1989 edition (below).
There was a woman pictured on the cover (sort of — the illustration is dreadful); new female contributors (Roz Morris, Virginia Matthews, Katherine Adams); and a fresh emphasis on food and dining, still regarded by many as the key to making beer more appealing to women.
Just to be entirely sure the message was being hammered home, Adams’s contribution was a polemic entitled ‘Women And the Pub: the bitter truth’:
Speaking personally, the biggest drawback with pubs is, to be blunt, that they were designed by and large for men… [Women] simply don’t feel comfortable going into a pub alone… [Women] who actually like pubs are familiar with… the assumption of the assembled males that a woman who comes alone into a pub must be either a scarlet woman or a pint-swilling harridan.
This lurch into self-conscious female friendliness did not please everyone: ‘I suspect I have a lot of enemies among the old guard members,’ Gillies said in 1988. The point having been made, it was toned down for the 1990 edition of the Guide, which nonetheless retained an emphasis on food and on a more sophisticated approach to ‘tasting’.
When Gillies finally handed over the editor’s seat to Jeff Evans for the 1991 edition, she left the GBG fundamentally changed — it would never go back to the days of sexist cartoons, and female writers such as Susan Nowak became a fixture, even if they did often end up writing about food and the ‘daintier’ side of beer appreciation.
The following year, another high profile job within the Campaign went to a woman, as Christine Cryne recalled: ‘When I became the first female organiser of the Great British Beer Festival, it created a great deal of media attention and, I hope, encouraged more women to become involved in the event.’ In 1995, the theme for the festival was ‘Women and beer’, and the programme contained the following observation:
No woman at any CAMRA beer festival will get a quip or an odd look if she asks for a pint. We just now have to wait for everyone else to catch up.
Part 2. Slaving Over a Hot Mash Tun
In most manufacturing industries in the post-war period, women, if they were present at all, worked in offices or on production lines. In breweries, they worked as secretaries or in bottling plants, but not brewers.
Of course, there were odd exceptions — hangovers from an earlier age when many women brewed, such as the All Nations Inn ‘homebrew house’ at Telford, Shropshire, described by Frank Baillie in his 1973 Beer Drinker’s Companion:
Mrs [Eliza] Lewis does all the brewing and has done so for the last thirty-eight years… Once a week, when most good citizens are in the depths of their slumber, Mrs Lewis rises in the small hours and commences operations at 3 a.m…. The vats hold about 260 gallons and Mrs Lewis used to move the liquor from once vat to the next by means of a hand ladle.
More typical, however, was the reaction of the Daily Express in 1977 to the discovery that 23-year-old Fiona McNish was working as a beer taster at Paine’s of St Neot: ‘Fiona, long brown hair, topographical as the Alps, a very feminine lady, has worked her way deep into male territory.’
The new generation of less conservative, often very small breweries which began to appear from the mid-seventies onward offered far more opportunity for women to get involved, sometimes out of pure necessity.
When David and Louise Bruce opened the first of their chain of Firkin pubs in London from 1979, though David was the face of the business, and had experience in the industry, both consider it to have been an equal partnership. (Well, almost: ‘Chauvinist bastard that I was back then, when we set up the company, I gave Louise 49% and I kept 51%, because I had to be in control!’) It was Louise who wrote the original business plan from David’s rough notes, and, later, when she wasn’t ferrying buckets of yeast around London from one pub to another in her car, she also did her share of early morning brewing.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, Anne Scullion was the driving force behind Hilden Brewery, which she founded in 1981 with her husband, Seamus. She spent two months with Peter Austin at Ringwood learning to brew, before commencing work at Hilden with the assistance of Heriot-Watt graduate Brendan Dobbin. As well as hands-on brewing, she also drove the delivery van. A 1982 newspaper profile calls her a ‘mother-of-three’ and an ‘engaging blonde’ but otherwise treats her with respect. Women in brewing were beginning to be taken seriously.
It is a sign of progress, perhaps, that we have no idea whether Kim Taylor was ‘engaging’, blonde, pretty or a mother. She was appointed head brewer at the Orange Brewery, a Clifton Inns Firkin imitator in West London, in 1983, at the age of 23. Ann Hills, writing for the Guardian, included Taylor as one of many examples of women finding paid employment in areas previously the preserve of men. Taylor eventually went on to be supervising head brewer for the entire Clifton Inns group of brewpubs, though what became of here thereafter is something of a mystery.
At Traquair House in Scotland, Catherine Maxwell Stuart had been helping her father in the tiny country house brewery since the early nineteen-seventies, when she was around ten years old:
It was a great treat because I was allowed to stay up late and help with the cooling process which involved ladling the beer for up to three hours to help it cool to the correct temperature…Then we had to wait for a Customs office to come out and verify the original gravity so we would sometimes be up until midnight. The other job I did was cleaning the vessels – not so much fun but there was a huge amount of scrubbing to be done before and after every brew.
When Peter Maxwell Stuart died in 1990, Catherine not only became the ‘lady laird’ but also took charge of the brewery, which role she still performs today.
3. Enough to form a football team
In the last thirty years, though brewing remains male-dominated, things have changed. There are now many breweries owned or run by women, such as Wilson Potter of Manchester, Mallinson’s of Huddersfield, and Waen of Powys.
A number of them have formed a kind of promotional union, under the name Project Venus, and have brewed several beers together to date.
With the increased interest in producing lager and other European styles among newer (trendy) small breweries, there also seems to be an influx of female technical expertise from continental Europe, such as Italian Giada Maria Simioni at Huddersfield’s Magic Rock, and Swede Sarah Hjalmarsson at Cornwall’s Harbour.
In the wake of Andrea Gillies, beer writing, too, has ceased to be the sole preserve of bearded, professorial men peering over the rims of their glasses. Melissa Cole’s book Let Me Tell You About Beer was published in 2011 and is (we think) the first such general educational guide, after the style of Michael Jackson or Roger Protz, by a female writer.‘I was offered two book deals before Anova came along to write a woman’s only guide for beer,’ Cole told us. She rejected them. Let Me Tell You isn’t a ‘girls guide’, and is admirably gender-neutral in tone and design — no pink, no high heels and handbags, and no Sex and the City nonsense.
Another first was the appointment, ten years ago, of 44-year-old Paula Waters to the top job as chair of the Campaign for Real Ale — a position she would hold for six years. Though, inevitably, the press wanted her to talk about women and beer, and she was obliged to give soundbites on that subject, she always confesses to finding it ‘exceedingly tedious’ and something of a non-issue: ‘I firmly believe that there are no real differences between men and women.’ She is proud of her time as CAMRA chair, but not because of anything relating to her gender: ‘I believe under my tenure CAMRA became very stable financially and the organisation of the Head Office team was restructured, allowing the campaign to grow and develop to meet the needs of the 21st century.’
4. Calm down, dear!
Why do we need a Project Venus? Why, when Harbour appointed a female brewer, did the local newspaper focus on her gender in the first line of the story? Why do some female beer writers feel compelled to call themselves sluts, beauties and babes? And why do women working in pubs and bars still report this kind of incident?
The simple answer is because the presence of women in the world of beer is not quite completely normal, not quite yet. Melissa Cole:
I think there’s a long way to go. Women have been disenfranchised from beer for thirty to forty years and it’s going to take time, it’s going to take effort, it’s going to take commitment and it’s probably not going to fully turn around in my lifetime.
She might be right, though perhaps Mrs Lewis at the All Nations would have been surprised to hear it.