Further Reading #3: Boddies and Opening Times at Manchester Library

Researching 20th Century Pub we spent time in some great libraries and archives with rich collections of pub- and beer-related material. This is the third in a series of blog posts intended to highlight great resources we hope you’ll go an look up yourself.

Man­ches­ter’s Cen­tral Library feat. Archives+, as we think it is for­mal­ly called, is on St Peter’s Square oppo­site the famous Mid­land Hotel. It’s a grand build­ing con­struct­ed in the 1930s but in clas­si­cal style and is round with a dome. You’ll find most of the impor­tant stuff on the ground floor – not only ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al on open access but also the archive read­ing room.

We found access­ing the archives a bit of a bureau­crat­ic ordeal, if we’re hon­est. News­pa­pers on micro­fiche are avail­able on site along with a cer­tain num­ber of ref­er­ence texts but the stuff we were after – brew­ery records, local plan­ning doc­u­ments – had to be ordered well in advance, a few at at ime. That’s fine if you hap­pen to live in Man­ches­ter but trav­el­ling from Pen­zance as we were at the time it was rather lim­it­ing. Still, the library staff could not have been more help­ful, not least in point­ing us to alter­na­tive sources for some doc­u­ments such as this online archive of his­toric plan­ning pub­li­ca­tions.

City of Manchester Plan, 1945

Via those off-site stacks we did man­age to get access to some beau­ti­ful hand-drawn and coloured city plan­ning maps the size of bed­spreads, their text applied with sten­cils or rub-down let­ter­ing. They were a night­mare to han­dle and not actu­al­ly all that much use in the end though there was cer­tain­ly a thrill attached to see­ing PUBLIC HOUSE or PH marked here or there. (See main pic­ture, above.)

The best things we looked at – again, not much of which actu­al­ly informed 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub – were records from Bod­ding­ton’s Brew­ery. Of course we looked up recipes in the brew­ing logs, though Ron Pat­tin­son has done a much more thor­ough job of pro­cess­ing those since we tipped him off to their renewed avail­abil­i­ty. We also ploughed through board minute books which were crammed with fas­ci­nat­ing details – notes on spe­cif­ic pubs and pub­li­cans, indus­tri­al acci­dents, local pol­i­tick­ing and the birth of the nation­al Beer is Best cam­paign in the 1930s, to name but a few. There are also lots of inserts like this:

Report on the 1966 hop crop.

Out­side in the main ref­er­ence library, into which you can wan­der from the street more or less when­ev­er you like, for as long as you like, and help your­self to mate­r­i­al from the shelves, there is a real trea­sure trove of use­ful stuff.

First there’s what would seem to be a com­plete set of the beer and pub his­to­ry pam­phlets pub­lished by Neil Richard­son. Most are about the size and weight of a stan­dard mag­a­zine and have the appear­ance of fanzines with coloured card cov­ers, rough­ly repro­duced pho­tographs and word-proces­sor-for­mat­ted text. The qual­i­ty of the con­tents varies too but the best among them, e.g. The Old Pubs of Chorl­ton-upon-Med­lock, are trea­sure troves of oral his­to­ry and for­aged fact. (Some are now avail­able for Kin­dle at rea­son­able prices if you fan­cy a quick taster with­out trav­el­ling to Man­ches­ter.)

The Old Pubs of Ancoats

Then there’s the bound set of edi­tions of the local Cam­paign for Real Ale mag­a­zine Open­ing Times run­ning from 1994 to (we think) the present day. Man­ches­ter was an inter­est­ing place on the beer front in the 1990s with Bren­dan Dob­bin’s pio­neer­ing exper­i­ments with New World hops, the birth and evo­lu­tion of Mar­ble, the com­ing of Mash & Air, and the arrival of the biggest pub in Britain. Open­ing Times record­ed all this as it unfold­ed so that over the course of a few issues you can see, for exam­ple, adver­tise­ments for Dob­bin’s ales fol­lowed by wor­ry­ing reports of the health of the busi­ness and, final­ly, a notice of its clo­sure. It was also rather star­tling to come across the arti­cle below among the pub crawl reports and tast­ing notes:

Headline: "THE BOMB".

Final­ly, there are numer­ous local his­to­ry books and mem­oirs which, though not exclu­sive­ly about pubs or beer, touch upon them at var­i­ous points, often at length. We were par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed to dis­cov­er Jere­my Seabrook’s 1971 book City Close Up which was based on inter­views and con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple in Black­burn, Lan­cashire, dur­ing the sum­mer of 1969. There are sev­er­al sec­tions touch­ing on pubs and drink includ­ing one chap­ter called ‘Evening in the Wheat­sheaf’ in which three young men, engi­neer­ing appren­tices, dis­cuss ‘going out’:

ALAN: You start drink­ing when you’re about fif­teen, pubs around [the cen­tre of Black­burn], nobody stops you. There’s nowt else to do. When you first start drink­ing, you sup a right lot of shit, you don’t know what a good pint is. They’ll serve you any­thing, they’re just mak­ing their mon­ey out of you when you start.

And once you’re done with Man­ches­ter there’s always Bolton a short train ride away where you can find copies of the raw notes from the Mass Obser­va­tion pub obser­va­tion project of the late 1930s, or the Greenall Whit­ley papers at Chester.

QUICK POST: Alphabet Brewing Co Flat White Breakfast Stout

Flat White Breakfast Stout.

This beer was part of a batch ordered from Beer Ritz and paid for by Patreon subscribers like Simon Branscombe and Jared Kiraly – thanks, chaps!

We chose this par­tic­u­lar beer because it came up as a sug­ges­tion in last year’s Gold­en Pints. A 330ml can at 7.4% ABV cost £3.19.

The can is rather cool look­ing and the name is appeal­ing: break­fast is a love­ly word for starters, and flat white (a small amount of smooth steamed milk over espres­so) is just about hang­ing in there as the hip cof­fee prepa­ra­tion of the day even though you can now get them in Greg­gs.  We can imag­ine this crop­ping up in cafes and delis, appeal­ing to peo­ple who might not oth­er­wise be that into beer.

We don’t know much about Alpha­bet oth­er than that a friend of a friend who was in the process of set­ting up a brew­ery in Man­ches­ter tells us they’re nice peo­ple, and that cans of their Hoi Pol­loi pil­sner we tried ear­li­er this year were decent enough.

The name hints at the styl­is­tic gim­mick at the heart of this beer: it is a stout but not black as we’ve come to expect. This is idea with some his­tor­i­cal basis pre­vi­ous­ly mined most notably by Durham Brew­ery. One imme­di­ate prob­lem, though, is that, though pale for a stout, it is by no means white. In fact, it is red­dish brown – the least remark­able colour for beer oth­er than yel­low. So an excit­ing propo­si­tion – Won­der At the Freak­ish White Stout! – is any­thing but in exe­cu­tion. ‘Pale’ might bet­ter have set our expec­ta­tions but even that would be push­ing it. Still, it did look appetis­ing enough on its own terms, clear and gleam­ing.

The sec­ond prob­lem, unfor­tu­nate­ly, was a big stale aro­ma that caused us to recoil rather than to smack our lips in antic­i­pa­tion. Where there ought to have been per­haps a touch of smoke or fruit there was a sort of damp, dirty base­ment stink – the wrong kind of dank alto­geth­er.

Once we’d got past that (aro­mas recede after the ini­tial encounter) the taste was inter­est­ing, def­i­nite­ly dark-tast­ing (because dark is a flavour in beer), slight­ly spicy, with some sug­ges­tion of cher­ry, and a lot of burnt cream. The resem­blance to cof­fee, in oth­er words, was specif­i­cal­ly to those sweet­ened, flavoured, very milky dessert cof­fees that abound at this time of year. We did­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like it, just as we don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like that kind of cof­fee, but we can see how it might appeal to palates oth­er than ours.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly that stal­e­ness was a deal-break­er. This can was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly good for anoth­er few weeks, until 17 Decem­ber, and has been stored in the cool and dark since we bought it, but we’d say it actu­al­ly expired some time ago. And, once again, like a stuck record, we have to point the fin­ger at dodgy pack­ag­ing, or pack­ag­ing process­es. We’re get­ting more and more wary of cans from small­er brew­eries, espe­cial­ly when they cost as much as a pint of ale at our local. In this case, we feel a bit swiz­zed.

The Changing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964

In 1964–64 Watney Mann and its subsidiaries were on a spree of pub building in towns, New Towns and on housing estates up and down the country.

Here are pho­tographs of and notes on those new pubs from edi­tions of the brew­ery’s in-house mag­a­zine, The Red Bar­rel, pub­lished in 1964. Where pos­si­ble we’ve cred­it­ed archi­tects and builders. Unfor­tu­nate­ly no pho­tog­ra­phy cred­its are pro­vid­ed in the mag­a­zines.

The Kingfisher, Corby, Northamptonshire
Exterior view of a modern pub; interior view of the same.
The exte­ri­or of the King­fish­er and a view of its lounge bar.

This pub on the Lodge Park estate was opened in Decem­ber 1963 by E.C.M. Palmer, the chair­man of Phipps, the Northamp­ton brew­er Wat­ney’s took over in 1960. It was designed by Phipp­s’s in-house archi­tects and built by Sim­cock and Ush­er Lim­it­ed of Northamp­ton. The man­agers were Nor­man Houghton and his appar­ent­ly name­less wife.

A fea­ture of the spa­cious pub­lic bar is the wood­work. The seat­ing, the counter front and the ceil­ing are of fine qual­i­ty pinewood, and a Granwood floor blend with the gen­er­al appear­ance of the room… [It] has that essen­tial ameni­ty, a car park, with space for about fifty cars.

Still there? It seems so.

The Old Swan, Battersea, London

Exterior of the Old Swan from the riverside.

This river­side pub was designed by archi­tects Stew­art, Hendry & Smith and built by Sig­gs & Chap­man of Croy­don. It replaced an old­er river­side pub.

A full length con­tin­u­ous win­dow in the ‘River­side Bar’ over­looks the Thames, and the nau­ti­cal atmos­phere is accen­tu­at­ed by the curved board­ed ceil­ing rem­i­nis­cent of a ship’s deck­head, and by a ship’s rail for a footrail, while ship’s lanterns and port­hole-style win­dows pro­vide light.

Still there? No, sad­ly not – it was appar­ent­ly demol­ished before 1987 (did­n’t even make 25 years) and was replaced with a block of flats that cheek­i­ly bor­rowed the pub name.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Chang­ing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964”

The Alpine Gasthof: Let’s Crack This

We’ve been working on an article about German Bierkellers in English towns in the 1970s and as a side quest found ourselves looking into one of the UK’s weirdest pubs: The Alpine Gasthof, Rochdale.

We’ve nev­er been, though it’s very much on the wish­list, but Tan­dle­man wrote about his vis­it ear­li­er in the year:

Per­haps the odd­est of Sam Smith’s pubs is its take-off of a Ger­man local pub, uproot­ed it seems, in looks if noth­ing else, from Garmisch or some oth­er Alpine resort. Only it is in Rochdale. Not only is it in Rochdale, but it is on a busy main road, which if you fol­low it for not too long, will take you to Bacup. This is the Land that Time For­got. Don’t do that… Not only is it incon­gru­ous­ly in Rochdale, but it is in a less than salu­bri­ous part of town… The pub has the usu­al Ger­man style high slop­ing roof and inside is, well, a sort of pas­tiche of a Ger­man pub, but done, unusu­al­ly for Sam’s, sort of on the cheap.

Although there are lots of pho­tos, and though every­one seems quite fas­ci­nat­ed by the place, there don’t seem to be many con­crete facts. When was it built? Why?

We did­n’t hold out great hopes for any infor­ma­tion from the brew­ery which is noto­ri­ous­ly tight-lipped but did get this, which is a start:

The Alpine Gasthof was built in the 1970s (don’t have the exact date to hand) because the pre­vi­ous pub we had on that site had to be demol­ished for road widen­ing. To have a bit of fun we decid­ed to build a pub mod­elled on the Brauerei Gasthof Hotel in Aying, Ger­many because at that time we were brew­ing Ayinger beer under licence.

We can well imag­ine Sam Smith’s execs going to Aying dur­ing licence nego­ti­a­tions and being charmed by the orig­i­nal, pic­tured here in a shot tak­en from the gallery on the hotel web­site:

Brauereigasthof-Hotel-Aying exterior.

Although, odd­ly, the pas­tiche does­n’t look that much like it. Here it is pho­tographed in 2013, via Ian S on Geograph.org.uk under a Cre­ative Com­mons Licence:

The Alpine Gasthof, Rochdale.

With a bit more to go on we reck­on we can guess that the date of its con­struc­tion was around 1972, at the tail-end of the theme pub craze (Fur­ther read­ing: Chap­ter 5 in 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub) and just as the Ger­man Bierkeller trend was kick­ing in. That’s also when Sam Smith’s start­ed brew­ing Ayinger-brand­ed beers. But we’re awful short on actu­al evi­dence. We thought this might be some­thing…

Google Search result.

…but there are two prob­lems. First, though Google Books has the date of pub­li­ca­tion as 1972 the par­tic­u­lar issue ref­er­enc­ing the Alpine Gasthof might be from, say, 1978. We’ve come across this prob­lem in the past. It’s hard to know until you have the jour­nal in front of you, ful­ly read­able. Sec­ond­ly… It says Wether­by, York­shire. Sure­ly some mis­take? But, no, appar­ent­ly not – there is at least one oth­er (slight­ly odd) ref­er­ence to an Alpine Gasthaus in Wether­by, giv­ing the address as Bor­ough­bridge Road, LS22 5HH. That led us to this local news sto­ry about the burn­ing down in 2005 of the Alpine Lodge, a two-storey chalet-style build­ing in Kirk Deighton (Wether­by). There are var­i­ous oth­er bits out there includ­ing this inter­view with the cou­ple who ran it for sev­er­al decades and a teas­ing­ly indis­tinct pho­to tak­en from a mov­ing car in bright sun­light on this Face­book nos­tal­gia web­site. We’ve tak­en the lib­er­ty of repro­duc­ing it here, with some tweaks – hope­ful­ly no-one will mind.

The Alpine Inn AKA the Alpine Lodge.

What a bizarre build­ing to find there on the side of the A1.

And that leaves us with two Alpine-style Sam Smith’s pubs to be puz­zled about.

So, do drop us a line if you know any­thing con­crete about the ori­gins of either pub (that is, not reck­on­ings or guess­es); have friends or fam­i­ly mem­bers who might have drunk in them; or live near either Rochdale or Wether­by and fan­cy pop­ping to your local library to look at news­pa­pers for 1972.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 25 March 2017: Morse, Ma Pardoe, Mild

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs that’s stood out in the last seven days, from Inspector Morse to the provocative nature of lists on the Internet.

The crime nov­el­ist Col­in Dex­ter died this week which prompt­ed vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz to dig out an inter­view he con­duct­ed with Dex­ter back in 1990, in an Oxford pub, nat­u­ral­ly. Although it first appeared in CAM­RA’s What’s Brew­ing news­pa­per, it isn’t pri­mar­i­ly about beer, but that’s a thread through­out:

When he was in hos­pi­tal a few years ago he dreamt he was win­ning a cross coun­try race but he was more con­cerned with get­ting a pint of beer after fin­ish­ing than being laud­ed as the win­ner. When he woke, slaver­ing for a drink, he saw the dread­ed mes­sage above his bed ‘Nil by mouth’.

Interior of the Old Swan.

The Wench at Black Coun­try Pub takes us on anoth­er jol­ly, this time to The Black Swan, AKA Ma Par­doe’s, where the local dialect is as thick as the doorstop sand­wich­es, and every detail has a sto­ry to tell:

You may think me a lit­tle strange, but one of my favourite things about Ma Par­does is the worn car­pet that leads you to the bar. Now it’s not one of them fan­cy Weath­er­spoons car­pets like those fea­tured in Kit Caless­es book and blog, how­ev­er I imag­ine the many Black Coun­try folk who’ve weari­ly trod that same path in search of fine ale, and the tales they have told.

Detail from a vintage ad for Tetley mild.

Ron Pat­tin­son has a recipe for a Tet­ley mild from 1946, with this inter­est­ing aside:

It’s typ­i­cal of a type of Mild brewed in York­shire, lying some­where between pale and dark. Weird­ly, all those years I drank it, I nev­er realised that it wasn’t real­ly that dark. More of a dark red than brown.

The Eagle Hotel.

Tan­dle­man has joined the wel­come trend of Epic Pub Quests (e.g. Cam­bridge, Bed­ford) with a mis­sion to vis­it all 30 Samuel Smith pubs in the catch­ment area for his local CAMRA branch. Only four sell real ale but this kind of endeav­our isn’t real­ly about the beer – it’s about going to and observ­ing places that might oth­er­wise get over­looked. The sec­ond report so far filed has pas­sages that would seem at home in a 20th Cen­tu­ry social real­ist nov­el:

The Irish woman walked over and warmed her arse on the roar­ing coal fire adja­cent to the card play­ers. She asked no-one in par­tic­u­lar if the clocks go back or for­ward this week­end.  There was some dis­pute about this, but it was final­ly agreed that the clocks go for­ward. The Old Irish­woman sniffed at this.‘Forward or back, you should­n’t inter­fere with the feck­ing clock,’ she announced, elic­it­ing no opin­ions either way.

A scared, angry mob.

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Bryan Roth shakes a weary head at peo­ple argu­ing online with a US Brew­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion list of ‘The Top 50 Brew­eries’ by beer sales vol­ume – an act as futile as debat­ing the iTunes Top 10. Tying it into the buzz-phrase of the day, FAKE NEWS!, Roth says:

The back­lash was swift. Push­back came over social media as com­menters offered their hot takes while ignor­ing the fac­tu­al basis of the list—it was, as it has been for at least a decade, orga­nized by pro­duc­tion lev­els. Even still, these inter­net denizens repeat­ed­ly asked, as if they were debat­ing a lis­ti­cle on Red­dit, ‘how can you leave [My Favorite Brew­ery Name Here] off this list?’

Detail from Ansell's beer mat, 1970s: "Brewed in Birmingham".

News from Birm­ing­ham via Dave Hop­kins at The Mid­lands Beer Blog Col­lec­tive: The Birm­ing­ham Beer Bash is dead (or at least in sta­sis); long live the Birm­ing­ham Beer Bazaar! This replace­ment event has dif­fer­ent organ­is­ers and, we sus­pect, might prove con­tro­ver­sial – there’s already a bit of mut­ter­ing on social media. At any rate, we’ll be adding this to the reg­is­ter of good and bad news, along with…

…the announce­ment of Leices­ter’s new spe­cial­ist bot­tle shop, the awk­ward­ly-named Brewk­lo­pe­dia:

The idea for the shop came about after the own­ers of 23 Wine & Whisky on Gran­by Street decid­ed to intro­duce some local beers into their range… Man­ag­er of Brewk­lo­pe­dia, Kunal Kapa­dia, said: “We had a real­ly good response, so we start­ed intro­duc­ing more beer from around the globe… ‘Cus­tomers quite liked the idea of hav­ing a sep­a­rate shop in the city cen­tre, so we decid­ed to take the risk and jump right in.’

(Report­ed by Hay­ley Wat­son for a local news web­site ren­dered bare­ly read­able by intru­sive ads – sor­ry.)

Final­ly, here’s a some sooth­say­ing from one of the authors of the World Atlas of Beer which, we sus­pect, has the weight of inside info behind it: