Your Thursday Bullet Points For A Beery Yule

Are we in Yule yet? I think we are. The old town is at least looking wintery as you can see above. Our warm spell has flipped to cold snap so fast that the last of our garden tomatoes ripening on the window sill looked out at -17C this morning. But enough about comfort and joy. This blog is about beer, not… not beer.

First up in the news is all this  fuss about the shadowy Portman Group telling a brewery with childish colours and cartooning in their branding that childish colours and cartooning might be attractive to children. Infantilization indeed. I am pleased that the response of the UK brewery in question is so sensible and support the take by  in large part. BUT… a bit shocked was I by the (i) weepy hand wringing over the decision, (ii) weepy hand wringing over the process, and (iii) the collective amnesia about the Portman Group rulings on 2008. So much #poohwiddowcwaft! Now, I realize that the demise of most actual beer blogging has left an imprint on the minds of some that beer blogging was never all that good but it is rewarding to reach back in the archives to find sensible discussion about those events in a way that neither social media or trade-based beer journalism can apparently cope with these days.

Speaking of sensible application of the law, good to see that Beyoncé got here reputation unshackled from those freelancers who would attach their profit making to her hard earned fame.  It is quite stunning how we see this appropriation by craft brewers of the intellectual property of others. I still haven’t heard who drew and, so, owned or owns the copyright as opposed to the trademark as it relates to that White Stag. Yes, yes… it’s all a bit of fun. But that’s what the sexists and racists say, too, right?

Gerald Comeau, hero.

Robin and Jordan got a generous amount of coverage by TVO, Ontario’s public TV and interwebs broadcaster this week. My only sadness is the entire misrepresentation of the sixty years from 1927 to 1987 and the glory that was E.P. Taylor’s contribution to the world of brewing with his war on waste under the banner of lightness and modest price. The point, however, on “local” is especially well made and avoids our muddiness about all of Ontario being “local” to the entire 13,000,000 persons province.

Finally, interesting news about the jump in Canadian malting barley sales to China including this tidbit:

Canadian malting barley commands a higher price, especially for China’s premium beer market, because of its dark color and higher protein, which allows for better foaming, Watts said.

Because its all about the foaming. Good to see us kicking some Argie-Aussie-Euro butt for one in something other than curling.

I am off. Not like Stan is off. I should be back sooner than he is. I am going to think about Thursdays. Gonna think some more.

A Short Update On That Apparently Very Fine Thing, Lambeth Ale

This is a real puzzle. As discussed a few weeks ago, we are largely unaware of what was Lambeth Ale in the second half of the 1600s in England and how it set itself in the hierarchy of drinks. I am just going to note a few more findings in this post with the hope of narrowing the uncertainties. First, this is the account of the costs related to the horses required for a Royal weekend jaunt from the 1680s:

In this series we find the subjoined computation ” of the charge and expence of the Horse Liveries, according to the following rates,” viz. : Hay £4 per load, straw 30.S’. per load, oats 24.9. per quarter, beans 6s. per bushel, shoeing and medicining 2.f. per day ; more for each hunting horse 205. per annum. Each horse was allowed 1 bottle of hay, 1 peck of oats and 1 peck of beans per day, and 8 trusses of straw per month. Four “hunting horses” and 36 “hunters coursers and pads” was the established yearly allowance in the royal stables. The total cost of keeping each horse is set down at £52 10s. a year. Yearly charge for diet, etc, commencing April 1, 1689. Yeomen of the field to the King and Queen on hunting days were entitled to receive from the royal larder 2 manchets of bread ; 2 bottles of Lambeth ale ; 1 bottle of champagne, 1 bottle of Rhenish, and 1 bottle of Spanish wines…

What sort of bread is a manchet? A snazzy sort, I suppose. Anyway, it is clear that Lambeth ale is something kept in the Royal larder, the only beer or ale mentioned, next to the bread of the elite not to mention the champers. Its high status nature is confirmed by this account of another 1680s gesture at court:

In 1687, the French ambassador in London was sending to the marquis de Seignelay regular consignments of English ale, “known as Lambeth ale” and not “strong ale, the taste of which is not much liked in France and which makes men as drunk as wine and costs just as much.”

Interesting comment. It was not as strong as strong ale. A lighter thing. We see it referenced from the same decade again in a discussion of alms as recorded the account books from 1689 for the court of William and Mary compared to that of Charles II from a few years before:

…the alms are set forth as a money payment, and we do not see gifts to the poor mentioned as of yore amongst ” daily liveries of bread, beer and wyne for the several dyetts,” but, in company with wages and pensions and “board wages to old servants,” we notice that the sum of £219 is set aside for these” Daily Alms.” It crosses our minds that this allocation of £219, larger than that of Charles II, who had almost doubled the yearly allowance for “Daily Alms” made by the Tudors, may have been so expended by William and Mary partly in compensation for the dwindling contents of the alms-tubs under the economical regulations of the semi-Dutch Court. Careful record is kept of the ” manchets” or small rolls of bread and of the loaves required by the entire household. The King, Queen and Court were obliged to content themselves with 136 1/2 gallons of beer and 30 bottles of Lambeth ale as against 240 gallons which, under Charles II, had been distributed to the” poor at the Gate,” and we have only the item of I gallon of beer and a loaf per day for the porter. But as regards the consumption of beer at Court, we must bear in mind that ale and wine were no longer the exclusive beverages in the fashionable world…

Well, now we know what a manchet was. A small loaf. A bun. I shall order them accordingly in the future. Notice that Lambeth ale is reserved for the top dogs and measured by the bottle even if it might have been consumed by the stoneware mug. Its finesse did not mean it was consumed only in a dignified manner, if this passage from the 1693 farce The Richmond Heiress: Or, a Woman once in the Right is to be believed. Here we see the character Sophronia confronting a group of young privileged men including one named Hotspur and comments on their average day:

Sophr. Come, Sir, for once I’ll be a little satirical, and venture to describe the course of life of all you Men of the Town: In the Morning the first thing you do is, to reflect on the debauch of the Day before; and instead of saying your Prayers as you ought, relate the lewd Folly to some other young rakehelly Fellow, that happens to come to your Leve: The next thing is to dine, where instead of using some witty of moral Discourse that should tend to improvement, you finish your Desert with a Jargon of fenceless Oaths, a relish of ridiculous Bawdy, and strive o get drunk before ye come to the Play.

Hotsp. The Devil’s in her; she has nick’d us to a Hair.

Sophr. Then at the Play-House ye ogle the Boxes, and dop and bow to those you do not know, as well as those you do. Lord! what a world of sheer Wit too is wasted upon the Vizard-Masks! who return it likewise back in as wonderful a manner. You nuzzle your Noses into their Hoods and Commodes, just for all the world like the Picture of Mahomet’s Pigeon, when he gave the false Prophet his ghostly Instructions. Fogh! how many fine things are said there, perfum’d with the Air of four Claret! which the well-bred Nymph as odoriferously returns in the scent of Lambeth-Ale and Aqua vitae.

Hotsp. ‘D’s heart, what shall I do! I shall ne’er have patience to hear this.

Sophr. Then at Night ye graze with the hard-driven Cattel you have made a purchase of at the Play, and strut and hum up and down the Tavern with a swashy Mien, and a terrible hoarse Voice, which the Lady (to engage your liking) returns with some awkward Frisks, instead of Dancing, and a Song in a squeaking Voice, as untenable as a broken Bagpipe. Then supper coming in, the Glasses go about briskly. The Fools think the Wenches heavenly Company, and they tell them they are extream fine Gentlemen; ‘till at last few Words are best, the Bargain’s made, the Pox is cheaply purchas’d at the price of a Guinea, and no repentance on neither side. What think ye, Sir, am I not a rare Picture drawer?

I quoted from that extended passage mainly to capture the endearing Jeeves and Bertie aspect of it all – and not at all like Tom and Bob in 1821. Which again confirms its elite nature even if those of the elite, as is often seen, have charms which are less to be desired than they might think. If you add that to the suggestion that it is lighter than strong ale and served in a bottle and kept in royal larders next to the champagne, I am thinking that it sounds a lot like the role porter played one hundred years later in New York City, perhaps another drink which was also “ripe and brisk“?

Did the bottling make it more bubbly? More charming? Dunno. But that would certainly explain its particular attraction just as the paleness of Derby ale set it apart perhaps a few decades earlier. Soon, Burton comes alone and steals the spotlight but for now, in the last two decades of the 1600s, Lambeth seems to hold a very high spot amongst the available offerings.

Hopped Beer As Part of Elizabethan Naval Victualing

Another topic sure to capture the attention of the good beer crowd… even though it is becoming apparent that there are only good beer crowds now.  Or perhaps another topic to just shelter me from all the other stuff flying around. Hmm. Perhaps a contemporary account* of the romantic of life the sea will will add a bit of zip from the outset:

…their bread was musty and mouldie Bisket,
their beere sharpe and sower like vinigar,
their water corrupt and stinking, the best drink they had, they called Beueridge, halfe wine and halfe putrified water mingled together, and yet a very short and small allowance…

That opinion was from William Clowes, the Lord Admiral’s surgeon, reporting in 1596. Not quite the “yo-ho and a bottle of rum” thing the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean would have us think. But, if we are honest, we never suspected the life of the Elizabethan sailor was a kind one, did we? While a gallon of beer a day seems insanely generous, it’s not as compelling now we know it was like drinking vinegar.

So, what was going on between 400 to 500 years ago in the ships of the English navy when it comes to beer? One thing we know already is that they aimed at taking along a gallon of beer for each person on board for each day. We know that because, as I first wrote in 2014 and mentioned again in  the first issue of MASH magazine,  Sir Martin Frobisher provisioned his voyages in 1576-77 to the Canadian High Arctic with that much beer. This was a pretty fabulous expedition, funded by a company of investors made up of aristocrats and even “QE the 1” herself. So they also got to take along two firkins of prunes and other treats.

One other thing we always like to see is the reference to malt. If you click on the thumbnail to the right you will see a record from a record for 18 January 1596 from a sort of annual journal of notable events from the day in which the need to ensure the provisions of the navy was discussed at some sort of vague high level (aka “the Council”) and included malt among the other provisions including pease and cheese. Perhaps not a firkin o’ prunes but still a pretty good list of foodstuff for the ships. This is a very good thing as I have, in the past, noted malt in shipments to Newfoundland at around the same time. Which is very cool. Because to ship malt is to prepare to make at least ale if not beer. If they are shipping the malt.

In a set of papers entitled Elizabethan Naval Administration edited by Knighton and Loades and published in 2016, we see this passage in a report from Edward Baeshe, General Surveyor of Her Highnesses Victuals for Sea Causes** dated 23 July 1586. In it Mr Baeshe complains of losing money on his agreement to supply and is invoking, quite politely, a right to terminate early. He points out the prices he has had to put up with including malt at eight to twenty shillings a quarter as well as “hops from 13s 4d the 100 to 53s 4d the 100.” The report is made to the Right Honourable the Lord Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral of England with a copy to Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s principle secretary, so it is not a small matter. It seems Baeshe has supplied such victuals to the navy for forty years but is now having to stop seeing as he is losing money on the deal. A footnote from Messrs Knighton and Loades tells us that the price of all grain rose 71% from 1580 to 1586 so his case appears well founded. These were the years leading up to the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Another footnote related to 1562 tells of the nimbleness in which malt at scale needed to be obtained for government business:

Extra provisions were required in the north in anticipation of the Queen of Scots and a train of 1,000 en route to an interview with Elizabeth. Articles for the meeting at York or as far south as Nottingham, were concluded at Greenwich on 6 July. On 8 July the Privy Council*** ordered 200 quarters of wheat and the like of malt to be bought in Buckinghamshire and sent to Berwick. Arrangements were still being made on 12 July, but the meeting was cancelled three days later…

Scale and speed. Interesting to note how the movement of large quantities of malt was a thing, thinking back to 1600s Derby ale. We think of brewing only as an industrial process at scale starting in the latter 1600s but forget the earlier public sphere. Incorrectly. Henry VIII add four new breweries in Portsmouth to supply ale for his fleet.**** We know this because the BBC said so. Other naval brew houses were also built in East Smithfield and London. The four additional breweries built in Portsmouth in 1512 were the Rose, the Lyon, the Dragon and the White Hart and were reported to be “the goodliest” ever seen.***** the year after they were joined by ten storage houses to keep the ale the beer from spoiling before being loaded on board.

These were important brewing facilities. They sat on the one water source which, on 7 December 1562, became the subject of the following by the borough of Portsmouth:

Also where as many indiscret persons not considering the quenes ma(?) affayres nor their owne helthes nor ye comodity for the hole town, hath usid and yet do use to wash both bucks and up(r) clothes in the diche and springs of the iiij houses. We geve in charge yt none hereafter prsume to do the lyk in paine for x(?) for evry offense.

All of which is very interesting. You have a brewing complex that brings in large quantities of hops and malt and strategically protects its water supply. I was going to add more to this post but I think I am going to leave it here as an introduction so that I can go off and explore this a bit more. It leads in neatly to the idea that in the 1600s before industrialization there was certainly organized brewing at scale as we saw with Derby ale. It may be that bulk manufacturing for military purposes in the Tudor era is an early example that later gets applied or at least mirrored for commercial purposes in the next century.

One thing I want to see if I can find about is pre-hop ale use on naval ships. You will recall that the earlier we go back in the 1500s the closer we get to the practical acceptance of hopped beer. Which makes me wonder if there were ale brewers on board before a certain point, preparing fresh ale for consumption by the crew within days – like might be found on farms and estates or in contemporary brew houses. Gotta see what I can find out about that. In the meantime, more 1500s beer and brewing here.

*See Tides in the Affairs of Men: The Social History of Elizabethan Seamen, 1580-1603, page 298, 1998 McMaster University Phd Thesis by Cheryl A. Fury.
**Clearly the greatest title which was ever bestowed.
***Clearing up the “which Council?” question above.
****The first built by his father Henry VII in 1492. Note in a note: 1492 – Brewery ordered built by the King. Called the “Greyhound” it cost £145 and was probably situated in High Street.
*****See Tudor Sea Power: The Foundation of Greatness by David Childs (Seaforth Publishing, 2009) at page 96.