Now there’s a sexy title for a blog post. A real whooah-ish search engine optimization blog post title. Letterhead Pr0n. I should have paid more attention to the lighting when I was at the archives last week with Jordan in Ottawa. But, still, these are pretty sweet. It is amazing how elaborate the Taylor and Bates letterhead is. Rich old guys in suits drinking beer and having the time of their lives because they own a brewery and a radio station.
So, could the menu offer a Woman Wine? I would have preferred that the mug was manly as opposed to simply masculine. I had no idea mugs were, in fact, gendered. What do they get up to in the dishwasher? I also didn’t know that while their masculinity was superior when not in frosted form – something many males might agree upon – that they were inferior to pitchers. Makes one want to work on that two fingered fastball a bit more… if you know what I mean.
A few months ago, I referenced a wooden tankard that had been found on Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, as part of my review of Mitch Steele’s book IPA. I didn’t clue into one aspect of the tankard until I read this story about another similar wooden tankard from the 1500s found last year in the mud of the River Thames as described in this story posted at the Museum of London’s website:
It is comparable in shape to a modern beer mug, however, this tankard holds three pints. Was it used to carry beer from the barrel to the table or, was this someone’s personal beer mug? The quantity of liquid held in the tankard and markings suggesting it once had a lid, may indicate that it once served as a decanter. However, the lack of a spout seems to contradict this theory. The only other items that are contemporary and similar in appearance come from the Mary Rose, although the Mary Rose examples carry 8 pints.
Eight pints!! That is otherwise known as a gallon. Click on the picture to the right for a full version of the Mary Rose tankard. Notice how it appears to have straps of split branches rather than metal. Notice also how the photo above of the three pint tankard neatly illustrates how the handle shape likely indicates there was a lid just as on the Mary Rose tankard. Otherwise, why does the handle rise up above the rim as it does? Nothing like the well applied use of scientific photography in the cause of drinking vessel description accuracy by Murray Saunders for the Daily Mail and the unnamed photographer in the Wharf article. Perhaps a guild of their own is in order.
Speculation goes on that these large vessels may have been used as jugs but I wonder. Not only is there no spout, obviously a known technology in those times but it presumes very odd handling of the beer. Barrel to jug to mug. Why not just barrel to mug? B => M is better than B => J => M technology as it needs no staff person as middleman. No waiter. Why wouldn’t these sailors just be lined up daily and given their full gallon, the measure for consumption throughout day? It’s not like they are sitting in a pub as they drank the stuff. Besides, ship’s beer was weak. And anyway, serving jugs had a different shape.
To the left, the Riedel O-Riedel Series Red+White glass: seven inches high, holds seventeen and one quarter US ounces of fluid. To the right, the Spiegelau IPA glass, seven and one third inches high and holds nineteen US ounces of fluid. Riedel and Spiegelau are closely related companies or perhaps even two brands of the same international firm. In the rush to question, mock or ignore the alleged new Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada thingie, only one comment maker at Time magazine website’s story on the glass has bothered to suggest the relative lack of innovation which could be at play. Amazon reviews of the object associated with wine go back a few years. So, when a source like Fast Company magazine states:
In April, the Bavarian glassmaker Spiegelau will release the world’s first glass designed specifically for India Pale Ales, whose hops-heavy brewing process gives them an especially pungent, fruity aroma. Designed in collaboration with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada–two craft brewers known for their IPAs–the unusual glass features wave-like ridges toward the bottom that help bring out the beer’s flavor…
…where do the uses of the words “designed” or “specifically” or “in collaboration” or “unusual” come from? Still, it sure broadens the utility, no? Makes it more of a multi-purpose glass. Perhaps call it the “Red and white as well as bunch of shades of brown” glass… perhaps?
In my quest for objects out of which to drink ale, I have a 1940s ceramic part pint, an 1840s pewter quart pot and have declared 2013 the year of the 1700s etched ale glass. But, what ho! Something came before my eye today that I had not only never seen before but never had heard of – the pottle! Not an actual pottle but just the concept.
As you can see, that is archaic word for a half-gallon. The image above is a handy illustration from the entry for “Ale” in 1725’s smash best selling book Dictionaire oeconomique: or, The family dictionary. Containing the most experienced methods of improving estates and of preserving health, with many approved remedies for most distempers of the body of man, cattle and other creatures…. You will have to excuse me for deleting more than half the title but you get the hint. But now you know that there are 16 pottles to a firkin. That’s knowledge, baby.
There are a few references to pewter pottle pots on Google mainly referencing legal cases where a whole bunch of things are listed as being stolen or being in a will. In 1267, it is recorded in The Court Rolls of Ramsey, Hepmangrove, and Bury that a number of naughty brewsters of Ramsey were brought before the rather ripely named William De Wassingle – who I have no doubt was called “Assingle” behind his back – to pay fines and pledge security. Earlier in the day there was a far more interesting case which is recorded as follows:
6 d. from Emma Powel for making unclean puddings, as presented in the last view. Pledge: Simon de Elysworth. Order that henceforth she not make pudding.
You wag, Assingle. Anyway, in the brewster cases on that day, the security pledged against failure to pay the fine included many pottles. Four centuries later but still over 350 years ago, in 1659, the court heard an action of trover and conversion brought against one Gervase Maplesden by one Gabriel Beckraan for a number of things including one pewter gallon pot, one pewter quart pot, one pewter pottle pot and one pewter pint pot. Battlin’ pewterers action! Nothing like it.
But where are the pottle pots now? Not only can I find none on the internets for sale but none even pictured. Can you send an image to one of these massive drinking vessels? Have you ever seen one?
So, you recall that I bought that rather swell Wedgewood 1940s sage green tankard? I seem to have caught a bit of a fever. And there is only one cure for that… a tankard you can play like a cowbell. For the record, here is the information which came with the online listing:
This quart mug which is of quart capacity, dates to around 1840, and is by the well known Birmingham makers Yates & Birch, whose mark is to the right hand side of the handle above “QUART”. There are three verification marks below the rim, two of which are a crowned VR over HB above H (Haslingden in Lancashire – see Marks and Marking of Weights and Measures of the British Isles – Ricketts & Douglas). ). There are two wrigglework cartouches to the front of the body which read “P. Pollard, Talbot Hotel” and “Old Talbot 1626”. The inscriptions suggest the mug was originally used in the Talbot Hotel, Oundle in Northamptonshire which was rebuilt in 1626, using stone and a staircase from the ruins of nearby Fotheringhay castle. Mary Queen of Scots was executed at the castle in 1587 which led to it being subsequently demolished by Mary Queen of Scots’ son and grandson. How the mug acquired verification marks for Haslingden in Lancashire remains a mystery. The mug is in good condition with general wear commensurate with age (see images) but no splits, holes or repairs, and would make a great display piece.
A mystery. Neato. Came in the mail today. Picked up at eBay, it ended up being $75 bucks all in for door to door delivery across the ocean. Best of all, it is a quart with plenty of interesting markings indicating that it was from this still functioning hotel in Northamptonshire from perhaps the 1840s. Definitely marked for the Victorian era. But it is old pewter so I may have to do a bit more research before I make it my primary drinking tankard. Never cared much for the look around the gills of any Victorians I have run across. But it does pose the prospect that a few more could be acquired with a good chance of having a thinking persons quart tankard drinking association. Extra points for showing up with one like this.
In George Orwell’s 1949 essay The Moon Under Water – mentioned here, here and here – we are taken perhaps though the looking glass to an idyllic perfect pub of post-war Britain. It is a gorgeous physical essay that sets out the elements of Orwell’s dream establishment including even the mugs:
The special pleasure of this lunch is that you can have draught stout with it. I doubt whether as many as 10 per cent of London pubs serve draught stout, but the Moon Under Water is one of them. It is a soft, creamy sort of stout, and it goes better in a pewter pot. They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about 30 years ago, because most people like their drink to be transparent, but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china.
There is also a small surprise of a garden… and stamps. I have been looking for a strawberry-pink china mug for a while now but have made do with this in the interim. It is a Wedgewood 1940s sage green tankard designed by Keith Murray. I got it on eBay for about $53 Canadian which is a lot but it is also not as I could likely put it on eBay tomorrow and get about $53 Canadian… which is what I tell people about my soccer jersey collection of about eight years ago that sits in boxes waiting for another five for the teens to discover it. I like the way the handle looks a bit like antler. Not sure what beer I will have from it. Looks nice where it is.
I am a lucky man. I was almost into a nap after a failed morning of showshoeing followed by some throwing around of embarrassingly light weights when the family poured back into the house with many purchases – including a collection of tiny German beer glasses bought at a charity second hand shop. Most are 200 ml with one 300 ml from Franz of Rastatt that sits before me filled with Bernardus Abt 12. They are lovely things. The stemmed Dortmunder Union glass is particularly sweet. Each one cost only around 99 cents and apparently there are more, though the rest suffer from chips and scratches.
The funny thing is, of course, that I am not all that keen on German beers as a general thing. Yet whenever I get these tiny glasses with their heavily embossed brightly painted branding it’s like your first glimpse of your stuffed socking on Christmas Day. There is a delicacy about them. The glass is thin. The art work is thoughtful, larded with crests and Gothic script. And then there is this thing that I am going to call “hand feel” – the pleasure of the physical design. There is that one with the stem but others are slightly scalloped on the vertical. The rest give a subtle nod to the needs of the hand whether as a slender cylinder or a gentle widening then tapering that just fits.
Clearly someone packed it in. These could have been consigned by an executor or an abandoned spouse. The glass I use now may have been once untouchable, sitting in an cabinet behind glass. Mine now. I do as I wish with them.
So far I have created, with a certain underwhelming success, The Pub Game Project to note the things people like to do when they get together for beer, The Society for Ales of Antiquity to celebrate those brewers who are brewing beers like those brewers who used to brew the beers as well as CAMWA or The Campaign For Watery Ale, to encourage movers and shakers to consider the thing that makes 87% to 96% of what is in the bottle.
The response has been, well, insignificant if I want to brag it up out of all proportions. But we cannot stop there. Now we need CAMNA, the Campaign for Nipped Ales, to demand that the higher the strength the smaller the beer. Look at that bottle of Anchor Old Foghorn. Look at the dime. That is a small bottle. Seven small ounces. A nip. And it is only an 8.8% brew. I am getting really tired of opening 22 ounce or even 750 ml bottles of 8% to 13% beer. It is too much. It costs too much, it is too much booze and it is an invitation to excess. You will say they are to be shared or saved for special occasions but I want the option to sip a little one alone on a Tuesday. Why can’t I except with a handful of beers from a few forward thinking brewers? How much would it really cost most moderately sized micros to put out a line of nips of their stronger offerings? Would it not make them more accessible, allow more people to have a try?
These are the questions asked by CAMNA – the only international organization of its stature which dares take on this cause and those lined up against it. Some may think the utter irrelevance of CAMNA to the discourse is a challenge but I say it is an opportunity – an opportunity to be the mouse that roared… in the forest where trees fall when no one in around… in a land far far away.
An exhibit opens this week in London, England which provides evidence as to the drinking habits of the locals from around 1300 AD:
Experts have uncovered evidence that 12th century Londoners drank ale by the gallon, starting at breakfast time, due to poor quality drinking water. Exhibits at the Museum of London, including a selection of old Toby jugs, depict tubby men with beer bellies. London’s many drinking dens entertained ‘immoderate quaffing by fools’, according to a writer of the time.
Here is the website for the museum’s new exhibit. That would be an interesting place for a correspondent to visit. Any takers?