Moses Granger of Lowville NY Had A Patent

The title of the patent from 1832 is titillating: “US Patent: 6,894X – Restoring sour or musty beer or ale to its original purity by rebrewing.” Sadly the note at the DATAPM data base tells the rest of the story:

Most of the patents prior to 1836 were lost in the Dec. 1836 fire. Only about 2,000 of the almost 10,000 documents were recovered. Little is known about this patent. There are no patent drawings available. This patent is in the database for reference only.

This is sad for us now as well as sad for the inventor, Moses Granger. As you can see above, he started his brewery in Lowville, New York seven or so years before registering his mysterious patent for improving bad beer. The announcement is from the Black River Gazette of 14 December 1825. You can see below from page 28 of the Congressional Series of United States Public Documents, Volume 235 that his patent was issued on 11 January 1832 which means he had to have invented it and then worked on the patent application sometime before that. Notice also that his patent is in a list of “Calorific and Steam Apparatus” which again is a reminder that Steam Beer is a reference to the general introduction of steam powered motors into the brewing trade and not something about the beer itself.

Unlike most of you, I have visited Lowville, New York. It is just about an hour and 45 minutes drive to my south east sitting in Lewis County, the next NY state county to Jefferson which I can see out my office window. It is the home of Lloyd’s of Lowville.  My 2005 post on neighbouring Denmark, NY on the hill north of Lowville gives you a sense of the area. Rural limestone Federalist buildings, analogous to our larger urban and military Georgian ones.

Gary mentioned Moses Granger and this patent in the latest of his further explorations of the odd later 1800s eastern US use of “musty” as a positive term for a class of ale. The patent from an earlier point in time, however, is clearly about the correction of poor beer – restoring it by rebrewing sayeth the patent’s title.  “Rebrewing” is an interesting word. In 1818, another two hours modern travel to the southeast in Schenectady, there was rebrewing going on – the last reference I have found to the ancient and famed double double immortalized by Shakespeare. Beer made by reusing beer as sparge water, ramming more power into the wort. It makes a brain smackingly strong drink.

Lewis County, NY in 1825 was still the frontier. See those military installations in my dear old British fort town? Kept back interest in settling NNY as the Erie Canal was opening up WNY.  It was settled by the generation after the Revolutionary one, as places like Cooperstown and then CNY started filling up and interests became fixed. Spafford described the place in his 1813 Gazette – and he can be trusted as he was born there. One might read the notice posted by Moses Granger in 1825 that he was the first brewer in Lowville. Spafford shows (at page 50 and 51) that in 1813 there were no brewers in Lewis Co. compared to seven distillers. Jefferson Co. had a ratio of two brewers to sixteen distillers. In 1828, Watertown, Jefferson Co. only had one brewery. The area was awash in rot gut whisky. A rebrewed super strength brewing process might well be worth protecting by way of patent.

I will dig a bit more and maybe post more – and wait for Gerry… again… to correct and add to the story. An excellent thing, too, as by collaboratively assembling what we know the history unfolds.  The strange thing is why one would invent such a thing in a frontier setting and then seek the protection of the law – on the one hand just thirty years removed from that log house brewery in Geneva, NY but, on the other, in the era of the scientific brewing of Vassar. An era of great change.

MacKinnon Releasing A Beer With Terroir… Really…

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This is odd. A rare case, indeed. A press release that you are really interested in for what is actually set out in the press release:

Bath, ON – You’re invited to raise a glass with MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Company on Monday, November 7th. Get the first taste and celebrate the release of our brand new 2016 Harvest Ale: the first beer made using 100% of ingredients grown on our own family farm. This landmark beer uses Newport and Vojvodina hops, which are grown on trellises in the corner of our brewery pasture, as well as AC Metcalfe barley grown in a field on the west side of the farm. All of the malt for the brew was malted in Belleville by our friends at Barn Owl Malt. As a family farm for 8 generations, brewing a 100% farm-sourced beer has been on our minds since the inception of the brewery. The beer itself is a malt-centric variant on the German Marzen style, using our
favourite ale yeast. At 5.0% ABV and 18 IBU it showcases the unique characteristics of our farm grown barley. Beyond that, it’s instilled with a backbone of hundreds of years of resilience and ingenuity. Need we say more?

It’s two years now since I first began running into the MacKinnon Brothers’ beers around the area. I dreamed of the idea of the heritage grain farmer brewers brewing a beer with their own malt, hops and water… and maybe a few local yeast cells in their. Seems like the are ready to raise the standard for “terroir” as a word with actual meaning in the craft brewing world.

Very cool. Too bad it’s being released while I am shackled to my desk, pinched by the tight black shoes of regret. You could go. Monday, 7 November at 1915 County Rd 22, Bath, Ontario. You could.

Book Review: Brewing Local by Stan Hieronymus

brewinglocalsmConfession. I have fed Stan in my home. I have been asked by Stan why he bothers discussing things with me. My name appears in this book. I am very fond of Stan. All of which may influence my opinion of his writings, of this book. Along with the fact that this was a review copy kindly forwarded from the publisher. Can’t help it. Heck, if I run the photo contest again this Christmas I might just give it away as the only prize. I’m like that.

But let’s work around that for the moment. As with his other books for the Brewers Publications series, Stan has written a practical guide. Starting with the second half of the book, we see it contains discussions on foraging, a directory of ingredients one might consider adding to a beer to capture locality in the glass and, then, a collection of brewing recipes – including one for an 1835 Albany Ale supplied by Craig which has its roots in a report to the New York State Senate from that year which I discussed now over six years ago. It is flattering but at the same time something I consider important. Beer and brewing in the north end of the Western Hemisphere has a history which goes back at least 439 years – not counting the Viking expeditions. You would think it was invented by the immigrants who moved here after the varying successes of the 1830s revolutions in Europe. It wasn’t.

Much to his credit, Stan goes even further back and documents one beverage of one of the peoples who were here before European colonization: corn-based tiswin of the Apache. He also ties late 1800s Okalhoma choc with the Choktaw people who were relocated in the genocidal trail of tears two generations before. There would have been others – but they were not by any means pervasive according to a Senacan cultural botanist pal of mine. Yet it is hard to believe that the brewers of New Sweden in the 1650s making beer from local pumpkins, corn, persimmons and watermelons didn’t learn something from the locals.

What the depth and breadth of Brewing Local conveys is a picture of a complex and largely unexplored understanding of indigenous vernacular brewing on this continent. It is an exciting time to have an interest in such things. Stan emailed me earlier this year that he would have included my idea of “four eras of cream ale” had he come across it in time. I suspect I hadn’t even written it in any proper manner before he saw it. Months later, I got to hunting around “cream beer” dating back to the early 1800s with the hints of its pre-lager existence, its earlier German immigrant foundations and its potential links to later 1850s Kentucky Common. All of which might also be worthy of a footnote or two in this book. Had I written it. Had someone – anyone – looked it up. There is so much yet to be pursued.

Which is a good thing. Which makes for a very good book. Because the book is both history and guide, both a “how to” and also a “why” which ties a lot of things together in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s a part of a bigger collective work in progress. [I don’t find fault that Stan, for example, doesn’t mention the reason I think steam beer is called steam beer but that is also part of the bigger working out of things. I could be dead wrong.] Does this make it a milestone book in North American brewing history? Could be. I’ll have to read it a more few times to form a full opinion on this book. You should, too.

According To Me: How Brewing Cultures Develop

This is the third in a series of occasional posts in which I try to figure out what I really think about things like measuring how much one drinks or what taste looks like. This one, disconcertingly, it looks like a unified theory – something I have mocked for years. But a few weeks ago, Jeff and I shared some useful – perhaps spicy – comments by email back and forth about each other’s prose which triggered some reflection. Explaining myself, I put it this way:

I do not write for the reader. The entire thing, my entire hobby is an exercise in testing my own assumptions. I am trying to solve a very large puzzle. And then I apply the things I come up with – structures of argument in some cases but in other just very big thinking – back into my work life as well as my relationship with life generally. I appreciate that this is all sounding odd – a bit hypomanic – but it is very hard to explain. Last year I even wondered what it would be like to be a beer writer who never drinks beer at all. So it is not so much about being in or out of the bubble but seeing it as a bubble within bubbles next to bubbles and trying to get it all ordered.

I see bubbles. I guess. The other night I woke up at 4 am after a pre-post-apocalyptic dream* and, mulling bubbles for a while afterwards to change the story in my head, thought about what I had been seeing with all this research over the last year, the diving back and forth over centuries. What has struck me even more than ever is how pervasive beer is in our English-speaking culture’s history. There is an obvious reason for that. Alcohol arises naturally, spontaneously. I remember in high school watching out my front window at starlings gorging on the rowan berries in the front yard bush. They were getting quite drunk off the fermented juice. Having a hard time landing or staying on a branch. One bird holding tight to the telephone wire side by side with his or her fellow lost toe grip and swung right round 360 degrees. The berries were loaded with rough country wine. And so became the birds.

This is good. It is a thing of nature. Beer is too. When we say “I would like to shake the hand of the man who invented beer” we tell a fib. Someone somewhere some long time ago came across a puddle. It had formed twice. Once briefly to get the ripe grain laying on the ground damp enough to sprout. And then again later for the now-altered malt to ferment. Someone drank from the puddle and figured out what had happened. All the brewing in all the history of humanity is a repeated effort to replicate the moment. To recreate what that puddle spawned. I see three core tendencies or aspects of those efforts, those replications: vernacular beer, scientific beer, mass market beer. Each is normal… whatever normal is. Better to say they reliably reoccur. Each tendency generates pleasure and profit reliably, too. And breweries – and brewing cultures – over time reflect more than one tendency or aspect. Just the few city blocks of Golden Lane in London, England display all three facets over the centuries. And each tendency generates associated sorts of beer. In a fairly regular pattern.

I prefer the idea of vernacular brewing over words like traditional or indigenous. Brewing can speak of a place. Stan will be pleased. Look at that video up there. It’s was shared by** the ever excellent Lars Garshol of Larsblog. Look at what is going on there. It’s likely very similar to how ale was brewed by an early micro. Or by William Mead in 1790s Stillwater, NY. Or at Hoegaarden in the 1400s for that matter. Vernacular brewing depends on a measure of geographical, jurisdictional or economic isolation. Look at the thumbnail. That is a page of Lord Selkirk’s diary from 1803 in which he describes a 12 barrel brewery on the frontier in NNY. Barley is little grown. So the beer is made of a blend of wheat, what barley that can be found and chopped straw. Tidy and efficient. Local resources making local beer for the local population. Unger indicates that how the semi-autonomous jurisdiction of Hoegaarden exported its singular sort of beer throughout the Low Countries of the Renaissance. Understanding local can be very important. Many years ago my part-time farmer father-in-law’s veterinarian traveled to the Ukraine as part of a Canada-USSR project to assist in improving farming practices. He entered a barn where he found the cattle eating fresh cut corn – the whole plant, unripened corn and all. The advice he gave? Kill half the cows. Not enough food to feed all of them from the crops they had on hand. Gotta know what’s possible. Locally.

Scientific brewing represents a refusal. A refusal to accept what vernacular brewing teaches us. It is geared for efficiency or as E.P. Taylor might put it as in the 1942 letter beneath that thumbnail, the avoidance of waste. Coppinger in 1815 wrote of the need for cleanliness and an “economical mode” of building a brewery if the new American Republic was to meet the standards of old world brewing. Efficiency is not code for skill. Coppinger knew it was possible to make “clean bright malt” in a rustic setting. Unlike what some will tell you, pale ale spared from smoke was well known long before the scientific revolution. In addition to the race for efficiency, brewing changes to react to scarcity. Coke was introduced to malting as a replacement for charcoal long before that, as well. It was not so much because it was better as it was due to fact that England’s forests had been drastically thinned out by the late 1500s. The new fuel provided a new way to continue on with brewing. It is related to better husbandy. The late Georgian and early Victorian reports of the recently invented Agricultural Societies on both sides of the Atlantic described the advances in brewing from an economic point of view. Beer is persistent.

The scale of the mass market has also been an abiding theme with brewing. Taylor of Albany had a pontoon room in the mid-1800s which echoes the royal breweries of ancient Egypt. The Hanseatic trade routes of the 14th and 15th century that allow Hamburg to have a massive brewing industry mirror how the coming of the railway to southwestern Ontario unleashed the carbohydrate laden grain fields out to the British Empire though the previously local brands Labatt and Carling. It took the improvement of the River Trent in 1712 to get the sulfurous local brewer out into the wider world. The English hops trade was subject to scale in the mid-1700s with one merchant London-based James Hunter being “one of the one of the most considerable dealers in hops in England” controlling a huge portion of the marketplace. Beer has a habit to expanding and adapting to meet the possibilities.

If that is so, if brewing has a number of constant attributes like vernacular expression, scientific efficiencies and the opportunism of scale – not to mention the relative certainty of wealth creation – how extraordinary is any era? Is this era? In a way its consistency over time could one of its weirdest characteristics. But then couldn’t the same be said of other persistent commonplace things like shoes, cheese or rope? Something about the pattern make me wonder if it is all a symbiotic relationship held with yeast. Maybe even a wildly successful outcome of an experiment undertaken millennia ago by the Central Yeast Planning Council. It would at least make sense of the formula beer > drinking culture > brewery. Or at least that’s what I think.

*Lots of daytime grey clouds to the horizon views with commentary like “oh, this doesn’t look good.” At one point from an apartment I saw a darker swirling column of grey far off, another moment I was on a path among dunes watching meteor-like flashes in all directions overhead. I never have dreams like this. More Torchwood than Doctor Who.

**Lars commented that he was not the source of the video. I think I saw him link to it now that I think of it.

The Best Advice A Brewer Was Ever Given

The winner hands down is Joseph Coppinger, from his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner from 1815:

The common mode of keeping malt is in bins situated on upper lofts, often injured by leaks from the roof, and at all times liable to the depredations of rats, which in the other way can be effectually guarded against, and is a highly important object of precaution to be taken by the brewer. Should weevils at any time get into, or generate in your malt, which is common when held over beyond twelve or eighteen months, the simplest and easiest way of getting rid of them, is to place four or five lobsters on your heap of malt, the smell of which will soon compel the weevils to quit the malt, and take refuge on the walls, from which they can be swept with a broom into a sheet or table cloth laid on the malt, and so taken off.

Not three. Not six. Only four or five will do. Best advice. Ever.

New York: The Elusive Medcef Eden of Golden Hill


nycplan1776a

The latest project without all that much particular point is turning out to identify the brewers of New York City during the American Revolution aka the War of Independence. So far we have learned about:

William D. Faulkner;
The Lispenards; and
The Rutgers.

There are two more that I have noted so far, Harrison and Eden.¹ They are all located (if not all noted) on the clickable map above. A rather large version of the map for obsessive pouring over can also be found here. The breweries appear, as Craig predicted, to be lumped in distinct brewing areas. As we saw in Albany and is I suppose self-evident, these breweries were built near supplies of potable water. And while both New York and Albany are salt water seaports New York in the year 1775 is largely located on the lower tip of an island, Manhattan. Which means that fresh water comes at something of a premium. Important but I will get into that a bit more in a later post. Today it’s about Eden.

I hadn’t heard of this guy until I came upon this map of the Great Fire of 1776. In an essay recalling the world of New York in the early 1790s, we read:

At Number 26 Broadway, might have been daily seen the light-built but martial and elegant form of Alexander Hamilton, while his mortal foe, Aaron Burr, as we have stated, held his office in Partition street. John Jacob Astor was just becoming an established and solid business man, and dwelt at 223 Broadway, the present site of the Astor House, and which was one of the earliest purchases which led to the greatest landed estate in America. Robert Lenox lived in Broadway, near Trinity Church, and was building up that splendid commerce which has made his son one of the chief city capitalists. De Witt Clinton was a young and ambitious lawyer, full of promise, whose office (he was just elected Mayor) was Number 1 Broadway. Cadwallader D. Colden was pursuing his brilliant career, and might be found immersed in law at Number 59 Wall street. Such were the legal and political magnates of the day; while to slake the thirst of their excited followers, Medcef Eden brewed ale in Gold street, and Janeway carried on the same business in Magazine street; and his empty establishment became notorious, in later years, as the ‘ Old Brewery.’

Janeway is a later story in time and an interesting one in its own right, also for another day. What is important today is that Medcaf Eden brewed ale in Gold Street. Long before I got interested in the antecedents of Canadian brewing in the Loyalist world before the American Revolution I fell for the excellent website “Forgotten New York” and, upon reading about Gold Street, I looked again to see if there was anything I could learn. Jackpot. Not only did was there a FNY a post from nine years ago about Gold Street, he had found Eden’s Alley leading from it. He even posted photos. Go have a quick look at the post.

nycforgottenedensNow, click on the excellent FNY photo of the alley so I can point out a few things. So I can review. It is narrow. It is narrower than the narrowest bit of the photos of Gold Street see that? It’s narrower than the still narrow intersection of Beaver and Green Streets in Albany where in 1776 the King’s Arms was the flashpoint of the local insurrection. Eden’s Alley is that narrow because it is very likely not a street at all but the horse cart lane from Gold Street to the actual brewery. It’s probably the driveway. You can actually see it on the map of the 1776 fire. Check the red circle to the right of the other. Notice the break in street’s buildings at the circle’s 11 o’clock position? That’s Eden’s Alley. Notice how on the photo it leads east-ish according to the sun on the face of the north side wall. Parallel to Maiden Lane to the south where the competition in the form of one of Rutger’s breweries was located. See the bullet shaped carriage wheel bumper protecting the building’s corner from traffic pulling in from Gold Street? We have a few of those still in our old town. Notice another thing. It’s an uphill climb from Gold Street into the property of Medcef Eden. Because it’s built on uneven land. Because uneven land is next to the creeks and rivers where the fresh water was. What an excellent wee photo of an unappetizing back alley in one of the world’s great cities. Look at the topography on this map of NYC from 1783. You will find Golden Hill just inland above the “E” in east river. That hill? That’s what Eden’s Alley is climbing. FNY also traces the lane’s later history.

Medcef Eden passes away on 18 September 1798 leaving two sons, Joseph and Medcef Junior who die without children of their own. The will of Medcef Sr provided for this eventuality and, in doing so, tells us something about Eden’s origins.

It is my will and I do order and appoint, that if either of my said sons should depart this life without lawful issue, his share or part shall go to the survivor. And in case of both their deaths without lawful issue, then I give all the property aforesaid to my brother John Eden of Lofters, in Cleveland in Yorkshire; and my sister Hannah Johnson of Whitby, in Yorkshire, and their heirs.

Which means Medcef is very likely a Yorkshireman who immigrates to the new world leaving his own family behind. And what does he do between immigrating and expiring? He brews.

nygaz29sept1777edennygaz02nov1778edennygaz22oct1781edennyindjournal01june1785eden

 

 

 

nydgaz21june1791eden

 

 

 

 

The ad to the upper left is from the The New York Gazette of 29 September 1777. Eden is buying hops and barley while selling strong and ships beer. In the upper middle ad from a year later on 2 November 1778 he is now selling four sorts of beer: ale and strong beer, ship’s beer and spruce beer. Almost three years later, the ad to the upper right from the The New York Gazette of 22 October 1781 focuses on his strong ale which he states “exceeds both in flavour and quality, any that has been brewed since the revolution.” By the time the lower left ad is placed in the New York Independent Journal of 1 June 1785, the war has been over for over a year and a half. He is selling double spruce beer, advertising rates by the barrel, half-barrel, ten gallon or five barrel. Finally, the ad to the lower right placed in the New York Daily Gazette from 21 June 1791 informs the public that George Appleby has taken over the brewing operations and is offering spruce beer, ship’s beer and others.

The immediate thing that strikes me is that Eden appears to have managed the transition from war to peace quite successfully. He stays on in the City during the Loyalist times and stays on after they leave and are replaced by the Revolutionaries. Just two month’s before the inevitable departure of the last of the British, according to the 22 September 1783 edition of the New York Gazette, Eden is buying barley. Eden’s neighbour, the widow Rutgers on Maiden Lane, left with the rest of the “popular party” as soon as the British showed up in 1776 – according to the 1784 court case over British use of her brewery during the war. Eden stays put.

There’s more to be found out of course even if in 1920, The New York Times could find no record of the brewery. Plenty of records likely no one other than a handful of masters students might have bothered looking at over the decades. But for starters that is an introduction to Medcef Eden – Yorkshireman, New Yorker and brewer.

¹Oops. One more. Robert Appleby, a spruce beer brewer on Catherine Street near the Ship Yards on the East River who advertised in the Royal New York Gazette on 19 April 1781.

It’d Be Nice To Get More Actual Spruce Beer Brewed

——-

Considering The Badness Of Beer In 1800s Britain

4971
Hail, Beer!
In all thy forms of Porter, Stingo, Stout,
Swipes, Double-X, Ale, Heavy, Out-and-out,
Most dear,
Hail! thou that mak’st man’s heart as big as Jove’s!
Of Ceres’ gifts the best!
That furnishest
A cure for all our griefs: a barm for all our—loaves!
Oh! Sir John Barleycorn, thou glorious Knight of
Malt-a!
May thy fame never alter!
Great Britain’s Bacchus! pardon all our failings,
And with thy ale ease all our ailings!
 

That’s the first bit of “Ode to Beer” from the Comic Almanack for 1837. What a jolly bauble. Exactly what we largely like to tell ourselves about the merry merry world of the past. Dickens without all the bad bits. The view from outside the Bermondsey¹ public house, as above, in 1854. As we all rush about finding older records to share about beer and brewing in, mainly, the English speaking world, I have wondered about the difference between the official record and the actual experience. By official, I don’t mean governmental or even sanitized so much as the accepted. The approved version. One of the biggest problems leading to the approved version is the love of drawing conclusions or, more honestly perhaps, the use of records to justify comfortable conclusions. We want things to be explicable but we want to be comforted. For authority to be correct we want it to align with out needs. It rarely does. But authorities won’t tell you that. Authority has another interest. Consider this passage in a book entitled England as Seen by an American Banker: Notes of a Pedestrian Tour by Claudius Buchanan Patten published in 1885:

I was at some pains to get at the following authentic statement of methods of beer adulteration. A member of London’s committee on sewers —an eminent scientist — puts forth the declaration that “It is well known that the publicans, almost without exception, reduce their liquors with water after they are received from the brewer. The proportion in which this is added to the beer at the better class of houses is nine gallons per puncheon, and in second-rate establishments the quantity of water is doubled. This must be compensated for by the addition of ingredients which give the appearance of strength, and a mixture is openly sold for the purpose. The composition of it varies in different cases, for each expert has his own particular nostrum. The chief ingredients, however, are a saccharine body, as foots and licorice to sweeten it; a bitter principle, as gentian, quassia, sumach, and terra japonica, to give astringency; a thickening material, as linseed, to give body; a coloring matter, as burnt sugar, to darken it; cocculus indicus, to give a false strength; and common salt, capsicum, copperas, and Dantzic spruce, to produce a head, as well as to impart certain refinements of flavor. In the case of ale, its apparent strength is restored with bitters and sugar-candy.”

Now, this is interesting. And not because all the horrible gak was added to beer back then as it is being again added to beer now. But because it includes the admission of wide spread watering down at the pub. Watered down poisonous gak. Which leads to the question of what people were really experiencing as they looked down into the murky depths of a pewter quart pot a century and a half ago. It makes me wonder it might mean for all those records Ron has dug out of public libraries and brewery attics. The badness of beer by these sorts of additives appears to have arisen after legal changes in 1862 as The British Farmer’s Magazine advised in 1875. But there are other issues, more to do with quantity than quality. This passage from The Farmer’s Magazine of 1800 is simply depressing:

There are some persons who do not drink malt liquor at all; most people of fortune and fashion drink it very sparingly; while great numbers of the lower orders, particularly coalheavers, anchor-smiths, porters, &c. drink it to great excess, even, it Is supposed, to the amount of five hundred, or one thousand gallons a year each. Upon the whole, I apprehend the quantity of malt liquor consumed in the county, would almost average a hundred gallons per head of all ages and conditions. One thousand gallons per annum, is nearly, on an average, about 14 bottles of ale or porter per day, and is almost equal to what is passed through many drains, made to carry off the superabundant moisture from the earth… upwards of three millions of money are expended by the labouring people, upon ale, porter, gin, and compounds, which is 25I. per family of that description of persons. If wages, on an average, be 12s per week, the amount per ann. is 32I. 4s. which leaves only 7I. 4s. for purchasing bread, butcher meat, vegetables, and clothes!

Holy frig. Perhaps we might take a moment to thank our lucky stars that we are not living when our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were scraping together their existence. When I tweeted the stats in that passage above, the good hearted Lars responded “I would guess a large proportion of that was small beer.” One does live in hope but, really, it’s unlikely isn’t it. The life of the industrial labourer and his family was simply horrible before the public health movement. In 1835, harvesting labourers required a gallon of beer every day for a month. In that same issue of The Farmer’s Magazine that that fact came from, there is a very interesting suggestion in an argument on why public houses were not going away despite their menace, why the labouring man had no choice:

…as to the temptation of company at the public-house or the beer-shop, would it not exist in precisely the same degree if the labourer had a cask of beer in his cellar brewed by himself, as if he had a cask purchased of the public brewer? If there were a disposition to avoid that temptation, and to drink his beer at home with his wife and family, what now prevents the labourer from purchasing a cask of beer and so consuming it? Nothing that would not equally apply to his purchasing malt and brewing his own beer. And if he had a cask, what security is there that his wife or children would not consume the greater part of it while he was absent at his daily labour? And would not he himself he likely to fall into the temptation of consuming it most improvidently either alone or with his companions?

We love to see things through rose coloured glasses. When we are not looking through amber coloured beer goggles ourselves. All but the first of the quotes and links are Georgian and pre-date temperance. When alcohol was so normal it was just a personal failing to let it affect your life as it washed over and through you. I honestly do not know what to make of it all. Have we simply forgotten the grim and bought into comforting fictions about the recent past? Accepted some sort of Jacksonian romance? My first reaction to it all is to praise the campaigners, to scribble a prohibition pamphlet – but then I remember that 1832 impromptu drinking party a traveler came upon in a cellar in Albany, NY:

…there was no brutal drunkenness nor insolence of any kind, although we were certainly accosted with sufficient freedom. After partaking of some capital strong ale and biscuits, we returned to our baggage apartment, and wrapping ourselves in greatcoats and cloaks…

The surprise of joy? Or a wallowing in the familiar? Or the land of liberty overlaid upon the event instead of the lives of those in the dark Satanic mills?

¹Yes, that one.

The Hillars Of Golden Lane, Cripplesgate Without

hillarsUp there, that is a detail from the Agas map, a wood cut map of London from 1561. In the upper right you will see Golding Lane. If you were cleverer than I am you would have noticed that in the last couple of weeks I mentioned Golding Lane twice. In this post, I referred to a court case about the improper pulling down of a brewery in 1680. And in this post, I made mention of the Golden Lane Brewery of the early 1800s, a brewery set up as a joint stock company. It took me a few days to realize that Golding Lane was the same place as Golden Lane – as is Goldyng Lane and Gouldinge Lane. It’s still there but not much of the past remains. Its part of a district that was flattened by the Nazis in the Blitz. It’s not very long, running the few blocks from Old Street south to Beech Street now as it did in that map above 454 years ago, in the suburbs of Cripplesgate Without, the north part of an ancient ward of of the City of London. One thing has survived. The church. St-Giles-without-Cripplegate avoided being taken out by both the Nazi bombers and the Great Fire of 1666. My hero and early Canadian beer man Martyn Frobisher is buried there.

Golden Lane and the immediate vicinity seems to be inordinately beery. Or maybe just that its beeriness is well recorded. That’s the funny thing about records. Things recorded where the records survive gain as much importance as those breweries and brewing towns with a ripe habit of offering generous beer writer junkets. To be mentioned is to be important. Yet… there is something about the place worth considering. In Stow’s 1603 A Survay of London it notes that the Brewers Hall stood a few streets inside Cripplegate, one of the gates in London’s medieval wall. Stow states that the Company of Brewers was incorporated by Henry VI in 1438 but it was the brewers of London who built the gate in 1244.

I am not going to try to write about all the brewing connections to Golden Lane in one post. Let’s start with something fairly manageable. The brewery which was torn down in 1680 by a rather self-confident tenant. You will recall from that recent post that the case of Greene versus Cole – both at trial and appeal – provided a lot of information about the place including how William Cole came to be the owner, as successor to one John Hilliard who himself received it as son an heir from his father John Hilliard who died in 1651. The son himself only made it to 1658 at which time Cole received it under will of John the father. But it does not stop there. Mike Brown in his article “Some named brewhouses in early London” published in Brewery History issue 144 identified a bit more of the brewery’s history sets out a passage in a will probated in 1591:

To Robert Hyllyar my son for his life I give my messuage or brewhouse called the sign of the Flower de Luce lying in Gouldinge Lane, now in the tenure of Robert Allyson, brewer; and after his decease the remainder thereof to the issue of his body; for default, I will that the reversion thereof shall remain to the maintenance of the poor distressed people inhabiting within the freedom of the City of London in the said parish of St. Giles without Creplegate for ever, and the lease of the said messuage and brew-house shall from time to time be made by the good advice of the parson and Churchwardens of the same parish of St. Giles.

A more complete record of the will of John Hillar from 1591 can be found on line here. The brewery is said to be worth £6 annually. Richard the son of John was just 26 years old when he received the brewery in 1591. Which makes him a very likely candidate for being the father of John Hilliard who died in 1651. John (d. 1591), Richard (b.1565), John (d. 1651), John (d.1658) all owned the brewery on Golding Lane, which would be shown somewhere on that woodcut up there from 1561. Neato.

And it goes even further back that that as Brown in his article shows that in a will from 1407, a bequest was granted by Robert Gerthe to Agnes his wife to whome he left “a brew-house called ‘le Flourdelys’ in Goldynglane in the parish of S. Giles aforesaid for life.” Flower de Luce. Flourdelys. Fleur de Lys. A brewery just outside the wall of London for at least 273 years, torn down 335 years ago.

The British Ale Brewery, A Joint Stock Company In 1807

bab1807In 1807, a correspondent who went by the name “The Plain Dealer” wrote a letter to the editor of The Morning Chronicle on the topic of joint stock companies:

SINCE my last letter a number of new projects have been announced to the public, and some of them of great magnitude…. Let us begin with the Breweries. No fewer than five companies have been established, to rescue the public from bad beer at an increased price. This was a most tempting proposal. There was, after the series of unfavourable harvests, which we suffered at the beginning of the new century, an universal complaint against the beer. It was not merely lowered in quality, but composed of substitutes for hops and malt, which were thought to be pernicious; and to add to the evil, it was said to be the practice of all the great brewers, both in town and country, to buy up the leases of ale-houses, so as to deprive the publican of the freedom of going to the best brewery for his liquor. If this statement be true, it was a crying evil; but it was, and is, capable of an easy remedy. It depends entirely on the Magistrates; for if, instead of the reluctance which they now feel at the licensing of new houses, they would make it a rule, whenever a public tap was known to be the property of a brewer, and that bad beer was the consequence, to license a free house, in the immediate neighbourhood; the competition would be renewed, and the people would be served with a wholesome, palatable, and strengthening beverage. We know that the worthy Chief Magistrate of a city in the county of Kent has announced this to be his determination, and the inhabitants have already reason to be grateful to him for his device.

Competition. That was the promise of the joint stock companies. Too much wealth had gravitated into too few hands through the reactionary period after the loss of thirteen of the fifteen American colonies and then the French Revolution. The quality of beer crashed as prices climbed. But this new cure by joint stock companies was not trusted. In the string of letters to the editor in which this one is found, complaints about “sleeping partners” and “middle men” are set out. The sorts of things that people who distrust big faceless corporations floating mid-air in the stock markets still raise today. Yet there was an argument that these were tools to break the monopolies of the fantastically well connected and landed, the means to introduce competition into a status based economy. Competition was a new idea. Distrust hovered.

There is another reason folk were concerned other than the shock of the new. 1720. Ever since 1720, the joint stock idea was cursed. See, from the mid-1500s to 1720 there was a system of chartered companies approved and given blessing by the Crown. The most famous in Canada is the Hudson Bay Company that continues today. In our book Ontario Beer, Jordan and I describe how in the 1670s beer was being brewed in Ontario’s Arctic north by staff of the HBC over-wintering in trading posts set up to supply the firm with furs and other goods from the exotic north. A number of these were set up to encourage trade with lands as far away as Russia and Turkey… and then in the first quarter of the 1700s the South Seas. Careful readers will recall a few days ago when in the 1760 case Hunter v. Sheppard the Court described the hop buying fraudulent scheme in this way: “…trade was at that time very particularly circumstanced, hops being in 1764, like South Sea stock in 1720, or India stock in 1767…” Frauds. Bubbles. Money going in but never a hope of return coming out. The disastrous South Sea Company was the last of these companies to be chartered. And for a hundred years they remained highly suspect.

By the new century, new problems with the economy demanded a return to the concept.Unincorporated and unlisted subscription joint stock companies were forming when large groups of people subscribed into what essentially was a extremely large partnership. Described as “associations of gentlemen” they formed to break the grip of the established and wealthy in the context of the new commercial liberties and the new industrial era. One of these new enterprises was the British Ale Brewery. In an 1809 edition of The Monthly Magazine in the listings of commodity prices, one aspect of the British Ale Brewery is described: you can purchase a share in the firm for a 4 pound premium. Trading in company shares was an innovation and one that caused distrust.

But what was the British Ale Brewery? Apparently, it operated. The formation of the company was described in the 1815 court case Davies v. Hawkins:

…in 1807 a number of persons, about 600, associated together as a company, and made subscriptions, which subscriptions were divided into shares of 50 pounds each, for the purpose of establishing a brewery for ale, &c. under the name of the British Brewery. The subscribers entered into a deed which contained, among others, these provisions: that the shares should be transferable, &c. the purchaser executing the deed, and binding himself to observe the regulations, etc. contained therein; that a committee to be appointed should have power to make rules, orders, and bye-laws, subject to confirmation by a majority of the proprietors at a general meeting; that the conduct of the business of the brewery should be confided to two persons who should be styled brewers, and the trade should be carried on in their names…

The two assigned to act as brewers 1807 were Begbie and Murray. Their British Ale Brewery along with the Golden Lane Brewery were the only two breweries to complete their share subscriptions and enter trading in Britain’s early 1800s stock markets. How did it fair? In the 1808 ruling in Buck v. Buck, counsel for the firm pleaded that the intentions of the brewing enterprise were the purest:

The object of The British Ale Brewery was to carry on a lawful trade in a lawful manner, and to furnish to the public at a cheap rate, and of a good quality, an article of the first necessity It was a public benefit, therefore, instead of a nuisance, and was no more illegal than any other partnership comprehending a great many members.

The court was not moved. It held the business to be outside the law. The brewery was supposedly located in 1810 on Church Street just south of Lambeth Palace in London between Pratt Street and Norfolk Row as shown in that 1818 map up there. Bits of those streets by those names still seem to exist near the Thames. Its twin, the Golden Lane, died off as a joint stock company in 1826. Hmm. In 1808, the same Begbie and Murray appear to take out an insurance policy for the Caledonian Brewery on Church Street in Lambeth. The equipment and the lease for the Caledonian Brewery of Lambeth are auctioned in 1824 and in 1831, one Thomas Begbie testifies before a committee on the state of the brewing trade. By 1844, the law of Britain required all joint stock companies to be incorporated and listed. Whatever happened, the brewery and the era appear to have been wound up by then.