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.


Struggling Again With 1600s Derbyshire Strong Ale (Part 2… the Son of…)

Building on part one of this struggle, let’s consider the passage above again for a minute. It is from volume 7 of The Reliquary, by John Russell Smith, 1867. It looks a lot like the passage by Mott from 1965 that I quoted (poaching as I noted from the Martyn of 2009) in my previous part of this consideration of 1600s Derby ale. If we unpack it we see a number of things at the outset: small scale decentralize industry, great fame… and two products. Both ale and malt. But what made Derby ale… Derby ale? Let’s start from the last bit.

i. Two Commodities

Both ale and malt. It’s a common theme. In Magna Britannia: Volume 5, Derbyshire by Cadell and Davies published in 1817 we find another similar statement like the one made by J.R. Smith above:

The chief trade of Derby, about a century ago, consisted in malting and brewing ale, which was in great request, and sent in considerable quantities to London; in corn dealing also, and baking of bread for the supply of the northern parts of the county

And again, in The History of the County of Derby by Glover from 1829 is is stated:

About two centuries ago, according to Camden, the chief trade consisted in malting and brewing ale; which he spake of as being in great request, and much celebrated in London, to which city large quantities were sent.

Camden is William Camden who, conveniently for our purposes, dies in 1623 after writing a survey of Britain but well before coke. In his chapter of “Darbyshire”* in the late 1500s Camden wrote:

…all the name and credit that it hath ariseth of the Assises there kept for the whole shire, and by the best nappie ale that is brewed there, a drink so called of the Danish word “oela” somewhat wrested, and not of alica, as Ruellius deriveth it. The Britans termed it by an old word “kwrw” , in steede whereof curmi is read amisse in Dioscorides, where hee saith that the Hiberi (perchance he would have said Hiberni , that is, The Irishmen ) in lieu of wine use curmi , a kind of drinke made of Barly. For this is that Barly-wine of ours which Julian the Emperor, that Apostata , calleth merrily in an Epigramme πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον. This is the ancient and peculiar drinke of the Englishmen and Britans, yea and the same very wholsome, howsoever Henrie of Aurenches the Norman, Arch-poet to King Henrie Third, did in his pleasant wit merrily jest upon it in these verses:

Of this strange drinke, so like to Stygian Lake
(Most tearme it Ale), I wote not what to make.
Folke drinke it thicke, and pisse it passing thin:
Much dregges therefore must needs remain within.

The next paragraph is even more interesting:

Howbeit, Turnebus that most learned Frenchman maketh no doubt but that men using to drinke heereof, if they could avoid surfetting, would live longer than those that drinke wine, and that from hence it is that many of us drinking Ale live an hundred yeeres. And yet Asclepiades in Plutarch ascribeth this long life to the coldnesse of the aire, which keepeth in and preserveth the naturall heat of bodies, when he made report that the Britans lived untill they were an hundred and twenty yeeres old. But the wealth of this towne consisteth much of buying of corne and selling it againe to the mountaines, for all the inhabitants be as it were a kind of hucksters or badgers [salesmen].

Dealers. In grain. Fabulous. Brewers of beer and dealers in grain. Look at that passage from Mott (quoted in part one) again:

Much malt was carried to the ferry on the river Trent, five miles away, whence it could go by water to London; 300 pack-horse loads (each of 6 bushels which each contained 40lb) or 32 tons were taken weekly into Lancashire and Cheshire.”

The trade in malt is not the trade in ale and it’s not the trade in barley. We see the malt from Derbyshire referenced as late as in the mid-1700s. Pamela Sambrook in her 1996 book Country House Brewing in England, 1500-1900 wrote:

Particularly prized among midland brews houses in the early eighteenth century was ‘Darby’ malt. It is mentioned repeatedly by William Anson in his notebooks as the basis of the best-quality strong brews at Shugborough. Derby malt was also used by the Jervis household near Stone and the Farington household of Worden in Lancashire in the 1740s.

The export of Derby malt also pre-dated the generally accepted 1640s application of invention of coke to the malting process. And it was worth taking a risk over. Dorothy Bentley Smith in Past Times of Macclesfield, Volume 3 describes the laying of malt related charges:

On December 1629, James Pickford (former Mayor of Macclesfield 1626/27) a tanner by trade of Pickford Hall on Parsonage (Park) Green together with tow accomplices, George Johnson and Roger Toft, appeared in Court in Chester. Their crime: They had erected a handmill or quern in Wildboarclouggh to the detriment of the three Macclesfield mills. Pickford had family connections in Derby and admitted supplying the inhabitants of Macclesfield with Derby malt “as others had done” Malting was the principle trade in Derby, from here supplies were sent to the greater part of Cheshire, Straffordshire and Lancashire, with a considerable portion taken to London by which many good estates have been raised” (a comment written by a historian, Mr Woolley, in 1712).

So, it’s pretty clear that well before coke, Derby malt was a thing and a desired thing. Moved by massive pack horse trains, by water as discussed in the first post or by subterfuge as the Pickfords of Macclesfield illustrate. Folks wanted their hands on it.

ii. Top quality selected barley

What made Derby malt so popular? Was there a singular characteristic like the particularly sulfurous waters in Staffordshire where in the 1680s a satantic ale was brewed at the Brimstone Alehouse that later may well have been tamed to become the hallmark of Burton ale a quarter century later?

Just as the function of pre-coke straw kilning played a role as discussed in the previous episode of this head scratching tale, so too was the sort of barley being malted important. Houghton in his book on husbandry recites a reference from one of his earlier writing’s from 1682, as you can see above. Note that states that it is made of “sprat or battledore” barley. Careful readers will recall that Battledore was one of the identified varieties of barley in the 1700s.** It was also known as Spratt or Sprat and as such was a parent to that darling of English brewing before mid-1900s Maris Otter, Spratt-Archer.  And it was in a way, selected and treated as an improved variety well before Chevalier was introduced in 1823. Consider this passage from The Modern Husbandman, Vol II at page 9 and 10 written by William Ellis from 1750 where Battledore is described by another of its common names – Fulham barley:

…the Hertfordshire Farmers, several several of them, send for Fulham Barley-seed above thirty Miles an End, and all by Land carriage. Now, though we have sandy, chalky, and gravelly Lands just by Home, yet, we at Little-Gaddesden chuse to be at the extraordinary Charge of sending for this Fulham Barley-seed, though we live Thirty-four Miles from it, and find our Account in so doing for as we sow it in our stiff Loams, from off a fandy short Loam, it returns us a very early Crop, with a Kernel much bigger than that we sowed, and is so natural for making true Malt, that it is commonly sold for two Shillings a Quarter more than our common Barley…

Ellis goes on to list other reasons for “Fulham Barley seed before all others.” You can grow a turnip crop  or rape-seed or wheat in a cycle with it. it is so early, it gets a good air drying. It has a shorter season making it useful in northern plantings. It is also available as seed grain by water transportation. Plus we know it made excellent straw which mean not only could it withstand a storm but it provided one means, other than sun drying, before coke to make pale malt by flash kilning the barley with clean fuel. So, the use of Battledore – by one of its many names – was the use of the choicest barley known to the England of the 1600s.

iii. Growing and Integrated but Decentralized Barley Production

And it was not just the quality of the barley. It was the quantity of the quality. Access to lots of top quality barley was also important.  You are not building a pre-industrial hive of… industry without a fair bit of the raw resources. In volume 16 of the Derbyshire Miscellany, there is a wonderful study of the inventories and wills of farmers in the parish of Barrow-upon-Tweed to the south of Derby. What it describes are many farms growing barley at the time in question. At page 24 there is a very helpful table that shows how from the early 1500s to the late 1600s the percentage of farmers growing barley rose from 18% to 45%. Interestingly, mention is made of not only barley but big barley as a distinct crop sometimes stored separately. The sophistication in separating and blending grains is evident. Farmers also store malt and some even have separate well appointed brew houses. In Elizabethan Barrow-upon-Trent one farmer posessed eight steepfatts, aka steeping vats or mash tuns.

But local barley feeding in to the Derbyshire machine was not enough. In 2016’s Farmers, Consumers, Innovators by Dyer and Jones, there is a description of how the demand for Derby malt was so great that barley was brought in from neighbouring districts. They state that similar probate inventories indicated that large quantities of barley were being grown in neighbouring Nottinghamshire and that Derby maltsters depended on it and other sources:

…it seems that the inhabitants of Derbyshore were keen to make up any shortfall they might have had in the barley output of their own county by buying in barley and malt from elsewhere. Derby was famed as a centre for malting; according to Camden its trade was “to buy corn [grain], and having turned it into malt, to sell it again to the highland counties.”

Which tells us a few additional things. At a time when many grains were grown and stored both separately and blended in mixes, Derby malt was focused on barley and, as seen above, top quality barley.  And then it was made into a regional trade named product, aggregated in the storage barns by the river described in part one or by the 300 weekly loads by pack-cart and sold on to markets.  The aggregation of the trade is similar to the one in hops we saw in the mid-1700s court ruling discussed two and a half years ago where the purchasing agent went rogue on his boss, the hop dealer:

London-based James Hunter is described as being “one of the one of the most considerable dealers in hops in England.” His agent, named Rye, worked in the Cantebury area for years had been well known as Hunter’s man. But in 1764… there was another good year with hops bearing top price. Rye set out to make deals as an independent – without telling Hunter or anyone else.

So, the many maltsters in derby 1690 Houghton were a part of the same sort of supply chain well before control of all stages in an industrial output was considered. The key spot in that chain which Derby places itself is important, too. Malt was by far a premium priced bulk product over unmalted barley. William Ellis above noted in the mid-1700s that malt was worth two shillings more a quarter compared to barley. And as Broadberry, Campbell, Klein, Overton and van Leeuwen show in their 2015 text British Economic Growth, 1270–1870 (as summarized in the remarkable and remarkably clickable table to the right) that premium coincided with a general jump in barley production in the 1600s:

The output of barley increased markedly in line with demand for better-quality ale and beer brewed from the best barley malt.

So, the folk of Derby build the name for their malt and sell it to the country just as ale quality is peaking in general demand.

iv. Speculative Conclusion

All of which leads me to a question. As Jordan and I saw in our research that went into our cult classic history Ontario Beer, the cost of transportation was a great issue in the colonial boom of 1800s before 1867 and national Confederation. Beer was heavy and the roads were poor. Which meant whisky was carted inland and beer was for the lakeside towns. Above, we see that discussion by William Ellis on around 1750 describing the extraordinary costs being paid to move Fulham barley seed just thirty-odd miles. Yet, Derby malt is shipped out by pack horse and cart from county to county and Derby ale is prized in London. Why is it worth it?

What if Derby malt was so singular that ale made with it anywhere carried the mark? What if the malt was thicker, stronger, paler and so clear of smoke that even a London brewer could make identifiable Derby ale that matched what was brewed in its home county and stood above the competition? Was that what Pepys was drinking? I don’t know. So I will leave it there for now to see if I can find more about the shipment of malt into London from Derbyshire in the 1600s. I need to learn more about who was receiving what was being shipped out of the county.

*Note again the plague that is foisted upon the pure hearted digital document scanning historian.
**Pete B in his Miracle Brew suggests at page 30 that barley prior to the cultivation of Chevallier in 1823 was simply a landrace. Use of “landrace” as it comes to hops, say, in NY State in the early 1800s can be code for “an inability to go back farther in records” sometimes unfortunately laced with a dash of “I could not be bothered looking for more information.” My inclination was to consider this not correct as this 1790s discussion – let alone Houghton in 1682 – confirms. There were clearly species of barley known and made subject to husbandry before 1832 in England. But then consider this: “[a] landrace represents the equilibrium… within… a crop… under a given set of climactic, soil and husbandry conditions.” That seems to be what Battledore was… yet it was also selected and traded. Conversely, the same text Diversity in Barley discusses “barley breeding” as “conspicuously… different plants within local landrace populations together with separate harvest and seed multiplication.” So, landrace triggers breeding. Which makes landrace not a simple thing at all.

Struggling With 1600s Derbyshire Strong Ale (Pt 1)

I was thinking I needed to write a post about Derby ale. The other week when I wrote this post with a bit more information about some of the other great 1600s strong ales Margate and Northdown and Hull and Lambeth, I knew I needed to have a look at Derby.  I even had this lovely map, above, of the road to London from Derby* of the era, John Ogilby‘s atlas of 1675 working on the premise that it was going to tell me about how the beer got from Derby to London. A lovely map.

But then I began to read more and realized that I needed to understand more about the roads and the river Trent, the fuel crisis from 1550 to 1700 and period barley varieties. This is because, it strike me, Derby ale might just be the combination of at least three unique elements coming together as opposed the factors which caused its competition. It might actually be quite unlike them altogether – an ale named for a municipality which is not necessarily the municipality in which each example was brewed.

Then after a week of assembling the post and hitting 2500 words, I realized I need to break this down into manageable bits. So, in this post I am going to discuss factors related to Derby ale in the 1600s related to transportation and malt kilning while leaving other factors to another. Hopefully this will be more helpful even if, as Stan commiserated with me, after viewing yet another text “getting it wrong” I am also well aware no one much reads the history posts. Which is fine.

Factor One: Goods and Navigation on the Trent and Derwent

For a beer to be worth the cost of transportation, it is reasonable to expect that it had to have an advantage making that cost worthwhile. Advantage is key. We know that the poet Andrew Marvell obsessed, in his side gig as a Member of Parliament for Hull from 1658 to 1678, over the effect taxation was having on his constituency’s brewing industry. Given its 1600s southerly competition were all much closer, any imposition on the price of Hull ale would affect the position of Hull ale exports to London greatly.

The same is true for other great beers of the pre-Georgian era. In this post, I discussed how the opening of the Trent in 1711 by, George Hayne made the Trent navigable to the southwest of Nottingham leading to, in issue 383 of The Spectator from 20 May 1712, the early journalist Addison notes going out for the day in London with his pal Sir Roger to drink Burton ale. New and improved transit makes for new an improved drinks choices for the wealth drenched.

The city of Derby sits on a tributary of the Trent, the north to south flowing river Derwent** near where the rivers meet. Historically, the Trent was not navigable or at least not safe or perhaps reliable upriver from Nottingham, 13 miles to the east of Derby. According to this source, the Derwent was opened to navigation from Derby to the Trent at Wilden Ferry in 1721 under an Act passed the previous year. After the 1600s. In 1699, the same source states that the authority to open the Trent from Wilden Ferry to Burton was granted by Parliament to Lord Paget*** but only exercised, as noted above, in 1711. Again, after the 1600s.  So, following what might today be a 16 miles portion of the A52, goods would have been carted from Derby to Nottingham for loading on watercraft for London.

But would they? It is clear Derby ale is well known in London in the 1600s well before the opening up of the Trent and Derwent. Pepys drank it in the 1660s. The fame of Derby ale has been argued to be tied to the development of coke during the English Civil War in the 1640s. Hornsey, too, describes in his now ten year old History of Beer and Brewing how Derby produced fine ale by the mid-1600s. So before the rivers were made open in the 1700s, Derby ale was known. Meaning it had to have been, at least, moved by a mix of transport modes.

Notice, too, the scale of operations. As Martyn pointed out in a 2009 post, the historian RA Mott, writing in 1965, said of the town:

“In 1693, when there were 694 family houses, there were 76 malt houses and 120 ale houses, so that malt-making and brewing must have been the dominant occupations. A list of those occupied in the wool, leather, wood, metal and stone trades and the normal supply occupations left room for some 200 maltsters and brewers. Much malt was carried to the ferry on the river Trent, five miles away, whence it could go by water to London; 300 pack-horse loads (each of 6 bushels which each contained 40lb) or 32 tons were taken weekly into Lancashire and Cheshire.”

Which, if you think about it, is interesting. Pre-aggregation. If there are 76 malt houses, there isn’t one central mammoth Derby Malting Co. Similarly, there are 120 ale houses, not one or five big breweries. What is going on is cottage industry production. One alehouse or malt house for every 3.5 households on average. A large number of small operations coming together to make one product. This is different from, for example, the contemporary competition out of Northdown which depended on the reputation of one brewer, the “inventor” Mr. Prince.

Wikipedia tells us that stone barns and warehouses still exist at Shardlow, described as an inland port developed before the improvement of navigation on the Trent. Shardlow sit on the north side of the Trent “about 6 miles southeast of Derby and 11 miles southwest of Nottingham.” It is just to the west of where the Derwent enters the Trent. This is a heritage listing for a 1700s Shardlow barn which sits on “the London Road.” Here is another in the parish of Shardow on Wilne Lane, Great Wilne which sits to the east of Shardlow itself. This is a survey of bats living at another.  The regional tourism development agency describes the key feature of Shardlow today thusly:

Shardlow is one of the best-preserved inland canal ports in the country… A walk along the canal towpath brings you into contact with many of the old buildings of the Canal Age. Mostly now used for different purposes, but still largely intact: the massive warehouses that once stored ale, cheese, coal, cotton, iron, lead, malt, pottery and salt; and the wharves where goods were loaded and unloaded. 

A district with period barns and warehouses for storing bulk grain, malt and other goods indicates something. That it was a hub of storing bulk grain, malt and other goods. A point of aggregation.

Click on the thumbnail to the right. Notice the lay of the land. A narrow winding river in boggy land to both sides of the Trent Canal and the river itself. The Derwent also twists away to the north. No wonder getting goods through this area was difficult. No wonder statutes of Parliament and great investments were needed to get the goods out of the district in the 1700s.

So, to get out of town and down to London, Derby ale had to be transported and transported along a long road or a boggy river yet to be improved. Which, like the extra distance Hull ale needed to cover, is a cost that apparently Londoners were willing to bear.

Factor Two: Coke, Straw and Pale Ale

Derby ale is known to be an early adopter of coke kilned malt. Derbyshire, along with being the valley of the Derwent, is part of a fairly southerly coal mining district. A canal was finally constructed in the 1790s to get the coal out. Hornsey also describes in History of Beer and Brewing how Derby produced fine coke by the mid-1600s due to the particular purity and hardness of the region’s coal. Even so, coke was not immediately or universally accepted as a replacement for wood or straw.

Note that, I said above, the generally accepted date of coke being used for the kilning of malt is in the 1640s. But in 1977, an article in Scientific American states “[b]efore the British (sic) civil war of the 1640s, coke was introduced for the drying of malt in connection with the brewing industry.” Before. This appears consistent with contemporary records. In 1637, Charles I of England received the following petition:

61. Petition of John Gaspar Wolffen, his Majesty’s servant, to the King. Your Majesty gave leave to petitioner to make trial of his invention for brewing with a “charked” sea coal, which, as your Majesty has seen yourself, yields no smoke, and will do as readily, and within a little as cheap, as the ordinary way of brewing. Prays licence for brewers of Westminster and other places, questioned about smoke, who are willing to embrace the said invention, to continue in their brewhouses without molestation.

“Charked.” Made dark as if charcoal. Sea coal. Not Derby mined coal. Sea coal is coal gathered on a beach. It was gathered until at least ten years ago in some parts of Britain. An opportunity to make coke with that coal was suggested earlier by a decade. This is an interesting thing. It’s the sort of thing that was interesting to Martyn back in 2009 when he wrote this about coke kilning and Derby ale:

Coke was invented in the North of England (it appears to be a North Country dialect word, originally meaning “core”, as if the “coakes” were the “core” of the coal), apparently in the 17th century. Its use to make malt was first taking place in Derbyshire in the early 1640s, according to John Houghton, an apothecary and part-time journalist, who issued a weekly bulletin in the 1690s and early 1700s, price two pence, called A Collection for Improvement of Agriculture and Trade. In one issue in 1693 he talked about the coal miners of Derbyshire, and added:

The reason of Derby malt being so fine and sweet, my friend thinks is the drying it with cowks, which is a sort of coal … ’tis not above half a century of years since they dried their malt with straw (as other places now do) before they used cowkes which made that alteration since that all England admires.

Note one more thing about that passage from Houghton which Martyn quotes. Coke is the successor to straw. Not to coal. Not wood. Not even charcoal – aka “charked” wood. We have established, in this post from three years ago, that straw had been used for yoinks to kiln lovely pale and un-smoked malt. As Houghton stated in the 1690s: “’tis not above half a century of years since they dried their malt with straw…” Coke is the next fuel, not the first. We need to accept that pale malts either – sun dried and straw kilned – were a thing well before coke. Why wouldn’t there be? Cheap and effective and no one was sitting around glum waiting for the future when coke was going to be invented.

We know that ale was popular, pale and not smokey in the 1690s after coke was introduced as a kilning fuel as Martyn showed in 2009:

[A]nother late 17th century writer, Mr Christopher Merret*, “surveyor of the Port of Boston”, fills the breach, though writing about Lincolnshire, not Derby. In a paper called “An Account of Several Observables in Lincolnshire, Not Taken Notice of in Camden, or Any Other Author”, presented to the Royal Society in 1695-97, he wrote:

“Here Cool are Charred and then call’d Couk, wherewith they Dry Malt, giving little Colour or Taste to the Drink made therewith.”

Pale ale was definitely being made in Lincolnshire in the 1690s from coke-dried malt. Yet earlier than that point, paleness and purity of taste was not created by coke. Over 100 years earlier a similar observation was made, well before the invention of coke by William Harrison, a scholar clergyman, who published his book A Description of England in 1577. Here is a full copy of the text posted by Fordham University in which you will find this:

The best malt is tried by the hardness and colour; for, if it look fresh with a yellow hue, and thereto will write like a piece of chalk, after you have bitten a kernel in sunder in the midst, then you may assure yourself that it is dried down. In some places it is dried at leisure with wood alone or straw alone, in others with wood and straw together; but, of all, the straw dried is the most excellent. For the wood-dried malt when it is brewed, beside that the drink is higher of colour, it doth hurt and annoy the head of him that is not used thereto, because of the smoke.

Chalk is, you will note, pale and also that smoke is associated with wood. Straw kilned malt has the best of both. This was long remembered. In the seventh edition of the The London and Country Brewer from 1759, this is stated under the heading “The Value of Coak”:

It is a most sweet Fuel for drying Malt, the pale Sort in particular, but is best made from the large Pit Coal, which has supplanted the Use of Straw Fuel; and, when it is made to Perfection, it is the most admired Sort of all others.

This passage is in Chapter IX “Of the Fuel to dry Malt, of Malt, &do.” In that chapter, there is a description of techniques and a variety of fuels in a number of English locations including an unnamed town (ie “…in this Town of ____…“), Warminster, Ispswith, Oxfordshire as well as Derbyshire. A number of fuels are described such as aged wood, Welsh coal, coke, fern after a good shower of rain, wheat straw and “Newcastle Coal burnt in a Cockle-Oast.” A successful malt kilning is described as forcing “a quicker Fire to crisp the Kernel, and thereby save Fuel, Time and Labour.” Which means that even as late as 1759, the driving forces behind making malt are financial efficiency through use of available local resources. Standardization of malt kilning fuel has yet to be imposed through full scientific industrialization. Coke is not yet king.

The chapter also includes a specific discussion of Derby ale:

Mr. Houghton’s Observations of Malt-Making – The Reason, he says, why Derby malt does not make so strong ale as formerly, now they make the pale Sort, is because they lay it too thin on the floor to come, by which a great deal is not malted and the rest only Barley turned. Now in Hampshire, he says, the Barley, which is much smaller and thicker skinned,  is laid thicker on the Floors, and consequently heats, and all becomes rich Malt and makes stronger Beer with the same Quantity.

The Mr. Houghton being quoted is John Houghton (1645–1705), member of the Royal Society, a newsletter publisher writing in the 1680s and 1690s and an apothecary – as was Louis Hébert in Quebec in the first half of the same century. Proto-scientists. The passage above referencing Houghton from the The London and Country Brewer in the 1750s is looking back to Houghton’s opinion in the last two decades of the 1600s by which time Derby ale is already on the downturn, less than it once was. 

We will leave it there for now. This one has hit about 2650 itself. So more in another post soon. Derby ale was something that was worth getting out of the hinterland into the capital. It was made with coke and, before that, straw. Straw was still being used side by side with coke after the new technology was initially introduced. And, whatever it was, Derby ale was already on the way down at the end of the 1600s.

*Which I think is now part of the A6.
**I know “-by” is town so I presume “-went” is river and both relate to “the Der” – whatever that is.
***Another ambassador to Constantinople like Sir John Finch who loved Northdown.

Book Review: 20th Century Pub by Boak and Bailey (Part 2)

This is a difficult review to write. Even if it is only part two so therefore half a review. I don’t like to come across as all fawning… but I have a hard time finding anything other to write other than I think this is the best book about beer I have ever read. See what I mean? How dull is that? Think of Jesus in Paradise Lost. That dull. How can I illustrate this problem in such a way that is actually helpful to you, that bit of the reading public who stops by here from time to time? Let’s see.

First, voice. One of the most interesting things about this book is how at quite specific points – but only at quite specific points – the writers breach what in TV is called the fourth wall. In sitcoms and crime dramas, we all assume, unconsciously sitting in our rec rooms on our sofas, that we are a camera, in a room with the actors and that the view of the lens is the view of the person viewing at home but somehow also in the room. Or when we read a book we forget we are interacting with an author and get lost in the suspension of the disbelief that one hope a good book offers as we are brought along by the storyteller’s pace. As is fully the case with this book – except when the authors interject themselves into the commentary about either the subject matter or the process of writing at certain points. It is deftly managed. Interspersed amongst long passages of excellently research and absorbingly described history. The authors are not there in view until they are and only when it is helpful.*

Second, structure. One of the most appealing things about this book is now it is not derivative. Beer books too often take the structure of other beer books** and maybe event a large part of its content and replicates it with a supposed update in terms of geography or the passage of, say, 18 months since the publication of a book roughly on the same topic. How many intro style manuals, food and beer pairing texts or geographical guides have come out? How many more will? Many.*** But structured histories leading through an important period? Few. THEN, add into the fact that it leads up to and creates the theoretical foundation for understanding many of the drinking establishments you have ever visited – more likely the case in the UK but not at all dislocated from the modern North American experience given how this micro brewing era began in the late 70s and early 80s in large part as an homage to UK brewing traditions. This gets a bit shocking as you realize you are reading whole chapters organized around disassembling elements of social patterns you just accepted were there. Consider just the chapter on gastropubs. It’s good enough on its own to be something you might read in that magazine that accompanies the Sunday edition of The New York Times. It also explains the milk paint in certain pubs and craft beer bars, where all the out of pattern plates and dishes came from and why a pile of salad is next to your shepherd’s pie – or more likely not shepherd’s pie but something a bit nicer. I actually looked up when I was done the chapter and thought to myself “what a good chapter” which is about as high a level of praise as I give out, chapterwise.****

Third, detailed research. Using primary sources contemporary to events! Footnotes. We get so numbed by fictive influencers, promoting pundits and the otherwise compromised that original research comes as a surprise. But there it is. Especially heartening is the presence of original transcriptions or newspaper interview of people who are – wait for it – still alive. Which means the authors have consciously made the determination that records contemporary with an occurrence are to be preferred to the recollection of the occurrence many years later. They got themselves into public libraries and perhaps even private business records. This is something which the entire history of craft beer in North America does not seem to have come to grips with yet. While oral history projects are certainly valuable, have we an effort out there to archive original records related to US craft in the 1980s? At the moment I am more confident that we could create a documented understanding of the state of American brewing in the 1880s. Not so now with the 20th century English pub.

Fourth, envy. This book is extremely appealing in its simple presentation of a well researched topic pushed along by a compelling narrative. Having co-written books myself, I was even thinking of how I might allocate bits to being more Boak than Bailey but gave up almost immediately. I have to be honest with myself. I have hacked away at this writing stuff for years. In relation to just beer about 26.6% of my life. I like to think what I have written is useful and entertainingly stated***** but, holy moly, is this stuff both strong and subtly put. As I recall, there is no more than two pages on how US black servicemen were received in English pubs during WW2 but it is so well placed and quietly left that you can’t help but contemplate the implications. Conversely, the massive and loud noise that was imposed on the UK market by the creation and expansion of that which is J.D. Wetherspoons is presented in great detail but without any bluster. Another well controlled, satisfying chapter.

So, there you have it. I have little more to add. A very solid bit of work.  I told you it was good. And it is. Get it.

*There. That’s not too fawning. I think I am off on the right track. This book is not just a patched together bunch of blog posts. It’s a book.
**They themselves first nicked from wine.
***Yes, we know that it is all publishers want but really.
****Fine, yes… fawning. Fine. Still true.
*****Especially this stuff about beer and brewing from the 1600s which I am not sure you are all appreciating as much as you should.

Book Review: 20th Century Pub by Boak and Bailey (Part 1)

It should be no secret that I have looked forward to the publication of 20th Century Pub by Boak and Bailey ever since the project was hinted at on their blog. The feeling reminded me of the release some years ago of Pete Brown’s Hops And Glory which I reviewed over four blog posts in 2009. What I think I find most similar between my expectations for these two books is the anticipation of work by authors who have proven themselves to be creative and committed in their previous books. I am only half way through 20th Century Pub but it has already exceeded even these expectations – so much so that I want to jump queue to tell you about their methodology and why I think you should just to email them and buy this excellent bit of work.

This book reminds me a bit more of their neither long nor short work, 2014’s Gambrinus Waltz: German Lager Beer in Victorian and Edwardian London than their perhaps more well known first book, later that same year’s Brew Britannia. I say that because the historical narrative is driven a bit more by the greater context of society than just the players involved. One of the odd things about the history of micro brewing and later craft beer is how personality drives the discussion. That is fine for early days when there were a few people (although sometimes not necessarily the same few people, the successful survivors, who self-identify) who were the actual pioneers. And, to be fair to those involved, the early days of craft appear to not have generated as many records considered worth retaining as we keeners today might have wished.* However, while it is fun to learn about these people and (as sometimes occurs) associated vicariously with them, it is far more interesting to understand how brewing and beer and pubs and taverns actual existed and exist in the greater context of society based on records which were created contemporaneously. For larger events it is best to seek out authority elsewhere.

Thankfully, their tale of micro brewing and craft’s origins in the UK, Brew Britannia, did just that and relies on primary documents from the time in addition to interviews of persons involved looking back from three decades later.  This book repeats that process and explores the subject matter from the wider range of sources. This is detailed and time consuming work – and the work undertaken shows in the result set out on these pages. An example. I have just read the chapter on 1950s estate pubs. To understand what an estate pub is you need to understand estates and to understand estates you need to understand British municipal planning principles of the first two-thirds of the 1900s.

I am somewhat familiar with this. I am a municipal lawyer. And some of you may have picked up that I am a dual national, Canadian and British. Many of my UK family when I was young lived in what we here in Canada would call “public housing” but in the UK the word for much of it was “estate” and they look at lot like what we might consider a condensed post-WWII subdivision when it wasn’t a low rise apartment building. My grannie, aka Bailee M’Leod aka Dad’s mother, as a municipal Labour politician was actually involved actively in the 1930s to 1950s in destroying slum neighbourhoods of the 1840s and building these sorts of forms of public housing. These events fed my bedtime stories, tales of the old country when they were not about Nazi bombings of the Clyde.**

Knowing that bit of the background, I am able to trust the point being made. Placing the particular point in its context is one of the great successes of this book. Boak and Bailey weave the the meaning of estate as they explain the estate pub, a somewhat sterile slightly spare Scandinavian set up that were allocated strategically through these new living spaces by municipal planning processes. Likewise, earlier in the book they contextualize the end of the Victorian gin palace and how it was responded to by the State Management Scheme of pubs introduced after WWI without the too common uninformed slag upon slag over the temperance movement. Judging from a seat in the future is one of the worst faults of a historian. Almost as bad as disobeying chronology. The authors here simple gather up sources and then unpack the narrative. Fabulous stuff. And not that simple at all.

I am taking my time, reading slowing. I am in the chapter on theme pubs, which related to the photo at the top of the page. In 2012, I wrote about the politician’s mother, my paternal great-grannie who goes by “Grannie Campbell” in our family. She loved drink and pubs and apparently she most loved the Suez Canal pub in Largs,*** which was coincidentally my mother’s hometown. The image I am guessing is from the 1940s and the bartender was former world boxing champ, Jackie Paterson. Given the book is about English pubs and not British ones, my submission of the photo did not make the cut. Saddened I was but then heartened by the rigor being imposed by the authors.

Buy this book.

*Somewhere I have an email discussion with Stan about the lack of records even from the early GABF days. Can’t find it. Probably deleted it.
**Including the story of the cousin who claimed Hitler saved his life when the air raid sirens woke his family up, got them running to the shelter only to witness the building explode before the bombs started dropping. Apparently someone had left the gas on.
***I only have one quibble with the book so far in fact – a Largs based quibble. B+B claim that the first espresso machine came to Britain in 1951. Being a child of a child of Largs I am well acquainted withe Nardini’s which opened in 1935. Uncle grew up as pals with Aldo. His Dad had a famous run in with one of the owners over an invoice for pebble dash. Italian ice cream parlours and cafe’s were an established thing even in 1935. Pretty sure they would have had espresso from day one given it also had an American soda bar and an electric dish washing machine.

“No Liquor On Earth Is Like Nottingham Ale!”

As a lad, before the internet, I was a keener for the BBC World Service. I actually visited the studios at Bush House on the Strand in 1980 on a family holiday and sat in on a Dave Lee Travis show taping. Most evenings I would listen to the shortwave and at the top of the hour before the news hear the station’s identification signal, the Lillibullero. Little did I know that the short tune played right after “This is London” and before the “beep beep beep beep beep beeeeeeeeep” of the hour was taken from an English folk song called “Nottingham Ale“,* the singing of which which you can hear here

I learned that fact searching for references to the great ales of late 1600s England in an archive of mid- and late-1700s colonial New York newspapers. I came across this lyric to the right which was to be sung to the tune of “Nottingham Ale.” It was published in New York’s Gazette of the United States on 18 August 1790. Which means that there was some understanding in NYC at that time of Nottingham, England having, you know, an ale. So well known, in fact, that a brewer in New York, John F. Jones, appears to have been using the name for one of his own local ales if the New York Gazette of 12 March 1803 is to be believed.

What isn’t in the archive are references to Derby ale,** Hull ale or Margate ale, the coastal and carted ales of England in the 1600s. As we have seen, there are plenty of references in the NY press to other English ales not much discussed in the 1600s – ales like Taunton, Burton and Gainsborough. What is remarkable seems to be how while the pattern of naming these great ales for the cities from which they came continued, these transoceanic ales were named after a largely if not entirely a distinct class of city. Hmm.

Anyway, this short post bridges a few things that I need to unpack a bit more but most of all it should serve as encouragement for all you all to learn the words and tune of “Nottingham Ale” so that we may sing it when we meet next. Extra points for learning the version in praise of St. Andrew set out above, too.

*Amongst other antecedents.
**Need to work on a Derby post. I have found quite a lovely map from 1680…

A Little More On Northdown Ale And Margate Ale And Lambeth Ale And…

We have discussed Northdown ale before. One of the seventeenth century’s coastal ales that predate Burton’s arrival on the scene around 1712. Northdown of the strong ales that Locke described as “for sale” as opposed to home or estate use. But in that earlier Northdown post from, what, coming up on two years ago, most of the references to it are not contemporary to the 1600s. A lot of the discussion actually depends on one text, the 1723 The History and Antiquities of the Isle of Thanet by Rev John Lewis of Margate, which was itself then picked up in in an 1865 travel piece on Thanet published in The Athenaeum. To address that situation, I have been collecting more mid-seventeen century references over the weeks and months since then to do a better job of figuring out what was going on in the 1600s. One of the earliest I have found so far sits at the very helpful website Margate in Maps and Pictures compiled by one Anthony Lee, we read that in 1636:

John Taylor reported ‘there is a Towne neere Margate in Kent, (in the Isle of Thanett) called Northdowne, which Towne hath ingrost much Fame, Wealth, and Reputation from the prevalent potencie of their Attractive Ale’.*

Part of that potency related to the health of one’s nether regions, specifically kidney stones. In The Art of Longevity, or, A Diæteticall Instition by Edmund Gayton (1608-1666) we read this passage:

What is ale good for? look against his doors,
And you shall see them rotted with ale-showrs:
It hath this speciall commendation,
To cleanse the ureter, and break the Stone:
Just as a feather-bed the flint doth break,
So th’ other stone your North-down-ale alike…

The author Gayton appears to have been Oxford educated as well as both an accomplished writer as well as a medical man. This work was published in 1659 and is described by the wiki-mind as “a verse description of the wholesomeness or otherwise of various foods.” The passage above is in chapter eight, “Of Ale”. There are chapters on wine as well as meath or metheglin and also beer:

Beer is a hop remov’d from ale, the hop
from a damn’d weed is a common crop…

I like the date of that work. That is two years before 1661’s publication in Wit and Drollery, Joviall Poems: Corrected and much amended, with Additions by the well known coded duo “Sir I. M. Ia. S” and “Sir W. D. I. D.” and the fabulous poem “On the Praise of Fat Men” in which we have the lovely lines which I only saw in a footnote before offering other healthful (or perhaps health-related) properties:

But now, for rules before we eat,
And how to chuse right battning meat,
For spoon-meat, barly-broth and jelly,
Very good is for the belly.
For mornings draught your north-down-ale**
Will make you oylely as a Whale;
But he that will not out flesh wit
Must at the good Canary sit;
For ’tis a saying very fine
Give me the fat mans wit in wine…

And, again, Northdown ale is the drink of the great and good. With a health related effect if not benefit. And, like those 1620s letters seeking September ale or beer for the Sir Horace Vere’s English delegation to the Netherlands, there are letters from Finch family files seeking shipments of Northdown to be sent to Constantinople in the 1670s where Sir John Finch was stationed as ambassador of England to the Ottoman Empire.

It is clear that in at least the second two-thirds of the 1600s, Northdown existed as one of a number of ales of note. It seems to transition into or also be known concurrently as “Margate” ale. This is perhaps due to that town expanding into and absorbing the neighbouring village of Northdown. It is now just a district next to Margate’s town centre. It could also be that Northdown ales were shipped from Margate to London. The article in The Athenaeum from 1865, mentioned above, also links the name change to the death of the brewer and land owner named John Prince whose Northdown was prized in the 1680s or at least until his death in 1687. Could he have been the brewer of the ales reported back in 1636? Maybe but unlikely.

“Margate” hangs on as a descriptor of ale longer than most of its 1600s classmates mainly through the long success of Cobb’s Brewery. A brewery appears to have operated at the site from no later than the first decade of the 1700s. Cobb brewed there from 1760 through to the early 1800s when it owned 53 public houses and three farms and, then, for many decades thereafter. A second local brewery owned by the family from 1808 had a circular brew house. As The London Gazette of 11 October 1892 indicates, it returned to sole proprietorship from the 1890s to the 1937 when FM Cobb died in his 90s. The brewery sold Margate stout in the mid-1900s. The National Archive listings indicate that the sizable Cobb empire generated brewery records right up to 1967 right around when Whitbread bought it and shut it.

The term “Margate ale” is also used generically into the nineteenth century including in 1866’s Passages from the auto-biography of a “man of Kent” on the life of Robert Cowtan. It also appears in the 1869 book Mrs. Brown in London by one Arthur Sketchley. And if you click on the image to the right you will see a passage from  1871’s publication Lectures on the Principles and Practice of Physic as delivered at King’s College, London by Sir Thomas Watson in, likely, the 1830s. Like Gayton above, his fellow medical professional counterpart of two centuries before, no dummy. Later in life, a physician to Queen Victoria. And note that the “cure” he is speaking of, the thing that he cannot discount Margate ale helping with, is abdominal tumours. Jings. Could it really do that? Perhaps it just couldn’t hurt.

As noted, Northdown and Margate stood with other great ales. Consider this poem “The Praise of Hull Ale” which is unfortunately from a Victorian anthology from 1888, In Praise of Ale. The poems follows other that are more Elizabethan than Stuart but follows with the notation “here is a Yorkshire song of the same period, minus a few necessary excisions“! So, no promise that this is not a botched improvement on a more interesting original. Beware! That being said, note the range of beverages described in this most generous cutting and pasting.

Let’s wet the whisde of the muse
That sings the praise of every juice
This house affords for mortal use;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s ale of Hull, which, ’tis well known,
Kept King and Keyser out of town,
Now it will never hurt the Crown;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s Lambeth ale to cool the maw.
And beer as spruce as e’er you saw,
But mum as good as man can draw;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s scholar that has doft his gown,
And donn’d his cloak and come to town.
Till all’s up, drunk his college down;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s North down, which in many a case
Pulls all the blood into the face.***
Which blushing is a sign of grace;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s that by some bold brandy hight,
Which Dutchmen use in case of fright.
Will make a coward for to fight;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s China ale surpaaseth far
What Munden vents at Temple Bar,
‘Tis good for lords’ and ladies’ ware;
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s of Epsom will not fox
You more than what’s drawn from the cocks
Of Nuddleton yet cures smallpox;
Which nobody can deny.

For ease of heart, here’s that will do’t,
A liquor you may have to boot.
Invites you or the devil to’t;
Which nobody can deny.

That’s a quite a list. A list showing a wide variety of something that looks a lot like styles – and our darling Sammy Pepys drank it all. A quick search via Lord Goog for various phrases in his diary shows he records drinking Lambeth Ale on at least 8, 10 and 12 June 1661 as well as 27 April 1663. He had Northdown ale on 27 August and 13 September in 1660 as well as 1 January 1660/61. Margate ale is mentioned on 7 May, 27 August and 26 October in 1660. He had Hull Ale on 4 November 1660. He also had Derby ale and China ale. There are many references to Mum, buttered ale, wormwood ale. Bottled beer, too. In fact, he complains on 23 May 1666 of an eye ailment due to “my late change of my brewer, and having of 8s. beer.” A man of wide and varied taste. Notice, however, that there are no references to March ale or October ale according to the Google search. Is that correct? Maybe these were old fashioned labels by the 1660s.

Lambeth. Let’s look at this ale as a last consideration. We’ve written a bit about Hull ale before so, yes, let’s look at Lambeth. Well… except that in the 1670s the poet Andrew Marvel in his side gig as Member of Parliament for the city of Hull wrote a fair bit back to the municipal corporation about the taxation of beer. But set that aside. Let’s look at Lambeth. One problem as Martyn mentioned over at Facebook: “It’s a bit of a mystery where Lambeth Ale was actually brewed.” If you click on that image you will see one reason why. It’s a map from the 1720 edition of Stow and Strype – and even at that time Lambeth was mainly filled with fields and physically distinct from the actual City of London. Consider this painting from the 1680s by F.W. Smith. Open grounds down to the Thames sit all around Lambeth Palace, London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Where’s the brewery?

Perhaps it will help to discuss what Lambeth isn’t. First, it isn’t a brewing scene that seems to continue. As I mentioned in the Locke post the other day, Lambeth is noted in a 1939 book Prices and Wages in England**** covering 1500 to 1900 but it was specified as a type of beer in 1708. The references to Lambeth are found in relationship to Lord Steward’s accounts, royal court records of ale and beer purchases from the late 1600s through the 1700s. Lambeth ends in 1708 in one sense because there is no equivalent of the Cobb family as in Margate that continues and builds upon a 1600s legacy well into the 1800s. Lambeth did have later great breweries in the 1800s including the joint stock British Ale Brewery of 1807 on Church Street to the south of the palace and the Red Lion Brewery built on the site of the Belvedere pleasure gardens in the 1830s but there seems to be no continuity to the use of the words “Lambeth ale” in the 1600s.

“Lambeth ale” is also not a euphemism for London beer. Lambeth ale was brought into London itself. Lambeth is not only physically distinct,***** it is purposefully distinct. It is the ecclesiastical centre. In the 1670s it sits in view of Westminster, seat of secular power both royal and Parliamentary, to the north and across the river. London had its own brewers who we have discussed before. There is the brewing at dodgy and somewhat inland Golden Lane near Cripplegate that extended from the medieval to the Nazi bombings including the Golden Lane brewery of the 1700s. There is also beer to be bought from John Reynonds of London as the Hudson Bay Company did in the 1670s. The City of London itself had its own contemporary brewers separate and distinct from those of Lambeth.

So “Lambeth” is not a fuzzy euphemism for brewing in and around London. It is not Lambeth Hill. Lambeth proper is a bit upriver. Cleaner water. Charles II swam there. And you might think spiritually purer, too. This is an odd thing. Lambeth of the last third of the 1600s seems to have a spicy reputation… though perhaps where in London didn’t. It is the era just after the Restoration of the monarchy as well as the time of the restoration of London after the Great Fire of 1666. The end of Puritanism. In The Journal of Brewery History 135 (2010) we find the article, “Women, Ale and Company in Early Modern London” by Tim Reinke-Williams we learn about a ballad from around 1680, Five Merry wives of Lambeth, which tells how Sarah, Sue, Mary, Nan and Nell “lov’d good Wine, good Ale, and eke good chear” which beings with and is subtitled:

Five wanton wives at Lambeth liv’d I hear which lov’d good wine, good ale, and eke good chear, and something in a corner they would take for which they went abroad to merry make and what they did, if you will but draw near the full conclusion you shall quickly hear. 

Wanton! Deary me. Bawdy maybe lower class lewd encounters! It was a multi-purpose zone. In 1648, Parliament placed a garrison and prison in Lambeth House which they also used as a prison. With the Restoration, came the rebuilding of Lambeth Palace as viewed by Pepys in 1665 but still he went there to gypsy fortune-tellers in 1668. Vauxhall Gardens were also newly developed nearby during that same decade. There was a tavern with ale and, err, bawdy upper class lewd encounters.

So, at this point, a couple of ideas strike me. Lambeth ale may be multi-sourced ale from the zone of sauciness well known to those in London. Think Coney Island.  It could actually, on the other hand, be ale brewed in connection to the Palace. Could it be there are either brewing accounts or brewing records confirming if the Archibishop was a buyer or seller of ale? It could, of course, be something else. Who knows? Stuff for the comments and future posts.

Let’s go back to Locke. In this post all I have done is unpacked and organized what he called “ale for sale” – the 1600s English ales with a city in the title. Two things happen soon thereafter. Things change and, if we obey chronology, things that were not likely anticipated. Burton and porter. Behemoth and Leviathan. Brewing at a greater scale and at an industrial pace is coming with the new century.


Your footnotes attached to today’s reading:

*from John Taylor’s book, The honorable, and memorable foundations, erections, raisings, and ruines, of divers cities, townes, castles, and other pieces of antiquitie, within ten shires and counties of this kingdome namely, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Barkshire, Essex, Middlesex, Hartfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire: with the description of many famous accidents that have happened, in divers places in the said counties. Also, a relation of the wine tavernes either by their signes, or names of the persons that allow, or keepe them, in, and throughout the said severall shires, Printed for Henry Gosson, London, 1636.

**Do you see the common problem for the poor amateur beer historian? In each case it is spelled “N/north-down-ale” and not Northdown ale. That’s the real curse of the digital era, Lord Good’s lack of lateralism consideration.

***So, keeping score, it flushes the face full of grace, gets you oily as a whale and breaks down kidney stones.

****Reader Brian Welch was kind enough to scan a few pages from a copy at a library at Harvard.
It appears that after the restoration of Charles II, accounts of expenditures were required if Parliament was to pay for them. Which is why the records mainly begin in 1659. They continue to 1812 and include all beer and ale stored in the palace butteries Pretty good record. They include “bonfire ale” which is ales for bonfires which may be public event where the royals pay for the ale as opposed for ales for the royal households themselves.

*****One traveled to Lambeth. Pepys got there by coach, by horse and by boat and even by foot over the ice.  It was “near” rather than “here” for those describing it in the late 1600s.

A 1679 Classification Of Beer By John Locke

To the right you will see a passage from The Life of John Locke from 1876 that includes a quotation from a letter written by the philosopher in 1679. These is plenty to unpack from the passage but for present purposes I want to consider the bits about beer as it provides an excellent means to understand what I have been slowly exploring in that distant century.

Locke organizes English beer under three high level categories: (1) home-made, (2) for sale, and (3) compound. These are the broken down further by sub-categories or examples. Home-made is beer and ale as well as strong and small. Those brewed for sale are illustrated by Lambeth ale, Margate ale and Derby ale. Compound ales are described by an open ended list: cock, wormwood, lemon, scurvygrass and College ales are followed by an “etc.” There is also a single example of an import, Mum.

Home-made strong would include the familiar forms March and October brewed in big houses – as well as that newly pesky thing called September. The sort of propertied folk who might have a copy of the 1668 edition of A Way To Get Wealth where the two classes are called March and ordinary. By at the latest the mid-1700s they are joined by the massive ales for the heir of a great estate reaching the age of majority. While Locke might not be a customer himself, home-made strong and small would also include ale house beers of the sort mocked in the early 1600s poem on Elynour Rummyng.

Beers for sale are a familiar form we have seen before. Big ales shipped along the coast like Hull ale, Margate or Northdown ale, Derby ale and Nottingham ale are all familiar names from seventeenth century records. Lambeth ale is interesting. Pete Brown in his first book Man Walks Into A Pub stated (at page 77):

I’m not sure what’s special about Lambeth in the ale stakes, but Samuel Pepys used to swear by it, and he knew his ale.

Two years ago, I wrote about brewing at Lambeth in the early 1800s but that was a new facility, not from what I can see any continuation of earlier brewing at that site. And I don’t see Martyn discussing 1600s Lambeth in his book Amber, Gold & Black or on his website. Nothing at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins either. As you can see to the right, Lambeth ale is recorded in Beverages’ 1939 book Prices and Wages in England covering 1500 to 1900 but he notes at page 397 that he last sees it being specified as a type of beer in 1708.

Interesting to note that Burton is not listed by Locke. This confirms that Burton ale, as suspected, was not shipped until the improvement to the river in or just before 1712. You will see in that same page just above from Beverage’s research that Burton is noted as a specific ale starting in 1713. Neato chronology-wise.

What Locke calls compound ales is the most interesting aspect of his categorizations as it seems to include brewing that includes an odd ingredient like scurvygrass ale along with beers made for specific functions like College ale. One possibility is that College ale has an odd ingredient. We may have seen this before in the case of Coppinger’s early 1800s description of Dorchester Ale. It seems to turn on the inclusion of ginger and cinnamon. We have also seen in the early 1600s that English sailors off Newfoundland added the juices of bruised herbs to make medicinal tonic beers. Functional adjunct-laced brewing. It’s not much discussed from my reading but Locke clearly considered it of significant enough a status to include it.

The beauty of the passage is it provides a construct, a “conceit” if I recall my seventeenth century lit class correctly. The classification of things was a thing that either Plutarchan or Senacan essayists were up to and Locke gives us a bit of that usefully for the beer he saw around himself. It also sets a benchmark for consideration of the great changes in British brewing that come in the 1700s. I shall govern myself accordingly.