Bayonne Outside Cider Off Newfoundland In 1520


I had lost this book. I found it again yesterday. The precursors of Jacques Cartier, 1497-1534: a collection of documents relating to the early history of the Dominion of Canada. Notice that it is a book published under the authority of the Canadian Federal Minister of Agriculture published by the Government Printing Bureau in Ottawa in 1911. We really used to know how to do government right.

Attentive readers will recall last March’s post in which I speculated on who might actually have been the first brewer in New France. A year earlier I wrote about the masses of beer transported along with the English Arctic iron ore mining mission led by Martin Frobisher in the 1570s. This is half a century earlier and might at least exemplify the earliest sort of alcohol use in North America – cider. Newfoundland is an obvious candidate. I suspect West Country fishermen drying cod for the summer caught on the Grand Banks were brewing at their coastal camps in the late 1500s. In the early 1600s they were clearly using beer and aqua vitae. So, its pretty much obvious that the earliest crews were enjoying strong drink in their earliest voyages as this record from 1520 shows:

To My Lord the Lieutenant of My Lord the Mayor, Sheriffs and Notable Council of Bayonne:

Messrs. Michael de Segure and Matthew de Biran make humble petition, setting forth that they have decided, at God’s pleasure, to send their vessel as far as Newfoundland to fish, and they need a large quantity of provisions, and among other things the number and quantity of forty butts of cider, of the best that can be found. And this being so, that the said de Segure has an orchard on his farm at St. Stephen, which is worked at his expense and from this he has a certain amount of cider; and also the said de Biran has certain debts at Seinhanx, for which he is willing to take payment in cider. In consideration of this, the said petitioners beg, supplicate and ask that you will be pleased to grant them permission, by special favour and without prejudice to the regulations of the said city, to load on board the said vessel forty butts of outside cider, part from the farm of the said de Segure and the surplus from Seinhanx, for the provision and victualling of the said vessel ; and you will be doing well.

Signed : M. de Biran.

The present request having been read and considered here in council, it has been ordered that the said petitioners, after they have taken oath before My Lord the Lieutenant, shall be allowed and permitted to load cider in their said vessel for the provisioning of the same, half the amount necessary thereto being grown in the city, and the other half being that belonging to the said petitioners. And this by special favour, in consideration of the voyage the said vessel is to make, and without prejudice to the regulations of the city making mention of wines and ciders, and to other restrictions and edict of the king, our lord, relating to the ports, loading and unloading. And should they be found doing the contrary, they will incur a fine of one hundred livres tournois, to be applied to the affairs of the city.

Given in council, 6 March, 1520.

Bayonne is a port town on the Atlantic coast just north of the French-Spanish border. You seem to be able to get cider and cod fish tapas there still. Early relations on the Canadian coast appear to have been friendly, Mi’kmaq chiefs joining them on the return trip over wintering in Europe on occasion. Crews from Bayonne had been sailing long distances for centuries before this request for cider was made. The Grand Banks cod fishery continued for decades after, well before settlement attempts. Strong drink would have accompanied them throughout the centuries. We even had a fish war with Spain in the 1990s. That image up there? It’s actually from 178 years after M. de Segure and M. de Biran set out with their 40 butt in the hold – according to the Government of Canada website where I found it. Hey. We still do this stuff through government action.

So… what is outside cider? I have no idea.

Grill, Shed, Steak, Rain, Bieres de Garde And Saisons

The trouble with charcoal grilling is that when the rain comes you can’t turn it off. Propane, on the other hand, has a nice dial that has a “0” setting. But there is the garden shed and, when it rains and you have visitors, it can turn out to be a delightful place to while away a late afternoon hour reading last week’s newspapers in the recycling bin, listening to AM radio and comparing a few examples of bieres de garde and saisons.

We opened the Ch’ti Blonde from Brasserie Castelain à Bénifontaine first, a gold ale called a saison (though French not Belgian) by the BAers but a biere de garde by Phil Markowski in his book Farmhouse Ales under a white mouse head that resolved to a froth and rim. It was the favorite of the set with cream malted milk, pear juice and nutty grain. Very soft water. I actually wrote “limpid cream of what graininess” but I am a little embarrassed by that pencil scribble. It gets a fairly poor rating from the BAers but maybe that is because they were not in a shed when they tried it. Castelain’s Blond (no “e”) Biere de Garde was drier but still creamy fruity, not far off the greatest example of a Canadian export ale. Light sultana rather than pear. Also dry in the sense of bread crusty rather than astringency. Lighter gold than the Ch’ti but, again, the rich firm egg white mousse head and far more BAers approve. By this time the shed dwellers had decided that steak could in fact be finger food and also that these ales were an excellent pairing with chunks of rib and New York strip. The Jenlain Ambree by Brasserie Duyck was another level of richness altogether, the colour of a chunk of deep smoked Baltic amber, the richest lacing I have ever seen left on a glass. Hazelnut and raisin, brown sugar and black current with a hint of tobacco. Lately I have been thinking that amber ales are the one style that could quietly slip away and never be missed. Placing this in the glass in the hand in the shed as the rain thumped on the roof and steak was eaten was an instructive treat as to what ambers can be, though 6% of BAers hesitate to be so enthusiastic.

I think this is the worst photo I have ever posted so I will keep it tiny unless you choose to click on it for the full effect. Apparently there is a limit to the beery photographic arts and I have made it my own. The 3 Monts to the left was picked up at Marche Jovi in nearby Quebec for a stunningly low price of under six bucks. Plenty of malteser and pale malt graininess with yellow plum and apple fruitiness, straw gold with more of the thick rich head, cream in the yeast. The water was not as soft was either beer from Castelain but all BAers love it. By Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre who also made this biere nouvelle. To the right, the Fantome Winter was one of the stranger beers I have ever had and, frankly, a disappointment. All I could taste was radish, sharp and vegetative, over and all around the insufficient malt. In my ignorance, I didn’t realize that was likely quite an aged beer as the happy BAers explain. Neither the cork or even label, with its unmarked best before portion, give a hint as to the year but that is all right as I suspect I will consider this just a lesson learned even though I generally love Fantome.

By this time there were stars and a breeze as the cold front finished moving through.

Why Don’t They Study Slam Dancing And Health Anymore?


Another day, another bunch of odd academic studies from lab coated laboratorians or policy documents from lobbyist trying to tell us all what beer does with you or what you do when you are with your beer. From France we learn, first, that “when the music gets loud, we tend to drain our mug of brew faster”:

Researchers staked out two bars in the west of France and observed drinking habits of 40 patrons. With permission from bartenders, the scientists pumped up the volume of a Top 40 station from 72 to 88 pounding decibels. In this earsplitting din of pop-music, patrons drank more in less time.

Is it possible that people who like to drink slowly and have quieter habits do not patronize places where Top 40 stations are played at 72 to 88 pounding decibels? Or maybe are they drinking to numb the pain? This article from here in Canada, next, seems to suggest that university age female drinking is new:

“You’re just an amateur if you can’t drink as much [as the guys] … you’re kind of like a sissy,” says Smith. “It’s not even always how much you’re drinking but what you’re drinking. Like, if a girl is drinking a stereotypical man-drink like whisky or dark rum or beer, it’s like guys are attracted to her or that it’s more impressive.

If they are suggesting this is new, well, that would be news to everyone I know in the mid-50s to early-40s bracket who were at college in Maritime Canada 25 to 30 years ago, who roamed in packs earning nicknames like “The Girls Who Said Woo”. Sure there were dumb, sad or bad incidents to all sorts of kids but risks and dangers were mitigated by group dynamics and common sense – designated drivers, not inviting jerks along and people just watched out for each other, like the time one evening’s overeager drinking buddy was stitched up by last night’s one from the med frat. Heck, on any given evening large lads like me were pointed at by a few gals as they said I was their boyfriend while I scowled a bit. If that does not still occur, that would have nothing to do with the drink so much as a sad loss of good manners.

Finally, US College basketball executives are considering an end to beer advertising during the “March Madness” national championship basketball tournament. Currently:

The NCAA’s advertising policy on its face…specifically prohibits ads for cigarettes, sports wagering, gambling, nightclubs, firearms and weapons, athletic recruitment services, and depictions of any student-athlete group in a degrading, demeaning or disrespectful manner. “Impermissible” ads also include NC-17-rated motion pictures, television programming or interactive games, and alcoholic beverages. But, ads for malt beverages, beer, and wine products that do not exceed six percent alcohol by volume are excepted, with limitations.

This is no small business as we are told that two beer marketers — Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing — spent nearly $30 million to advertise during the 2007 NCAA national basketball championships. But are these breweries advertising to the young or the old glory-days guys who pretend to themselves that they were as good back in the day?

I don’t pretend that there is not some degree of common sense or academic value in clever people noting these sorts of things but I am not going to join the new dries anytime soon, either. Sometimes in these matters we only hear of the sort of common sense that sees only one side of the matter and not the kids who like to sweaty slam dance to loud music, the gang of kids looking for safe dumb fun or the sofa surfers who just like to watch those ads for Bud with speaking frogs or with the guys who say “Wazzup?” How much money has A-B or Miller given to higher education through these ads or even otherwise? How many noisy slam-dancers just had a good time – again – and got home safe? How many of my pals met their spouses over pitchers of beer and now have nice, slightly Oldie Olson lives with quite faithful marriages?

Too bad there is no well-funded “Institute for the Realistic Contextualization of Studies and Statistics” which could help with those questions.

Names for the Glass

A reply to Bruno’s post at his blog alerted us to the problem:

Heu… Un demi c’est 250ml, soit 1/4l, soit effectivement a peu pres une demi pinte.

This is the problem at set out in the post below:

…in France, when you order beer, the usual glass is the demi. France invented metric system, but some remains of the old days are still alive. A demi is in fact about half a pint, rounded to be 125ml. While a pint is being named distingué, and a liter of beer is a formidable (which I think means “smashing” – who knows why?)

That will soon read 250 ml. An email came flying across the Atlantic and, as it should, it has gotten me are talking about it.

For me a “glass” of beer is a specific thing, a 8 oz glass which kind of looks like a butt end of a baseball bat (shown right). You only order them in pairs except when an additional small can of tomato juice is allowed. These were the rules of the Jerry at the Midtown and they are alright by me. By comparison, a “pint” should be a straight-sided 20 oz glass with a bit of a wow up near the rim to give a bit of grip (shown left). Not that weird barrel-shaped dimply thing with the handle. In Holland, you ordered trays of small round glasses with about 5 ounces of liquid and five of foam, passes the tray around and drank them before the foam dissipated – “dead beer” they called one without a head even if there was plenty of carbonation. Never caught the name of that glass, though Alfons might know.

But both Bruno and I are mere amateurs in the world of beer glass names – even with the excellently named formidable for a litre – compared to Australians who have different glasses and different names for those glasses in each state. I have known an Aussie who owned a pub and apparently this is a matter of great importance. Ordering the wrong schooner in the wrong town in the wrong way apparently can cause variation in your sperm count level and that of those with you.

An Ordinary Bar in Bayonne, France

[This post was authored by Bruno Bord.]

Cold November late afternoon. I’m entering an ordinary bar in Bayonne, in front of the market. There are half a dozen of customers, drinking coffee, tea, milk with chocolate. The bartender says a loud “hello” as I sit at the bar. I often sit on bar chair, lean on the counter.

Bartender: What will you?…
Me: Well… What kind of beer on draught do you have?
Bartender: Well…Kronenbourg.

Only Kronenbourg. All right. It’s not the best beer, but if there’s no choice…in France, when you order beer, the usual glass is the demi. France invented metric system, but some remains of the old days are still alive. A demi is in fact about half a pint, rounded to be 250ml. While a pint is being named distingué, and a liter of beer is a formidable (which I think means “smashing” – who knows why?)
Me: How much?
Bartender: Two euros.

France had changed its currency in the beginning of the century, as millions of people in Europe. Now, everyone counts in Euros, which are about a USD worth. Prices on everyday products are rising at a dangerous rate, not only because of the economic crisis. The government raises heavy taxes on alcohol (and tobacco) to struggle against alcohol and tobacco-addiction.Kronenbourg. The ordinary beer. Low price. Low quality. Better draught than from a bottle, though. As I am sipping my glass, I’m looking in front of me. There are shelves, with bottles on them. A lot of them are not beer, in fact. Strong alcohols, mainly. Four bottles of beer on the shelf. Adelscott (a smoked malt beer, with a sweet sugar-like taste), Leffe Blonde (a Belgian you may have already read about), Blanche de Bruges (a Belgian wheat beer), and Pelforth Brune (a French brown beer, very good in fact). Well… That’s not large as a choice as the newly born beer writer might want.

A man enters the bar. He says something I don’t get to the bartender. It’s obviously Basque (or Euskara), one of the oldest languages in the world, and maybe the oldest tongue in Europe. This language comes from “nowhere”. Well… not really from nowhere, but actually no one knows exactly where and when it comes from. The Basque culture is really alive and strong in the Basque Country population, and its unique language is one of the most important part of it. I often see the colorful sticker “Euskara badakigu” on the door of some shops, or bars, it means “Here, we speak Basque”.

I assume that the bartender and the customer are talking about the latest rugby results. Rugby is the most important sport in the south-west France, way more than football (yeah, it’s not soccer here – it’s football). And Bayonne has a long rivalry with Biarritz. The two cities are five miles away and the two rubgy teams are deadly enemies. It’s the fight against the rich-and-smart city (Biarritz), with a bunch of highly-paid stars playing in the team, against the popular and young student populated one (Bayonne). The discussion between the bartender and the customer is now part French, part Euskara.

My glass is empty now. I’ve got to leave. The sun is low on the horizon. Usually, November is a rainy month on the coast. By the way… every month is rainy, here. There are many bars in Bayonne, maybe too many. All kinds of bars. From the Irish-ish pub to the Cuban bar, from the upper-class café to the drunken factoryman’s hangout. But I really need to find a good bar specializing in good beers.

Rev. Whillans’s War

The father of my Owen Sound connection was a chaplain in the First World War, Rev. William James Whillans of Winnipeg. This evening, hunting through photos, I came across a post card sent from the front as well as a few others. He is the jaunty gent in the lower right of the first photo.Rev Whillans at a WWI hospital on a postcard

Reverse of postcard above

This is an example of the postcards I discussed in an earlier post. As you can see from the photo below, he was involved with those doing the fighting.

…with a few of the saved from the trenches
...and with some of his work

…in the trenches… just a bear

…and Rev. Whillans with one particular bear brought from Winnipeg during WWI.just a bear



Wow. I gather you scanned those pictures?


All but the photo on the lower left which is portion of a digital photo of a picture on the wall at my grannie-in-law’s.

Robert Paterson

Great Pics Alan – My most treasured possession is a menu for a dinner held every year until the last of them died of the gunners in Montreal who were at the 2nd battle of Ypres on Feb 1915. Inside the menu, the diners have left us their signatures. There is Currie, MacNaughton, many officers including my Grandfather who was in france from Feb 1915 to September 1918, and several enlisted men. Only the CEF would have had that perspective. I can’t scan it because I have had it framed!

Reminds me though of a story. Currie had moved to Montreal after the war, he had grown up in BC, and became the president of McGill. He did not know any plumbers and had a burst pipe. He asked if some one knew someone who could fix things and was told to call Luther Sutherland, my great Uncle. Uncle Luther was one of the top engineers in Canada and owned a huge construction company. Currie thought that he was calling a handyman. Luther arrived directly from his club, in his Rolls, in evening dress and fixed the pipe. He admired Currie so much and they became good friends


Alan, I am a member of the Guild of One Name Studies, researching Whillans worldwide, so I would be delighted to receive jpg/tif/pict copies of those shots involving the Rev Whillans. Is there any possibility?


You should be able to save the shots off this site by right clicking and selecting “save picture as”. Does that not work?

Eileen Whillans

Hello – I enjoyed seeing your pictures for two reasons. 1. We have met “James” son Morley and wished that we could have seen more of him before he passed away and 2. my husband spent 25 years in the Canadian Engineers (Army). Thanks for sharing the pictures.


My wife wants to know if you are a relation and whether you met Morley’s sister Evelyn?

Eileen Whillans

My husband is a round-about relation and no, we have not met Morley’s sister Evelyn. We live on Vancouver Island and met up with Morley in Victoria. We do have a “hot plate” (? for putting your teapot on) that James made and gave to Norm’s father Robert who lived and died in Vancouver.

Sylvia Rehling

thanks Alan. i copied and pasted the photos if anyone else wants copies they can try that. I have a great love for history and seeing a family connection is great. if you have any other family history info i would love to have copies.

Paul Tim Whillans

I have my grandfather James Whillans´ diary from 1917 and the complete photograph from “in the trenches”. That photo was widely publicized at the time
Best regards from Colombia Paul Tim