Bayonne Outside Cider Off Newfoundland In 1520

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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.

Some Uses Of Beer In Early 17th Century Newfoundland

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Richard Whitbourne is one of those guys probably a few people know a whole lot about but a whole lot of people know nothing about. He fought against the Spanish Armada in 1588 and then spent the next thirty years of his life involved with the Elizabethan whaling fleets off and, later, colonization of Newfoundland. He served as Governor for a time and also held the first court of justice in North America in 1615. And he wrote a book. About Newfoundland. He wrote a book , A Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland, about Newfoundland in 1620 which contained a few interesting references to beer. Because it’s not like you came here to read about Newfoundland history, right? Well, let me tell you it’s good for you so listen up. First, in a section titled “Herbs and flowers both pleasant and medicinable” he states:

There are also herbes for Sallets and Broth; as Parsley, Alexander, Sorrell, &c. And also flowers, as the red and white Damaske Rose, with other kinds; which are most beautifull and delightfll, both to the sight and smell. And questionlesse the Countrey is stored with many Physicall herbs and roots, albeit their vertues are not knowne, because not sought after; yet within these few yeeres, many of our Nation finding themselues ill, haue brused some of the herbes and strained the iuyce into Beere, Wine of Aqua-vita; and so by Gods assistance, after a few drinkings, it hath restored them to their former health.

One interesting thing about this advice is how the straining of the juice of herbs into beer is something our pal Billy Baffin and his crew did four years earlier on the shores of Hudson Bay when they boiled “scuruie grasse…in beere.” I trust you will be doing likewise when scurvy next strikes. In addition to health matters, in a later section he wrote about the economics of the Newfoundland enterprise including how beer played a role:

And this certainely, in my vnderstanding, is a point worthy of consideration, that so great wealth should yeerely be raised, by one sole commodity of that Countrey, yea by one onely sort of fish, and not vpon any other trade thither, which must needes yeeld, with the imployments thereof, great riches to your maiesties subiects: And this also to bee gathered and brought home by the sole labour and industry of men, without exchange or exportation of our Coine, and natiue Commodities, or other aduenture (then of necessary prouisions for the fishing) as Salt, Nets, Leads, Hookes, Lines, and the like; and of victuals, as Bread, Beere, Beefe, and Porke, in competent measure, according to the number and proportion of men imployed in those voyages.

As noted a few years back, it is not necessarily the case that all you needed was to drop off the supplies and take away the fish as by the late 1500s there were autonomous groups of masterless men on the Newfoundland coast likely brewing their own beer while fishing and trading dried cod for Spanish wine and other luxury items. But Whitbourne is writing to promote the plantations for investors so wouldn’t want to note these sorts of vagabonds living, you know, free lives. Moving on and keeping the reader’s eye on the potential rewards of investment, in another section mentioning beer he tells more about what was required to bring colonists over and the benefit of leaving them to over-winter on the coast:

The allowance of victuall to maintaine euery sixe men onely, to carry and recarry them outwards bound and homewards, is sixe hogsheads of beere, and sixe hundred waight of bread, besides beefe and other prouision; which men, when they saile to and fro (as now they vse) doe little good, or any seruice at all, but pester the ship in which they are, with their bread, beere, water, wood, victuall, fish, chests, and diuers other trumperies, that euery such sixe men doe cumber the ship withall yeerely from thence: which men, when the voyage is made, may be accounted vnnecessary persons returning yerely from thence. But being left in the Countrey in such manner, as aforesaid; those parts of these ships that leaue those men there, that are so pestered now yeerely with such vnprofitable things, may be filled vp yeerely with good fish, and many beneficiall commodities, for the good of those Aduenturers that wil so settle people there to plant.

So, a hogshead a man and a hundred pounds of bread for the same per trip. But if they are left on their own and not travel back, the ships can be filled up with cod. And what was the thing stopping people from doing that? The cold. He wrote about the cold and the sort of people who should be sought out for the colonial endeavor:

Now if such men, when they come from thence, that haue but little experience of the colde in other Countries; neither take due obseruation of the colde that is sometime in England, would listen to men that haue traded in the Summer time to Greeneland, for the killing of Whales, and making of that Traine oyle (which is a good trade found out) and consider well of the abundance of great Ilands of Ice, that those Ships and men are there troubled withall at times, they would thereby bee perswaded to speake but little of the colde in New-found-land: yet praised be God, seldome any of those Ships and men that trade to Greeneland, haue taken any hurt thereby…. I doe conceiue, that it is but a little needlesse charie nicenesse vsed by some that trade there, that complaine any thing of the cold in that Countrey, by keeping themselues too warme: which cold (I suppose) some that haue bin there, may feele the more, if they haue beene much accustomed to drinke Tobacco [sic], stronge Ale, double Beere, or haue beene accustomed to sit by a Tauerne fire, or touched with the French disease, such peraduenture may, when they come to a little cold, wheresoeuer they bee, feele it the more extremely then otherwise they would.

Which is another way of saying only sooks can’t handle whaling off Newfoundland in the early 1600s. You mommy’s boys of like to sit by the tavern fire sucking on strong ale or double beer? Same as it was in 1378. Wastrels. Don’t bother. Can’t handle it. Everyone else? There’s money to be made if you can just suck it up a bit. I even cut out the bit about how it is no different than when the “Gentlewomen in England doe the colde in their naked bosomes, neckes and faces in the Winter time“!! A real man doesn’t suck on his double beer by the tavern fire. He’s off to Newfoundland to make his fortune.

What I like about this is how beer is used by Whitbourne, tucked here and there to make his rhetorical arguments. And Elizabethan whaling 200 years before the ship that led to the writing of Moby Dick. That’s pretty cool, too. Yet even then it was not new. The Basques had been doing this for three generations or more before Whitbourne had written his book. Forty-five years earlier, Martyn Frobisher had mined ore well to the north of the whaling grounds. What was different now was the call out to take up the opportunity. It was not an expedition to the edge of the Earth anymore. It was just a reason to step away from the tavern fire.

Another Good Reason To Support The Little Guy

Keeping in mind that by “little guy” I actually mean small brewers and not larger brewers who need their smallness to be defined by a trade organization… but this news out of Newfoundland is just weird:

…the bosses at Labatt Breweries in St. John’s apparently thought it was a good idea to instruct their employees to train workers who would replace them in the event of a strike. The employees refused and walked out, and are currently on a wildcat strike. The mind reels, and then reels some more upon news that a judge ordered the workers to stop interfering in Labatt’s daily business because, he said, they would do the company irreparable harm. Apparently, in a globalized knowledge economy, being replaced on the job does not qualify as doing irreparable harm to a worker.

We have to also be mindful, of course, that being a good brewer does not automatically entitle you to be considered as a good employer. You will recall how in 2011, Rogue of Oregon was the subject of “a devastating article about how Rogue Brewery treats its workers” to quote Jeff. Like any good consumer, that was the last time I bought any of their beer but, to be honest, anti-union tactics is something of a norm. But asking local workers to train their own foreign import replacements? Notice that a Canadian bank has been accused of the same thing this week. Which has led to an apology from now sweaty browed president and CEO Gord Nixon as clients are voting with their feet and withdrawing their deposits.

We clearly have a problem with any law that allows this. And any community that condones it. Will Canadians walk on Labatt, too? I hope so. Most likely in Newfoundland where the policy hits home most closely and people have an aversion to being led. They are not called the masterless men for nothing. One would hope these things would matter more generally, too. I do appreciate when Ethan points out that, hey, it’s capitalism but one needs to recall that capitalism is about trade and, frankly, turns on the principle “buyer beware.” As in be wary. Be aware. Know who and what you are dealing with. And appreciate, as Nixon now knows, that it is the consumer who defines what is appropriate within the construct of capitalism, not the law or business.

My Most Interesting Discovered Drinky Thing Of 2011

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This has been a year that I have thought about history a bit more than others. Canadian history for the most part. We make great mistakes in considering our own time on this land. We dismiss the First Nations. We pretend that Canada began when the current constitution was signed in 1867. But Canada has been populated for thousands of years and Europeans have been nibbling at the edges for the best part of a millennium. Vikings lived in northern Newfoundland back then. In 1674, the Hudson’s Bay Company was importing malt and hops into the Arctic. But this year I came across another couple of fact that I found most interesting in this report. It’s in the bibliography:

ROSS, L. (1980) – 16th-Century Spanish Basque Coopering Technology: A Report of the Staved Containers Found in 1978-1979 on the Wreck of the Whaling Galleon San Juan, Sunk in Red Bay, Labrador, 1565. Manuscript Report Series.Ottawa. 408.

See that? 1565. And the other thing? Staved containers. I have found West Country seasonal fishermen recorded as importing malt as part of their seasonal businesses packing salt cod for the Iberian market in the 1630s. How far before that did the practice occur? Peter E. Pope in his book Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century explains that there was a regular practice of travel each spring from Elizabethan England to what is now eastern Canada for this fishing trade. It is inconceivable that these men in the 1500s did not ship malt, too. That they did not pack drinks in casks for the voyage here and back, too.

But where are the records? Where are the records for Albany ale for that matter like Taylor’s brewing books? Or early Ontario beer? That’s the thing. The records. In overseeing the OCB wiki, it has already become a little bit of a jostle over which record is the one to be trusted. Yet there is the tantalizing possibility that in the later half of the 1500s on cool spring days on the Newfoundland shore, men made beer for themselves many decades before the first beer was thought made in this country. There is a phrase for those whose families went on in places like Ferryland to shift to year round residence: masterless men. Don’t you think they might have made themselves a little beer?

More Thoughts On That Pesky Albany Ale Question

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I have been thinking more about this pre-1850 invention called “Albany ale” and I am a bit surprised to find so many references to it of one sort and so few references of another. The stuff was made in volume, transported and traded over great distances but now seemingly forgotten to memory. As we will see [Ed.: building suspense!] when we discuss the quote above, it was the stuff of memory even at the end of the 1800s.

But what was it? As noted this morning by Robert in the comments, there is a brief description of Albany’s production of ale in the 1854 book The Progress of the United States of America by Richard Swainson Fisher at page 807:

The business of malting and brewing is carried on to a great extent In Albany; more than twenty of such establishments are now in operation, and Albany ale is found in every city of the Union, and not unfrequently in the cities of South America and the West Indies. The annual product is upward of 100,000 barrels of beer and ale.

Similar text was published in the Merchant’s Magazine in 1849 except it was 80,000 barrels. Interesting to see how far it traveled – California, West Indies and South American in addition to references to Newfoundland in yesterday’s post. There is also this passage in 1868’s A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 Volume 1 by John Leander Bishop and a few others:

…Kuliu mentions, in his account of the Province in 1747, that he noticed large fields of barley near New York City, but that in the vicinity of Albany they did not think it a profitable crop, and were accustomed to make malt of wheat. One of the most prosperous brewers of Albany during the last century was Harman Gansevoort, who died in 1801, having acquired a large fortune in the business. His Brewery stood at the corner of Maiden Lane and Dean street, and was demolished in 1807. He found large profits in the manufacture of Beer, and as late as 1833, when the dome of Stanwix Hall was raised, the aged Dutchmen of the city compared it to the capacious brew kettle of old Harme Gansevoort, whose fume was fresh in their memories.’ [Note: Munsell’s Annals of Albany. Pleasentries at the expense of Albany Ale and its Brewers are not a recent thing. It was related by the old people sixty years ago of this wealthy Brewer, that when he wished to give a special flavor to a good brewing he would wash his old leathern breeches in it.]

Was Albany ale originally a wheat ale? It was obviously big stuff in the state’s capital for decades.

Reference to Albany ale also appears in an illustration of a principle in a book of proper English usage. In the 1886 edition of Every-day English: A Sequel to “Words and their Uses” by Richard Grant White where we read the following at page 490:

I cannot but regard a certain use of the plural, as “ales, wines, teas,” “woolens, silks, cottons,” as a sort of traders’ cant, and to many persons it is very offensive. What reason is there for a man who deals in malt liquor announcing that he has a fine stock of ales on hand, when what he has is a stock of ale of various kinds ? What he means is that he has Bass’s ale, and Burton ale, and Albany ale, and others; but these are only different kinds of one thing.

The fifth 1886 edition of Words and their Uses by the same Mr. White contains no reference to Albany ale but does indicate he was a prolific US author who lived from 1821-1885. Does the later use by White imply it was an easily understood example? Probably.

albale2In the New York journal The Medical Record of 1 March 1869, there is an article entitled “Malt Liquors and Their Theraputic Action” by Bradford S. Thompson, MD the table to the right is shown that clearly describes Albany ale as a sort of beer the equal to the readers understanding as London Porter or Lager-Bier. I am not sure what the table means from a medical point of view but it clearly suggest familiarity… at least amongst the medical set.

In 1875, it is described in a travel book called Our Next-door Neighbor: A Winter in Mexico by Gilbert Haven (who seems to not have been a lover of the drink himself) at page 81:

Here, too, we get not only our last look at Orizaba, but our first at a filthy habit of man. Old folks and children thrust into your noses, and would fain into your mouths, the villainous drink of the country – pulqui. It is the people’s chief beverage. It tastes like sour and bad-smelling buttermilk, is white like that, but thin. They crowd around the cars with it, selling a pint measure for three cents. I tasted it, and was satisfied. It is only not so villainous a drink as lager, and London porter, and Bavarian beer, and French vinegar-wine, and Albany ale. It is hard to tell which of these is “stinkingest of the stinking kind.” How abominable are the tastes which an appetite for strong drink creates! The nastiest things human beings take into their mouths are their favorite intoxicants.

So, along with grammarians and the drinking medical set, Albany ale was also a name known to the non-drinking traveling set in the post-Civil War United States. It was, as a result, something we might consider “popular” in its day.

Oddly, the story of Albany ale does not seem to make it deep into the 1900s. Without making an exhaustive study, I don’t see reference to “Albany ale” in Beer and brewing in America: an economic study” by Warren Milton Persons from 1940. It is not indexed in Beer in America: the early years, 1587-1840 by Gregg Smith. It does not seem to be in Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle as it really starts with the the rise of lager is in the second half of the 1800s. Why did it fall so far so fast?

That quote way up there? The one at the top? It’s from an 1899 New York Times article entitled “Kicked 90 Years Ago Just the same as Now” in which a 96 year old New Yorker still employed as a municipal engineer who was interviewed about the City’s old days. Talking about his youth in the 1830s, he said “Albany ale was the beverage then that lager beer is today, and a mighty good drink it was.” So, lager likely killed it off but only after it had its day and was enjoyed widely in the days before rail transportation both within the United States and abroad.

2015 Update: came across book by Mr Haswell, the 96 year old New Yorker mentioned up there.

What The Heck Was “Albany Ale” In 1847… Or 1807?

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So I am nosing around looking for India pale ale references on Google news archives when I spot this one in a newspaper from 1847’s Newfoundland to something called Albany ale. In hogsheads no less.

What the heck is it? It is listed in the The Public Ledger of 12 Oct 1847 amongst other imported goods from around the world – even Gourock canvass from the Old Country. In 1853, there is notice again in The Public Ledger of Newfoundland as being “just arrived” in a 50 barrel lot. It looks like an import. Albany ale is listed in the Hartford Courant as far back as issues from 1806 and 1807. In 1846, its for sale in New Orleans and, in 1854, there was a fire at the agents of an Albany ale manufacturer in New York City according to The New York Times. It’s even a drink at a church supper in Adams County, Pennsylvania in 1850.

But what the heck is it? Is it a style? Or is it just an ale from Albany, NY? If so, why is that the pale ale that makes it all the way to Newfoundland?