Who Was Ben Kenton And How Good Was His Porter?

Hunting for references to the 1700s hops trade, I came upon this notice in the Independent Journal of New York from 1 March 1784. What was remarkable was how, within a year of the end of the American Revolution, trade was being undertaken with the former motherland.  What was also remarkable “Ben Kenton’s Porter” – who was he? Two and a half years ago, I mentioned Hibbert’s London Porter being sold in New York in 1798 but have yet to see this Kenton follow mentioned. Now off on a new hunt, I found the following in a book from 1787 entitled Adventures of Jonathan Corncob, Loyal American Refugee:

A few minutes after a gentleman came up to me, and asked me if my name was not Corncob; I answered in the affirmative, but said I had not the honour of-recollecting him. “I wonder at that,” said he, “for we were fellow prisoners at Boston, and made our escape together from gaol.” We immediately began to congratulate and compliment each other…  On taking leave he invited me to dine with him the following day, at his plantation, where I was regaled in a most luxurious manner; the turtle was superior to any ever served on a lord mayor’s table; the’oranges and pine-apples were of the highest flavour; Ben Kenton’s porter sparkled like champaign, and excellent claret and Madeira crowned the feast. At the end of the dinner I caught myself unbuttoning my waistcoat, and crying out, ’tis d–d hard that there should be hurricanes in this country.

Then, my curiosity piqued by mention of the quality, I found this passage in the diary Of Joseph Farington, R.A. from September 1803:

September 4. Dance called. He spoke of the great changes which happen in some men’s fortunes. He dined the other day with Claude Scott, the corn merchant at His House near Bromley where He lives splendidly. The late Ben Kenton ; Porter Seller & Wine merchant told Dance that when he kept the Magpye ale house in Whitechapel, Claude Scott, abt. 30 years ago, applied to him offering to keep his books, being then seeking for employment. Kenton died possessed of a great fortune, & Scott is supposed to be worth 300,000. His Son married the only daughter of a Mr. Armstrong who is said to be worth half a million.

Greedy Georgians. It’s all money, money, money with them. Kenton was described in one account as “a typical East End lad made good; his mother was said to have sold cabbages on a stall in Whitechapel Field Gate.” Kenton himself apparently started out as a waiter in a tavern. In The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1800, Kenton’s passing was recorded in this entry for 25 May:

In Gower-street, in his eighty-third year, Benjamin Kenton, esq. From an obscure origin, and an education in a charity-school, he obtained, by frugality, industry, and integrity, with an irreproachable character, a more than princely fortune. For some years, he kept the Crown and Magpye tavern, in Whitechapel; and afterwards, becoming wine-merchant in the Minories,* He went very largely into the trade of exporting porter. His property, in the different public funds, exceeds 300,000l. and at the present market prices, is worth 272,000l. his landed estates 680l. a year. And he has bestowed it in a manner that reflects honour to his memory.

Kenton’s portrait hangs in Vintners’ Hall in London. He was “one of the most of distinguished members” of the Vintners’ Company was one of the beneficiaries under his will. His obituary goes on to list all the charities to which he left considerable sums – “the hospitals of Christ, St. Bartholomew, and Bethlehem, 5000l each; to the charity for the blind, 20,000l” as well as one Mr. Smith, his grandson, and only immediate descendant, “who was, unfortunately, not much in his favour 800l a year.” Don’t shed a tear as that is the equivalent of 87,000 pounds a year now. The vast residue of the estate is left to his daughter’s man friend, survivor of a bit of a tragic tale. **Anyway, so it appears Kenton was a self made man with buckets of money. Made from selling wine and Porter.

Before he was a disgruntled schismist, Anglophile George Washington bought Kenton’s porter as part of a large general shipment of fine British goods in 1760.*** Here is a 1766 invoice for a shipment sent by Kenton to the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers.

 

 

 

 

To the left is an advertisement from the Maryland Gazette of 28 July 1763 offering “Ben Kenton’s Porter in bottles.” From the same publication, in the middle there is a notice from 19 May 1774 which includes among the offerings “a few dozen of Ben Kenton’s porter.” To the right is word of a sale in the 12 March 1784 Morning Post of New York with 40 barrels and hogsheads of porter which was not from Ben Kenton but direct from the brewer Phelix Calworth “who had the preference of supplying the great Ben Kenton.” Which points out that Kenton made his zillions not from making the porter but from distributing it. Kenton’s middleman role is similar to the one played by the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace in 1772 intra-provincially as shippers of Lispenard’s beer to William Johnson, the man who could have stopped Washington had he lived.

Detail on his rise to wealth and how it occurred is set out in an 1893 guide to London street signs:

In the year 1719 a boy was born of humble parentage in Whitechapel, who, as Benjamin Kenton, vintner and philanthropist, achieved a considerable reputation. He was educated at the charity school of the parish, and in his fifteenth year apprenticed to the landlord of the Angel and Crown in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Having served his time, he became waiter and drawer at the Crown and Magpie in Aldgate High Street, not long since pulled down. The sign was a Crown of stone and a Magpie carved in pear-tree wood, and the house was frequented by sea captains. Kenton’s master is said to have been among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates. He, without reason, changed the sign to the Crown; his custom fell off; he died, and the concern came into the hands of Kenton, who restored the Magpie to its former position, and so increased the bottled-beer business, that in 1765 he gave up the tavern and removed to more commodious quarters which he built in the Minories.

Hmm: “…among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates.”  It is noted in the guide Cylindrical English Wine and Beer Bottles 1735-1850 that Kenton took care to select the design of his glassware, preferring champagne style glass. Kenton shipped bottled porter to India, too.

The bottles were good enough to steal, in fact. In the records from the Old Bailey, there is a prosecution of William Sinkey for the 1780 theft of three baskets of empty bottles owned by Kenton. The finding of “not guilty” was based on Sinkey’s argument that the thief had been hired by someone to carry the basket he was found with. Seems a bit light to be let off if you ask me. By contrast, in 1771 William Grimsby – a cooper by trade – was found rolling away a hogshead owned by Kenton just 40 yards down the road from where it was left. He was not so lucky in his pleas to the court, was convicted and transported. The thief was likely sent to America, the main repository before the Revolution and before convicts were sent to Australia.

More than just biography makes this all of interest. It reminds me of the 1700s hop rulings I wrote about a few years ago that indicates how much value was in that element of the brewing industry. Scale. The economic power that brewing generates never fails to impress. I am also very intrigued by the reference to the “art of bottling beer for warm climates.”****We see again and again how common trans-oceanic shipments of porter, ales and beer were. That the skill was perfected by a wine and porter merchant perhaps should have been obvious in hindsight. Have to keep seeing what I can find out about what that skill was…

*His business address in 1760 was No. 152, the Minories, Aldgate according to a note to this record of Washington’s purchase. This blog post has an image of the street from not long after Kenton’s passing.
**Who, in turn, appears to be uncle to the painter Constable.
***He bought from Kenton regularly in the 1760s. His taste for porter extended past the Revolution.
****Note => “He… became possessed of a secret which made his fortune, that of bottling ale so that it could pass through the changes of climate on the voyage to India round the Cape, without the cork flying out of the bottle.”

When Did The United States First Export Hops?

Above is a table published in The Republican Watch Tower of New York on 4 July 1804.  I went looking for this sort of thing after reading Martyn’s excellent post of this week “How Long Have UK Brewers Been Using American Hops? 200 Years, You Say…” Initially, I was interested in the Hesperus, the ship that brought the hops in question to New York to Belfast in 1818. I found notices in the New York newspapers for the same ship bringing Irish linens to the American market on its return voyage. I love ships.

But then I wondered when the first exports of hops from the young United States occurred.  And I say “United States” as there is no reason to believe there might not have been colonial exports here and there but I would suggest that is another story. That being said, if the table above is to be believed, hop exports would have begun at least in 1797. But where did they go? One often reprinted 1802 article under the title “To The People of the United States” authored under the  name Franklin originally in The Aurora on early US export prospects – the one to the right quoted from The Bee of Hudson, NY –  specifically addressed the hop trade and gave a sense of the realities and goes on to conclude:

The profits of raising hops are such that the great brewing countries of Europe impose heavy duties on their importation from America or elsewhere.

So, soon into the new century US hops were needed at home and subject to European protectionist tariffs. The hop trade to Europe was subject to a prohibition. Which means it had been happening and then was stopped. Which makes one wonder where all those pounds of hops were going, the ones shown in the 1804 table from The Republican Watch Tower. Hmm.

It is clear that there is a market for hops at the time. The internal inter-state beer trade was certainly robust between New York and New England. Here is a notice that includes 35 sacks of hops on sale in NYC in 1795. In this notice to the right in the New York Gazette of 27 August 1805, 20 bags of hops are on offer. If they are 50 pound bags, that is the same volume of hops listed as the entire export from the nation in 1797.  In this edition of Ming’s Price Guide* from New York in August 1810, there are prices for both American and English hops. Still, the international market for commodities like hops has to be understood in the context of tariffs and even international relations during the Napoleonic Wars and at this time we have to be reasonably aware of the Jay Treaty of 1795 opening up trade from the US to Britain and the Embargo Act of 1807 shutting it down again. So if we are looking for an export of hops to Britain from the United States we should keep those dates in mind.

The other thing to remember is that hops are not only native to New York but also grew prodigiously. To the right is a notice for the sale of certain lands in central New York. It was placed in the New York Gazette on 3 May 1805 and notes that “the soil is rich and fertile to produce any species of grain, hemp, etc. – the climate moderate (testified by the abundant growth of vine and hops); the water is good, the salmon and other fisheries great…” So while Craig may be correct in relation to the dates of commercial growing and selling of New York hops, their pre-existing natural abundance was an obvious characteristic of the state. It is also worth noting that when he and I were putting together Upper Hudson Valley Beer, I came across a record from the first decade of the 1700s of Mohawks selling hops to Albany brewer, Evert Wendell.

And hops were not just picked wild at the time. In
The New and Complete American Encyclopedia, 1808 edition, there is an extensive section on the propagation and selling of hops including information taken, it is cited from a document published by the Agricultural Society of New York… no, the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, instituted in the State of New York.** The cultivation in New York is especially encouraged:

The cultivators of land in this state have every inducement which policy or inducement can afford, to enter, in spirit, into the cultivation of hops. We shall therefore be enabled to supply our own demand, and export this article; instead of sending abroad for all we use; and no crop that can possibly be put on land will yield an equal profit…

Were the hops loaded on the Herperus in 1818 destined for a Belfast brewery the first hops sold into the British market? It’s quite unlikely given the abundance of native hops, the records of an export trade, public marketplace pricing and the general regular European trade in many commodities going back a couple of centuries. Was there a Caribbean market for hops along with the wheat and biscuit shipments we see bound to supply an aspect of the slave trade? Could be but southern brewing of beer was a very dodgy thing.

It’s also likely that it was a little remarked upon activity, like the export of casks of beer from Albany and New York City. Likely modest supplies of infilled cargo rounding out a vessel’s hold. As usual, we are at the whim of the vendor from the time – was there enough demand to spend the money to place the notice in the newspaper? Without someone making that decision then it is difficult to know now what they were particularly up to. But such is life, the record of the activity never being proof of the fact of the activity.

Still, there is likely more to be found out there – especially in relation to activities such as Strictland’s study in the years after the end of the Revolution when interest in trade between the newly independent nation and the home of its often Loyalist heart in the old country seemed to tick up before the laws came down. So let’s consider this an introduction to the idea.

*aka Dickinson’s (Formerly) Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Ming and Young’s New-York Price-Current, Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, and Marine Register, The New-York Prices Current.
**The NY Agricultural Society as it exists today only comes into being in 1832… which seems a bit late given the county ag fairs start up years earlier.

 

Some Thursday Beer News After The Whole Green Flash Thing

I love the map above, a 1881 Isochronic Chart showing travel time from London under optimum conditions. Which should help understanding the travel time for casks of British beer from that year and perhaps quite a few decades before. Or at least it can be adjusted by a factor. In 1732 the ship Ann crossed the Atlantic, from London to the not-yet colony of Georgia in 88 days. Note how in 1881 Nova Scotia and a bit of Newfoundland are green, meaning transit could occur under ten days. Or about an eleventh of an Ann. Neato. More here.

Gary: Bass master… not Bassmaster. Got it?

Archaeologist Merryn Dineley, is making some great points on Twitter these days about the lack of respect and role of malt and malting through time, both today and and in particular in relation to the study of Stonehenge.

Yup.

Ha ha! Stone sued a party that had nothing to do with it. Will they pay their legal costs? Is that the reason for the delay?

The forces of “don’t worry, be happy” are out in force this week given that the news broke that the assets of Green Flash, the 43rd largest US craft brewery, have been sold off. As the Full Pint reported on Tuesday, this is part of the official memo that Green Flash President and CEO Mike Hinkley sent to over 100 shareholders:

On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors of GFBC, Inc. (the “Company”), I am truly sorry to report that the Company’s senior lender, Comerica Bank, has foreclosed on its loans and sold the assets of the Company (other than the Virginia Beach brewery) to WC IPA LLC through a foreclosure sale which closed on March 30, 2018.  As such, the Company no longer owns the Green Flash and Alpine businesses.  Comerica Bank is currently conducting a separate process to sell the Virginia Beach brewery. After a general slowdown in the craft beer industry, coupled with intense competition and a slowdown of our business, we could not service the debt that we took on to build the Virginia Beach brewery — and in early 2018, the Company defaulted on its loans with Comerica Bank.  

Note a few things. The shareholders were not aware of the decision made apparently by the main shareholder, the lender whose loan bounced. The were told after the fact. I expect that indicates that the lender got the power to do that in a loan agreement. It also might indicate that this was not the first loan agreement as gaining that short of shareholder control is not the stuff of ordinary loan agreements.  The failing of the business has being going on for some time. Also, these are asset sales.  This is not a foreclosure of the business.* The brewing company has not been sold off, just the assets of value. Including the “businesses” which would include the brands, the goodwill if any is left and all operational aspects.  So, the corporation has been stripped to pay the bank. Reason? Forget the other stuff – over extension of debt to move into the branch plant business. The only question that matters is whether others will be found to be in the same boat.

Craft was in the news for other reasons. The Wall Street Journal declared craft beer was “big business.” [Note: “big craft” was discussed in 2014.] I like this plain language sentence in the WSJ piece in particular: “[r]ecent years have seen a world-wide wave of beer consolidation.” No “sell out!” No “got gobbled up!” Just a plain language description of the business of beer doing what it has done for hundreds of years – consolidate.

One example of a consolidation was examined in far greater detail by the Chicago Tribune in Josh Noel’s excellent article “Goose Island Aims to Shake Off Rough Year with New Beers, Ad Campaign.” The only thing I didn’t understand was this passage:

Goose Island’s story is therefore returning to Chicago — an effort to tie the brewery not just to its hometown, but to cities in general: urban and bustling, with a dose of cosmopolitan and hip. “It’s something that can be owned and is differentiating for Goose Island,” Ahsmann said. “Think about it: Can you think of any other nationally distributed craft brewer based out of a city?” There are others, of course — Brooklyn Brewery, Boston Beer Co. and Anchor Brewing in San Francisco — but none that owns the idea of city in the way that Corona is beach or Coors is mountains. Ahsmann wants Goose Island to be that beer. 

If that is what Goose Island is doing under AB InBev it’s not speaking to me. I just thought Goose Island was about geese on an island. Monsieur Jonathan, Le Beerinateur, clarified on Twitter that is was a district of Chicago. Who knew? Without that context, there is no way I would think “gooseness” + “islandness” = “urban and bustling, with a dose of cosmopolitan and hip” because that math just doesn’t work for me even though I have been having the odd Goose Island IPA** since maybe 2010.  [Did all you all know this and not tell me?]

Is the lesson of both Green Flash and Goose Island that US craft and local/regional are more closely tied than big craft thought? Notte note: “It’s a fine lesson…

Celebrator ends its print run. I blame MySpace.

This is an interesting story. It’s about Catalonia’s burgeoning craft beer scene. It’s from March 2013. One key thing was left unexplored then: local sausages. No idea how they measure up compared to the sausages of other regions of Spain. That is not the point. You know, it would be nice to know what each junket sponsoring jurisdiction requires in its funding agreement by way of social media follow up content. That is for another day. Today, I am fascinated by the sudden fascination with Catalonian sausages.

You want a real beer vacation? Three words: Bavarian… theme… park.

My two favourite April Fool’s pranks: “Brewers Brace for Brettanomyces Shortage” and ^Greg, the Sunday intern for Boak and Bailey.

That’s it. I am down to the cheap shots and gags. It wears one down. More next week. Sure thing. You bet. Perhaps cheerier. No promises.  No comment.

U*This could be another aspect of the over all plan.
**Or something or other under that label.

Your Beery News For The Sudden January Thaw

Nothing slows down life as much as three weeks of the freezing weather that we are just about to get a break from. Well, that and regularly keeping track of the beery news again. It’s been since November since I started back up.  I was last August’s jaunt as Stan’s intern that did it, I suppose. Give me a few years. I might get reasonably good at it. Maybe. Sorta. Bet I pack it in come spring.

Anyway, first up, all that hope and rage you have balled up into the narrative that moderate alcohol is good for you? It’s very likely a crock. Why? Because “…low-volume drinkers may appear healthy only because the ‘abstainers’ with whom they are compared are biased toward ill health.” My take? If you regularly wake up hungover you are likely hurting yourself. Start with a few liver function tests.

Crap. Eric Asimov has mentioned Prince Edward County wines in The New York Times. I’ll never be able to afford to drink the local stuff now.

More bad news? Why not? The sudden shutting of central New York’s venerable Saratoga Brewing was covered in great detail by central New York’s venerable Don Cazentre. It’s not that often that beer business news gets covered as business news but Don is regularly the one doing it. Another form of the death of the dream of national big craft – along with, you know, less and less of the stuff being sold. Hail the new boss! Local murky gak in a sterile monoculture branded taproom where everyone wants to tell you about how great the beer is. Now, that’s my kind of entertainment.

Now, how about something positive? I definitely award the best long writing this week to the two part essay by Matthew Lawrenson on pub life for the perspective of someone with autism:

I’ve been told that people are wary of me due to my “beer blogging’s greatest monster” reputation and are surprised when I’m more anxious and less obnoxious than they’ve been lead to believe. All I can say is that, usually, things are rarely what people expect them to be.

My favourite thing about the essay is how plainly described it all is. Matthew treats the subject objectively, with the respect it deserves. Very helpful. By way of a bit of contrast, because it’s important to keep this dynamic, Jordan took on the argument being made by Canada’s macro brewers about our excise tax regime and found it seriously lacking, working both the numbers as well as his sarcasm skills:

…let’s do the math. Wow! The average price of a case of beer is $36.50 if you go by the examples that Beer Canada have used. Now, let’s see. 24 x 341ml = 8,184 ml. How many ml in a HL? Wow. That’s 12.218 cases of beer per hectolitre. That’s 293 bottles and a low fill! Hmmm. What’s $31.84/293? Oh wow. It’s 10.8 cents a bottle in federal excise!

I was left (again) with the feeling that all cost inputs deserve that level of scrutiny. It’s we the buyers and our cash that runs the whole industry, after all. Why shouldn’t we get a simple straight answer? Consider J.J. Bell’s news today that he is dropping Harvey’s from his pub’s line up because “They’ve been using their strong position in the local market to price gouge, pure and simple.” Now, that’s some plain speaking about value.

How did we get here? Maybe beer 5,000 years ago in Greece. Merryn Dineley ordered the article so I am looking forward to greater analysis that just the abstract but the reference to “remains of sprouted cereal grains as well as cereal fragments from the Bronze Age” sure seems interesting.

Not beer: Al Tuck. Listen for a bit. There you go. Feel better, right?

Coming to the end but still enough time for my favourite use of Twitter in beer-world for 2018. Josh Noel’s fictional life of John Holl started on New Years Day this way:

On a Thursday evening in 1986, as a spring storm pounded the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, John Hall sat in an airplane on the rain‐glazed tarmac and did something he would recount for the rest of his life. He reached for a magazine.

Finally. All things come to an end. And speaking of ends – bumboats. Say it fast five times over out loud… in public: Bumboats!  Bumboats!  Bumboats! Bumboats! Bumboats!” Hah – made you do it.

Laters.

A Few (Hah!) Additional Tudor Calais Brewery Tidbits

The Tudor resources over at British History Online are a wee bucket of gold. The last few posts under the 1500s tag are largely from the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514 pages. Rather than string these last fragmentary references to beer and brewing into a likely false and certainly shallow narrative due to my lack of wider historical context, let’s just plunk them down chronologically for your consideration to see what might be made of them. Remember: rushing to any conclusion is the hallmark of disastrous pseudo-history jampacked with inauthenticity. Once I lay them out upon the table, you may feel inspired to criticize and/or praise – whether in the comments or on social media at some later date. Prehaps catch up a bit with the last few posts on the brewing plans of Henry VIII.  Or just to lay upon a sofa thinking, as if you were Billy Wordsworth considering those daffodils. Feel free. Live it up.

First up, on 24 June 1509 the coronation of King Henry VIII is recorded and with it there is a list of the members of the royal household with their functions. John Knolles, yeoman “brewer” is noted under the pantry staff. Edward Atwood, yeoman “brewer” falls under the group managing the cellar. Within the buttery we find William Kerne, yeoman ale taker as well as both Thomas Cooke and William Bowman who are groom ale takers. I might suppose that these functions relate to the distribution of ale throughout the household seeing how they are located and described. Is it a case of ale at home, beer abroad? Let’s see.

In February 1512, we read of numerous royal grants of position. Grants of ecclesiastical office, grants of land to the widow of an earl. And also

Thomas Loye, brewer, of London. Protection for one year; going in the suite of Sir Gilbert Talbot, Deputy of Calais. 

This is Gilbert Talbot. He traveled with his own brewer. England controlled Calais from 1346 to 1558 and Henry VIII early in his reign seems to have an great interest in ensuring it is well resourced.

On 1 October 1512, we have another record indicating the broad and integrated nature of the economy of the royal enterprise:

Account of “the victuals provided by John Shurley, cofferer of the King’s most honorable household, and John Heron, supervisor of the King’s customhouse in London, the 1st day of Oct. the 4th year of the reign of King Henry the VIII.th, for a relief of victual for the King’s army upon the sea in whaftyng (wafting) of the herring fleet upon the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk where divers of the French ships of war lay.”

Provisions with costs, viz., biscuit 72,325lbs. at 5s. the 100, and straw to lay them on, from 39 bakers named; beef, from 6 butchers in Eastcheap, 11 in St. Nicholas Fleshambles, 2 in Aldgate, total 112 pipes; beer, from 12 brewers, at 6s. 8d. the pipe (p. 11); fish “gret drye code Hisselonde fishe,” at 38s. 4d. every 124, from 2 fishmongers (p. 13); freight to 8 masters of vessels (p. 14); petty costs (p. 16); remanets (p. 19).

So, you have a navy to protect the fishermen from the French fleet and supply the fishing fleet and navy with food – including fish – to ensure the supply of fish.

Next, on 12 May 1513, The Privy Council of Henry VIII received new of a fairly particular concern related to West Country ale as preparations are made for  the needs of a great army:

Since the Admiral’s coming, he has given orders, notwithstanding the King’s and Council’s commands, that no more beer is to be made in the West, as, being made of oaten malt, it will not keep so well as that made of barley malt. The soldiers are not as willing to drink it as the London beer brewed in March, which is the best month. Nevertheless, when in Brittany, they found no fault with it, but received it thankfully, and since they have been in Plymouth they have drank 25 tuns in 12 days; but now so much beer is come from London that they will not drink the country beer. My Lord of Winchester has written to the Admiral that he shall henceforth be sufficiently furnished at Portsmouth from time to time….”The quantity of victuals provided by them in the West is as follows. In Plymouth, 200 pipes of beer, 46 pipes of flesh, 20 pipes of biscuit; besides bread, biscuit, flesh and beer spent by the soldiers on land the last 12 days, for which they paid. At Dartmouth, 60 pipes of biscuit, 24 pipes of flesh, 150 pipes of beer, 300 doz. loaf bread, 200 of fish. At Exeter and Opsam, 50 pipes biscuit, 600 doz. loaf bread, 160 pipes of beer, 40 pipes flesh, 1,200 of fish.

That passage is fascinating just on the basis of the ratio of beer in the dietary demands of an army alone, but note that the news is being spread that better beer is to be had out of the recently constructed mega-brewery at Portsmouth. You also have three classes of beer described: country oaten beer from the West, City beer from London and industrial mega-brewing at Portsmouth.

Just nine days later, on 21 May 1513 the need for pipes or barrels for the beer was identified as being in short supply. Thomas Wolsey, then the chief almoner to Henry, was advised by his former master at court and soon-to-be if not now servant Richard Fox(e) as follows:

The Captain of the Isle of Wight desires Wolsey’s favor in the matter now before him. Some of my Lord Lisle’s captains desire wages for their folks that shall attend on their carriages to Calais. John Dawtrey will write the rest. Wants empty pipes for the beer. “I fear that the pursers will deserve hanging for this matter.” There shall be beer enough, if pipes may be had, “which I pray God send us with speed, and soon deliver you of your outrageous charge and labor; and else ye shall have a cold stomach, little sleep, pale visage, and a thin belly, cum rara egestione: all which, and as deaf as a stock, I had when I was in your case.”

The fear of failure was both personal and in relation to the enterprise at hand.

In June 1513, also as part of the preparations for Calais, we have this lovely specific reference to a particular person:

Wm. Antony, the King’s beer brewer. Commission for six months to provide brewers for the King’s beer brewing at Calais for the great army about to go beyond sea. 

In August 1513, we see a record under the heading “The King’s Horses” of oats for horses being sidetracked to a brewer who seemed to be not exactly involved with Henry’s horses:

Account of prests (in all 25l. 4s. 8d.) and payments (in all 22l. 6s. 8d.) for hay, oats and beans sent to Calais. Some of the oats were sold to Master Alday at Sandwich, for his beerhouse. 

In that same month, we also see references to the carriage of beer to Calais which indicates that the brewing there on the continent had not reached a scale allowing for local self-sufficiency. Interestingly, the beer seems to be flowing in a number of directions – (i) to ships, (ii) to Calais as well as (iii) from Calais:

“The Dockette of William Ston’s Boke,” being jottings and calculations of payments due for carriage of beer and victuals for ships including his own wages at 18d. a day for 218 days, and at 10d. a day for four days when occupied in receiving beer from Calais.

All the efforts to bolster Calais were occurring in the context of (imagine!) a war with France as I noted in the last post. As part of that larger war, Scotland did as Scotland did (oh, my people!) and decided to undertaken yet another (imagine!) suicidal adventure.* As Henry was fighting to the south, he himself at battle on the continent, Lord Howard raced to deal with an invasion of Scots and associated northern border folks. Disaster ensued for the invaders which you can read about in Howard’s report to Henry provided on 20 September 2013:

On the 9 Sept. the King of Scots was defeated and slain. Surrey, and my Lord Howard, the admiral, his son, behaved nobly. The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days. They were in much danger, having to climb steep hills to give battle. The wind and the ground were in favor of the Scots. 10,000 Scots are slain, and a great number of noblemen. They were so cased in armour the arrows did them no harm, and were such large and strong men, they would not fall when four or five bills struck one of them. The bills disappointed the Scots of their long spears, on which they relied. Lord Howard led the van, followed by St. Cuthbert’s banner and the men of the Bishopric. The banner men won great honor, and gained the King of Scots’ banner, which now stands beside the shrine. The King fell near his banner. (fn. 9) Their ordnance is taken. The English did not trouble themselves with prisoners, but slew and stripped King, bishop, lords, and nobles, and left them naked on the field. 

“Would not have believed that their beer was so good” is perhaps the grimmest tasting note in the English language. Over 10,000 Scots died at Flodden even though they outnumbered the English. The English lost 1500.

In March 1514, once the wars to the south and north as settling or settled, we see more stability. And there is a very handy account for victualing for Calais which contains my favourite 1500s reference – malt. When they are shipping malt it means there is brewing at the destination – if not sometimes even on board the ship in transit. Meaning there is stability and perhaps peace:

John Miklowe, Thomas Byrkes, and Brian Roche. Release of 20,910l. 16s. 10d., received by them through Sir John Daunce, for purveying provisions for the army with the King beyond seas; and of 392l. 15s. received by sale of a part of the said provisions; and of various quantities (specified) of flour, wheat, casks, malt, oats, beer, flitches of bacon, &c., received by them from William Browne, junr., Richard Fermour and George Medley, merchants of the Staple of Calais, John Ricrofte and John Heron, surveyor of customs, &c., in the port of London. 

Another even more detailed account including some similar names was sent the next month, April 1514:

Received of John Daunce 500l. Of Ric. Fermor, Wm. Browne and Geo. Medley, 1,000 barrels of flour at 10s.; 3,611 barrels 4 bushels 3 pecks at 8s. a barrel; 40 qrs. of wheat for brewing beer at [10]s. the qr.; empty beer barrels, 408 tons at 5s. the ton. Of John Ricroft, 7, 845 qrs. 1 bu. malt, at 5s. 4d. a qr. Of John Heron of the Custom House, London, 150 tons of beer, 150l., and 180 flitches of bacon, 13l. 10s. Received from John Daunce, for wages, by John Myklawe, Thos. Byrks and Brian Roche, 2,710l. 16s. 10d.; and by John Myklowe, and Wm. Briswoode, 3,000l. Receipt by the guaves of malt: Myklowe, Byrks and Roche charge themselves of every qr. of malt received by them “at Calais and there sold and uttered to be guaved,” 7,845 qrs. at 12d. a qr. Total received by them for victualling, wages and carriage, as appears in three books of accounts, 25,625l. 6s. 6d. Paid by them for empty foists, &c., 1,745l. 13s. 5¾d. on victuals remaining unspent, 2,235l. 11s. 8d. Losses of victuals, 2,929l. 11s. 8d. In hand, in debts, obligations and ready money, 12,574l. 3s. 4¾d. Wages of war, conduct money and jackets, for officers, artificers, carters, &c., 2,674l. 7s. 2d. For the carriage of victuals to Saint Omesr’s, 3,429l. 9s. 9¾d. Total, 25,588l. 16s. 10d. Arrearage of this account, 36l. 9s. 8d.

Interesting that the “wages of war” sometimes just meant the payment for folk and stuff to wage war with. Also, there is wheat specifically for brewing mentioned. I have not idea what “guaves of malt” are. I could not find that term listed as a unit of measurement. Seems connected to the reselling of the malt – meaning there is private brewing going on at Calais. Note also the shipment of empty beer barrels which would have, I assume, been of a specific size and perhaps durability.

On 29 May 1514, there is another reference indicating the brewing at Calais was being established at a certain scale:

Indenture witnessing delivery at Calais, 29 May 6 Hen. VIII., by John Ward to Wm. Pheleypson and Th. Granger, of 20 “myln” horses for the beer houses and 80 cart horses for the victualling of the King’s army royal.

Are “myln” horses used in the milling process?

On 12 August 1514, we have more accounting for the shipment of empty beer barrels as well as a lovely note for another necessary for beer – hops:

Giving amounts, persons by whom delivered, &c., of flour, malt, bacon, hops, bay salt, empty beer barrels and cart and mill horses. Signed: per me Thomam Byrkes.

Attentive readers, all two of you, will recall that three years ago we looked at a early modern word search tool and saw how “hops” or “hoppes” came into far more common use on a very particular date roughly around 1518.  So this use of hops not only and early one in English culture but also, given this is state enterprise in the form of the industrial military complex, it is very timely… very early in the timely if you ask me. Also, goes some way to dispel the idea that Henry was against hops – he just didn’t want them in his ale.

In the miscellaneous records related to 1514, we see a few records that seem to be reconciling expenses related to the French war now that things had settled down. In particular we see records related to one  John Dawtrey, only described as “a captain of the army” which must have been a more important rank than we would understand today:

Money advanced by John Dawtrey.—Payments for “land wages of the King’s army by sea”; for the army mustered before the commissioners at Portsmouth, to serve in campaign of 6 Hen. VIII.; “for wages of the army upon sea, the 6th year”; for provisions, ordinance, masts and other necessaries; for taking up a great chain; for wages of “captains, petty captains and soldiers called Swcheners when they were in the Isle of Wight,” for 5 months from 30 Dec. 4 Hen. VIII.; for fitting out The Soveraigne; for the carrack called The Gabriell Royall; for beer and bake-houses at Portsmouth; for making two gates (?) at the castles, and repairing the ditches there; and for repairing the ships.

These expenses appear to be broken out or added to in “a letter from my Lord of York to John Dawtrey.” Total: 2,100£. Or $2,369,137.42 USD today.

“Petition for sundry payments for which the accomptant has no warrant”; viz., payments for biscuits and western fish “in a great storm lost”; to Nich. Cowart, for loss in sale of wheat after the wars, and for his wages as “supervisour and having the charge of the byscuett,” and purveyor of wheat, from 24 Jan. 4 Hen. VIII. to 7 Nov. 6 Hen. VIII.; for wages of John Dawtrey and his two clerks, from 16 April 3 Hen. VIII. to 12 Sept. 6 Hen. VIII.; for carriage of money remaining in the hands of John Dawtrey from Hampton to London, &c.; for biscuits in the hands of Nich. Cowert and John Dawtrey; to Hen. Tylman of Chichester, brewer, for beer; to Rich. Gowffe of Chichester, baker, for biscuits; to _ Serle of Brighthempston, for barrels; for remainder “of wood vessels, carts, leighter and divers other necessaries,” in the charge of Rich. Palshed, at Portsmouth. “Money paid and advanced by Richard Palshed”:—for wages of brewers, millers, beer-clerks, mill-makers, coopers, surveyors, master-brewers, horse-keepers and smiths, attending upon the King’s brewhouses at Portsmouth, 5 and 6 Hen. VIII., and of certain brewers and mariners from 22 Aug. 6 Hen. VIII. to 31 March following; for expences in carriage of beer, for rent of houses, for building a great store-house at Portsmouth, for repairing the King’s garners and beer-houses at Portsmouth, for loss in sale, “after the war was done, of mill and dray-horses, wheat, malt, oats and hops; for wheat, malt, hops and beer lost and damaged at sea, and for wages of the said Rich. Palshed and his two clerks.”

Turns out Dawtrey was the Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs so sending him all the bills makes sense. He appears to be in charge of building and operating Henry’s four great brew houses as well as Lord Howard’s beer barrel storehouses at Portsmouth as well as paying for beer brewed by others like Henry Tylman of Chichester as well as Richard Palshed who we saw referenced as “Palshid” and “Palshide” in that brew house post. Palshed must have been the general manager brewing operations as well as likely a Member of Parliament.

Two decades on, the brewing operations at Calais are still going… sort of. In the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII: Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum and Elsewhere in England, Volume 9 we find the following from 27 December 1535:

Petition of Jas. Wadyngborne, of Calais, to Cromwell, chief secretary. His brewhouse at the Cawsey in the marches of Calais was destroyed in the last wars, and he then bought a house in the town standing over against the King’s Exchequer. At the King’s last being at Calais, he bought this house and others “in the said quadrant,” to the petitioner’s great loss. Bought a new house in the Middleway near the town for more than 200l., and daily brews for the town, paying excise and other charges as if he were within. ill be compelled to cease brewing in consequence of a late Act concerning the woods in the Marches, unless Cromwell obtain for him the King’s license to brew as heretofore.

There you go. Lots to chomp on. Life truly is a gas between the wars.

*See, for example, Darien.

“There Is Slow Lading Of Beer At Portismouth”

Exciting times. Hunting for more information about those four Tudor brew houses at Portsmouth introduced a few posts ago,  I came across a number of documents* including this dramatic report from Lord Howard to Lord Wolsey, 6 June 1513:

The premises heard, I took horse and rode hither to tell my lord of Winchester and Lord Lizle, and will forthwith return to the ships. I look hourly for news from Brytayne, where I have three ships. Cannot yet certify the time of my departure, for “there is slow lading of beer at Portismouth”…

At that moment, Henry has only been monarch for four years. Wolsey is two years short of becoming Cardinal but is Henry VIII’s first minister. Howard appears to be quite arguably second. So, there is a lot of political power getting into the question of beer being brought onboard ships.  From 1512 to 1514, England is at war with (who else?) France.  It was part of the broader anti-Venetian War of the Holy League which, as leagues go, must have been right up there. I will let you run down that rabbit hole on your own time.

I take “Brytayne” to be Brittany. Ships are being prepared to hit the open sea. In fact, the very next day a note is recorded to the effect that:

“Victuals delivered, for 6 weeks beginning” 7 June 5 Hen. VIII., to the Trinity Sovereign and 18 other ships; giving for each the purser’s name, the number of men and the quantity of beer delivered by Richard Palshid.

And again we read on the 8th of June another note to Wolsey this time sent by “Fox” who I take to be Richard Foxe at the latter end of his career as a key advisory to the monarch:

…to-morrow to Portesmowthe to see how the brewhouses go forward. Because much victual goes to the army out of Thamys and also from hence and out of the west country, order should be taken for its distribution to each ship: and the Admiral should be written to to despatch the victuallers hither again with empty vessel or else they cannot be served with beer, as Dawtrey will certify. Without wafters “there is good likelihood that they shall be take up by the way.” Much old piped beef is left here by Edward Ratclif which is like to be lost. You should command Ratclif to come hither and do the best that can be done with it.

Interesting stuff.** Provisioning is being directed no only to Portsmouth but also out of the Thames as well as the West Country… Bristol? “Wafters” might be similar to barges or bulk goods ships. And it is from Portsmouth that wafters with empty vessels must be brought to load with beer. Because Portsmouth has the brew houses.

Lord Howard reports the situation to the entire Privy Council as of 8 June in this way:

Lading of beer alone delays his departure; for there are but two cranes and the crayers can only come in and out to them at full sea. On consultation with Wm. Pawne and Palshide, suggests the use of lighters as in the Thames. Two or three of the greatest in Thames should be towed hither by crayers, “and with making them higher with a strake of board we doubt not they shall come safe hither.” The brewhouses here are the goodliest he ever saw, and already brew 100 tun a day. As there is no place to store it but the streets, where hot weather would destroy it, he has commanded Wm. Pawne to have great trenches digged and covered with boards, turf and sedges. The beer which came for Lord Lisle has been assayed by Howard, the Treasurer and the Clerk Comptroller and mostly sent back to London; for Heron’s servants, who deliver it, say that the brewers are bound to take back “unable stuff.” I know not what the King pays, but “much of it is as small as penny ale and as sour as a crab. I doubt not your Lordships will see the brewers punished.”

Two cranes? Who set up this situation with all the beer and not haulage ships and two cranes for loading? Oh, likely Henry VIII. Never mind.

Still, there is the key fact I wanted to establish related to the four brew houses. One hundred tun a day. So much it is stored in the streets. You will recall that I was not able to put my hand on the cited secondary source “Eley 1988” for the statement that they brewed “500 barrels per day in 1515.” This is even better. Not only does the 1513 figure apparently corroborate Eley’s 1515 one, it is a primary source – or at least a trusted recital of one – AND according to my calculations is bigger, a tun being more like 5.83*** UK beer barrels. Which makes the production level 116,600 barrels a year based on a modern 200 working day year of fifty work weeks five days each. If it was 52 weeks of six days, that becomes 181, 896 barrels a year.

If that is the case, then this four brew house brewery infrastructure was four to six times the size of Thrale’s brewery when he acquired it in 1758. The entire beer brewing production of the United States in 1810 was 182,690 barrels. The production of the four brew houses of Portsmouth is a bit mind boggling given how it seems to be both (i) a trustworthy stat and (ii) from hundreds of years before any facility at that scale had been at least brought to my attention. Neato.

More to come I am sure.

*This one set of documents is to be referenced for the quoted bits in this post where no other reference is given.
**Note to self: definitely take a pass on the piped beef whenever in Portsmouth.
***See comment from Martyn about my crummy use of decimal points.

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 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.

“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…

Issac Bobin’s Letter, 6 September 1720

As I was going through the blog posts shifting them over to the new platform for the past few months I realized that I’ve had tight waves of writing enthusiastically separated by other phases of, you know, treading water.  If I had a topic to run with, a new database to explore I got at it. But I also skipped over some things. Failed to suck the marrow. I had in my head that I had a stand alone post on Mr. Bobin’s letter above from 1720 but in fact had only written this in one of my posts about the Rutgers brewing dynasty in New York City from the 1640s to the early 1800s:

In a letter dated 6 September 1720 from Isaac Bobin to George Clarke we read:

…As to Albany stale Beer I cant get any in Town, so was obliged to go to Rutgers where I found none Older than Eight Days I was backward in sending such but Riche telling me you wanted Beer for your workmen and did not know what to do without have run the hazard to send two Barrels at £1 16/ the Barrels at 3/ and 6/. Rutgers says it is extraordinary good Beer and yet racking it off into other Barrels would flatten it and make it Drink Dead…

Isaac Bobin was the Private Secretary of Hon. George Clarke, Secretary of the Province of New York. So clearly Rutgers was as good as second to Albany stale for high society… or at least their workers. And in any case – we do not know if it was from Anthony’s brewery or Harman’s.

The Smithsonian has a better copy of the book of Bobin’s letters. What I didn’t get into were the details of the letter itself. Riche. Albany stale Beer. Drink Dead. Just what a whiner Bobin was. Riche? He seems to be the shipper, moving goods from the New York area to wherever the Hon. George Clarke was located. In another letter dated 15 September 1723, Clarke’s taste in fine good – including beer – is evident:

THERE goes now by Riche (upon whom I could not prevail to go sooner) a Barrel of Beef £1. 17f 6d; a Qr Cask of Wine @ £6; twelve pound of hard Soap @ 6£; twelve pd of Chocolat £1. if; two Barrls of Beer; a pd of Bohea Tea @ £ i.; Six qr of writing Paper. Will carryed with him from Mr. Lanes four Bottles of Brandy with a Letter from Mr. Lane.

In another letter dated 17 November 1719, beer and cider are being forwarded. Bobin’s job includes ensuring Clarke and his household has their drinks and treats. It all is very similar to the shipments for the colonial wealthy and well-placed we’ve seen half a century later from New York City to the empire’s Mohawk Valley frontier where Sir William Johnson received from the 1750s to 1770s: his beer from Mr. Lispenard, his imported Taunton ale and Newark cider .

I find the reference to stale in the 1720 letter interesting as it suggests a more sophisticated beer trade that merely making basic beer quickly and getting it out the door. Albany stale beer. Stale distinguishes as much as Albany does. Plus, Bobin compares to the “Albany stale” to the young Rutgers beer and seems to get in a muddle. What will the workers accept? Or is it perhaps that he is concerned what Clarke thinks the workers will accept. I worry about words like stale like I worry about the livers of the young beer communico-constulo class. We need to do better. Stale seems be a useful word in common usage for (exactly) yoinks but Martyn certainly places it, in the context of beer, as in use around the 1720s so Bobin’s usage is fairly current in England even if at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s thrown around generously in The London and Country Brewer in 1737 and used by Gervase Markham in the 1660s.

Aside from stale-ness, the dead-ness of the beer obviously is about its condition but why raking off is considered is unclear. Was it just at the wrong point in Rutger’s brewing process or was he operating his business by holding it in larger vessels and selling retail to his surrounding market, like the growler trade today? Again, not just any beer will do. In Samuel Child’s 1768 work Every Man His Own Brewer, Or, A Compendium of the English Brewery we see this passage referencing deadening at page 38:

It has been said before, what quantity of hops are requisite to each quarter of malt, and how the same are to be prepared; but here it must be considered that that if the beer is to be sent into a warmer climate in the cask, one third more hopping is absolutely necessary, or the increased heat will awaken the acid spirit of the malt, give it a prevalency over the corrective power of the hop, and ferment it into vinegar: to avoid this superior expence of hopping, the London and Bristol beers are usually drawn off and deadened, and then bottled for exportation; this really answers the purpose one way; but whether counterbalanced by charge of bottling and freight, &c. those who deal in this way can best determine. 

Just bask in that passage for a moment. It’s (i) a contemporary that British beer was prepared for transport to warmer climates and (ii) among a few other techniques, the intentional deadening a beer followed by bottling was a technique used for export. Burton was, after all, brewed for export. As was Taunton for Jamaica’s plantations. The British simply shipped beer everywhere. IPA was not unique. Was there a beer brewed for Hong Kong that we’ve also forgotten about? Dunno. What we do know is that Bobin is saying is that Rutgers warns against a deadened beer for local use. Would he have been deadening beer for export? In 1720s New York City?  We know that porter was shipped out of town later. We know that late in the century shipments of bottled porter were coming in.

Excellent stuff. I need to think about this more. But, like the seven doors of the Romantic poets, suffice it to say that a good record in itself can open up a wonderful opportunity to chase an idea. In an era of such early and falsely confident conclusion drawing, a useful reminder.