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.

Burton Ale: “…They Brewed Not For Home Consumption…”

I hate… yet love… the small nuggets of information I come across when scanning the news reports from the 1700s. That’s a report from the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury of 24 July 1780 describing a debate in the House of Commons in London on a committee report on the taxation of malt. The regional rivalries between the big (or bigg) of Cumberland and Westmoreland as opposed to Scottish malt is one thing but that tidbit about the taxation of Burton Ale is gold… maybe.

Burton appears to be in the New York City market from 1770 from the notices like this one from the New York Gazette of 12 November of that year that offering it for sale at the Wall Street store of Samuel Hake. Eight years later, according to the NYGWM of 24 April 1778, it is being sold at the Vendue Store of John Taylor near the Fly-Market at the foot of Maiden Lane at the mouth of the stream associated at the time with the breweries of Medcef Eden and two Rutgers.  Taylor is also selling Bristol beer and our beloved Taunton ale along with porter.  Plenty of the results of English brewing is ending up in the colony.

Notice that Sir William Bagot does not deny the argument that Burton is brewed primarily for export, just that it opens a door to other presumably less valid claims – and perhaps illicit domestic sales. About a year ago, Martyn and I exchanged a few thoughts about the lack of understanding about the origins of Burton ale. But this bit of a Parliamentary debate is one of the only references I have found indicating an understanding at the time that Burton – like Taunton, porter and others – was part of large and organized North American export trade during the second half of the 1700s.

I wish I could figure out how to determine its scale.

Reaching Back Into 1780s Hudson History

hudsonwg27sept1787aI buried the grape vines the other day. Gave the lawn one last mow. The Red Sox have been gone from my TV for about five weeks now. Winter is coming. Thank God that there is the hunt for beer and brewing history to fill the dark cold nights.  Craig forwarded me this one image a few months ago and it has sat in my inbox waiting for the right time. He spotted it at a display on the US Constitution – a newspaper ran the text of the Constitution and Faulkner’s ad on the front page.

It’s from the September 27, 1787 issue of the Hudson Weekly Gazette and it neatly fills a gap. We’ve traced the career of William D. Faulkner from Brooklyn in the late 1760s to Albany in the early 1790s. We had known that there was a lull in his career after the disruptions of the American Revolution so it’s exciting to see that by just four years after the peace he was settling into the mid-valley town of Hudson, NY. Just as the Hessian Fly was decimating grain crops. The ad states that his previous brewery was destroyed by fire. That would be one of the two Rutgers’ Maiden Lane breweries that he left Brooklyn for in 1770, the brewery of Anthony Rutgers. Or, was it the Cow-Hill brewery in Harlem Craig mentioned when he sent the image, referenced in our book. That would give Faulkner a five brewery colonial career. The man was on the go.

And he likes himself. He “ever commanded the first a market and home and abroad” confirming again he was an exporting brewer when they were supposed not to exist.  The inter-coastal and inter-colonial trade in beer is waiting to be explored as is the ranges of beer which were brewed. Look at the ad again. It includes a price list:

Stock Ale at 5 Dollars, per Barrel.
Mild Do. at 3 Do. per Do.
Ship and Table Beer at 12s. per Do.
Double Spruce at 16s. per Do.
Single Do. 11s. per Do.

Remember that “Do.” is ditto and that “s” is shilling.  Currency in the years after the end of the Revolution remained in flux: dollars and shillings in the same ad. Same in Upper Canada. And there is also the assertion that his best ale will be warranted to keep good to any part of the East or West Indies or any foreign Market while name dropping Taunton and Liverpool Ale along with Dorchester and Bristol Beer. A pretty confident and skilled brewer. Good to see “Stock Ale” on offer, just as we see it in the Vassar brewing logs from nearby Poughkeepsie of the mid-1830s.  Philadelphia’s Perot in the early 1820s uses the term “long keeping” instead.

Just like these other brewers, Faulkner was speaking to his market. You would not name this range of styles or the other famous English beers if your customer did not know what they were, didn’t have a need for Stock Ale. As time passes and the new Republic gets some decades under its belt, these lists of styles on offer become shorter. Perhaps to match the simpler nature of the struggling society moving away from the coastal economy, driving inland.

Georgian Era Long Distance US Beer Shipments

The main reason I got into hunting for parallels to IPA over six years ago was Pete Brown’s excellent book Hops and Glory. I liked it so much that I posted a review in four parts. It seemed to me that if beer was being shipped to India it should have been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean as well. And as it turned out my hunch was correct. It shouldn’t have needed to be a hunch, of course. This all should have been well researched but, as I have droned on about, there has been a tendency in beer writing to skip the whole research thing and rush to observation. So, we have wallowed in myth. In this post, like the one on how beer was commonly not pale and not smoke-laced before the use of coke for malting, let’s just summarize what is known so that we don’t ever have to slip back into the land of fibs where it takes the latter 1800s popularization of lager to invent the concept of the know-how and practice shipping of US beer over long distances to lucrative markets.

=> First, Taunton ale. As we have known for a few years, Taunton ale was imported in large quantities into New York City since at least the 1750s when newpaper notices for the stuff start appearing. It was brought to NY in the first two decades of the 1800s. It was certainly also in Jamaica in the later 1700s. We do not know how much of it was imported into other colonial communities solely because no one has researched the question as far as I know.

=> nygaz07may1805albanyalehibbertsNext, Hibberts Brown Stout. This stuff is all over the place. Click on that thumbnail. That is a notice from just one store in 1805 stating that they have fifty-five casks on hand with another 498 casks on route. British beer brought in and in bulk. Broadly. Nova Scotia. Texas. Lots of folk were importing. They knew how to put a cask on a ship.

=> And then, porter. As I recently wrote, it “was enjoyed in New York City as an import and then a local product in the second half of the 1700s, before and after the Revolution. The best was “ripe and brisk.” A brewery built in the 1760s by a Hudson River dock was known as the porter brewery for half a century. It shipped to both the East and West Indies. Again, masses of the stuff being shipped in and shipped out.

=> There’s New Haven ale, too. Worthy of its own post, New Haven, Connecticut ale appears in Albany (of all places) in 1802 in an ad that also have NYC ale coming north, too. There was an agency in NYC and some sort of Federalist plot related to the 1803 burning of the brewery. The brewery had enough barley for 1500 barrels of ale when it was destroyed. Scale.

=> albfaulkalbreg18oct1790Plus, there’s southern beer. You see it in the logs. Click on the ad. Brewing was not practical below a certain latitude so brewers like William Faulkner of NYC and Albany shipped to South Carolina… and the West Indies. He died in 1792. Not to mention there was northern beer, too, three decades later. I haven’t even figured out what that was. Except it was shipped in bulk and was intended for trade.

=> And, of course, there’s the entire history of Albany ale in the first half of the 1800s. Enjoyed from Newfoundland to Hawaii. Brewed at a scale that rivaled anything in Europe by mid-century and for decades after that.

=> nyevenpost19dec1823eaglebrewery61crosbyAnd it goes on and on – there was Burlington Ale and Philadelphia Cream. There was all that Philadelphia porter, too. And then there was just those notices for custom batched shipping beer, a purely wholesale product in the 1820s like under that thumbnail. Local and shipping were two distinct and equally valuable markets for the ambitious brewer in the early 1800s. That image way up there? A detail from Vassar’s log in August 1834. Like other every page, it shows how mixed his intended markets were. Why else do you think US ale breweries were built on rivers or near the

Why wouldn’t US brewed beer and ale be shipped in mass quantities well before the rise of lager? Ship’s beer is a core product. Ship + brewing = wealth. Just like they knew how to make pale ale without smoke fouling, the English knew how to load a ship full of beer for an expedition to the Arctic in 1577, for God’s sake. The Hanseatic League was shipping beer internationally before 1400. Why? Money! Just as with big craft today, every brewery owner has always known that getting past the local market is where the real money is. It’s the goal. The goose that lays the golden egg. When the great American lager breweries begin shipping by rail in the later 1800s they are just building upon centuries of bulk beer shipment under wind and sail. Albany may have been a leader but it was not unique. The more that actual brewing trade research is undertaken the more clearly this will be set out. Guaranteed.

Who Was Joseph Coppinger, Early 1800s US Beer Geek?

coppinger2The trouble with finding an old text in isolation like the one I wrote about yesterday is establishing some context. Without it, you are at the whim of the person’s claim to fame as opposed to his or her place. It’s as true today as it was in 1815 when Joseph Coppinger published his book on brewing. The context is totally dissimilar. Right now we are still in the era when folk can assert craft beer expertise, isolated from critical assessment due to the flux. We have to take comfort and grounding in the knowledge that few are. In the years leading up to 1815, America was similarly in a time uncertainty. The British were not yet allies again and the lands beyond the east coast’s highlands were not secured. Drifters abounded. I was thinking about this when I was thinking today about Coppinger. How the heck do I know he didn’t make up all that in his book? How can we establish he is reliable? So, I looked to see what I could find out about him. Fortunately, he liked to write letters to the famous and left a bit of a trail:

1800: claims in his 1810 letter to President Madison that, prior to emigrating from Ireland to the US, he published a paper in the reports of the Bath and West of England Society on an improved method of the drying of malt.

1802: Coppinger writes two letters to President Thomas Jefferson. He wrote from New York on the subject of naturalization and the need for him to become a citizen to patent an invention. He is an Irish Catholic recently arrived in the New World;

1802-04: Coppinger appears in Pittsburgh on the frontier partnering in a brewery operation located in and even made out of the former Fort Pitt known as Point Brewery;

1806: Coppinger enters into partnership to establish a brewery in Jessamine County, Kentucky. It never comes into operation and a law suit is begun. The dispute is settled through the intervention of the Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin, the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States;

1807: Coppinger wrote from St. Louis a letter to Benjamin Rush, Revolutionary leader. Rush is a pre-Revolutionary anti-slavery activist and a medical doctor. The letter is not about beer so much as a scheme to use public resources to help raise employment levels;

1810: Coppinger wrote to President James Madison describing a list of inventions and also proposes the establishment of a national brewery at Washington. His inventions include an improved threshing machine and a better method of distilling. He gives his address as No 6, Cheapside Street, New York. Says he has been in the brewing trade for twenty years;

1813: An advertisement for Coppinger’s book is published in a Philadelphia newspaper, the Aurora General Advertiser; and

1815: Coppinger writes to former President Thomas Jefferson. He gives his address as 198 Duane St., New York. Jefferson wrote back a couple of week later quite interested in Coppinger’s ideas, noting “in my family brewing I have used wheat as we do not raise barley”.

1815: Coppinger’s publishers, Van Winkle and Wiley of New York, are quite respectable and at the leading edge of the first wave of homegrown American literature. In this same year they publish An Introductory Discourse delivered before the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York, on the fourth of May, 1814 by De Witt Clinton, then Mayor of New York, later state Governor. It is a treatise on the improvement of society.

A brief biography of Coppinger appears in the footnotes to this letter to Jefferson. In his later years he writes two more books: 1817’s Catholic Doctrines and Catholic Principles Explainedand in 1819 On the Construction of Flat Roofed Buildings, Whether of Stone, Brick, or Wood, and the Mode of Rendering Them Fire Proof. He passes away around 1825 after 23 years in the young United States of America. He looks good if a wee bit intense. But, then again, he is a participant in the making of the country, making the world anew. Does this mean he is to be trusted in his description of how to make Dorchester Ale? Not at all. But he has a very good chance of being trustworthy with a bit more digging.

Dorchester Ale: Esteemed When The Management Is Judicious


coppingerFabulous. I think my new best friend is Joseph Coppinger. Sure he published his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner 200 years ago… but so few people come by these days I don’t care to notice such things. Like Velky Al did a couple of years ago, I came across an online copy of the book as I was looking for something entirely different. [No. No, not that.] And when I did I immediately – well, right after checking out the tanning section – noticed there were a number of recipes for beers. Styles of beers even. A listing of styles. In a two hundred year old book about beer. Odd. I thought that was invented in the 1970s by that Jack Michaelson chap. But, more importantly, he included this:

Dorchester Ale

This quality of ale is by many esteemed the best in England, when the materials are good, and the management judicious.

54 Bushels of the best Pale Malt.
50 lb. of the best Hops.
1 lb. of Ginger.
¼ of a lb. of Cinnamon, pounded.

Cleansed 14 Barrels, reserving enough for filling….This mode of brewing appears to be peculiarly adapted for shipping to warm climates; the fermentation being slowly and coolly conducted: it is also well calculated for bottling.

Yes, there is more. I just used those three dots to keep you focused. He goes on and on in fact. Over thirty sorts of beer and a few diagrams like the one above. A few things. First, it’s a description of how to make Dorchester Ale. The careful – or perhaps the caring – amongst you will recall that two years ago while waiting for Craig in Albany to go for a beer, I wandered into the New York State Library HQ and found a large number of mid-1700s newspaper notices for British ale coming into the new world. And a few of those ads referenced Dorchester ale. So there you have it. Dorchester was a top quality ale with a bit of ginger added. Sounds like quite nice stuff. Second, yes, the book was published in 1815. And it was published in that year by the firm of Van Winkle and Wiley located at No.3 on Wall Street. It is a guide aimed at the trade. Aimed at the trade that wants to know about shipping to the warmer climes. Which means exporting ale from New York state. Two hundred years ago. Third, he goes on. And on. The book has a lot of data. I need to get into it to find out what.

I believe this illustrates a point: the problem with records. Believing you know what things were once like based on the available records is a dodgy game. Things like (i) Gansevoort’s adin 1794 asking for barley for ale as the old state in the young nation was coming out out famine leading one to leap to (ii) a prosperous local brewery to the south in 1808 connecting you to (iii) this guide in 1815’s NYC on how to brew for export (iv) all might lead you to understanding that there was in fact a vibrant but little understood brewing trade waaay before the US Civil War and waaay before the advent of lager’s supremacy. But you have to watch that sort of thing. Because records are dodgy things. But at least we may well know what Dorcester ale was. Maybe. Sadly, no reference to Taunton. Maybe. Probably out of style by then in the New York market. That might be it. Maybe.

More References To That Shadowy Taunton Ale

tauntonmapAttentive readers will recall that I have a slow side project in figuring out what I can about Taunton ale. It was a bit of a by-catch to the whole Albany ale thing with references to it showing up in central New York around the time of the American Revolution. When I got to the New York State Library in Albany in 2012, I found a mass of references to it being sold in New York in the 1750s and 1760s. And then it pretty much fell off the table. I couldn’t find anything more online. But three more years means three more years of people throwing everything they can find onto the Information Super Highway. So what is there to add to the story now?

First, it was being exported to other parts of the British empire than just pre-Revolutionary New York. In 1774, Taunton ale is described as being one of Bristol’s exports to Jamaica along with products like West country cyder, cheese, leather, slate, grindstones, lead, lime for temper and Bristol water. Another record shows a ship for Jamaica in 1776 being loaded with Taunton ale, household goods as well as “volumes of entertaining history.” Taunton also is mentioned a number of time in The Bright-Meyler Papers: A Bristol-West India Connection, 1732-1837. In the entirely uncomfortably titled “Letters on the Cultivation of the Otaheite Cane: The Manufacture of Sugar and Rum; the Saving of Molasses; the Care and Preservation of Stock; with the Attention and Anxiety which is Due to Negroes and a Speech on the Slave Trade …”, what appears to be an 1801 guide to running a slave sugar plantation again in Jamaica, a warning is given on being too generous with one’s manager:

A very injudicious mode of remuneration, established by folly, and imitated by thoughtlessness, is that of fixed and stated presents. Such are, on many West Indian estates, invariably ordered for a manager, whether he is deserving of them or not; whether he makes fifty hogsheads, or five hundred; whether his Negroes increase or diminish; without regard to the situation of the stock, or to the improvement or neglect of any article entrusted to his care. These annual compliments consist sometimes of provision; as beef, butter, hams, and other articles of domestic consumption. But they are not judicious, even if they are merited. For their cost would invariably be turned to greater advantage, by an industrious economical manager, than the presents which are bestowed on him. Some of these acknowledgments, too, are pernicious in their nature: operate, though not intended, as an incentive to vice, and a seduction of the manager from his business. Such is the cask of Madeira before alluded to; and such are casks of porter and Taunton ale, with cases of claret. All these idle substitutes for judicious remuneration should be abolished, and proprietors should constantly reward their managers, in proportion to the services which they render, and the prosperity which they bestow, on whatever is entrusted to their care.

In 1808, a gazetteer states that large quantities of malt liquor called Taunton ale was also being sent to Bristol for exportation. Around the early 1820s, Taunton ale was selling in Bristol for 9s 6d a dozen quarts compared to 10s for Burton and 7s for porter.

Next, there is clearly a lifestyle aspect to Taunton ale in the beginning of the 1800s. It’s a beer for the destination traveling poet. Volume 30 of The Scots Magazine from 1777 included The Poem “In Praise of Tobacco” which included the lines “Say, Muse, how I regale, / How chearfully the minutes pass, / When with my bottle, friend, and glass, / Clean pipes and Taunton ale.” Yikes. In a 1797 letter, the clearly better poets Coleridge, Lamb and Southey are described as drinking Taunton along with a meal of bread and cheese. In the 1804 annual ofSporting Magazine, Taunton is described as most famous for that best of human beverage, good ale; though the author have I have before quoted thus mentions the attachment of the natives to it with some regret: “Hail Taunton! thou with cheerful plenty bless’d, / Of numerous lands and thriving trade possess’d, / Whose poor might live from biting want secure, / Did not their resistless ALE their hearts allure.” More bad poetry. Not sure how that reflects on the quality of Taunton ale.

What was it? The 1824 booklet “The Spirit, Wine Dealer’s and Publican’s Directory” gives some sense of the beer in its treatise on “the art of making vinegar, cider, perry and brewing malt liquors – and particularly Taunton strong beer and ale.” We are told the strong ale takes eight or nine bushels of the best pale malt to the hogshead as well as six pounds of Farnham hops – but use east Kent hops if the beer is meant to be kept for two or more years. Strike at 160F, cover the lot with dry malt or sweet bran and let it sit for three and a half hours. Strain off and boil the wort with the hops of an hour. A half hogshead of strong ale results from the first running with ale and table ale the second and third. Its an odd sort of set of instructions for something written 191 years ago. It all reads a lot like a 1960s Amateur Winemaker home brewing article. The short guide recommends spirit dealers lower the proof of their rum by adding a mix of two-thirds water and one third Taunton strong for softness. It is a soft water zone so they may have had a point.

Also, Taunton seems to become the drink of a certain sort of well placed gent, especially when from one particular brewer. In Benjamin Disraeli’s letters from the mid-1830s, he tells a correspondent that Eales White would send a barrel of Taunton ale which he describes as “something marvelous.” The 1851 annual of Sporting Review describes the morning of a hunt and the reception in one great house:

The merry young sportsmen returned to the house, not however till they had been gratified by the safe arrival of the jumper, who, led by Thomas, was placed in a stall perfectly fresh and fit to go; by which time things were looking more cheerful. A bright fire blazed on the dining-room hearth; breakfast was prepared, the sideboard groaning with good substantial cheer; and even the somewhat flamingo-faced butler had contrived—knowing the squire’s peculiarity, or, I should rather say, punctuality on hunting mornings—to rouse himself from a most agreeable nap, and honour the lower dominions with his portly presence. In fact, as far as I can recollect, he was decidedly the most substantial, if not the most important, person of the Hall or neighbourhood – et pourquoi non? Excuse a French term, for he was certainly most useful in his special department; added to which, he brewed without exception the best ale I ever tasted: and if-so-be it precisely suited his own palate—what then? all the country round pronounced it undeniable. Stogumber beer was, or rather is, mere wish-wash in comparison, though vastly agreeable; and White’s Taunton ale alone could bear it any comparison.

Martyn cleared up the Stogumber question in 2011, but it is White which is clearly the name which appears associated with the best Taunton ale in mid-1800s English society. The report of Crimean Army Fund Committee of 1855 also mentions Eales White, Esq. of the Taunton Ale Brewery as a contributor to the cause among those who gave presents of wine, spirits or beer. Probate of the will of Eales White, Brewer of Taunton, Somerset was before the court in 1855. He has a rather splendid headstone.

And that is it. A beer for the bastardly late 1700s Jamaica slave plantation manager, for the great and crap poets of the turn of the century as well as for the gentry of the mid-1800s. Three dislocated bits of society, no? Well, they do sorta all have the well placed slacker theme going for them. Is that what the beer represented? The lazy entitled bastards’ reward?

1750-60s New Yorkers Drank Lots Of Taunton Ale

taunt17 taunt16 taunt15 taunt13 taunt14 taunt12 taunt11 taunt10 taunt9 taunt8 taunt7 taunt5 taunt6 taunt4 taunt3 taunt2 taunt1




















Three years ago, I asked what the heck Taunton ale was. I found a few more things that I noted in the comments but, still, was pretty much left with the idea it was a bit of a fringe thing, a bit of a one off. After all, India Pale Ale gets all the attention because it deserves its adoration and the long haul beer of the Georgian era, right? But there I was in the New York State Library’s reference section this morning. Looking for ads for brewers by last name when I started to play around with other odd words and – whammo – 17 ads for Taunton Ale being shipped into New York harbour in the 1750s and 1760s. It was a commonly traded good. One note. Up at the top is the metadata on the image. These are screen shots.

A few preliminary thoughts of mine for your consideration, correction and elaboration. First, I had understood it was a bottled beer as part of the trade in Bristol glass. See, someone had figured out that shipping a full bottle was shipping two products – the bottle as well as its content. Second, it appears to be a product of quality. See the 1764 advert from Thomas Fogg? He’s importing something he doesn’t name but it is as good as Taunton. Sure it was. Sure it was. Third, what the heck is Dorchester beer? Fourth, Craig and I are working on the idea of what 18th century New York state… err… province beer was like and we are working on the idea of a few overlapping things or production techniques: weaker tavern brew, stronger northern Dutch-style wheat ale, NYC-made English/British-style barley ale and with this information there appears to be a fourth class. Wide – spread premium imports.

Four ideas is enough for now. Lots of data. What else do you see?

Two Years After Taunton Ale We Have Bowood Strong




I should have known this I suppose, an apparently famous quote from the Governor of Nova Scotia appointed at the close of the American Revolution celebrating what he finds waiting for him at his new post. It is set out in a letter written by Governor John Parr on October 23, 1782 – eighteen days after his arrival – to his friend Colonel Grey:

Plenty of Provisions of all sorts except Flower, with a very good French cook to dress them, A Cellar well stock’d with Port, Claret, Madeira, Rum, Brandy, Bowood Strong Beer &c, a neat Income (including a Regimt of Provincials of which I am Colonel) of 2200 [pounds sterling] Sterg p Annum, an Income far beyond my expectations, plenty of Coals & Wood against the severity of the Winter, A house well furnish’d, and warm Cloths, that upon the whole my Dear Grey, your friend Parr is as Happy and comfortably seated, as you could wish an old friend to be…

Bowood Strong Beer! What was that in 1782? You will recall that we figured out that strong beer from Taunton England was shipped to the other side of the Atlantic making it to the very Mohawk Valley frontier in the 1760s. It was shipped through Bristol, a port which exported beer since at least the 1730s. Taunton is about 48 miles from Bristol. Bowood is closer – if we mean Bowood the estate, 38 miles to the east of Bristol. Bowood still exists and has been the home of the Marquesses of Lansdowne and one of whom, aka the Earl of Shelburne was Prime Minister in 1782 – the very man who appointed Parr to be Governor. We read here that the Marquess / PM is actually Parr’s patron, as he was to Grey. Parr is his minor supporter. They are both Irish.

So, there are at least two possibilities. Either Bowood was like Taunton – a brewing centre that shipped to North America likely also through Bristol or, on the other hand, the strong beer is from Bowood Estate, a gift from the Prime Minister to his new Governor. Interestingly, Joseph Priestly, the man who discovered oxygen, was librarian at Bowood. He had earlier studied gases at a brewery. Priestly had a laboratory at Bowood House with the Earl acting, once again, as patron. The Earl and Priestley fell out in 1779. The poet Coleridge shows up at Bowood House a few decades later and moves, in fact, to the nearby town of Calne – where the folk who own the big house… also own a brewery. It could also still exist – as illustrated above in the era of really big tall hats – though as a hotel run by Arkells. It is a listed propertyand, maybe, where the beer that welcomed Governor Parr was brewed.

First There Was Albany Ale… Now Taunton Ale

I have a great pal with whom I have a recreational and professional interest in events in the Mohawk Valley of New York from around 1750 to 1785 and particularly William Johnson or rather Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New York. Johnson was the landowner whose tenants become rather successful Loyalist soldiers under Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet, who kept upstate New York largely in British hands during the American Revolution. But for that little thing called the Treaty of Paris, they would have had no reason to become the founders of my town Kingston and thereby the founders of Ontario and thereby in significant part the founders of modern Canada by being the first British colonizing settlers on the Great Lakes.

What am I going on about? You will recall that Albany Ale discovery indicating that there was a sea trade of strong ale out of New York’s capital city from roughly 1800 into the middle of the nineteenth century. Well, my pal had the ability to do a quick word search through the papers of William Johnson looking for the word “beer” and, in addition to a reference to “Hyson tea” which is also along side Albany ale in the Newfoundland newspapers of almost a century later, came up with the following classes referenced in his correspondence:

  • 1755: two barrels beer of Hend’k Fry,
  • 1768: Taunton ale,
  • 1772: six barrels of Lispenards beer.

That last reference is neither to the shipper or the wholesaler as this note from the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace from Oct. 2, 1772 shows:

…There is no Red port to be got here [at] this time, if any comes shall secure some for you – The Syder (sic) is not yet made, nor fitt to be bought for [at least] a Month. & Mr. Leispinard Says [he] will have the Beer ready to go along with the Syder (sic), at present he says he has none brewed that he would recommend to you. We hope all the things will please you, we have taken all possible care in the Choice of them, & bought them on the lowest terms.

It looks like Lispenard or Lispinard was the actual brewer. And one month later on Nov. 3, 1772, the following is invoiced by Hugh Wallace to William Johnson:

We have put on board Capt. Marsails in Mr. Adams’s care for your use:
6/-/- for 3 Barrl Strong Beer at 40/
4/10/- for 3 Barrl. Ale @ 30/
1/7/- for 6 Barrels at 4/6
7/-/- for 10 Barrels Newark Syder at 14/
0/3/- for Carting ale to the Sloop

Interesting to see three grades of beer being bought but the more interesting reference for me is to “Taunton ale” as it also is referenced in a 1789 meal put on by George Washington as well as in a shipment to Newfoundland in 1810. It is clearly not a reference to something in passing or personal to some particular step in the supply. But what was it?