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.

Your Mid-January Thursday Beery New Round-Up

It’s been a big week. The Arctic air mass has left us so Easlakia once again is a ball of slush. It’s been a dryish January around these parts but only “-ish” – so don’t go all hostile. Much more veg. No fries. Walks as walks can be walked. It’s good for you. Hmm. Ice storm coming Friday. That should be sweetly end-timesy. Like what Lars just went through recently… maybe. You and I? We have done nothing for good beer. Not like Lars. Speaking of getting off the kookoo juice, I like this: “…waking up fresh at 8am on a Saturday morning after 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.” Try it. It’s good.

I was very sad to read a Ed’s blog about the passing of Graham Wheeler. During my home brewing years his book (with a drizzle of R. Protz) Brew Your Own British Real Ale was a constant companion. One thing I will always appreciate having learned from him was how small differences between recipes created remarkably different ales.  A great loss.

This is the national anthem of beer.

Caption contest! What the hell was Mr. B saying with that expression? It’s a third of an Elvis, clearly. Click for the full view. Was Jordan using that dab of tuna fish juice behind the ear as cologne – again? Robin caught the moment* at a beer dinner Wednesday night in the centre of the universe which famously included house made gentleman’s relish, the only relish a gentleman ever needs. Perhaps Mr. B was musing on the qualifications JSJ brought to the table, gentlemanly-wise. Surely not.

Speaking of hostile, it was a bit odd reading the follow up this week to Eric Asimov’s bit in The New York Times on brown beer. His column was just a round up of the brown ales you can try in the New York market with, yes, a little jig and jag about beer nerds. Then…. accusations, handbags and recriminations. Reminded me a lot about last week’s crisis over pointing out – “theatrical gasp” – sexism in craft beer.** What a round up of “the superior gathered to get the boot in” that was. And now, while it is clear that it’s probably never going to be a good idea to go all “bored quasi-intellectual snobbery intro is the tiredest of journalistic tropes” if you want to be taken seriously, I was quite happy Jeff told his what his actual issue was with this week’s panic. Not my issue but a reasonable issue as he framed it. Still, Asimov’s a fabulous wine writer who makes complex things make sense – and successful enough to have no interest in making his own status an issue. Me, I liked the piece. And, tellingly, so did a lot of the paper’s readership if the many many comments are anything to go by. So say it loud and say it proud: brown ale is go! As in other hobby interests, this again goes to show that good beer still needs a bit of aging to get past these angst-ridden teenaged years. Yes, these may still be the times of doubtful mild cheddar. As I say to my own kids, it gets better. I hope.

700 employees! Damn good thing they are still small.

Nearby, Robsterowski in Glasgow posted an interesting pit on those little knives or tongue depressors used to smack the head of a fancy beer pour – skimmers. I’ve never thought much about them so his work has added to my understanding by about 1237382%.

Not beer: King Crimson’s Larks Tongues in AspicThis was 45 years ago now. Talk about gentleman’s relish.

There, another 23 minutes I can’t get back. Don’t forget to lay your bets on next week’s crisis in the shrinking good beer writing marketplace. Who lashes out next? Stay tuned. Meantime I will likely be back on the weekend with something about brewing in the 1500s you won’t care about. See you then.

*Shared without consent.
**Was it only last week? Nate S. uncovered this weeks Pigs Of Craft award winners. Folks just don’t get it.

“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.

The Session 131: Emergency 1-2-3!!!

One of my favourite things about The Session is a good crisis edition of… The Session.

Let’s be honest. The ball has been dropped about three times in the decade and more of this monthly beer blogging session on a common topic leaving thousands and thousands world wide distraught at the idea that there would not be any single thing to read on the topic of beer… well, posted by a beer blogger… in unison with other beer bloggers… you remember beer bloggers?

Fortunately, the world’s first beer blogger noticed and this beer blogger, the world’s second, is not going to let down the side. Jay whipped together a splendid topic entitled “New Session: Three Things In 2018“:

For our first question of the new year, what one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink?
For our second question of the new year, what two breweries do you think are very underrated? 
For our third question of the new year, name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of. 

Hmm. Let’s see.  Well, you can tell it is a crisis topic as the three questions require five answers. What are my answers?

Word? Clear. It’s very fashionable to suggest no one has a right to note that a bad fad is a bad fad but 96% of all the nouveau cloudy beer is, as one would expect, bad cloudy beer. It takes a semi-pro PR specialist to suggest otherwise but, really, if you stuck to clearer beer would the world be worse off? No.

Under rated? In the 10,000 brewery universe that is an impossible question as they are not subject to any rating system which reflects their actual quality. No one knows them all. So, classes might be the next thing I can rely upon. Regionally, I would suggest Quebec breweries are under rated. In North America, La Belle Province is an enclave of another language, another culture. The beers reflect that culture. And it’s under explored. A second class? Corn based craft beer. Really? Grow up.

Three kinds I want to see more of? I like the word “kind” when it refers to a category, a class. A kind of beer is better when it gives comfort. So – maybe mild, dubbel and… 1700s porter. Made with diastatic malted Battledore barley. Yum.

Crisis averted. Again.

Another Year, Another Bunch Of Beer News For Thursday

OK, I still seem to be doing this. I did regular weekly news blog post years ago but never thought I’d find myself coming back to it. It’s like 2011 again. Is it because beer news is less boring? Not really. Is it because I am a slacker? Likely. Let’s see what the lazy man sees this week.

Very oddly, a Super Bowl beer and cheap snack crap pairing article a published a full month too early. It’s such a useless thing it’s rather sweet: “Barbecue chips give you the sauce without the meat“? Wow!

Story of 2018? More breweries are failing as more come into being. I am quite content to understand that we have moved from an era of growth to one of stasis and churn. The story of closure linked above does give concern whether we have given false hope through funding flawed dreams from the public coffers. Could it be that we, the people will be holding the bag as more come and go? Good chance that’s the case.

Two years ago.

Looking less further back, Pete gave us the best farewell to 2017 by cutting and pasting stuff accumulated through the year. Good to see that he has to note in passing the question of junkets and, let’s be honest, not all that convincingly.*  A gaffaw at an annual shareholders’ meeting. It remains a question needing questioning even if, in a pleasure trade like beer, no one really loses an eye. Sure sure. Is it that junkets don’t matter because good beer ultimately is not that important? Could well be. Why not? And it that is the case, can we really care if the ownership of a pub chain expresses a political point of view? Who cares?

Speaking of “no one cares” news: Hanson.

Two excellent observations on beer history writing from merryn: (i) errors – I presume we are burdened by errors because, in case you didn’t notice, we are writing about alcohol; (ii) The history of civilization? Because maybe we needed to gather and gorge and not kill each other.

“No more highly viscous wort” news.

Bryan Roth has written the piece of the week, exposing in some detail the intense culture of the shit-wallowing pigs inflicting itself upon a corner of craft beer and… apparently a shadow social media world of mock piggery. Hmm. [Ed.: The Beer Nut has actually captured an image of events in progress.] Though I still am a bit unclear on the slight hesitancy to draw obvious final conclusion – I would not have written “building friendships through participation in memes and challenges for fun” so unadorned – Roth’s take is at least brave if messy and frenetic especially in the tight world of US craft Caucasoid maleness. The pressure to stroke the buffer of phony “community“, to toe the line imposed on self-evident observation is often sad if impressive. Backlash. For a view from another, read this: “That was a nice chat, honey. Now send Tom over. I want to actually order a beer.” Now, that was pretty clear.

Best non-beer thing? The Telharmonium.

There you are. Good things and bad things. A normal week. Adjust your perspectives accordingly.

I had also meant to praise Pete in equal measure his identification that there is no such thing as a beer expert, something I raised three years ago. Stan caught it in his blog post today. Which makes me wonder if Stan is now moving in on Thursdays. (By the way, I just realized I have the power to update Thursday bullet point news all the way though each Thursday. So good to self-publish.)

A First Good Beery Question In 2018 To Ponder This New Year’s Day

People complain. People complain that folk complain. It’s quite odd given people complain all the time about the value of this or the value of that. From donuts to computers to cars to the location of your house, people question and complain every time that feeling creeps up where what was assumed to be worth it turns out to have been a bit of a bust. Given most don’t get a regular supply of vintage samples (or, for that matter, quietly get paid by brewers to review and comment back on the QT as a trade consultant) but, no, actually have to live with a limited set of bank notes from which to draw upon, the question of value is always relevant. Beer isn’t all that special. So, it was good to see this topic bust out over New Year’s Eve:

What are they talking about? Well, late model Fuller’s Vintage Ales, of course. See, yesterday a few hours before that tweeting session started by Boak and Bailey (but with an image which would have destroyed my thin veneer of dramatic tension just now) I opened and started writing about a FVA dated 2008 which led me to exclaim this:

Crash the Stash Day #2: Fuller’s Vintage Ale. Let me check around to see what to expect. Seriously? The brewery is selling these for £100 each? £100?!?!? Glad I spent $6.95 CND almost a decade ago.

This was only news to my conscious self as Martyn had alerted me to the fact almost a year ago when I started a post about working my way through my stash of maybe 16 or so bottles of the stuff from 2007 onward. So subconsciously, I was at least prepared. And I girded myself for the question through drinking these beers, aged and new, since at least 2005. But the reality is that at least from a theoretical point of view, even after having a pleasant enough 2008 era bottle yesterday, I have eight bottles left with an alleged value of around $750 Canadian.

I was pretty clear in my mind that the 2008 was not worth $170 CND or £100 that the brewery was asking. Don’t get me wrong. It was a very good beer and I am delighted that my 45 year old self left such a treat for my 54 self to enjoy over a New Year’s Eve afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. It was yummy. But it had no value which corresponded to what was being asked when I look at it from a few points of view.*

On a relative value scale, were I magically able to use it as free currency $170 would get me and the family a very nice dinner out with drinks at a reasonably good restaurant here in my fair city. Or five tickets to our OHL hockey team with beers and hot dogs and maybe a t-shirt. I would have much preferred those achievable experience to my 90 minutes solo with the ale in a tulip glass. Even though it was a very nice beer in a tulip glass.

As an opportunity cost consideration, I could have left the beer capped and watched its theoretical price rise over a few more years.  By drinking it I am destroying the future increased value, racing well past actual inflation. But that depends on the future buyer being there and the beer not only holding its intrinsic value as a consumable but increasing in sheer tastiness over time. One issue was it started to feel like it was past its best at nine years. Folk would be noting this in the G.D. social media therefore ruining my prospects. How dare folk chat freely?

On beer trading marketplace, if it truly had that value I should be able to sell it back to Fullers or at least my government retailer for something expressing the wholesale current value. It’s been kept in a cool dark cellar and subject to optimum protection. As usual, my claims to provenance were impeccable. If I go back through my tax records I would likely be able to find the receipt for buying it. I expect it would say I spent something like $6.95 CND. Yet… the box was gone and the label encrusted with a bit of mould. Who would want that? I couldn’t sell my Captain Scarlet Dinkie toys in that condition – and I wouldn’t anyway so stop asking. Any in any event, there isn’t actually a buy-back program. Because there isn’t actually a market for the inflation-laced price.

As for the bottle itself, it was a bit like me facing my fifty-fifth later this year. Maybe a bit past it but still performing well. Took a long time in the glass for the bitterness to face a bit to reveal the toffee and pale malt below. I noted as follows:

Plenty of pith, orange zest and minty bitter hops over toffee malt. Lingering bitter finish with a hint of licorice. Less of a cream heart than the 2007 opened a few weeks ago… I have the end of it in a tulip glass now an hour and a half in. It could easily be a very well-made well-designed fresh strong ale that I might buy for a regular price. In no way a disappointment like that sad Stone vertical.

Frankly, I enjoyed the 2007 I had a few weeks ago a bit more. So, is the idea that the brewery is selling at that value a good one or a bad one? Is this a rip off or a smart advertising campaign? One thing I like about it is how the sticker price gives me confidence that I did the right thing by sticking a few aside as I did. They are also saying, screw you white whale hunters – we control this marketplace ourselves. But that is like the silly idea of “brewer’s intention” or, if we are already mocking 2017, “brewery’s cartoonish can label designer intention” in that it doesn’t really give me much value related to the price point being offered. The drink itself has to stand up for itself. And it did. To a degree. But not that degree.

No, in the end the price being sought now is not reasonable. But it does give me the warm conceit that I was once a clever lad. And I can drink to that. And I might just as that 2009 is up next.

*And, frankly, can you disagree with me unless you’ve bought one at current offered prices? Hmm?

Thursday Beer Links For Year’s End, Hogmanay and New Year’s Eve 2017

What can we say about 2017? Not as many celebrity rock star deaths as in 2016, I suppose. And we are not yet into the Putin war years. So, all in all a year to look back upon fondly.  It is the time of triumphalist beer pronouncements, whether by blogger or brewer, at bit at odds with the infantalization, death on the shelf and often resulting profiteering that really misses the key point: that being that the beer drinker really needs to be at unending war with the breweries she or he supports. If I have any message for you during this holiday season, it is that.

What else is going on out there? The Braciatrix has a very good piece about Vikings, brewing and Yuletide. One of the things I like best about her point of the post, which focuses on the roles of women in Norse brewing, is how there is a weaving with the roles of men in brewing. Given what I have learned and am still learning about Renaissance brewing in Tudor England and the Hanseatic Baltic, I suspect that the range of intimate scale household brewing to the ale house to public festive celebratory consumption to early industrial export brewing held places for both women and men, in contexts likely quite strange to we moderns. Fabulous stuff.

Also fabulous? Any post by Ron where he is wandering in and out of pubs. And any post by TBN where he is proving again that no more than about 50% of craft beer is worth it given the other better and often cheaper 50% of craft beer. Or a brewery tour post when Ed has to use the washroom.

Mr. Lawrenson has posted a rather special year in review,  one a bit unlike the others – not the least of which was him noting his own lack of activity. I quite like his Teletext tweets, especially how the medium de-aggrandizes the puff he like to waft away. There is so little rejection of the brewery owner as wizard theme going around in these days of the great schism and resulting gap filling that his commentary is always welcome relief. I look forward to more editions of his News in Brief in 2018.

Remember: pay your taxes. And quit complaining about paying taxes with your beer while you are at it. You want western civilization? Pay for it.

You know, much is being written on the murk with many names. Kinderbier. London murk. NEIPA. Gak from the primary. Milkshake. It’s gotten so bad in fact that even Boston Beer is releasing one, a sure sign that a trend is past it. Some call it a game changer, never minding that any use of that term practically guarantees something isn’t. They need to live as the hero in an exceptional time, I suppose. No such luck. My comfort is that the sucker juice of 2017 is so identifiable and so avoidable. My prediction? Clarified murk will be the hit of 2018. Which will take is full circle. To Zima. Then on to the low and no-alcohol ones.

Boom: “The late, great Don Younger (founder of the Horse Brass Pub) used to encourage beer competition by saying that a rising tide raises all boats, if that’s true than 2017 may be the year those boats began taking on water.

And keep your US craft in the US, thanks very much. We have more than enough of our own elsewhere.

Finally… you know, time was this would be when I was rushing around getting the Yuletide Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, Christmas and Hanukkah photo contest results are. How happy is the house that the tears and denunciations that went along with that are over. I found the prospect of transferring the entire set of contest posts to this the new site too daunting. Fortunately, the wonderful Wayback Machine has saved about 379 versions of the original website over the years and you can go browse the decade of 2006-15’s worth of the photo contest posts. To pique your interest and as a Yuletide treat, here are all the winners from the ten years including the favourite of all time from 2007 above which Stonch, then co-contest administrator, described this way:

First, the best image depicting some element of beer culture comes from John Lewington. He calls it “Two pints of bitter”. This is candid photo John took of two old boys enjoying their Sunday afternoon ale in a 17th century pub in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Perhaps they’re old friends, or maybe they barely know each other. When this photo was taken, it didn’t matter: they were immersed in their own worlds for a moment. It’s a beautiful photo, and my favourite overall.

Click on the image for a larger version of each year’s winner.

Contest Year
Photograph
Artist
2006
Dave Selden of Portland, Oregon
2007
John Lewington of England
2008
Matt Wiater of Portland Oregon
2009
Kim Reed of Rochester, New York
2010
Brian Stechschulte of San Francisco, California
2011
Jeff Alworth of Portland, Oregon
2012
Robert Gale of Wales
2013
Fabio Friere of New York City
2014
Thomas Cizauskas of Virginia (co-winner).
2014
Fabio Friere of New York City (co-winner).
2015
Boak and Bailey

There you are. Another year over and deeper in debt. Don’t go crazy at New Year’s Eve. There’ll be another one in 12 month’s time.

The Dragon, The Lyon, The White Hart and The Rose

What a charming image. It is a tiny bit of a map of Portsmouth, England from 1552. These four structures are  The Dragon, The Lyon, The White Hart and The Rose – the four brewhouses built in 1515 by Henry VIII that I mentioned in my blog post on my first scratching about (what I should have called) Tudor brewing and Tudor naval victualing from earlier this month. There is much written* about Portsmouth, the Tudors and navel power but I am thinking about only one corner of it all. That being the corner in the image above. and these four brew houses. They are consistently illustrated throughout the 1500s as this passage from an academic article by one Dominic Fontana describes:

The four brewhouses are labelled on the 1584 map with their names; The Dragon, The Lyon, The White Hart and The Rose, and are clearly shown as being located around a pond, probably a freshwater spring providing the significant quantities of water essential for brewing. The four brewhouses were established in 1515 by Henry VIII to provide beer for his ships. They produced considerable quantities, making 500 barrels per day in 1515 (Eley 1988). Provisioning of Henry’s fleet and shore forts was an enormous task requiring significant organisation and by 1547 naval victualling was regularly accounted to the Exchequer (Knighton and Loades 2014). The engraving shows the brewhouses as timber framed buildings located almost as though they were mounted on stilts above a pond which extends underneath and around the buildings. Evidence for the brewhouses is also provided in the maps of 1545 and 1552. In the 1545 map they are shown as four rectangular buildings with a small square extension added to one side of each building, with the four brewhouses being grouped around a square pond. In the 1552 map the buildings are presented in bird’s-eye view as a group of low buildings with pitched roofs set around an irregularly shaped pond.**

The 1545 map of Portsmouth mentioned above illustrates the same brewhouses with a little less of a lyrical touch but perhaps more to scale. The red arrow is mine, in case you were wondering. This handy tool allows an overlay of the 1545 upon a map showing Portsmouth today. So regularly they sit. Clearly a work of joint undertaking. One thing I notice is how four regular standardized breweries would have had more fire resistance that one single larger brewery. They are spaced as well. Embers from one might not reach the roof of another.

There is another image, the Cowdray Engraving which is a copy of painting from between 1545-1548 depicting the Battle of the Solent and the sinking of the Mary Rose. Almost a pictograph. Whatever a pictograph is. The relevant wee snippet of the 1545 map-like diagram*** can be viewed with the merest click on the thumbnail to the right. As you can see, it is more than a map in that there are all sorts of folk well out of scale because it is not really about the mapping of Portsmouth but a description of the naval battle that was occurring right outside the mouth of the harbour. Again, it gives a sense of uniformity but also notice they seem to be on stilts and over the pond in this image. That would not jive with the two maps.

The pond itself was described in a modern footnote to an edict issued by Elizabeth I on 7 December 1562 included in the Extracts from Records in the Possession of the Municipal Corporation of the Borough of Portsmouth and from Other Documents Relating Thereto:

These springs of remarkably fine fresh water from which the inhabitants at this time derived their chief supply, were situated within the ancient walls in a triangular shaped meadow at the upper or eastern end of Penny and St. Nicholas Streets: the meadow was called ” Four House Green,” from its proximity to the Four Houses, which were erected by Henry VII. as Brewing Houses for the supply of his Navy; this site is now occupied by the Clarence Barracks. In the time of Charles the II., when the fortifications were reconstructed, in the star like form as they remained until their recent demolition, Four House Green was absorbed, and the greater part of it excavated to form the moat, and cast ravelin which was opposite to what is now known as King’s Road, Southsea. The springs were then enclosed in stone cisterns, which were approached by a postern through the rampart, and an iron bridge across the moat, and were used by some of the older inhabitants until a recent period.

So the site was restructured to the point no archaeology can be expected. Hmm. Notice up there the statement about the scale of production: “[t]hey produced considerable quantities, making 500 barrels per day in 1515 (Eley 1988).” I have not laid my hands upon a copy of Eley 1988 but have identified it as  Portsmouth breweries, 1492-1847 by Phillip Eley, published by Portsmouth City Council in, yes, 1988.**** It is comfortingly affirmed by Dr. Fontana but, still, I checked with my man who sits in the same buildings as one of the world’s great libraries, the New York State Library, in Albany but no luck. If you have a copy, let me know. I say this because I find the scale extraordinary. Even on a 200 working day year that is 100,000 bbls a year. Kristen D. Burton in this 2013 article describes the scale of brewing being undertaken in the whole of the City of London during Tudor times:

The beer brewers of London established England’s capital city as the leading producer of beer throughout Europe by the end of the sixteenth century; a notable feat considering the late arrival of hopped beer to England. In 1574, London beer brewers produced 312,000 barrels of beer and by 1585 that had increased to 648,690 barrels. This stood in addition to the beer produced for local consumption, which made up the bulk of the brewers’ business…

I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with these numbers so much as they mean the four naval brewhouses of Portsmouth were operating at a fabulous scale. I even saw one reference that suggested that each produced 500 barrels a day. Now, that would be scale and in the pre-scientific pre-industrial era certainly something that. Within sight of the porter breweries of the 1830s.

Again, I am going to leave this at that for now. I need to scratch around a bit more. Do let me know if you have a copy of that book by Eley under a table leg. I would love to see the primary record behind that number.

*You may wish to start here.
**See: “Charting the Development of Portsmouth Harbour, Dockyard and Town in the Tudor Period” Dominic Fontana, Journal of Maritime Archaeology, Vol. 8, No. 2, Special Issue: The Social Archaeology of Ports and Harbours (DECEMBER 2013), pp. 263-282. Abstract: “Portsmouth was crucial to the defence of Tudor England and consequently it was mapped for military planning purposes throughout the Tudor period from 1545. The resulting sequence of maps records much of the town and harbour. The maps offer opportunities for furthering our understanding of Tudor Portsmouth and its population Additionally, images of the urban landscape provided by the ‘‘Cowdray Engraving’’, which depicts the loss of Henry VIII’s warship Mary Rose on the 19th July 1545, may also be considered and compared with those presented in the early maps of the town. This paper considers the Portsmouth maps of 1545, 1552, 1584 and the chart of Portsmouth Harbour dating from between 1586 and 1620. These are examined in relation to one another and compared with evidence from the Cowdray Engraving.” The author is, in fact, Dr Dominic Fontana, FRGS, of Portsmouth University.
***Most fabulously of all, while the original painting burned in the 1790s, “in the 1770’s the Society of Antiquities became interested in the paintings and commissioned James Basire” to engrave it and make notes on the colours… AND between 1772 and 1778 the same “Basire had a young apprentice who most likely also helped with these engravings, his name was William Blake.” Wow!!! You can play a bit of Where’s Waldo on this bigger snippet.
****ISBN 10: 0901559733

Your Beery News For A Yuletide Thursday

Ah, December 21st. The kids’ Christmas pageant at church was already a few weeks back now. Gifts are bought and parcels have been mailed. Mainly. I will go out for a pint after work tonight but generally this is the time of sweet sherry and cups of tea. Times are a bit too Dad-ly to get overly tinseled. I’ll take a moment to think of Zimbabwe.  Play a few tunes. Then I’ll check in with the news.

Starting on a very cheery note, there is nothing better than accusations of marketplace corruption and political underhandedness in Canada’s tiniest jurisdiction – not that I’d have any idea of why this would be the case.:

Now you take your kid’s to a grocery store, and not only can adults purchase Gahan beer, they can even sample it. Why not sell Gahan beer in the emergency waiting rooms across the Island. Also, a keg of beer (Gahan) would be nice for patients in the back of an ambulance to take their mind off their issues. I am only using Gahan, since they are currently the only ones allowed to sell privately here on the Island. Maybe the other brewers never thought of this idea or are not Liberal donation givers

Frankly, I blame them getting rid of the bootleggers in 2004.

Next, apparently elsewhere in this fine nation the Canadian craft brewer alert status about the impending implosion of their entire industry has been raised to an alarming all time high: concerned. Let that give you pause, global brewing industry.

South of the border, it’s funny watching the brewing trade groups go on and on about the tax cut benefits the ownership class has received without any apparently awareness that these savings are built on relieving 13 million of their fellow citizens from access to health care. Andy has the right take as does Jason: a gratuitous three and a half bucks a barrel back in the owners’ pocket.  Forbes has the extraordinary details on the windfall that has fallen in the laps of the brewery ownership class. Just in time for Dunkin’ Donuts beer.

Antipodeanly speaking, you will be please to know that one retail business in New Zealand considers non-alcohol beer a gateway drug. Reminds me of how, as an undergrad in a college half-run by clerics, we learned how High Anglicans thought the danger with stand up… relations are that they could lead to dancing. Fabulous. Remind me to never shop there.

I love how one farming publication seems to suggest we set the birth of Jesus aside at this time of year to remember… the farmer. Friggin’ farmers.

One last thing. You really will have to pardon me. I really don’t care about the best beers for Christmas. I don’t. Not for me. Not for you. I hope you find something else to do like being happy, annoying little nieces and nephews, doing something good and not telling anyone, staring at the conifer in the living room and eating unfamiliar poultry. Or find a 45. Or listen to this. And, for God’s sake, don’t do this. Try this. Have a holly. Have a jolly. But enjoy yourselves and don’t fret about the beer.

 

Your Thursday Bullet Points For A Beery Yule

Are we in Yule yet? I think we are. The old town is at least looking wintery as you can see above. Our warm spell has flipped to cold snap so fast that the last of our garden tomatoes ripening on the window sill looked out at -17C this morning. But enough about comfort and joy. This blog is about beer, not… not beer.

First up in the news is all this  fuss about the shadowy Portman Group telling a brewery with childish colours and cartooning in their branding that childish colours and cartooning might be attractive to children. Infantilization indeed. I am pleased that the response of the UK brewery in question is so sensible and support the take by  in large part. BUT… a bit shocked was I by the (i) weepy hand wringing over the decision, (ii) weepy hand wringing over the process, and (iii) the collective amnesia about the Portman Group rulings on 2008. So much #poohwiddowcwaft! Now, I realize that the demise of most actual beer blogging has left an imprint on the minds of some that beer blogging was never all that good but it is rewarding to reach back in the archives to find sensible discussion about those events in a way that neither social media or trade-based beer journalism can apparently cope with these days.

Speaking of sensible application of the law, good to see that Beyoncé got here reputation unshackled from those freelancers who would attach their profit making to her hard earned fame.  It is quite stunning how we see this appropriation by craft brewers of the intellectual property of others. I still haven’t heard who drew and, so, owned or owns the copyright as opposed to the trademark as it relates to that White Stag. Yes, yes… it’s all a bit of fun. But that’s what the sexists and racists say, too, right?

Gerald Comeau, hero.

Robin and Jordan got a generous amount of coverage by TVO, Ontario’s public TV and interwebs broadcaster this week. My only sadness is the entire misrepresentation of the sixty years from 1927 to 1987 and the glory that was E.P. Taylor’s contribution to the world of brewing with his war on waste under the banner of lightness and modest price. The point, however, on “local” is especially well made and avoids our muddiness about all of Ontario being “local” to the entire 13,000,000 persons province.

Finally, interesting news about the jump in Canadian malting barley sales to China including this tidbit:

Canadian malting barley commands a higher price, especially for China’s premium beer market, because of its dark color and higher protein, which allows for better foaming, Watts said.

Because its all about the foaming. Good to see us kicking some Argie-Aussie-Euro butt for one in something other than curling.

I am off. Not like Stan is off. I should be back sooner than he is. I am going to think about Thursdays. Gonna think some more.