Black Malt’s Centrality for Irish Porter

In a 1928 Guide to Guinness Brewery published by the brewery, which recently became available in full view on Google Books, this statement is made at p. 46:

The discovery of roasted malt as a flavouring material about the year 1800 was responsible for converting the “Brown Ale” previously manufactured into the “Porter” or “Stout” of today.

If one takes a literal approach to porter history, as one should who is concerned with the record and accuracy, this statement is inaccurate – as far as that goes.

Brown ale, and porter made from brown malt, are not the same thing and Guinness made both ale and London-style brown porter in the late 1700s. These data are well-known to students of beer history. The colour was certainly in many cases shared, but porter was more bitter and meant to keep longer. So roasted malt did not coincide with the development in Ireland, or anywhere, of porter.

Yet, something very similar to the above quotation was stated in the Irish Section of a Handbook prepared for the 1887 Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester:

The discovery of patent or roasted malt as colouring and flavouring material had transformed the Irish trade chiefly into a porter trade.

Black malt is an almost carbonized form of malt patented in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler who used a coffee drum-type apparatus.

1887 is rather closer to porter’s origins than 1928. So what’s going on here? The Handbook’s statement follows its acknowledgment of “brown ale” as the historical Irish type. The statement is then made that before roast malt appeared London porter was still being imported to Dublin and Cork. It was competing with Guinness’s stab at the style.

Were the authors – in the first case, Guinness itself – just spinning a yarn of marketing blab, or were they driving at a larger point, that black malt really “made” Irish porter?

What they were driving at IMO is that the early use of roasted or black malt by Guinness was a keynote development for its beer that made it different from London-style porter. London’s porter, as many authorities state, used in the 1800s varying combinations of pale malt, brown or amber malt, and black malt.*

Some breweries in England by then did use only pale malt and black malt a la Guinness, or for some brews, but Guinness was pre-eminently associated with black malt usage. The author of a Guinness history, David Hughes, insists on the importance for Guinness of black malt, see his remarks in his 2006 study A Bottle of Guinness, under “Brewing From 1801”. He notes that porter production at St. James Gate relied very early on pale and black malt only, with some use of amber malt as well for keeping, superior, and foreign stout, not for the staple draught form in other words. Hughes speculates that the amber was used to assist stability, i.e., in beers kept long or exported, not (as I read him or his 1880s grist table) for the staple porter including town and country porter.

According to the American beer writer Kim Winship, writing originally in 1987 and citing Stan Corran’s A History of Brewing (1975), Guinness started to use black malt even before Daniel Wheeler patented it. He cites the year as 1815, which is “about the year 1800” for practical purposes. Know-how and practical innovation often develop simultaneously in different places and usually precede legal recognition in the form of patents and other intellectual property.

Use of roasted or black malt in the staple Irish beer to replace brown or amber malt had to lend a particular flavour as 1800s commentary noted, often a liquorice taste even without use of real liquorice.** The percentage of black malt or, today, perhaps roasted (unmalted) barley, will be relatively low in the mash but the “colouring” and acerbic taste conveyed are disproportionate in their effect.

Beers made in the earlier (1800s) London manner had, when fresh, a more caramelised or luscious taste than the Guinness style,*** as well as often being less intensely black. These early London beers were probably more smoky as well but this is difficult to pinpoint viz. the Irish competition at this juncture of time.

As an example of an essential distinction between the two types I recall Vaux Jubilee Porter as made by Fred Koch in Dunkirk, NY in the 1980s, a recipe supplied by the northern English brewer, Vaux, that owned Fred Koch. The beer was dark reddish-brown and of the taste I’ve noted for London style, quite different to Guinness.**** Many craft stouts, in contrast, hew to the Guinness model, probably under influence of that beer from the 1980s when craft brewing started to spread.

In this sense, the 1928 and 1887 statements are interesting. They seek credibly IMO to mark a dividing point between the older brown beers and the almost black, very roasty Guinness stout that appeared possibly even before Wheeler’s patent. Whether ale or brown porter, it was all brown stuff to the citizen reading the Guide or Handbook…

Had Guinness continued to make a copy of London porter as it started to do in the late 1700s before roasted malt was known, it would likely not have achieved the eminence it did, especially in England which after all was the home of porter.

In modern terms, we would call it brand differentiation, or such was the end result. That is what the guide and handbook writers were trying to explain to, need I stress, a non-technical audience.

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*See Martyn Cornell’s Amber, Gold and Black, viz. continued use mid-1800s of brown malt in England while the Irish had given it up (or for practical, domestic purposes they did, and see later in the century, 1888, Frank Faulkner in England writing that in Dublin only pale malt and black malt are used in mashing (at 261)).

**See pg. 331 in Britannica.

*** See London, Vol. 4, viz the “balmy” character of a “crack” London porter vs. the “sub-acid” and “brisk” character of Guinness stout. This comparison was between extra stout sold in England, bottled there from casks shipped from Dublin, and mild London porter. To be fair, draught porter in Ireland had a milder character and probably resembled the best mild London porter more closely, but Guinness was always recognized by British commentators including technical ones for a distinctive product, e.g., Tizard in 1846. I attribute that in good measure to its mash bill, mainly reliant on pale and roast malt from 1815. The use of highly roasted black malt vs. still-smoky brown malt, in connection too with a correspondingly greater amount of pale malt, may have resulted in a milder, creamy pint, in particular.

****Per Howard Hillman’s 1983 Gourmet Guide to Beer: “A regional brew from Dunkirk, New York. Deep tea-brown tinged with orangy-red. Malty nose. Smooth bittersweet palate. Relatively thin-bodied, mellow and short-finished for a porter”.  Some porter is still made like this, I think most reading have had examples.

 

 

Pubs Without Pints

As something different today, my friend Stephen Rive (pictured), of Toronto, authors a guest post entitled “Pubs Without Pints”.

. . . in France she learned to savor a drink by small mouthfuls, and is no longer used to bolting great quantities of liquid as beer-loving requires.

—Milan Kundera, Ignorance

One of the pleasures of beer is ‘volume.’ You fill your mouth with beer, you take great, thirst-quenching gulps of it. This full-mouth feel of beer is just as important to the overall experience as the brewing, the level of carbonation and the serving temperature. It’s also unique to beer and quite different from the small sip of scotch or cognac, or the “small mouthfuls” of wine that that set Irena, Kundera’s returning exile, apart from her former friends in post-Communist Prague.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, by volume I don’t mean chug-a-lugging one glass after another, with a view to getting falling down drunk as quickly as possible. I mean that each time that you raise the glass to your lips you want to feel the volume of the beer filling your mouth, especially for those first few mouthfuls when the flavour is most intense. Now part of that feel of volume in the mouth is pressure—like the pressure in a water pipe or behind a dam—and that pressure is in turn a function of volume in the glass. And herein lies both a problem, and the subject of this blog: the disappearing pint.

I was at a pub in Toronto this week that boasted over twenty high-quality beers on tap, a comfortable, un-pretentious atmosphere, good food and staff who really knew and loved their beer. But there was not a single pint on the menu. Think about that. The largest serving size for a draught beer was eighteen imperial ounces, two ounces short of a pint, and there was only one! All the others on offer were considerably less than a pint. To be fair, there was no misrepresentation. The serving size for each beer was clearly shown on the menu, and the word “pint” was nowhere to be seen.

This is different from what happened to me many years ago, when a bartender claimed that what looked to me like a half pint was in fact a “Leffe pint.” When I politely but firmly pointed out that a pint was a pint and that there was no such thing as a “Leffe pint,” I came close to getting thrown out. I had no idea that that incident of the rogue “pint” was just the beginning, that one day we would have pubs without pints of any kind, real or fake. Repeat that to yourself: pubs without pints. How strange it sounds. But it’s true—hidden in plain sight, open, above board, in black and white on the menu. Pubs. Without. Pints.

Why does this matter? It matters because anything less than a pint not only lacks that wonderful heft as you raise the mug or sleeve to your lips—that sense of abundance, of the fullness of life—it also fails to provide the all-important pressure behind the volume of beer filling your mouth. It’s just not the same.

I feel like the prole in Nineteen Eighty-Four, whom Orwell’s protagonist, Winston, has followed into a “dingy little pub”:

“’E could ’a drawed me off a pint,” grumbled the old man as he settled down behind his glass. “A ’alf litre ain’t enough. It don’t satisfy. And a ’ole litre’s too much. It starts my bladder running. Let alone the price.”

But with this difference: a half liter is about seventeen and a half imperial ounces—not that far short of a pint, and considerably more than the drink sizes on offer at most pubs these days.

At great personal risk, Winston has followed this “very old man, bent but active, with white mustaches that bristled forward like those of a prawn” into the pub, hoping to draw him into conversation about a past that the Party has all but erased and that Winston is trying to reclaim. But we’re more fortunate than Winston. There are more than just a handful of octogenarians left who can testify to the fact that we did indeed used to drink pints. Didn’t we? I’m sure we did.

Is it time to start a Campaign for Real Pints, along the lines of CAMRA? Maybe “CARP” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it, maybe it sounds more like cranky old age than the generous, progressive movement for gastronomic justice that I have in mind. But it’s worth thinking about. Over a pint.

 

Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part II

This is a sequel to my Part I earlier today. To understand the history and state circa 1909 of beer exports from Barclay, Perkins & Co. would require, a) a detailed review of the company’s business and legal archive, and ii) a comprehensive understanding of the post-1900 economic environment of the U.K. beer industry. Neither is a simple endeavour.

But some thoughts. This business story in the New York Sun on May 30, 1915 indicates the troubles British brewers experienced even before the first steep beer tax increase by David Lloyd George in the Asquith government (1915).

Before the war the breweries were paying about half their profits to the Exchequer. Also, many breweries including Barclay Perkins had overpaid to expand their pub estates and had to write down asset values, by $5,000,000 (U.S.) for Barclay Perkins. The businesses (as public companies, Barclay Perkins was since 1896) were still profitable but had less value after the write-down.

With declining production during the war under food conservation measures, and price controls on the pint, the industry was between a rock and a hard place. Thoughts of exports to more productive markets had to be delayed or canceled. Revisiting Canada after 1918 was a no-go due to the patchwork of post-war prohibition laws in the country.

That said, despite the German U-boats some beer must have been exported in April 1915 when Barclay Perkins was advertising in a Victoria, B.C. newspaper, unless it was selling prewar stock perhaps.

In terms of the position up to the war, and most of the ads I referenced were between 1909 and 1911, clearly the company saw opportunities in Victoria and perhaps as I’ve said to trans-ship further west. The push makes sense to parry declining prospects after 1900 caused by new challenges. (The Daily Colonist lists some ads for Barclay Perkins products in 1916 and 1917, which seems late in the war for exports, but these are expressed as clearances, perhaps for old stock).

In The History of the Beer and Brewing Industry (2018), ed. by Ignazio Cabras and David M. Higgins, it is noted that U.K. beer production fell annually for 10 years from 1899 and by a total of 14%. Nearing the end point is about when Barclay Perkins seems to have started its push in B.C…

The reasons for the industry’s decline were diverse: falling working class incomes, the new suburbs that lessened access to Central London public houses, and prohibition attitudes which in turn were linked to the respectability issue pubs and drinking could no longer sidestep, as I discussed earlier.

An industry-wide turnaround did commence after 1910 (see Cabras and Higgins) but it would not have affected each brewer in the same way. In C.C. Owen’s 1987 journal article History of Brewing in Burton on Trent he states:

After 1900 opposition to the brewers grew even stronger, with talk of prohibition and a steady decline in beer-drinking. Falling demand and lack of retail outlets drove some of the smaller Burton firms out of business or forced them to amalgamate…

Albeit in relation to Burton, these words summarize a long-term trend in Britain a few years respite before WW I could not arrest. In this climate, an attempt to promote Barclay Perkins in a western Canadian seaport makes sense.

To be sure Barclay Perkins had repute in North America in the 1800s. It wasn’t coming in unannounced, so to speak. A newspaper article in the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel in 1869, so down the coast for our purposes, called Barclay Perkins one of the two or three dominant brewers “on both sides of the Atlantic”. It is not difficult to find examples of Barclay Perkins ads for its porter a.k.a. brown stout across the United States, and Canada could not have been very different.

Hence, limited as this purview is, I think it is fair to say that by 1909 the company felt impelled to open up a fresh market in Canada, with ancillary plans possibly as noted earlier.

Once the war began, this prospect was stopped in the water. A long slide continued, for social and economic reasons largely outside the company’s control that are well-documented in the literature. The end point was the 1955 merger of Barclay Perkins with Courage & Co., close by it Thameside, London.

For a continuation of the above, see Part III.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part I

From Thameside to the Pacifiic

Based on our researches, leading up to WW I the population of greater Victoria, B.C. was c.50,000, small in relation to Canadian cities of equal prominence in that Victoria was and remains the capital of British Columbia.

Today, Greater Victoria is about seven times that number and the city itself, only some 85,000.

Yet, Barclay, Perkins & Co., the venerable London porter and ale brewery, targeted Victoria as a market early in the 1900s. There is evidence in numerous, substantial ads appearing in Victoria’s Daily Colonist from prominent grocers such as Copas & Young and Hudson’s Bay.

Whether Barclay Perkins paid for all or part of the cost is unknown but it seems not unlikely. Ads for Guinness Stout sometimes appear, usually a single-line listing, or Meux from London, also for Whitbread ale, but the large box ads of Barclay Perkins in Victoria are unique.

I checked available digitized newspapers in Vancouver and while ads for all these beers can be found, Victoria’s prominent notices for Barclay Perkins’ beers stand out.

This ad, in Victoria again, lists beers in a fashion more similar to Vancouver ads I’ve seen, serially without a special “push” behind one brand. Note that a Carnegie Stout from Copenhagen is included. Perhaps this was Carnegie Porter from Sweden (Gothenburg, then) as known in export markets but may have been an illegitimate imitation, or knock-off.

This 1910 ad is typical of the “dedicated” Barclay Perkins type – about 18 sq. in. here. Numerous similar ads appear between 1909 and 1917.

London stout, oatmeal stout, and Russian Imperial Stout were advertised in pints and sometimes nips. This ad described the Imperial Stout as Russian Porter (“very rich”). Three main types were offered despite variant terms used: London or brown stout, oatmeal stout, and Imperial stout.

Ads for the oatmeal stout depict a handsome bottle with a plaid label, see here, suggestive therefore of a Scottish origin for the oats. For what it is worth, this 1913 ad stated there was a difference of flavour between this oatmeal stout and the brown (or regular) stout.

So important was this market that some wartime ads recite that the lately increased Canadian tax on malt liquors will be absorbed by the supplier, e.g., here, in 1915:

Important Announcement

To the People of British Columbia

Since 1781 the famous London firm of Barclay, Perkins & Co.has been manufacturing stout and ale for the entire British Empire and the world at large.

During that time this firm has established a reputation for dealing fairly with the public, not alone in making THE BEST STOUT and ALE on the market, but in selling it at a price within the reach of every family.

NO INCREASE IN PRICES

Since the war the tax on malted beverages in Canada has largely increased, but, in order to more thoroughly introduce their STOUT and ALE, Barclay Perkins & Co. have decided to ABSORB THE ENTIRE WAR TAX on their products and will continue to sell, for a limited time, OATMEAL STOUT and ALE at the same price as before the war.

Interestingly, this ad demurs on the question of selling the best, insisting more on the excellence of its price.* But some ads rely heavily on tradition with the implication of quality, as those which invoke Dr. Samuel Johnson’s association with the brewery.

Famously, Johnson when selling the brewery as a co-trustee described the rewards promised as “beyond the dreams of avarice”. Barclay Perkins was still bustling, in its way, around the edges of empire in the 1910s to fulfill that prediction.

The question is, why the focus on such a small and distant market? I think a number of reasons explains it. First and foremost, even though British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871 Victoria retained a strong association with the British Isles in habits and customs that endures to this day.

The Empress Hotel in the city was famous for its afternoon tea service throughout the 20-century, and perhaps still. This cultural background derived from the many British retirees who settled in Victoria in the last century, and their descendants’ enduring attachment to British mores and habits.

Second, nearby Esquimalt facing the Pacific to the west hosted the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet throughout the 19th century. A complement of British officers, ratings and support staff was a ready market for London porter. Many probably stayed on to work or retire in the city after the Royal Canadian Navy took over Esquimalt from 1910.

The city enjoyed a realty boom in the Edwardian years, as well as being a hub for trans-Pacific and coastal trade. Prosperity never hurt the ability to indulge a foreign luxury.

In fact, all these factors together may suggest Barclay Perkins viewed the city as a depot for trans-shipments to U.K. possessions or other markets in Asia.

The building that housed Copas & Young still stands, a handsome, corner building you can see here.

See Part II of this post, here.

Note re image: the image above, of Victoria, B.C. early in the 1900s, is believed in the public domain and was sourced from Flickr here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Rereading the ad, I think perhaps an implication of superiority was meant in quality terms as well. The term “alone” may have meant simply “just”.

 

 

Gammel’s Beer Bonanza, Utica

The following is based on search of archival information in various sources including Archive.org, Google Books, and Fulton Historical Newspapers. In the late 1800s and at least until 1910 George Gammel operated a restaurant and off-license business at 17-19 Liberty Street, Utica, NY.

The restaurant had been started by George’s German-born father Robert, a son of ’48, the fighters for liberty who fled Central European states seeking freer lands.

The hull of a building stands today that is likely the site of Gammel’s business, see details here, via Google Maps. Very different the site was c.1900 when Utica was a manufacturing and commercial hub in the Empire State.

George Gammel bottled beer in no. 17, probably the smaller structure on the left, and ran the restaurant at no. 19, likely the structure to the right.

He was clever in his advertising strategies, sometimes placing short banner ads in local papers that mentioned different beer brands. These were the pop-ups or rotating panel ads of their time.

Sometimes advertisers chose other strategies, especially around the concept of the advertorial, which is hardly new in America.

An amusing ad of this type appeared in the January 10, 1897 issue of The Journal in Utica. It attests floridly to Gammel’s expertise in the beer arts. 27 men were assembled in their club telling jokes and seeming tall tales, the fireside aglow. They were persuaded on a bet to troop to a local restaurant, Gammel’s, to see if they could order as many (different) beers as their number.

The promoter of the proposition had to pay if he lost, and if he won, a doubter had to ante. Both were probably put up by Gammel who likely repaid the “loser”.

Below are the beers, a “world of beers” of their day in a small but prosperous American city. Even well outside New York City or a Chicago, beer expertise of this sort was not lacking, evidently.

Now, I counted 26 beers in the story. One of the clubmen is described as a long-haired scribe. I’d think he didn’t order a beer – he wrote the story.

  1. Schlitz Export.
  2. Pabst Export
  3. Pabst Bohemian
  4. Rochester Rienzi
  5. Consumer’s
  6. Rochester Bohemian
  7. Culmbacher (imported)
  8. Rochester Bavarian
  9. Ralph’s Cream Ale
  10. Ralph’s Old Ale
  11. Ralph’s India Pale Ale
  12. Ralph’s Old Stock Ale
  13. Munich Augustiner
  14. Kaiser Beer (imported)
  15. Coburger Bock
  16. Guinness Stout
  17. Greenway’s India Pale Ale
  18. Bass Imperial Stout
  19. Younger’s Scotch Ale
  20. Evan’s Cream Ale
  21. Allsopp’s India Pale Ale
  22. Eagle Bohemian
  23. Smith’s India Pale Ale
  24. Bass Pale Ale
  25. Smith’s Philadelphia Stout
  26. Philadelphia Weiss Beer

I have discussed beer bars in different pre-craft periods, as well as beer festivals offering an enticing range of beers. To these we must add busy Utica, NY of the Gilded Age, as Gammel offered beers from (at least) Utica, Rochester, then a reputed brewing centre, Syracuse, Milwaukee, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and England.* Moreover, he ensured representation of around a dozen styles.

The equivalents today would make a fine palette of beers, for anyone, anytime who cares about the genre.

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* See my earlier post where I discuss the innovative advertising of a different kind by Oneida Brewing in Utica. Oneida was successor, even by 1897, to the earlier Ralph’s Brewery but the Ralph’s name was still being used clearly to describe beers from this source.

 

 

Donald F. Hyde Visits Barclay Perkins, 1950

Is Donald Hyde the Connection to Importing Russian Stout in 1950?

In a recent post I identified a plan in 1950 to send Barclay Perkins Russian Imperial Stout to the United States. Before WW I the beer had reached some markets in North America, including Victoria, Canada.*

A story in the Buffalo Evening News in 1950 stated some beer had already arrived, with more planned.

We think this was a flash in the pan, a commendable idea but well-ahead of its time. To our knowledge the beer was not available in America in the 1950s although some very small sales may have occurred before the Korean War intensified.

Certainly the Imperial Russian Stout of Courage, successor to Barclay Perkins, did reach America by the 1970s. So did stout in that style from some European breweries, I gave examples in my article on 1970’s American beer writers in the journal Brewery History. By the 1980s the growing boutique brewing phenomenon embraced the style as its own.

I found what may be a clue to the genesis of the 1950 plan. A letter dated July 19, 1950, stored in the Samuel Johnson Collection of Houghton Library at Harvard University, was written by Barclay Perkins to an American in New York, Donald F. Hyde. The letter appears in a Harvard blog entry in 2007 by John Overholt, a cataloguer with the Houghton Collection.

Hyde had visited Barclay Perkins’ Anchor Brewery that year during a European tour. The letter enclosed labels of various Barclay Perkins’ beers including Russian stout (see link above), and promised to send a book on the brewery being prepared for the forthcoming Festival of Britain.

There is no reference to a plan to export Russian Stout to New York or any involvement by Hyde in this effort. Still, I think it quite possible there is a link between Hyde’s 1950 visit and the export plan, as the two events viewed independently would seem rather coincidental.

Who was Donald F. Hyde? He was not just a curious American taking an off-beat tour on vacation. He was a lawyer and wealthy society figure with a deep interest in Samuel Johnson, the writer and trustee of the estate of Henry Thrale, a predecessor of the Barclay Perkins partnership.

Ohio-born, Harvard alumnus Donald Frizell Hyde moved to New York in the late 1930s when he married Mary Morley Crapo, a member a prominent Michigan family with origins in New England. By 1950 both were well-known collectors of books, other literature, and memorabilia pertaining to Samuel Johnson as well as John Keats and Oscar Wilde.

Today, Harvard University maintains the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson. In its words:

The bequest of Mary, Viscountess Eccles (1912–2003), Houghton Library‘s Hyde Collection contains a comprehensive collection of the published work of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century English author best known for his Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Mary Hyde married the Viscount Eccles after Donald Hyde’s passing and took up residence in Britain.**

Hyde’s death in 1966 at only 56 was memorialized by numerous literary and university associations, here is one example from a papyrologists society. A lengthy, highly respectful obituary also appeared in the New York Times, see here.

The Times noted that in addition to his distinguished collecting he maintained a number of business interests although the ones mentioned seem not to relate to wine and spirits.

The answer, if there is a link between Donald Hyde and importing Russian stout to America, resides in the Houghton Library and/or Barclay Perkins archives.

Note re image: the letter above is from the Houghton Collection of Harvard University as reproduced in 2007 on a blog of the University. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library. Image is used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*For a good sketch of the history of Barclay Perkins brewery, see Ian Hornsey’s A History of Beer and Beer and Brewing, from p. 555. (Published 2003).

**See also the Guardian’s obituary in 2003 of Mary, Viscountess Eccles, formerly Mary Hyde. It gives good detail on the depth of the Hydes’ interest in Dr. Johnson and the Thrale family.

 

 

The Saxon Vintage

Alphonse Esquiros is a name unknown to British beer studies, as far as I know, so I will remedy the omission here.

He was a Paris-born writer, radical politician, and teacher who lived in London between 1859 and 1869. To understand how this came about, this biographical sketch by C.D. Warner from 1917 is instructive. A sample:

For years he lived in England, where he made many friends and was for some time professor of French literature at [the military college at] Woolwich. He thoroughly investigated the different interests and industries of the country, the various forms of religion, the departments of government, the army and navy; and obtained a just and comprehensive knowledge of English life, which he embodied in serious and interesting studies which ran through a long series in the Revue des Deux Mondes. They were translated into English, and in book form, ‘L’Angleterre et la Vie Anglaise’ (England and English Life), and ‘Les Moralistes Anglaises’ (The English Moralists), were greatly enjoyed on both sides of the Channel….

For more detail on Esquiros, whence the illustration above is taken, consult this entry (in French) from Histophilo, a website on the history of French thought.

During his English exile Esquiros wrote essays on a wide variety of topics pertaining to English life and manners. This writing essentially was of a travel and journalistic nature, colourful and with many observations of interest. He wrote in French but, as stated above, the work was translated and published in various forms including his five-volume The English at Home. 

The work serves today as valuable and entertaining social history, on the lines of Jan Morris, Bill Bryson, or William Least Heat Moon.

From page 222 he devotes not less than 61 pages to the subject of English beer. He deals specifically with four topics: hop culture, malting, brewing, and public houses. Esquiros had a high appreciation for English ale and porter. His detailed description of these phases of “the Saxon vintage”, as he called it, is informed by having toured the hop and barley fields, breweries, and pubs described.

The brewing section consists mainly of a visit to porter-brewer Barclay Perkins capped by a tasting of its best in pewter. He termed it “rich” and superior due to the absence of ministrations by intermediaries, a common problem of the day.

As examples of observations of note, he describes porter fermentation as lasting two days and a night, i.e., before cleansing in rounds. Revivalists: take note.

His coverage of the hop fields and harvest work is picturesque and almost lyrical. An Irish girl is asked, in his presence, who fathered her child. She answers, as lyrically, “he is the son of the hop”. (She was speaking “in jest”, Esquiros supposes). The Irish hop-pickers are portrayed as especially witty and lively.

Hops are dried with charcoal fumes penetrating a porous roof of the kiln, lending weight to scientist Charles Graham’s observation (I related it earlier) that English beer had a “cooked” quality.

A portrait of the infamous Dirty Dick’s pub in Bishopsgate surprises by the statement that patrons were only allowed a single serving of “intoxicating liquor”, presumably gin or other spirits (not beer). This resulted from a tragedy when a drinker died due to over-serving.

Net net, one’s impression of the public house is not too much has changed except for the abolition of the division between the public bar and high-toned saloon sections. They were then termed the tap and parlour, respectively.

One affecting observation is how the brewers Truman Hanbury were especially attentive to workmen’s moral and intellectual needs, insisting that their staff have a minimum education. They provided a library of books for the workmen, which were well-used says Esquiros.

Finally, have you heard of “Havelock, Campbell, and Blücher”? “Bayard, Milton, Remus, and Nelson”? No? They were not a firm of solicitors, nor eminent accountants, nor brewery architects.

They were the names of huge dray horses which hauled beer to market from the breweries visited, horses that displayed to Esquiros a “brutal grace”. The Gallic writer has memorialized them.

I invite a brewer to issue a series of ales and porters so named, to honour the Frenchman’s love and admiration for the English, something not usual among French writers then, or perhaps at any time.

 

 

 

 

Russian Imperial Stout in Truman’s America

A Super Stout

There was a plan to send Barclay Perkin’s Russian Imperial Stout over to America in 1950, so much did Yank soldiers dig it during the war (?).

Even in the nascent motivational research days, the exporter was smart enough to relabel it – this is 1950 – as Imperial Extra Stout. See details in this 1950 issue of the Buffalo Evening News:

RUSSIAN STOUT NAMED IMPERIAL FOR U. S. MARKET

Special to The Buffalo Evening News and Chicago Daily News

LONDON, April 26. — One of the popular beers in England is “Russian stout,” so-called ever since it was first brewed in 1781 for export to Russia.

In old days Russia’s aristocracy demanded a super stout and a British brewery rose to the occasion, naming the brew after its destination. From 1781 until World War I, thousands of barrels of Russian stout were shipped over every year.

But times have changed. Russia is now behind an Iron Curtain, which even Russian stout is not able to penetrate. There’s a new potential market in America, however, which the brewers hope to open up….

Barclay’s Russian Stout had been imported to Victoria, Canada, at least, before WW I, as we see in this issue of the Daily Colonist in 1909, along with other stouts from Barclay Perkins.

(Both links are via the Fulton Historical Newspaper resource).

After commencement of the Great War, I believe the predecessor of Courage Imperial Russian Stout, as the brewery’s strongest stout was finally named, did not reappear in North America until the 1970s, unless in fact some did arrive in 1950, as the Buffalo story states.

American beer writer Michael Weiner gives the beer high praise in his 1977 The Taster’s Guide to Beer, calling it “Smooth, rich, velvety. Sweet, yet carries the bitter tang of hops”.

Weiner’s book was written without knowledge of Michael Jackson’s landmark The World Guide to Beer published in the same year. Jackson’s book lyricised and made Imperial stout a permanent part of the craft pantheon.

According to this notation from Barnes and Noble, Weiner’s text was published on January 1, 1977. Hence the 1977 year is nominal and the book had been readied for print before (should there be any doubt whether he knew about Michael Jackson, that is. In any case, Weiner’s book contains no internal evidence of influence from the Englishman).

Weiner also stated of the Imperial stout that it was “Perhaps the most unusual commercially produced beer … [and] …is also among the strongest in the world”. He included a lengthy, admiring account of its history and production by the English wine writer Cyril Ray, reprinted from Queen magazine (1960s era). Ray writes about the beer in a way that likens the best “vintages” to fine burgundy.

The import of Lacon’s audit ale to New York in 1937, as I discussed recently, shows no less that even in Depression America a rich, expensive beer was available representing the top end of British brewing.

In sum, for those who knew where to look fine imported beer could be had. Certainly by the 1970s many categories familiar today such as strong ale, Imperial stout, pale ale, Belgian Trappist ale, Belgian saison, and many German types of course were available, even the tart Berliner Weisse, as 1970s American beer books attest.

But for the Korean War, one assumes, English Russian stout could have been a hit in 1950s connoisseur circles Stateside. After all, it wasn’t much earlier that Americans knew what top-end stout was. Ballantine Brewery in New Jersey made a rich brown stout in the 1930s, as did other breweries in the northeast.

Maybe Barclay Perkins wanted to capitalize on this old taste although it couldn’t have had much to sell given the small quantities made at the Anchor Brewery.

What does seem clear is the thinking of some major British and Irish breweries that they could sell stout in early post-war America. Famously, Guinness tried with its satellite brewery in Long Island (closed 1954), a matter I also covered earlier. It was all for nought, America didn’t want to know – then.

But I repeat, the pre-craft era was not a desert. There has always been a beer culture. There has always been fine beer. Some was still made in America itself such as Ballantine India Pale Ale, all-malt draught Michelob, the Prior Light and Dark beers, and Anchor Steam Beer.

Note: See this post added March 4, 2019 for a sequel to the above.

Note re image: image above was sourced from the Tavern Trove LLC label collection, hereAll intellectual property in the image belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Label used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Beer and Cultural Capital

Our reading on beer constantly ranges among many fields including business, technological, health, and consumer appreciation, both contemporary and historical. Occasionally we encounter specialist studies in other fields including now this study by Thurnell-Read, T., 2016, The embourgeoisement of beer: changing practices of `real ale’ consumption. See Journal of Consumer Culture, https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540516684189

Thurnell-Read is a cultural sociologist and lecturer at Loughborough University in the U.K.

The article is very interesting for the frame of analysis used, consumer theory as adumbrated by various experts in sociology including in particular Pierre Bourdieu.

From Bourdieu’s Wikipedia entry:

[He] developed theories of social stratification based on aesthetic taste in his 1979 work Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (in French, La Distinction), published by Harvard University Press. Bourdieu claims that how one chooses to present one’s social space to the world — one’s aesthetic dispositions — depicts one’s status and distances oneself from lower groups.

Thurnell-Read, while not concurring with Bourdieu in all respects, identifies the consumption of beer since 1970 as acquiring hallmarks of competence and specialization previously seen in areas of wine and food appreciation.

The article studies how this shift came to be and in particular focuses on the “real ale” phenomenon although it does refer to craft beer as well. Indeed the author’s conclusions viz. the evolution and prestige of real ale clearly are applicable as well to the current interest in craft beer in Britain.

In his Conclusions, the author states that beer has become:

A trend … in which beer appreciation and connoisseurship appear to thrive as the practice becomes more complex and intellectualised and are, as such, now widely recognised as a field of consumption dominated by the middle class struggle for status and cultural capital.

I and thousands like me in Britain and North America are probably Exhibit A in this process, the group of us in particular who came of age to drink around 1970 and have become deeply involved in the beer culture, or hobby if you will. The very term, hobby, would likely be a hallmark to sociologists of the change in attitudes beer drinking has undergone in the last 50 years.

Every job or profession has its technical vocabulary and it took me a while to accustom to the one used in the article, but with a little work I understand the analysis and argument made.

These brief comments in no way imply a rebuttal, as for one thing sociology is not my field but speaking for myself, for which my claims can go no further, I never wanted to acquire “cultural capital” or status of any kind.

I simply wanted to try new tastes. It is no different than going out for pizza and ordering a different type than you had before. Most people have something different for dinner every night, don’t they?

And once you taste something different, you may want to learn more about it. India Pale Ale, eh? Well, why is India in the name? What does pale mean if the beer often looks amber? Et seq.

At one time this was not possible for beer in a practical sense as so little choice was available. Then it changed, partly under the influence of people who wanted to try something new. That is how a free market works, too, supply and demand interact in a complex way.

The beer interest is no different to many consumer interests whether it be music, cars, fashion, pets, stamps, what have you. Everyone is interested in something, and beer happened to capture the imagination of many. This resulted from some of the factors mentioned in the article, the rise of the CAMRA lobby in Britain, certainly, but also simply the exercise of personal choice.

In North America, parallel “public” factors such as the legalization of homebrewing and the eminence of British beer writer Michael Jackson created a similar atmosphere here for those interested to participate.*

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*It is no little irony that Michael Jackson (1942-2007), the greatest modern exponent of consumer beer appreciation, was from a working class family and left school at 16.