Eyeing Mr. Boh (of National Bohemian Beer)

Brian Alberts, who researches and writes on beer history in the U.S., tweeted a period ad for “Mr. Boh”, a comic cartoon figure long used to promote National Bohemian beer.

The brand for decades is in the Pabst stable, and no longer made in Baltimore, but still sells well in Maryland.

A 1950 trade mark registration shows (see at 411) a spare, oval, one-eyed face. The registration claims use since 1939, meaning the design was first used that year. The figure is described as a “caricature of a Bohemian waiter having an enlarged mustache and only one eye”.

The image remains a touchstone of popular culture in Maryland. In 2006 John Woestendiek of the Baltimore Sun chronicled a resurgence of popularity.

Authors studying advertising or Maryland history regularly mention the figure and mystery of the one eye – no one seems to know why Mr. Boh was drawn this way.

1950s National Bohemian ads, lavish in scale and design values, show Mr. Boh in various guises, not just a dispenser of hospitality. He can be a debonair world traveler, golfer, handyman, baseball player or fan, and on it goes.

Here is a selection from Chronicling America. The constants are the oval facial features: one eye, broad mustache, and happy mien.

Here are thoughts on possible origins, speculative (but I have learned good instincts sometimes pay off).

In the 1930s, a subset of commercial art employed spare, cartoon-like drawings. I gave an example of “Archi Pelago”, used to promote Anchor Beer in Malaya in the 1930s, in my journal article on early Malayan beer history.

Archi Pelago was drawn very sparely in black and white, stout, with top hat, in profile showing only one eye clearly. The other eye is signaled by a monocle in partial view, so almost hidden.

The image appeared on April 9, 1934 in the Straits Times, part of an advertisement for Anchor Beer.

In 2020 in the typography website Fonts in Use, Stephen Coles reproduced a series of 1930s ads for a Pabst beer. Figures are depicted not dissimilar to Mr. Boh, some in profile hence showing only one eye.

Coles described the images as:

A series of ads designed by Dorothy Shepard in 1937 for Pabst Export Beer, another line from the makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The airbrush illustrations are in Shepard’s modern trademark style with streamlined shapes. Headlines and body copy are set on an angle, which was just starting to gain favor in advertising and magazine layouts.

This style of stripped-down, streamlined figures, patently or implicitly everyman and often comic (Archi Pelago seemed to lampoon captains of industry), was of the time, 1930s-1950s.

So the illustrator for Mr. Boh may have intended the one eye as an aspect of this aesthetic. The work looks almost a stylized version of an original stylized form.

Alternatively, maybe in 1930s Baltimore the illustrator had encountered a Czech, bartender or other, and took inspiration from that.

Another idea: Jan Zizka, a medieval Czech warrior sometimes depicted with one eye and wide mustache, remains to this day a notable part of Czech folklore and popular culture. A learned essay in Wikipedia explains his enduring cultural significance.

Zizka is frequently memorialized in fiction and other narrative, film, statuary, visual art, and other cultural artifacts.

So possibly an allusion there.

I incline though to the streamlined, semi-abstract, commercial art style of the time.

 

 

1929, a British Cooperage, a Canadian Angle

A press item in 1929, short as it is, neatly encapsulates some major themes of British beer history. It appeared in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer on September 21 that year (via British News Archive).

An extract:

BEER CASKS.

Brewers’ Preference for Baltic Oak Staves.

The creditors and shareholders of Dunbar’s Cooperage, Limited, Millwall, met at the offices of the Board of Trade, London, yesterday.

Mr. H. S. Russell, managing director, said the failure was due to the decreased demand for casks for exportation of English brewed beer to France and Belgium, coincident with the decreased consumption of beer, following the demobilisation of the troops at the end of the war. It was also due to the insistence of English brewers upon casks being made of Baltic oak staves as soon as they became available in 1921, as a result of which the company was left with very large stocks American oak staves, which could only be disposed of at huge loss. A contributory cause was the gradual decline in the consumption of beer.

Unpacking this, three reasons appear for a decline in a London cooperage’s fortunes:

– brewers sent over less beer to France and Belgium, as millions of British troops returned home after Armistice

– domestic beer consumption fell since the war

– American beer staves, which had replaced traditional Baltic sources (Crown Memel oak) during the war, were now surplus with return to market of Memel wood

American oak was disliked by most British brewers due to imparting a vanillin flavour to beer, as I have discussed in numerous posts here. Memel wood had a much milder effect on the beer and was liked for other reasons, mainly ease of working and its straight, almost knot-free character.

The long-term decline in per capita UK beer consumption has been well-documented. See e.g. the graph in this collection of sources, in Parliament Publications.

The British still had troops on the Continent, indeed until 1930 via the Rhineland Army of Occupation. This complement by my studies never exceeded 10,000, a couple of brigades.

Thirsty as they undoubtedly were, there is reason to think the need was supplied by German brewers in this period – apart the fact that 10,000 is not a great number compared to about 3,000,000 troops under British flag in Europe by end of the war.

A series of photos at Imperial War Museum, London shows objects connected to German brewing for British troops, using (it seems) British malt. UK malt was probably sent due to privation and food shortages in Germany after the war.

 

THE BRITISH ARMY OF THE RHINE, 1919-1929 (Q 7595) The British Army of the Rhine have a special brew of beer for which a German brewery is supplied with malt. A German brewer explaining the use of the gas engine to British soldiers. The officer of the 10th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on the left was the Brewery Officer. Near Cologne, 7 May 1919. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239411

 

As a result British brewers had little benefit from the postwar troop complement, which meant their cask needs did not grow on that account.

Hops are not mentioned in the IWM items, so likely British malt was flavoured with German hops, as sometimes occurred in British brewing.

Interestingly, the photos pertain to Cologne, which had and still does a tradition of top-fermentation, as Britain ancestrally. Cologne is a fairly warm city, perhaps one reason top-fermentation hung on although its brewing adapted (as well-known) partly to resemble lager, produced by chilled bottom fermentation.

At the same time, Cologne is in the Rhineland-Ruhr, so its selection as a jumping point for UK army brewing might have been coincidental.

I cannot recall any further information on this transpontine brewing by John Bull. It sounds, if you will, two sandwiches short of a picnic. Note the gas pressure to pull the beer, not typical for British beer dispense then.

Yet, and to mix metaphors further, any port in a storm – sort of the history of beer in a tea pot. (He is on a roll).

Regarding Dunbar Cooperage, our searches show this enterprise established initially in Eastcheap, London per the Timber Trades Journal and Saw-mill Advertiser. It moved to Millwall Docks before the war.

An English website, Isle of Dogs: Past Life, Past Lives, notes that the cooperage was founded by a Canadian, Alexander Dunbar, a barrister, in fact, who hailed from Guelph, Ontario.

Further information is provided by Stephen Porter’s 1994 study Poplar, Blackwall, and Isle of Dogs: The Parish of All Saints.

Alexander had a particular interest in cooperage, having taken out patents for its machinery in numerous countries. Here is an example for the United States, from its Official Gazette for the Patent Office.

Guelph is in Wellington County, Ontario. A GenWeb site devoted to the County, drawing on a pre-1914 sketch of County pioneers, mentions this Dunbar, stating he is now resident in London, so this is clearly our man.

Alexander’s North American origins incline one to think he may have favoured quercus alba, the North American white oak type, as a suitable wood for British beer casks.

His Canadian connections surely helped to make contacts among timber suppliers here. At the time, Quebec was a noted supplier of wood to Britain for many industries, but his North American background probably favoured locating quercus alba in general for anticipated UK brewing needs.

Perhaps the Canadian underestimated the conservative streak then manifest in British brewing.

The English website has a good photo of Millwall in the early 1930s. What were evidently the cooperage yard and sheds clearly appear dock-side. Later, the area was cleared and redeveloped, as the site explains.

Note re image: used for non-commercial, research purposes pursuant to the authorization and license set forth in the source.

 

“A.K.” in English Beer History – Another Look

The question of what “AK”, or “A.K.” meant in 19th century British, mainly English, beer ads has vexed beer writers for years. Martyn Cornell in 2014 reviewed the question.

Ron Pattinson has written often on AK and related brews. By my gleaning he considers the K to mean keeping while noting that storage times had been greatly reduced for running bitter in the latter 1800s.

See for example his post last year citing Victorian brewing writer Edward Moritz on much-reduced storage times c. 1899, yet still longer than for mild ale (two to four weeks before delivery vs. four to 10 days).

Boak and Bailey have documented the first known usage of the term AK, in 1846. After about 1850, AK as a beer type proliferates through to World War I, and has never completely disappeared.

It is pretty clear AK was a light bitter beer – a pale ale but on the milder side of the spectrum for alcohol and hops – and price. In the 20th century some brewers and brewing writers considered it a mild ale. This however is explained by changes in beer history, including a large gravity drop, and technology over time.

In 2016, I wrote a post documenting my finding of some years earlier, c. 2010.*  Namely, in 1870 a party using the pen name “Aroma” wrote that AK meant “keeping ale”. Judging by the totality of his remarks he was a brewer, or at least someone closely connected to brewing operations.

He was responding to a reader’s inquiry how to brew bitter beer in the journal English Mechanic and World of Science.

There is good reader discussion in comments to some of these sources, see especially under Martyn’s 2014 post. I mentioned the Aroma statement there and raised other considerations, with other reader commentary relevant as well.

The Aroma statement remains to my knowledge, the oldest contemporary, direct evidence what the term meant.

This is not the place to consider the intricacies of British beer terminology then. Martyn reviews it well, and those new to this topic should read his post as a good introduction. It is titled a “second” look because he expressed opinion on AK history earlier including in his books.

For my purposes here, it suffices to note the part of his post that pointed out difficulties with a “keeping” notion for AK. He stated:

… the K in KKK, and KKKK, and XXXK, and the other strong beers with K in their name, stands for “keeping” – there can be little doubt about that. But the K in AK and KK? K-for-keeping doesn’t seem to apply here, because they weren’t keeping beers. And what about the K Mild, ten pence a gallon, sold by Lucas, Ledbetter and Bird of High Wycombe in 1894, and the K Mild Ale sold by the Heavitree Brewery of Exeter in 1895 for 1s 2d a gallon? Or the K Light Ale Collier Brothers of Walthamstow were selling for ten pence a gallon in 1890, and the K Tonic Ale A Gordon & Go of Caledonian Road, Islington sold for the same sum in 1889? Cleary K doesn’t stand for “keeping” here. Again in 1889, Lewis & Ridley of Leamington seemed to be using “K” as equal to half an X, with XXXK mild ale following XXXX strong ale, then XXX mild ale, XXK mild ale, XX mild and and X mild ale. Again, these were milds, not keeping beers. Henry Lovibond & Son of the Cannon brewery, Lillie Road, Fulham actually called its shilling-a-gallon AK “mild bitter” in 1885.

Despite Aroma’s statement, these thoughts are pertinent, and caused me to think further at this time: could only a few weeks (at most) between storing mild ale and light bitter ale really still qualify light bitter or pale beer as “keeping”?

Especially considering the variety of practice in breweries, and the vagaries of the demand cycle, some beer in either class probably went out earlier or later than even Moritz stated. After all, too, he was generalizing.

So looking further, I found two things that, in the final result, did in my view reinforce the notion of AK as a keeping beer.

First, Rayment’s brewery in the 1890s specifically advertised its AK Bitter as a keeping ale. Martyn’s 2014 post stated that Rayment’s took the view its AK was a keeping ale, but did not state further particulars.

A review of the British Newspaper Archive reveals an 1891 ad by a dealer in beer, Lincoln & Son in Cambridge. He advertised the following beers from “Rayment & Co., Furneaux Pelham, Hertfordshire” (Cambridge Journal and Chronicle, June 5):

A.K. (Keeping Ale) per Cask…

I.A. (India Ale) per Cask…

Next to each is a statement of prices, by size of cask. On May 27,1898 Lincoln & Son is still advertising the two Rayment beers by these descriptive terms, this time in the Cambridge Independent Press.

There are other, similar Rayment ads over this period. Hence, starting at least in 1891 Rayment’s took the same view as Aroma 21 years earlier.

Conceivably Rayment’s and Aroma could have gotten it wrong – conceivable, but not likely when you look at the whole picture, so now to my second point.

Reviewing dozens further of brewers’ ads in BNA in the latter 1800s, when AK was at an ascendancy, it appears “keeping” had a specific sense in the market.

The term did not – in trade ads to the public – denote conditioning of beer at the brewery. Rather, it referred to how long the beer would last in consumer hands and specifically, whether in summer.

Often, the ads tout March or April brewings as having the necessary quality. Further, while typically this quality was associated with pale ales, even mild ales sometimes were described as keepable.

Illustrative examples follow. On March 1, 1890 in the Witney Gazette and West Oxfordshire  Advertiser, Hunt Edmunds & Co. advertised their “Celebrated A.K. and other Banbury Ales”, and added for the A.K:

Noted for its great Purity, Brilliancy and Tonic qualities. Recommended as a good bitter beer for family use. Season brewed and guaranteed to keep.

This ad is headed “October Brewings”. Sometimes advertisements meant for start of a season were carried into the next, out of habit or perhaps to save cost of updating.

Here, probably, October-brewed A.K. was still being sold – and considered sound – before brewings in March.

On May 3, 1894 in the Banbury Guardian, “Dunnell & Sons, The Old Brewery, Banbury”, advertised “A.K. Light Bitter” and “P.A. Pale Ale”, at so much per gallon. Dunnell added the beers were:

… thoroughly recommended to keep sound and bright during the summer months.

February 2, 1876, in Eastbourne Gazette, a dealer lists bitter, light, and India Pale ales, also porter, and single and double stout. Then it states:

The March Brewings are guaranteed to keep through the summer, and the Autumn Brewings until the following Spring.

In this particular ad no mild ale is mentioned. So again, keeping meant through the season and especially summer, when brewing and therefore beer stability were more chancy, even for pale ale brewing.

In Witney Express and Oxfordshire and Midland Counties Herald, April 21, 1887 “Blanket Hall Brewery, Witney” advertised:

Pale and Mild Ales. Now in fine condition, and warranted to remain sound on draught during the Summer months.

While the term “keep” is not used, the same sense evidently is meant, and was applied to mild ales, not just pale beers. I found other ads where mild ales were signaled as keepable over the summer.

May 27, 1876 in Monmouthshire Beacon, Monmouth Steam Brewery included their “Mild Ales” with pale ale, Burton ale, porter, and stout as beers with (the same) “keeping qualities”. Evidently some were brewed in the brewing season just past.

If the readers had any doubt, the brewery added all these beers were:

… guaranteed to keep sound and bright.

On April 26, 1888 in Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, a brewer in Wooton Bassett seeking a position bruited his:

… thorough practical and scientific knowledge of brewing able to turn out high-classed pale and mild keeping ales.

I can multiply examples,** but we can see that in a retail setting “keeping” connoted sound for a season, particularly over summer. Even lighter bitter beers, due to their hopping but also being brewed just ahead of the warm season, were keeping in this sense, whatever storage they were given before sent out to the trade.

Therefore, this adds to the plausibility “A.K.” meant ale for keeping, or keeping ale.

The two notions of keeping, pre- and post-delivery, are not unrelated, of course, but it is useful to stress this other sense in the present context.

*This blog did not commence until summer of 2015.

**I mention one more in the Comments, where keeping in summer was guaranteed without distinction as to beers advertised. There were five qualities each of mild, pale and strong ale.

 

 

 

 

Granite 1812 Porter – 6.5% ABV

This beer is still brewed seasonally by The Granite Brewery in Toronto, a pioneering brewpub in town with over 30 years service in the cause of crafted beer.

It is one of a large range put out by the brewery, ever-larger today due to a second fermenter, a “conical”, installed about three years ago. The original, open, Ringwood fermentation system still powers the main range of the brewery, producing its (UK-style) India Pale Ale, Best Bitter, Keefe Stout (a dry Irish style), and more.

The Granite is a family operation. Founder Ron Keefe set it up all those years ago with a brother who had operated a branch in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For over 10 years daughter Mary Beth Keefe has handled the brewing – read about her role, that of founder Ron, and more brewery history in the website.

I don’t get to the Granite as often as I’d like, a pattern with many of the town’s well-established locales (C’est What, beerbistro, Three Brewers, etc.). There are simply so many beer bar options now including “brewery taps”, a more basic version of the brewpub bar.

And beer retailers – brewery shops, Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets, the Beer Store chain, many supermarkets, carry hundreds of brands from which to choose. Then, too, the Covid hiatus, mandating alternating closing and opening for bars and restaurants, kept patronage back.

 

 

But I did get to the Granite the other day. I had a superb Black IPA, its Darkside, seemingly refined to perfection in recent years. The bar just finished a mini-festival of porter and stouts for St. Patrick’s Day, in which this beer, and the 1812 Porter fit well.

I had a role in the formulation of the porter, as 10-12 years ago I contributed ideas that were incorporated in brewing. My input was to suggest that brown malt be used, a historic malt type used in porter for much of its English heyday.*

Also, I suggested a firm, neutral-type hopping be used, nothing citric or piney as associated with American craft brewing (as not sufficiently historical).

The Granite also took ideas from elsewhere including the use of molasses. It felt, quite correctly, that some early Upper Canada beer used molasses to supplement the barley malt.

So the porter really is a “colonial” interpretation of the English porter tradition.

 

 

What emerged has been quite consistent over the years. It is slightly sweet, certainly bitter enough, with a subtle tangy, almost acidulous note that may reflect fermentation of molasses.

The distinctive yeast of the Granite plays a role too, perhaps more restrained this year than in the past.

1812 Porter may well be a taste of history and if so, mission accomplished. But either way, people like it – it sells steadily and when I visited the other day, the draft was exhausted. There were still some cans in the shop though, and I took one home.

I can’t say the porter is my favourite among the range, that would be Darkside. After that, probably the American IPA, Hopping Mad.

But I’m glad it is still made. It is a reminder of the style’s long lineage, and the different strands that make up its history.

N.B. I think “1812” in the name derived from the 1812 War, between Canada and the United States, as in 2012 its bicentennial was celebrated.

*Its usage in Ireland was more limited from the early 1800s. This was due to a more enthusiastic reception for patent black malt, an alternate way to impart a toasted, sometimes smoky note, and the dark hue.

 

 

 

 

 

The Scotia Bar, Aberdeen

In my last post I mentioned a number of Scottish bars that carried draught Guinness in the late 1950s. This was just ahead of the switch-over by Guinness to “nitro” draught.

“Nitro” is filtered beer charged with a mix of CO 2 and nitrogen gas for a soft pint that emulated to a degree the former, cask-matured Guinness.

When describing bars and taverns of generations ago, I often check whether they are still operating. A surprising number stlll does, which is always gratifying to note.

With all the changes – the Covids, wars, changes in mores, in brewing – many licensed establishments prove they are truly established. 

Sometimes they make hay of their long history, sometimes not – having a venerable pedigree earns the right to be insouciant about it, too.

The Scotia, in Summerfield Terrace, Aberdeen, continues as a hub in its quarter of town. Searches reveal its presence since at least the Edwardian era. The image below shows a simple, one-story structure encased in granite.

Aberdeen is, after all, known as “the Granite City”.

 

 

(Attribution: Colin Smith / The Scotia Bar, Summerfield Terrace / CC BY-SA 2.0. Sourced from this Wikipedia file, used under Creative Commons Share-Alike License).

Images in the bar’s Facebook page show that Guinness is still served. Not exceptional of itself, today, but one can see the Scotia has been a long-time customer of Guinness Brewery.

Other images in Facebook show even more clearly the separate entrances of “bar” and “lounge”.

As the Scotia is a Scottish pub, and Scottish bars have a quite separate history from the English example, I reached out to British beer writer Peter Alexander, who blogs under the name Tandleman, to understand better the two forms under one roof.

Peter lives in the Northwest of England and is a long-time CAMRA official (the national-scope Campaign for Real Ale). He has an in-depth knowledge of the British pub and beer scene including in Scotland.

He kindly provided the following information:

In Scotland it was normal to have two bars in a pub, usually with separate entrances. The usual terms were Public Bar and Lounge Bar. The Public Bar would be a basic uncarpeted room with a serving bar, uncomplicated furniture, perhaps with bench seating covered in vinyl or some such. Wooden chairs would not be upholstered in any way. Most customers would be standing at or near the bar.

The aimed for clientele would be working men in working clothes or basically the less affluent. There would be separate toilets too in most cases. Women would very rarely enter, or indeed be welcome. In some cases until the law changed there would be no admittance for women as policy, the exception being bar staff.

Further:

The lounge bar was available to all. If you went out with your lady companion, that would be your destination. Inside would be a carpeted area with its own bar. The furniture would be fully upholstered and the whole area would be plusher and more comfortable. Unofficial dress code would be what we might say today, between smart casual to more formal. Men in suits, women well dressed. Prices would be different and higher.

The norm would be to be seated, the men would often stand at the bar with their friends, while the ladies chatted together. The toilets too would be of a higher standard and service would be of a higher standard too, though usually, still, be bar rather than waiter service. There may well have been bar snacks or food.

A more middle class clientele were attracted, though of course, public bar men would dress up with their wives too. Standards of both public bars and lounge bars varied, attracting different segments of the population… Scottish pubs didn’t really directly compare with their English counterparts in, say, the 50s until probably around 2000.

 

Peter also stated that while the Scottish pub has blurred to a point with its English counterpart, it still often takes a different form.

Equally so, while the public and lounge bar distinctions have blurred, it is not 100%, depending on the bar and area.

We hoist a virtual pint in thanks to a British specialist on these topics, who has deepened our understanding, and that of our readers.

 

 

 

 

Explaining Nitro Guinness to Consumers

The transition Guinness made from naturally-conditioned beer in casks (“real ale”, broadly) to filtered, nitrogenated, and ultimately pasteurized beer has been discussed by numerous writers, from different angles.

These include Michael Jackson, Roger Protz, David Hughes, Martyn Cornell, Boak & Bailey, Bill Yenne, and Liam in Ireland. I have addressed numerous aspects in this blog, including introduction of “nitro” Guinness in 1960s North America, and linking films showing service of the older and later forms of Guinness draught.

(The bottled form has a somewhat parallel evolution, but I’ll leave that aside for now).

This piece by Boak and Bailey, depicting a move in 1958 toward steel barrels, illustrates a mid-point in the history. Guinness was doing away with its old fired American oak barrels in favour of hermetically sealed metal barrels.

To appreciate fully the regime of wood at Guinness before the switch-over, a 1954 documentary is revealing, “The Craft of the Cooper”. (Snippets have made the beer historical rounds but I cannot recall seeing the full, nine-minute film earlier).

Even with the first metal barrels though the beer was still “live”. Company literature unearthed by Boak & Bailey suggested, or by reasonable interpretation, that live barreled beer was topped with CO 2 pressure, a process then known in British brewing as “top” or “blanket” pressure.

It helped protect the beer from deterioration and dispense it, but such beer was substantially real, even as some carbonation was injected in the pint, vs. all internally generated.

 

 

To compress a long history I would summarize it this way:

  • draught Guinness naturally conditioned in the barrel was available in Ireland, and in some places in England and Scotland, from the 1800s through to the nitro era
  • a two-cask system used in 1950s Ireland dispensed lively and flatter beer from one tap
  • I interpret this not as not, of itself, having introduced the “high-low” or two-cask dispense, but a refinement of drawing*
  • the first metal barrels contained live beer with a few pounds top pressure
  • at Park Lane London where Guinness had a second brewery (later closed), the main production stout was mixed with gyle, or newly-fermenting beer
  • ditto in Ireland but a small percentage of old vatted stout was also added there
  • from 1959 nitrogenated, filtered stout (no live yeast) was barreled and dispensed in Ireland and UK with a special tap, a system developed mainly by a company scientist, Michael Ash**
  • the stated reasons were to advance consistency and overall quality
  • nitrogenated barreled stout is pasteurized in UK c. 1967, and finally Ireland
  • “extra cold” and other variants of draught Guinness later emerge, but the die is cast from 1959 with the nitro system

What I wish to add here, not documented elsewhere to my knowledge, is how Guinness explained the switch-over from a live product to its customers.

First, let’s consider a couple of ads that immediately precede the “ash can”, or new era.

The Eastbourne Herald on December 21, 1957 advertised “Creamy Draught Guinness” at the Clifton Hotel, South Street, Eastbourne (England).

The ad shows a typical pint “jar”, straight-sided with smiling face etched into the head – a pre-1960s emblem of Guinness advertising.

A flying toucan completes the picture, jar of Guinness a-beak, leading our way to an appetizing pint at the Clifton.

As a seaside resort town, a special effort likely was made to supply this locale, as draught Guinness was not common then in postwar Britain, Ulster apart.

Similarly, “creamy Draught Guinness” is advertised, showing the same straight-sided black pint, in the Aberdeen Evening Express on January 6, 1960. The ad lists numerous venues in Aberdeen to get the beer including the Scotia Bar, East Neuk Bar, and the Caledonian Hotel.

A penguin again appears, wand in fin pointing to the list of bars shown in contrasting shade.

So this is old-school. Let’s visit the new, via a sampling of ads in Ireland, Republic and Province. On July 16, 1965 in the Belfast Telegraph, Guinness explains that due to its “new method” costing, it noted, one million pounds:

… you’ll be able to get a really well-drawn pint of draught Extra Stout – in half the time!

So the quick service aspect is stressed, evidently the former way to draw the stout took much longer, due to working with two casks and/or the time to let the fob settle.

August 6, 1965, a Belfast Telegraph ad pictures Guinness with a modest creamy head, the one Michael Ash helped work out as ideal. A handled, Guinness-branded glass is shown – no more old-fashioned jar. No penguin.

The new glass clearly was introduced as a stylish association for the new way to serve Guinness.

A plinth-shaped font is shown with bar handle protruding from the top. The Guinness name is printed on a white band at top of font, which otherwise appears in black or another dark colour.

Ad states in part:

Guinness Extra Stout on draught. Served the new way… a pint that’s always well-drawn. Perfectly “conditioned”. And in half the time it used to take.***

A Sligo (Northwest Ireland) ad in the Sligo Champion, July 14, 1967, touted Guinness from “the new Guinness draught dispenser”, stating:

Now Guinness have installed a new improved method of pint-drawing in most bars. So now you can enjoy a perfect pint… Smooth and consistent… The most natural thing in the world.

These ads perhaps were preceded by similar ones in Ireland and England or Scotland, touting that is the new dispense system, vs. draught Guinness in general (of which many examples exist).

In 1963 Courage & Barclay introduced draught Guinness in 1,500 pubs in London and parts of the south (Belfast Telegraph, May 17, 1963), so it was spreading in usage in Britain certainly.

Since the fine points of Guinness draught service was never a selling point in non-Ulster Britain, the nitro method needed no special introduction, preceded as it was by all-CO 2 carbonated beer from metal casks.

What we can conclude is, in some markets in some periods following introduction of nitro draught, Guinness sought to explain to customers the change. It portrayed the switch in positive terms, as businesses have done immemorially when a product changes.

“New and improved” is the oldest mantra known to commerce, after all. But did the best pint of naturally-conditioned Guinness trump the consistent, filtered nitro pint? Probably.

The proponents of the new-school argued that on average the pints were improved – there were too many duff pours in the old days given the vagaries of natural conditioning and varying service methods.

Something was lost, something was gained. The rest is history.

*The idea of blending a glass of porter from older and newer casks – “stale” and mild stout – goes back to early days of porter, indeed in Britain before Ireland.

**Linked is his Wikipedia entry which sets out additional information and the trade terms devised by Guinness to describe his “ash can”.

***In the ad the word conditioned is shown in italics, a brave use of a brewing technical term in the public arena. All press references herein are via British News Archive, hence not hyperlinked (paywall).

Pensées. Vol. 5.

The theme here is people, drinks, places, in another guise – not the “same old”, in other words, but not quite new either.

Beer Notes

Hamilton’s Collective Arts Brewery offers a broad range of brews, and perhaps the best commercial art program for a brewery in Ontario – well, among the best.

The Citra hop figures in IPA No. 20, the latest of its numbered IPA series – in fact four ways, as the label states. So four iterations of the same hop go into the beer. One is the standard form, the others are more concentrated forms, liquid, solid, etc.

See more detail at Canadian Beer News.

The effect of the blend, in this case anyway, produces something rather different than “standard Citra”: I get apricot and tangerine upfront, with the signature Citra grapefruit more distant. Very pleasant drinking.

No. 20 exemplifies the series style – fruity, rather light-coloured IPA – but offers something different, too. Would be nice to see an amber, English-styled IPA from Collective Arts, to express a personal preference.

City Notes

Toronto is picking up with the relaxation of the mask and passport mandates and some easing of the weather. On my treks downtown I’d say activity is 50% of pre-pandemic – so still a way to go.

Mid-day yesterday, University Avenue as it passes the Provincial Legislature aka Queen’s Park, was still quite quiet especially going south. Before Covid it would have resembled more the Indy 500.

 

 

People still wear masks indoors and on public transit albeit made optional, generally, on March 21, maybe 90% by my estimate. I go along, mainly out of civic comity. If wearing masks a while longer helps bring the city back sooner, I’m for it.

Author Notes

Boak & Bailey, a pen name, are a husband and wife beer-writing team based in Bristol, England. In the beer-writing world which is “Our Town”, they are part of “Our Crowd”, charter members in fact.

The male side writes fiction under his real name, Ray Newman. He issued The Grave Digger’s Boy in 2019, and more recently the story collection Municipal Gothic.

 

 

The action unspools in unassuming urban settings, which lends the tales a strange, indeed novel power. Perhaps due to B & B’s deep researches into postwar British history for beer writing, Ray has an impressive command of British sociology between, say, 1945 and 1975.

His story “Modern Buildings in Wessex” captures perfectly the unemotional, social-investigative tone of the period, as does “An Oral History of the Greater London Exorcism Authority”.

These are great lampoons – and not a little scary as the book’s title promises. Some tales are more straight narrative, e.g., a “Director’s Cut”. An unsettling atmosphere permeates all, consistent with the book’s spooky genre.

Sample lines from the Wessex Buildings story, describing “Residenzia Pölzig”: “… [it is] a black finger penetrating the sky above pine trees planted in 1948 to replace ancient woodlands stripped bare as part of the war effort. [A] few storeys of concrete and glass… it is one in the eye for the forces of repetition and British deference that dominate the shires”.

The book requires a thinking mind, it is not “easy reading”, and one must be prepared for British idiom – “plooky”, anyone? Or “verge”, in a highway? But rewarding it is for those who take the time.

Music Notes

I started to talk about this on Twitter. The Canadian folk legend Valdy is now in his mid-70s, and lives in British Columbia. He was born Paul Valdemar Horsdal, and hails from Ottawa.

For a fairly anodyne city (normally!) Ottawa has produced an unusually large number of notable music figures. In addition to Valdy, there is Paul Anka, Lorne Green, Bruce Cockburn, Alanis Morissette, Lee Emmerson (of Five Man Electrical Band), and Sue Foley, among many others,

Valdy is basically a folk and country artist, and in the 70s exemplified a countrified, laid-back hippie ethic. In the late 1960s he appeared at a music festival that had both folk and rock stages. Because of a power fault the rock performances were stopped, and Valdy was required to play his style before a crowd accustomed to high-volume, uncomplicated rock and roll.

It didn’t go down well, but Valdy got a great song out of it, Play me a Rock and Roll Song. Ironically, the tune is an unabashed rock outing, not heavy metal but not folkie either.

This appears to have been accidental. In interviews Valdy explains the drummer (Jim Gordon, a well-known session player) hit the drums hard when kicking off the session in L.A. The song took shape from there.

This is Valdy doing the song just a couple of years ago – it is as good now as when released in 1972, maybe better. He is backed by Vancouver musician and singer Taylor James.

 

 

 

Early Brewing Venture in Calcutta – Damp Squib? Part IV.

I did not anticipate a fourth part to this series, but found compelling additional information, in part by examining Far East newspapers, a resource a trick of memory triggered only recently.

Further, Martyn Cornell just sent in a very helpful note with details of the kind of brewing the Calcutta brewery did, especially the nature of its high-fermentation temperature yeast.

Below is what I learned earlier today using especially the British News Archive (paywall) and other sources from its lead.

A London-based concern, The British Beer Breweries Syndicate, Ltd. established brewing operations in both Singapore and Calcutta in the summer of 1908. The same press report for the Calcutta part (Madras Daily Mail, July 16, 1908) stated that due to a Licensing Committee Report issued in consequence of temperance campaigning, liquor shops in the city would be “reduced”, with hotels likely to follow.

This could not have assisted the prospects of this brewery, but in any case, by April 1910 the Calcutta subsidiary was in financial difficulty. The London parent company applied in the High Court of Judicature in Fort William, Bengal, to wind up the subsidiary due to debts unpaid.

Clearly, loan capital or other monies were advanced to build and operate the brewery but not repaid. Notice of the application, which you may read here, appeared in the Calcutta Gazette, May 4, 1910.

 

 

A supplement to the same Gazette, August 5, 1914 stated the company was liquidated on May 26, 1910, and dissolved (the corporate existence) on August 24, 1913.

The India press stories, by my searches, do not refer to the special fermentation system but in January 1908, a short item in The Brewers’ Journal stated The British Beer Breweries Syndicate had plans to license the “S.T. yeast” to brew across a swath of the Far East.

 

 

Clearly it was looking to raise more money for the expansion.

“S.T. yeast” and “concentrate” in the item, along with the “patent malt extract” in a Singapore press story, are explained further by Martyn’s information linked above.

It seems the Calcutta brewery survived under another guise. An April 27, 1912 item in the Burma Gazette deemed “foreign” (probably for duty purposes) beer imported to Burma, made at Calcutta by the “Bombay British Beer Brewing Company”.

 

 

I think it probable the assets of the Calcutta business on wind-up were acquired by another entity in the group, named as stated.* Martyn referred as well to a Madras affiliate, so clearly the parent syndicate continued operations in India in an altered form.

In Singapore, a similar affiliated brewery was established in the same period. The Singapore press in the summer of 1908 noted the brewery had opened, and carried ads for the beers into October 1908.

One ad stated that “British Beer Brewery”, at Selangor Street, Anson Rd., and from its stores in Orchard Road, could supply “Pilsen, Munchen, and Stout”. Price: $1.75 per 12 pints for the first two, and for the stout, $2.00.

The Singapore press mentioned, as the Indian papers, a price advantage for the beer. The manager of the Singapore brewery was William O’Connor, who received local dignitaries on opening, as occurred in Calcutta when that brewery opened.

A Singapore story stated the beer was “a light beer in every way suitable for this climate”.

I was not aware of this brewery when I wrote Part I of my study of beer and brewing in British Malaya, published last year in the journal Brewery History. As Part II is yet to appear, I will have the chance to fill the gap in that writing.

I suspect for various affiliates of The British Beer Breweries Syndicate Ltd. monies ran out before they could get on a successful, long-term footing. And Martyn has referred to quality issues, which could not have helped.**

Selected sources (apart as linked in text):

Madras Daily Mail, July 16, 1908.

The London and China Telegraph, August 31, 1908.

The Straits Times, August 1, 1908

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, August 6, 1908.

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, October 2, 1908.

*Or perhaps new investors, but the former seems more likely.

**As noted earlier above temperance measures, at least in some localities, may have played a role as well in dampening Syndicate prospects.

 

 

 

The Royal Mortar in Woolwich, 1964

A Guinness Pour in ’64*

Our many examinations of the English pub cover multiple viewpoints and eras.

We have looked at the Victorian and interwar pub through the eyes of visiting Americans, both approving and non- (usually the former).  We have looked at the interwar pub, again, through the lens of Christian social reformer Basil Jellicoe, who believed pub and church could form an alliance.

We have looked at the wartime pub, also the pub as transplanted to Canada, the U.S., and France. The 1950s pub in Ireland, or England, too, as appraised by the cool eye of the Briton Charles Duff.

We have visited the (English) pub many times ourselves, of course, and hope to again in a few months.

Telling scenes of the early 1960s pub appear in this film, a documentary on life in Woolwich, SE 18, archived in the collection of Film London.

The film is smartly done, the short sequences punching beyond their weight, in part due to Bruce White’s narration.

The pub featured is the Royal Mortar, 1 Woolwich New Road, long gone with the redevelopment of the area and ultimate absorption of Woolwich into Greenwich Borough.

When the film was shot, Woolwich Arsenal, which developed and made munitions and armaments for HM Forces, was still operating. The ordnance factory closed a few years after the filming.

The pub appears to have been a Courage pub, as the Courage, Barclay, Simonds name is shown on beer crates. A sign on flocked wallpaper appears to tout Courage Pale Ale (bottled), as the label appeared c. 1960.

But the prize – prize in beer historical circles, a relative datum – is surely the clear shot of a domed Guinness font pouring a full pint. This is an early example of Guinness’ then-new draught system, powered by a blend of nitrogen and CO2 gas.

From the customer side of the bar the font is all-white save for the black Guinness crest. This looks odd given the resolute focus on black in company advertising for decades, inspired by the colour of the beer.

 

 

See from 12:30. The scene reflects in a short compass the essential features of the pub: beer, music, conversation. A 1940s song plays as we walk in, a female singer crooning in a torch-style.

Pumps of beer are pulled, the server looking bashful I thought. Behind her and around the pub, wood beer crates. The beer is various shades, so draught bitter, mild, probably brown ale from bottles too.

Next, a trio – piano, drums, accordion – plays a raucous jig, distinctly Irish-sounding. Together with the Guinness, this perhaps suggests an Irish clientele.

The Guinness is poured seemingly in one motion, with a thin head atop. The silver-and-black tap appears identical to the one used by Guinness today.

No attempt is made to produce a thick creamy head, but the man drinking the beer seems complaisant. London custom to pour a brimful pint – a southern thing, then and now – perhaps trumped Irish practice.

Or maybe the two-stage “nitro” pour of today hadn’t yet emerged, supposedly an emulation of richly-foamed Guinness in 1950s Dublin pubs.

They had a good time, anyway, the vocation once and always of the bar anywhere.

An excellent sequence is the skilled huckster, as the narrator terms him, selling a bag of mixed confections. His spiel repeats rhythmically the phrase, “I give you” as he fills the bag with each type. (“I give you… a two bob ga-teau!”).

He must have built an hypnotic effect with the technique. He knew his onions, that man, and I’d like to think retired with a small fortune.

I have no confections to give you, no (real bubbling liquid) beer, no sandwich from shining glass case on bar top. Just these thoughts, but no penny needed.

*1964 is the stated year of release, but various commentary suggests some scenes were filmed earlier.

 

 

 

Early Brewing Venture in Calcutta – Damp Squib? Part III.

This part will summarize my Part I and Part II, with a final piece of information confirming that Calcutta Brewery’s very warm-fermented beer was in fact cooled – not cooked – prior to filling barrels and bottles for the market.

I located eventually a statistical study, referenced now in Part II, listing breweries in Bengal for 1904-1906. It showed nothing for Calcutta, only the Sonada Brewery*.

Taken with Consul Michael’s statement that the Calcutta brewery in late 1908 was the first in Calcutta, it seems clear a brewery did start up as he described.

It operated through to 1910 at least, with production much under the minimum planned, perhaps explaining its apparent early demise.

Of the dozen or so reprints of the consul’s report I reviewed in news and other media, I found one finally that corrected his “cook” to “cool” when describing the last phase of brewing operations.

See p. 217 in the November issue of the (American) journal Ice and Refrigeration. If there was once place the editor would take care to get it right, it was a journal devoted to this industry. An extract:

 

 

A Part IV has proved necessary, in the result! I think readers will find it worth the trouble to read, as it contains “the rest of the story”, or as much as we are likely to know.

*It was also known as Victoria Brewery, and supplied both Commissariat (military) and public needs.