British India Greets the English Pub. Part I.

Tommies Tipple at English Country Pub – at Madras

Not the least interesting sowing of the English pub on foreign soil was in British India, in late 1945.

The British had established breweries in India since the mid-1800s which finally took a large share of the market from British and other imports. British Army consumption dominated the business, with some civilian patronage, mostly European, during the Raj.

With lots of beer in the country there had to be places to drink it. And there were, especially army canteens, managed in the 20th century by a string of centralized canteen organizations (see details in a referenced Wikipedia entry).

And outside the canteens? There were clubs, hotels, dance halls, and what were called taverns. Taverns, vs. say the palm toddy bar, were mostly the preserve of Europeans. These establishments varied in gradation. All the major Indian cities harboured them.

The lower end were sometimes called punch-houses, but the term drops out after about 1850, by my survey.

A full-length book memorialized these taverns, sometimes loosely called hotels (similarly in Australia), Major H. Hobb’s John Barleycorn Bahadur: Old Time Taverns in India (1944).*

Still, in 1945 something special supplemented this pub scene as reported in The Daily Mail, Hull, UK, November 7, 1945 (via British Newspaper Archive):



Built by Cottingham Expert.

Hundreds of British troops at Avadi, near Madras, India, stream every evening into the first public-house ever built on Indian soil. It is a complete replica of an English country pub—thatched roof, half-timbering and heavy oak doors.

At dusk, lights gleam through the windows, and a notice over the door reads that the pub is kept by T. H. Loseby, who is licensed to sell beer, spirits and tobacco “to be consumed on the premises”!

A homely atmosphere permeates the place—homely talk, laughter, tobacco smoke, and the smell of beer. By the side of the old-fashioned fireplaces, oaken settles are set into the walls. Chairs and tables are tastefully set out on the clean flagged floor. There is a special nook in one room set aside for dart players. Behind the bar stands the landlord C.F.N. T. H. Loseby, of Syston, Leicestershire.

In civil life he was an assistant at the Fox and Hounds Hotel there. He now spends his evenings serving beer and bread and cheese and pickles and has always a cheery word for his customers. The Wade Inn, as it is known, is named after the local area commander, Major-General Wade. It was built by R. D. Herbert, Royal Engineers, of Evergreen, Thwaite-st., Cottingham, who in civil life specialised in the construction of houses of Tudor design.

The Tommies say that in this setting Bangalore beer tastes almost like good old Blighty beer. Two units stationed nearby send the whole of their beer allotment to the Wade Inn so that they and their friends can drink it in appropriate surroundings.

A brewery in Bangalore, long-established by then, was part of a group assembled in 1915 by the entrepreneur Thomas Leishman, the still-dominant United Breweries. What type of beer was made is not clear. Muree Brewery at Rawalpindi was making lager in 1946, see advert in Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore), January 6, 1946, for Gold Ribbon Lager.


(Image from Wikipedia at this link).

Whether ale or lager was made in Bangalore, it seems a difference was detected from English beer, but not disliked for that.

Note how the writer states “first public-house ever built on Indian soil”. Of course, literally that was not so. Equivalents had longed functioned in India, since the 1700s at least, as Hobbs’ book and other sources show. Many were named in the British manner, the Royal Oak in Bombay, for example, a seaman’s pub.**

What was meant, surely, was the simulacrum: the copying of English details to make it look as of home. That is a suitably late development. British rule was waning, and (in our interpretation) what typified British India earlier didn’t seem British enough; a more patent symbol was needed.

There was an evident punning on “Wade Inn” which either escaped the journalist or more likely was felt unsuitable for broadsheet commentary in the 1940s.

Avadi still houses a military establishment, Indian of course today – and lots of pubs, some named to suggest an English connection. But the Wade Inn seems long gone. At least, I couldn’t find a trace.***

I continue with Part II.

*I read parts of the book, not, mainly, an enjoyable experience. Henry (Harry) Hobbs – “Major”, I glean, came from his service with a Calcutta reserve force – wrote in a knowing, almost leering way. While one accustoms with distaste to occasional – not invariable – racial denigration in period accounts, often it manifests as a casual thing, not focused and repeated. It is different in this case, as while Hobbs took pride in being an old Calcuttan and recorded useful social history, the tone regarding Indians and some others, Jews especially, is continual, unpleasant, and at times ugly.

It remains the case that we must take history as we find it, unpleasant as the task sometimes is.

Hobbs was an English piano tuner and occasional musician who emigrated in the late 1800s. In the course of a successful business career that extended to hotel work, he became an amateur historian and wrote numerous books and papers describing the society he knew. He died at 92, in 1956, and remained in Calcutta until the end. For further biography on Hobbs, see the informative article by Devasis Chattopadhyay, “Harry Hobbs: Old Calcutta’s Beloved Chronicler”, published April 10, 2021 in Live History India.

**June 1, 1863, Bombay Gazette, a seaman is imprisoned for two months for throwing a marling-spike at another man in the Royal Oak. In her 2003 The City and Its Fragments: Colonial Bombay, 1854-1918, Preeti Chopra noted that many low-end taverns traded near the (Royal Alfred) Sailors’ Home in the port area (today a police headquarters). She states the latter was nearer to the European section than what was called Native City. I believe many of the taverns were in between.

***Thanks to Mark Shirley who pointed out on Twitter (@RFCider) that Army publican Loseby was from Syston, Leicestershire, not, as I originally wrote, Systop. Now mended. Mark blogs excellently on pubs, see his Twitter feed for more details.


The Yard of Ale, Bangkok, Ca. 1970

The implantation of the English pub overseas has proceeded apace since the 19th century: in U.S., Canada, France, and many other places. The Irish pub followed in due course. I’ve covered early Canadian examples, in Montreal and Toronto.

Asia has not been exempt, due to the longstanding British trading and colonial presence in parts of the Far East, and perhaps the concomitant spread of pale ale and black stout.

Some years before Hong Kong was turned back to China by Britain, I spent a couple of weeks on the Island, touring different parts.

I recall twice patronizing a British pub in Wan Chai, in a modern shopping mall near the harbour. If I was in the city again I could find it. I wonder if the bar is still there.

It served Guinness with a “surger”, a device to raise the creamy head. I liked the stronger, bottled Guinness Foreign Export Stout more, but it was available in grocery stores, not the pub. There were a couple of foreign brands of lager, probably made in the region, I think Carlsberg was one.

The décor was a mix of Chinese and British motifs, with red neon lighting that cast a pleasant glow. The crowd was mixed, with all ages and races represented. Perhaps best I recall the icy interior, from the efficient air-conditioning.

My experience there 30 years ago was brought to mind when reading of the Yard of Ale, an English pub established in Bangkok in 1966 by Sam Scott, a pianist and entertainer who carved a career in Southeast Asia.

I am not certain of his origins but I’d assume English. A (1.4 L) yard of ale, the long bulbous glass, was hooked over the bar, and sometimes pulled down for trial as you will see presently.

The opening of the pub was advertised in 1966 in The Stage and Television Today, a British trade journal. A detail follows, via British Newspaper Archive.



Scott evidently ran the pub for some years, through 1970 according to ads in the same source. (After that I am not sure).

He was evidently part of a long-established expat scene in the city. He is remembered in a couple of columns by Roger Crutchley, for decades an editor at the Bangkok Post. In a 2016 column recalling pub names of his Hampshire youth, Crutchley wrote:

Yard of Ale

The first pub I frequented in Bangkok had a very English name, The Yard of Ale, a lovely little spot on the corner of Convent Road and Silom.

The pub actually possessed an authentic yard of ale, a tall thin glass holding a couple of pints or more, hanging above the bar.

On occasion, the yard would come off the wall as customers foolishly tried to drink the contents in one go. They usually ended up covered in beer as the bulb-like bottom of the glass made the beer gush out like a waterfall.

However, the ensuing spillage was much appreciated by the resident rodents.

The Yard of Ale was run by an amiable pianist, Sam Scott, who was particularly adept at Noel Coward songs…

In this Google Maps view, you see the intersection today, it is bisected by an elevated expressway. The side where Park Silom lies is new, the buildings of ca. 1970 long cleared.

The other side is older, and perhaps on one corner lay the Yard of Ale, recalling British ways for its diversity of clientele.

Perhaps Sam Scott held court where the tacos restaurant now is, or just across the street where (it seems) there is another restaurant, or bar.

Assuming the drinking age in Bangkok in 1970 was the same as today, 20, I was old enough to take in a show at Yard of Ale, had I been in the city and known the venue.

But I was very far away, with beer (viewed in intellectual terms) a faint glimmer on the horizon. Any hostelry I frequented was strictly local, in Montreal, with the odd sally over the border in Plattsburgh, New York.

The real action was where no ivories tinkled, certainly no beer gushed. It was in lecture rooms of the Arts Department and Department of Religion, McGill University. Not least, the McClellan Library.




Privatizing Retail Alcohol Sales in Ontario, yes or no?

The question of full privatization of alcohol retail sales in Ontario – sell-off of LCBO and ending remaining Beer Store prerogatives – comes round and round in the years: in the beer community, in politics, by union representatives, and by public health advocates.

Currently, there seems no reasonable prospect of such privatization, even as steps have been taken in recent years to extend the retail environment, e.g. the few hundred permitted grocery store outlets for beer and wine, or emergence of “bottle shops” as described in an article in June last year by Kate Bueckert of the CBC.

The current Conservative government in Ontario led by Premier Doug Ford shows no interest in a LCBO sell-off, despite recommendations from various quarters in past years to do just that.

For some background on that issue, the Wikipedia link on LCBO is helpful (“Debate Over Privatization”). See also e.g. David Clement’s article in the Financial Post in May 2021, and a Fraser Institute report some years ago by Mark Milke, reprinted from the Winnipeg Free Press.*

For a contrary view, see this 2012 article by Warren Thomas in the Toronto Star, the longtime public union official.

There are earlier studies arguing for privatization dating back at least to 2005.

Nonetheless I’d like to state my feelings why privatization is logical and would benefit the people on a net basis. From everything I’ve looked at, government revenue could be secured through maintenance of sales taxes, or the mark-up demanded by most Provinces to sell alcohol.

In Alberta, where for some 30 years alcohol retailing has been privatized, the government secures its mark-up on sales, in part by controlling wholesale distribution. But any government has ways to ensure the tax bill is paid.

Any government has ways to enforce safe selling of alcohol, that licensees of stores pass a “safe serve” test for example, this already exists in the bar environment and for permitted grocery sales.

From my checks, some beer sold in Alberta today costs more than in Ontario, some (or of similar type) is about the same, some is less. It does seem the total tax percentage, federal and provincial, is less in Alberta than Ontario, yet, some beer is higher there than here, yes.

The respective markets though are different. Alberta is further west of course, so European imports travel longer to get there: costs more money, a factor affecting other imported alcohol as well, likely.

Alberta has a much smaller population than Ontario, so economies of scale are different. Etc.

Even if beer, or alcohol in general, on average costs more there, that is not a reason imo to support government control of retailing. Government control originally was predicated on reducing abuse of alcohol. How can selling less booze be wrong from a public health standpoint, particular when medical care is under great stress as at present?

Putting it differently, government should not subsidize cheaper alcohol, should it come to that. Let market forces dictate the final prices, although in many cases I think they will be advantageous.

Government mandarins, as beneficent as they are, should not decide what in practical terms ends up on retail shelves – at uniform price throughout Ontario for the same brand. While union jobs are a factor to consider, at the same time why should alcohol retailing benefit from that status, while many other workers do not?

We might as well unionize the full working population, which I’m sure some would support, but our current political arrangements do not sanction.

Consumer choice, as given effect by private retailers and their suppliers, should be the final determinant for what is sold as beverage alcohol. The private stores I’ve shopped at in Florida and New York, say, but also many other states, offer a luxury of choice we don’t see here, between them of course.

Same can occur in UK, and in all these places some retailers specialize, say in the beers of a particular country or region, or style, or market segment (craft) or… however the market decides to handle it.

We do it that way with thousands of consumer products. Beer and other alcohol should not be different.**

*See my additional remarks in the Comment section.

**75% of the American market is serviced by private retailing, see details in the NABCA site.




“English-Type Public House or Scottish Bar?”

Some Granite City Pub History*

In the Aberdeen Evening Press, October 21, 1954, a letter-writer supported a licensing body’s rejection of a pub for Aberdeen’s new Northfield housing estate.

Starting in 1950, Northfield opened for housing, an early sign of the postwar suburban boom that echoed through Britain. The area of Aberdeen had long been known for a quarry bearing the interesting name Dancing Cairns.

Homes sprung up on one side of the stony gap welcoming army veterans, ex-war workers, and others avid to build the new Britain.

The writer, signing anonymously, was direct:

[This is] … not because I think there anything inherently wrong with pubs, but because there is something far wrong with drinking habits in Scotland. In England few people would object to a pub on a housing estate. The pub, along with the church, is the amenity to be provided. That is because the average Englishman drinks beer and sticks to it—and in moderation, too. The Scot on the other hand will mix whisky with his beer. On Saturday night after closing time there are always some noisy drunks on the street. No wonder people want pubs to be kept out of residential areas.— Sassenach.

(Press references are via British Newspaper Archive except as otherwise noted).

A subtext here is, the pub had been planned on English lines, the type known south of the border on burgeoning housing estates. These were welcoming to both women and men and in some cases, families.

The Scottish bar, in contrast, traditionally was a different animal, with some exceptions in large cities: male-oriented, with few amenities, geared as much to spirits as to beer.

In a word, the two types were long regarded as separate, with occasional mixing and matching.

(Peter Alexander, who writes on beer and pubs from his English base commented recently on this historic difference in a quote included in my post, “The Scotia Bar, Aberdeen”).

In the same newspaper on December 3, 1952, when the plan to build a Northfield pub was still alive, the paper did “man in the street” interviews to see if locals approved.

This question was put to them:

Which do you prefer—the English-type public-house or the Scottish bar?

Two men and two women were queried, middle-aged by their photos. The women objected to a pub. One said it would encourage women and young girls to enter pubs and drink and bars should not be turned into “places of recreation”.

The other woman thought if people want to do a singalong around the piano they should do it at home where it belongs, and, “Scottish bars should be left as they are”.

One of the men thought a pub should welcome a man and woman for an evening of entertainment, not just drinking. The other man felt a family room would be useful, with someone to mind the children while the parents entered the bar.

It was a small sample but clearly split on gender lines.

So by the end of 1954, still no pub. This did not dissuade George Bremner, rendered as George Brebner in some accounts, who had acquired land in Northfield to build a pub and made continual efforts to obtain municipal approval.

Finally, April 20, 1956 the Evening Express reported his success:


Mr George Bremner, the Aberdeen man who proposes to build a public house at Marchburn Drive, Northfield, received the final go-ahead from Aberdeen Licensing Appeal Court this afternoon. His application, which was granted by the Licensing Court in March, was confirmed unanimously.

The pub as built became known as the Dancing Cairns. It seemed to operate to general satisfaction in the early years, but in a lengthy report on August 30, 1961 the Evening Express reported fights, ribald singing and general disorder.

Bremner was continually seeking, as normal for any business, to expand his pub but as it grew, these other problems seemed to increase. A local even objected to its yellow paint scheme, too glaring to view from his household window.

Nonetheless the pub continued to trade, into the next decade. At some point it appears it became affiliated with Scottish and Newcastle Brewery.

The pub was remembered in an article dated  April 27, 2021 in Aberdeen’s The Press and Journal by Kirstie Waterston. She told of the years ensuing, and how the pub was loved by many despite its rowdy reputation.

Perhaps this points up a part of Scottish bar-keeping that resisted English gentrification. Or maybe it attests to keeping bar almost anywhere, given enough time and change of circumstances. The great beer writer Michel Jackson (1942-2007) once wrote that “beer-drinking is a robust activity” .

So it is and always will be, for many. Despite the best efforts of the regulators and modern  hipsters, one can’t quite efface this from the drinking scene.

The Dancing Cairn was pulled down, finally, about 30 years ago. A different sort of amenity exists on the site now, a care home.

In the Aberdeen press of recent years there are a surprising (I thought) number of articles on pubs of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Whatever misgivings there were 70 years ago about extending the bar in Scottish life seem to have gone with the wind.

Pubs that came to life in the new Britain, in some cases under controversy, are fondly remembered by many, once no more.

*”Granite City” is an old nickname for Aberdeen, Scotland.


Bicycle and Beer: “Sympa” in Quebec

The Tradesman’s Bike of old Quebec

There seems a kind of mystical connection between bikes and beer. Many craft beer fans are ardent cyclists. There is the urban type who defends expansion of bike routes.

Others focus on mountain biking or cross-country. Some like to sample beers on formal bike tours, I have done this myself, in Oxfordshire, Portugal, and California.

Apart the idea to dispel the excess calories of beer, a spiritual comity emerges, an alliance of low-tech forms. Low-tech, at least, compared to their “higher” forms, the cocktail and car, say.

In Canada, specifically Quebec Province, grocery stores in the past delivered beer in a no-gear, black, simple-frame bike fitted with a wide frame over the front tire, sized to hold a case of 24 bottles.

In a 2010 article by Judith Lussier in l’Actualité in Quebec, you see an example of this bike. The shot of a vintage Carlsberg truck probably dates from the early 1970s when (Danish) Carlsberg beer was first licensed for production in Canada.

Pinterest shows many examples of what were known as tradesmens’ delivery or carry bikes, all similarly black and simple-function, with a wide or deep box to carry purchases to domicile.

In the ’60s and ’70s in Montreal the grocery bike – by then the corner épicerie had acquired its Québécois denomination le dépanneur – was a commonplace, especially in working- and middle-class quarters.

As Judith Lussier explained, people ordered beer and other groceries in this way for a variety of reasons, the prevalent cold of Quebec being one.

An obvious reason though is the weight of a case of beer. For persons who didn’t have cars, as common then, a case of 24 bottles was too heavy to carry. A taxi could be fetched, at a price. The grocery store threw in the delivery, at most the delivery boy got a tip (all males then, from my recollection).

It is long odds that someone who actually performed that office can tell of it today, accessible at any rate by a keystroke or two, but such is the case.

In April 2020 Gabriel Deschambault recorded his memories as a grocery delivery boy ca. 1960, for a website devoted to the history of the Plateau in Montreal. The Plateau is a formerly working class section or mainly so, as there were some bourgeois streets. Today it is a hot place to live in general.

His amusing account includes delivering beer to “tourist rooms”. He uses the English form, evidently as displayed in that period, before language laws. He had to walk the cases upstairs – when he started in the business he weighed hardly more himself, he says – and wonders if some of the denizens weren’t “tourists”.

The French statesman Georges Clemenceau then comes in for quotation, which shows where pondering the Quebec delivery bike can take you, or past a certain age.

This image illustrates well the bike in its classic period, and shows too the stand many bikes were equipped with, obviously helpful when loading heavy articles like beer.


(Source: it appears the ultimate source of this image, which dates from1976, is M. Philippe Du Berger, uploaded by him to this Flickr link. See with further detail his comment to M. Deschambault’s post linked above. My immediate source was the website Montreal Cycle Chic).

I could be wrong but suspect the tradesman’s bike emerged in Britain long ago, probably the Edwardian era. A fine example of a British tradesman’s bike, the Hercules brand, is preserved at the National Museum of Scotland, again similar to the type I recall in pre-1980s Montreal.

I am not sure about today but into the 1990s solid black cycles with no or few gears were fashionable in parts of London, South Kensington and similar. These had a distinctive carry box, often wicker.

Long-skirted women drove them, plying short routes. These bikes seemed a stylized version of the grocery bikes I knew in my youth.*

Certainly when I saw them it brought back memories, of different walks, in a different city.

My bike of choice as a teen was English too, but not a stolid no-gear job: rather a sleek blue Raleigh, with a butterscotch-coloured seat. And you can be sure I roamed far and wide with it.

I never transported beer, for money or otherwise, but I watched others who did, and je me souviens.

Note re image: source of image is identified and linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the owner, M. Phillipe Du Berger as noted. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*A quick search seems to prove these as popular as ever in London, see this link at Pinterest for examples.





The Golden Bitter of Burnley. Part II.

In Part I I discussed a wartime brewery tour given at Massey’s Burnley Brewery, known locally as the Bridge End Brewery, Westgate. Google street views seem to confirm little is left of the brewery, but it is hard to tell as flying roadways obscure some buildings near the bridge.

An old block, occupied now by the Bridge Beer Huis, perhaps was connected to the brewery, but hard to tell again. Readers familiar with the area might tell me (Edd?).

The Brewery History website has good period images, whence the following taken, late-1800s:



The same website includes this notice of 1938, which raises an obvious question:



Searches in the British Newspaper Archive confirm the Gradely name drops out about 1940, in favour of Golden Bitter. The latter was used continuously postwar, apparently until the end of brewing some years after the Bass-Charrington takeover (1966-1967).

Golden Bitter is the name one might intuitively connect to a brewer’s G.B., more so than the odd-sounding Gradely Beer. But as a few old-timers in Lancashire might concur, that’s a reet gradely name for a beer.

The term gradely, which connects clearly to “grade” or high grade, is a Lancashire provincialism, known apparently in other parts of the north. A learned exposition was offered in the 1851 Notes & Queries.

(Note the impressive distinction drawn between the adjectival and adverbial uses of the term. The meaning was the same but its intensity varied depending on the grammatical sense. We have nothing on 19th century scholarship).

Robert Kelly in the Lancashire Telegraph on April 7, 2017 included “reet gradely” in a list of dialect terms still known, for “very good”.

It may have been serendipity that an abbreviation for a term increasingly old-fashioned translated well to golden bitter, but there you have it. Massey’s actively advertised Gradely Beer for G.B. in the local press in the 1930s.

A well-designed ad showed well-suited men with glasses of the beer at “clubs” and “hotels”. Hotel sounds aspirational for public house here, but possibly the brand was aiming upmarket.

See sample advert in Burnley Express, December 2, 1933.

The Gradely name may have been introduced in the early 1930s, as earlier evidence for the brand seems lacking, but I can’t be certain.

Just ahead of the war, Massey’s advertised Gradely Beer on May 6, 1939 in Rochdale Observer: “‘G.B’. (Gradley Bitter)”. Special Mild and Baby Prize Stout were included in the ad.

The Brewery History site has a good collection of labels from Roy Denison’s valuable archive, stretching through the 20th century.

Perhaps it is not surprising that some brands of Massey’s beer had claims to rank and status. The magnate who built the business into the 1870s, prior to conversion to a limited liability company, was Lord Massey. A given (Christian) name, in this case, but no less felicitous for that!

See further on Massey’s Burnley Brewery in a page of the BBC website, Lancashire section.



The Golden Bitter of Burnley. Part I.

I have probably checked by now a thousand obscure beer names from bygone breweries. From any brewery that once enjoyed some longevity, labels often survive, collected at the Labology site, or another beer historical site.

Online sales and auction sites (eBay, Worthpoint, etc.) are useful resources, as are old magazine and newspaper ads.

Searching such a name recently, I was startled to find a label of modern design, at the beer rating site Untappd. The brand: Massey’s Golden Bitter. Only later did I locate more historic representations.

This was not a famous old marque like Bass, still sold. For a minute I was transported back to the future, then I realized the current label is a revival.*

The brewer is Heritage Brewing Company of Burton upon Trent. It operates a mini-brewery built some years ago to replace the pilot William Worthington plant at the National Brewing Museum (the former Bass, then Coors, Museums).

The Golden Bitter, last brewed c. 1970, was re-brewed for an East Lancs CAMRA festival. It is one of many heritage brands made by the brewery, Charrington IPA is another. See the current range, here.

My interest arose due to a story in the Burnley Express on May 11, 1940:


Through the courtesy of Massey’s Burnley Brewery, Limited, members of the Burnley Society of St. George were conducted on a tour of the Bridge End brewery last Wednesday evening. The visit proved most enjoyable and instructive. The various processes in the manufacture of Masseys Golden Bitter were fully explained, and the members of the party were greatly impressed by all they saw and heard. At the conclusion of the visit the Society’s warm thanks to the directors of the brewery and to the officials who took charge of the party were expressed the Society’s founder and chairman, Mr. J. Pickup.

It is quite unusual to find a brewery tour during World War II. I still haven’t found one for the United States, or Canada. But a few did take place in Britain, in 1939-1945.

Guinness in Dublin hosted at least one, which I will come to later, and earlier I described a tour in 1944 in Mandate Palestine, then under British control.

All these concerned the war directly or otherwise, the Burnley example no less given the patriotic aims of the Society of St. George.

The Pickup name is well-known in the Burnley area, later an Albert Pickup was the Mayor. Perhaps the founder of Burnley St. George’s (created 1939) was his father, or another relation.

Massey’s even by 1940 had a long history, commencing c. 1750. It was one of hundreds of regional brewers to survive by World War II, in part by acquiring other brewers such as Astley’s.

Here I am more concerned with the 1940 tour and its decorous report in the press. One may note any reference to drinking is absent.

This is characteristic of wartime tour reports except when the soldiery were guests. I am sure beer was served to J. Pickup and friends, but as beer was a luxury and sometimes short then, publicising such public tippling would have been seen as inappropriate.

In the mid-40s Burnley was a busy place due to manufacturing and other activities connected to the war, but largely escaped bombing, while the Blitz still raged in London in 1940.

Two London theatre and a ballet company had temporarily relocated to Burnley’s Victoria Theatre, which added to the increased trade due to the war.

Taste descriptions of the revived Golden Bitter suggest a fine, well-hopped drink. (The term golden is more proof the adjective is venerable in English beer-naming, one of numerous examples from the early 20th century).

The Golden Bitter in its salad days was sometimes called “GB”. An illustration of a pint bottle so-adorned, featuring also the brewery’s owl logo, appeared in the Barnoldswick & Earby Times on September 19, 1952. 

Next to it is an ashtray holding a plain-end cigarette. No ad copy is included, no human figures are shown. Austere it was but the image said it all, in Lancs in 1952.

Five years later we see the same beer, in the Nelson Leader, July 12, 1957 (via British Newspaper Archive).



Here, a couple lounges at a spare table of modern design, all thin top and long legs. She wears a pretty dress of below-the-knee, bell design. The man is white-shirted, looking as if back from work. They both raise a glass.

The ad copy is profuse but bland, the power comes from the artwork. Much had changed in Britain in only five years. Rock and roll, skiffle, and jazz combos were of the time, the beats of the big bands a fading echo.

Rocker Pete Townshend’s saxophonist father Cliff was still touring with his respected Squadronaires, but the son was learning the guitar that would confer greater fame in time.

Change would finally come to Burnley Massey Brewery too,** but the Fifties was still glory days for the siren scent of English hops, for the nougat of English malt.

A 1940s Golden Bitter label appears in a collection posted in 2018, see top-right panel.

We conclude with Part II.

Note re image: source of image shown is identified and linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*It appears a Massey’s Mild has been brewed as well.

**Acquired by Charrington United Breweries in 1966, just ahead of its merger with Bass, Mitchells & Butlers (1967). Massey’s, known formally as Massey’s Burnley Bridge End Brewery, Westgate, was closed in 1974.




Maxim Ale Before World War I

The Guns of Sunderland

Having examined Vaux Stout in 1898 and illuminated both the alcohol content and final gravity, what about Double Maxim Ale, the fame (as it proved to be) of Vaux Breweries of Sunderland until cessation of brewing in 1999?

The label did continue of course, under aegis of a management group that from 2000 had the beer made under license and, from 2007, in their own brewery, Maxim Brewery at Houghton le Spring (about seven miles south-west of Sunderland).

The origins have often been recounted: Maxim ale emerged in 1901 to honour the contribution in the Boer War of the Maxim Gun Detachment led by Major Ernest Vaux, a grandson of Vaux’s founder Cuthbert Vaux.

Wikipedia on Ernest Vaux:

Vaux was a Major in the Durham RGA (V) when he volunteered for service with the Imperial Yeomanry during the Second Boer War. He was appointed Machine Gun Commander, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the Army from 3 February 1900, the day after he left Liverpool for South Africa on the SS Monteagle. He served in the 5th Battalion, where commanded the Maxim guns and took part in over 80 operations in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony and the Cape Colony. He was mentioned in despatches 7 times, received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps, and was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in November 1901. In 1903, he received the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration.

Not long after its release the beer was deemed too strong, with pub landlords arguing they could sell more at a lower strength. I have not been able to trace the source of this story, but it has been in currency for decades.

The strength was reduced, and the brand, with label adorned by image of said gun, went on through the generations, with a renaming to Double Maxim in 1938. That occurred when the beer was hiked in strength.

The strength had fallen in the interwar years in common with many other UK brews, the result of taxation and changing social conditions.

Before World War One

My interest is, what were the first two versions of the beer like, their characteristics? This area has not been canvassed by other beer writers, not that I found.

Looking into it, I found a fairly detailed description of the beer in The Lancet of January 2, 1904, Vol. 1. It reads (via Hathitrust, at 33-34) as follows:

Maxim Ale

(C. Vaux and Sons, The Brewery, Sunderland)

The analysis of this beer was as follows: alcohol, by weight, 4.62 per cent., by volume, 5.78 per cent., equal to proof spirits 10.13 per cent.; extractives, 5.01 per cent.; mineral matter, 0.22 per cent.; and sugar malt, 1.99 per cent. The beer was in sound condition and contained only a minimum of acidity.  It appears to come midway between stout and light ale. The beer is somewhat “dry” to the taste owing probably to the relatively small amount of sugar which it contains; the deficiency is made up by a notable proportion of dextrin. The colour of the beer resembles that of brown Munich beer. As it is only mildly bittered this beer would be more dietetically suitable for some individuals than heavy stout or ale.





This timing is significant as the beer likely had just been released to market. There are numerous ads for it in the northern press in December 1903, leading up to Christmas.

E.g. Hull Daily Mail, December 21, 1903, a dealer in Hull lists Maxim Ale, Pale Ale, and Stout from Vaux among other beers.

In the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, December 8, 1903, an article remarks on a “Maxim ale stand” at the Trades Exhibition held at the Drill Hall.

Rowdies tried to wreck a few stands at end of the fair, without success in this case, but the existence of the stand suggests, or quite possibly, a new product being released.

I could not find ads for it prior to that month although the beer may have been marketed earlier. I will call this Maxim Ale Mark II, as it was not the first.

Interpreting The Lancet’s Data

The numbers in The Lancet by my calculation translate to 1020 FG, OG 1064, apparent attenuation of 68%. Despite not being a high attenuation, The Lancet analyst found the beer on the dry side, which tells us something of beer taste at the time, particularly as the beer was not greatly hopped.*

We are told further the beer resembled in hue a brown Munich beer, and Double Maxim even today resembles some examples of Munich or Bavarian dark lager, a deep brown that is. We are told yet more: the beer struck the analyst as mid-way between a stout and light ale. I think this meant for strength but likely palate also.

The analyst seemed flummoxed by the style here, which accords with the view of some modern writers that brown ale was a 20th century innovation. See Martyn Cornell’s blog article in 2011 where he argues there is no such thing as “English brown ale”, taken as a discrete style, that is.



A December 21, 1912 ad (above) in North-Eastern Daily Gazette (Middlesbrough), so for Mark II, termed the beer a “speciality in brewing”. This seems to buttress its one-off character (via British Newspaper Archive as all press references herein).

Mark II vs. Double Maxim of 1938

Before I get to Mark I, how does the 1903-1904 Maxim Ale compare to the 1938 one, when the strength was increased and the beer renamed Double Maxim?**

In Beer Advocate in October 2011 Ron Pattinson included a table stating, among other information, that 1938 Double Maxim was 5.73% abv, 1009.3 FG, 1053.2 OG, with 82.52% attenuation.

For 1929, he shows Maxim Ale at 3.89% abv, 75% attenuation. This data is I believe from the Whitbread Gravity Book, a comprehensive listing over time of British and some other beer strengths and gravities.

So, we see the alcohol indeed for practical purposes was reset in 1938 to that of Mark II in 1903-1904. But the other numbers are different. The 1938 beer was clearly drier in taste, as 82.52% is characteristic of some very well-attenuated pale ale historically.

The same alcohol was drawn from a smaller quantity of malt, in other words.  Today, Double Maxim is, per the Maxim Brewery website, 4.7% abv, while a stronger ale, Maximus, is 6%, essentially the level for Mark II in 1903-1904 and Double Maxim in 1938.

The First Maxim Ale

A Mark I did exist because it is referred to in a long article in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette of July 3, 1901, titled “The Return of Major Vaux”. It sets out a description of festivities and a dinner held to honour Major Vaux, who spoke of his valiant service and the comrades he served with.

This was one of numerous local functions held in his honour after returning to England in the spring of 1901.

He had left to fight, as we saw, in February 1900. The following lines are from the article, the Miners’ Hall was in New Herrington near Sunderland (via British News Archive):

Inside this building a company, which numbered about 300, sat down to a first-class repast. The caterer was George Davison, and everything was served in tip-top style, the meal being accompanied by Maxim ale of exceptional quality, and said to have been brewed when the Major left for South Africa.

So there we have it. The original Maxim Ale, Mark I, was (to all appearances) brewed before the Major left, not formulated and released after his return. It is a fair inference it was brewed to fête him when (and if, in effect) he returned to British soil from the foreign expedition. At any rate I have seen no evidence it was sold prior to landing in England from South Africa.

The beer evidently was made strong, as many old ales were, to mature well. This celebratory idea, of brewing something well in advance of the time to broach it, once featured also in ales brewed at an heir’s birth to be opened when reaching maturity.

The fact that Mark I Maxim Ale was a stock ale probably explains why the beer was found too strong for general market purposes. It was probably 8% abv or more.

Moreover, when the original tap was exhausted, more had to be made. Maybe more was made of the same type and still found wanting, but we know in any case a Mark II, lower-gravity Maxim Ale had emerged by Christmas of 1903.

The Gun Behind the Early Labels***

Below is an image of the machine gun designed by American-born Sir Hiram Maxim, whose name has long branded a northern English beer. The photo is by Max Smith of The Royal Artillery Museum, released to Public Domain per the source.


Note re images: source of images shown are identified and linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*The dextrin-maltose ratio mentioned by The Lancet suggests a good body with restrained sweetness but still, to call such a beer dry seems unusual to me. Perhaps some brewers can comment.

**Single Maxim, at lower strength, still carried on for some time, into the early 1950s according to ads in the British News Archive that show it together with Double Maxim. In Shields Daily News, June 27, 1934 Vaux advertised four beers: Maxim Ale, India Pale Ale, Dark Brown Ale, and Stout. Possibly the Dark Brown had the strength of Mark II Maxim Ale, but this is unclear, and in any case, it did not carry the Maxim name.

***The current label, as seen in the website of Maxim Brewery, does not carry an image of the gun.














Pensées. Vol. 6.

Singular Spirits, Part III

I revisited recently the Anejo Reserva iteration of Havana Club rum, long available here with the three and seven year old versions, and now too a “Smoky”.

The Anejo was always the best, imo. The current bottling is good although the cocoa and tobacco notes mentioned in the LCBO’s listing seem less emphatic than I recall. There is a fruity skein to it, with a fragrance of light molasses from the wash in distillation.

Light-bodied in a good way, where the flavour circles round the wagons so to speak.



1955 Vaux Stout

Vaux Brewery of Sunderland UK did an advertising splash in 1955. Compared to its ads of ca. 1900 I discussed earlier this week, the 1955 efforts show the sophistication advertising had gained in the interval.

See e.g. in Shields Daily News, November 25, 1955. A half-page ad pictures a man and woman, maybe 35-40, each holding a filled glass. The words “Less Bitter” appear above the female figure, while “Less Sweet” captions the male side.

The ad stresses the beer is right for “Northern tastes”: “not too bitter nor too sweet” and also “smoother and stronger”.

I have not sought to pin down the (technical) attributes of 1955 Vaux stout. It probably had at least 4% abv and a minimum 65% attenuation. The pitch was being made imo between the dryish, more acerbic Guinness style and the sweeter, lower-alcohol Mackeson stout and similar beers.

Despite such laudable efforts stout never made great strides in postwar Britain, the signal case of Guinness and to an extent Mackeson (the milk stout), apart. Perhaps the alternatives these offered were sufficiently well-defined that little room remained for another (major) brand.*

Italian Seasoning

I interjected a note of humour in a Twitter discussion yesterday on spices or spice blends currently popular in British cooking.

I said Keith Moon – the late drummer of The Who – mentioned Italian seasoning in a humorous monologue filmed in a documentary on the band years ago, and perhaps the mixture still played a telling role in UK kitchens.

It turns out Italian seasoning is very popular here, at any rate. The major supermarkets in Toronto all carry a version, indeed our own spice cabinet has one: McCormick’s.

We used it last night to dust baby potatoes with a spray of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then into the oven at high temperature for 20 minutes or so.

As Moon himself might have put it, “Perfect, dear boy!”.

Music Masters

Another recent Twitter thread canvassed favourite rock covers. There are so many good ones, it is hard to know where to start.

I’ll give two examples, not unrelated: The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!, composed by Pete Seeger, and Roger McGuinn’s recording of Tom Petty’s American Girl

The Petty song is itself a tribute to McGuinn’s style of singing and playing, so McGuinn’s take is sort of a quasi-cover, and rather superior. Apart from originating the style in question, the drums in McGuinn’s arrangement avoid the “double-time” style of Petty’s recording.

This improves on the composition, since the lyric has a musing, elegiac quality which seems at odds with a quick-march tempo.

Passing of Terry Teachout

I was deeply saddened to learn recently of the passing at only 65 of the American drama and cultural critic, Terry Teachout. (He died in January but I learned of it only recently).

Teachout was also an acclaimed biographer, his studies included author H.L. Mencken, musician Louis Armstrong, and the ballet choreographer, George Balanchine.

The New York Times obituary will inform readers not familiar with Teachout’s background and accomplishment. This filmed interview with Teachout is informative, too.

He wrote monthly for Commentary magazine, as its critic-at-large. He wrote on everything from The Great American Songbook to British composers like Sir Edward Elgar, and actors such as Clark Gable.

Here is a sample of his writing, on Edward Elgar from 2004 (via the Commentary website).

*Speaking relatively, in other words. E.g., Guinness had competitors of its type even in Ireland, although Guinness remained far dominant in the category.


C. Vaux & Sons Stout 1898. Part II.

I thought it would be interesting to find a modern recipe with numbers similar to what I drew, see Part I, for the 1898 C. Vaux & Sons Stout.

Jack Horzempa is a well-known commentator on homebrewing and brewing historical topics in the Beer Advocate discussion forums. In 2014 he described making a robust porter with a low attenuation rate, stating in part:


I recently homebrewed a clone of Hill Farmstead Everett (a Robust Porter). My OG was 1.084 (my personal target for this batch) and a final gravity of 1.033 (I was shooting for around 1.030). This beer is very, very tasty. My apparent attenuation is 59% for this batch.

A last part to my writing on Vaux stout is included in the next post, Pensées. Part VI.