Ned Ward’s Two Threads of Beer

In the past, I’ve drawn attention to the fact that there were thread variants apart from the well-known “three threads”, a London beer type of the early 1700s. Three threads, aka three thirds, was a mixed beer which preceded porter and for which porter emerged after 1720, or IMO, as a substitute. There were two threads, three threads, four threads, and six threads, at least, and apparently also, single thread.

I’ve correlatively explained my ideas that the thread and porter terms were inspired by London silk weaving terminology of circa-1700. This is the first new theory of porter’s origin in a few hundred years.

For an overview, see this post of mine from last December which references my previous writings.

The other day, in writing on New York “beefsteak” history, I came across references to a two threads in writings of the pamphleteer and author Edward or Ned Ward.  He wrote The Secret History of Clubs in 1709, later reprinted under other titles including A Compleat and Humorous Account of All the Remarkable Clubs and Societies in the Cities of London and Westminster.

Ward makes two references in this book to two-threads, one of the thread variants.

He states that “brawny Wine-Porters, and sturdy Carmen used to strengthen their backs with full Winchesters of powerful Two Threads”. Winchester was a measure of beer. Carmen were drivers of horse-led trams. Porters, of whom there were various kinds, of course traditionally have been linked to the name of the beer, porter. Here you see a link suggestive of that naming origin, not the only one but it’s interesting to see the term “wine-porter” used.

Ward also mentions a “rare found [sound] beer” “deliciously improved” with a “dash” of a “humming two Thirds”.

See pp 227 and 318 in the Compleat book for the original texts.

Ward is known in beer historical studies for having mentioned, in other writings, “casks of threads call’d three”. The latter first came to my attention via Martyn Cornell’s work.

I can’t recall that Ward’s double reference to a two threads form of beer has been reviewed, hence this notice. One can speculate what Ward meant. Maybe two threads was brown ale and brown beer mixed, and the “rare found beer” may have been (aged) pale beer. Or perhaps two threads was all-ale, different strengths, and was mixed with a pale or brown beer.

Ward’s two threads was fairly strong, evidently, as the terms powerful and humming suggest. Could three threads and higher have been yet stronger, as one can infer from the range of beers offered in the Fortune of War in Goodman’s Field (see my earlier writings)?

Mixing two threads with another beer, a “rare” one, sounds like a palate adjustment versus gaining more alcohol, especially as the adjustment is “delicious”. Was two threads plus the beer mentioned the same as Ward’s “threads called three”?

The puzzle continues.