Colonial English Pub in India – Index

Between April 28 and May 5 this year I completed six installments of a series, “British India Greets the English Pub”. These are listed below with a brief description.

1. British Army Engineers Build Replica Pub Near Madras, 1946.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part I.

2. Scholarly Perspectives on Colonial Pubs and Hotels in India.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part II.

3. British Soldiers’ Yorkshire-Style Pub in Deccan, India, 1943.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part III.

4. India Pale Ale at Nilgiri aka Neilgherry Brewery, 1883.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part IV.

5. Alcohol Strength and Other Details of South India brewing, ca. 1900.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part V.

6. Tavern Resisted in Bombay Neighborhood, 1862.

British India Greets the India Pub. Part VI.

J. Burnitz Bacon Dates American Lager to the 1700s

Martyn Cornell has authored a new article, ‘Tishonest Prewers’ and Lager Bier Operas — Uncovering the True Origins of American Lager Brewing, published on May 5, 2022 in Good Beer Hunting.

He argues, persuasively in my view, that the generally credited account of lager’s origins in the U.S., that John Wagner introduced it in Philadelphia in 1840, is not correct. It appears another Wagner was involved, and in 1842, going by the confirmable record.

At the very least the traditional account likely is part of a larger, more complex, multi-Wagner story.

Other theories of lager’s origin in the U.S. have been advanced over the years, some placing it in the 1830s. See scholar Maureen Ogle’s canvass in her well-known Ambitious Brew: a History of American Beer.

In the wake of Cornell’s article a Twitter discussion ensued over the weekend among beer historical writers. Alan McLeod and Jordan St. John raised the issue whether lager brewing in North America well preceded the 1840s but has not been traced due to passage of time and early records being in German.

I mentioned I knew a later-1800s magazine article that argued for lager brewing by American German communities in the 1700s, and undertook to find it again.

It is J. Burnitz  Bacon’s Lager Beer in America. How it Came Here, What it Should be. What it is” published in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. XIV, No. 2, August, 1882. I actually tweeted it earlier, in October 2018, so some in the beer community are aware of it.



The Frank Leslie publication was a general interest magazine. The compilation linked includes topics as diverse as the history of shoes, the varying advantages of modern travel, and history of the Gypsies (as then termed).

Bacon sets out different lines of argument for his idea that settler Palatines brewed lager in the Mohawk Valley, New York, in New York City and states beyond.

In come cases he advances unfounded speculation. He states the Bernitz brothers brewed in Pennsylvania and finally Baltimore, Maryland, and surely it was lager since its use was well known in Germany. Not very satisfactory.

On the other hand, he refers, stating building owner’s name and specific location, to a lager brewery in New York City that functioned between 1810 and 1850. It later became a church.

He credits a Rev. Kern and his (unnamed) descendants as source of an oral tradition that winter lager was known and appreciated by early Palatines in New York.

Bacon also states he visited the Tulpehocken Valley near Reading, Pennsylvania in 1836 – 46 years earlier – and was told a man called Fritz (surname, first name?) brewed real lager there in a bark-covered brewery.

What his various accounts share is lack of corroborative evidence of the period – a church document, tax document, book, legal document or other writing. Even when Bacon was writing, late-1800s, I am not aware anyone else advanced or commented on the theory.

Bacon states his idea was discussed at “the late” brewers’ convention in Chicago and derided by those present. They considered a later generation of German-Americans responsible for introducing lager to America. This is generally believed today, and typically the 1840s or sometimes 1830s is cited as the decade of origin.

It would be interesting to find that discussion among the brewers, if it occurred, and was documented.



Bacon further states that 18th century Palatine Americans finally adopted American ale brewing techniques, so their lager was forgotten until re-introduced by later German incomers. That is how he explains lack of knowledge of the tradition in contemporary American brewing.

Settler Palatine records, church and other, many of which have been studied and compiled,* would be a good place to start to test Bacon’s thesis. Likely much of this material is in German.

Another factor to consider is to understand what was brewed in the Palatine regions where the incoming brewing families originated. The German Palatinate included historically a western section, or kreis, of Bavaria but was I understand mostly outside Bavaria, heartland of lager.

Did the Rhinelanders who came to America actually brew lager in Germany, vs. top-fermented beer? Some Palatines however came from other parts of Germany, or from Austria or Switzerland, albeit dubbed Palatines once Stateside.

(Their wending migrations were prompted by war with the French, famine and disease).

Then too, even if 18th century Palatines called some of their beer “lager”, it may not have been lager. It may have been stock ale, also traditionally brewed in one season to drink in the next. Ale can be fermented at 58 or 60 F too, in some cases…

Bacon gives no satisfactory account how his lager-brewers obtained the correct yeast. He rejects the idea that a short (three-week) clipper trip from Europe was necessary to preserve such yeast in living form.

Yet, in 2011 it was determined that lager yeast, or pastorianus, is an early mutation in Europe (c. 1400) of traditional, top-fermenting yeast (for ale, porter) and a wild yeast from Patagonia that presumably arrived in Europe on a trading vessel long ago.

Subsequently, researchers have considered that a related species in Tibet is even closer to the non-European element of pastorianus. See Victor Jiminez’ article in 2020 in Brew & Hub, “Unsolved Mysteries of Lager Yeast”.

So it may have come on the Spice Route, possibly as a wine yeast which acted as intermediary for an ultimate brewing purpose.

Whatever the particular origins, how could pastorianus in viable form, adapted to work cold, have been brought to America in the slow-ship days by migrating Palatines, particularly after sojourning first in England and even Ireland, as many did?

Perhaps in bottled beer, or stored in a stone jug? Not beyond the realm of possibility.

Might the mutation in question have arisen in Northeastern United States, via in part trade with Argentina or the far East?**

Maybe an old Palatine record sheds light, or offers other satisfactory proof of genuine lager-brewing, but much spadework needs to be done to find it.

I might note, a historical conclusion can be arguable without a “smoking gun”, provided enough period indicia point to it. We are not there based on Bacon’s article.

Nonetheless we have it to ponder. A few modern writers have noticed the article. It is cited in a general way as evidence of early German-American brewing in a paper included in (1993) Interdisciplinary Investigations of Domestic Life in Government Block B: Perspectives On Harpers Ferry’s Armory and Commercial District, Paul A. Shackel, Ed.

Andrew Smith in his 2014 Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages mentions the article. Due to the restricted view at Google Books I cannot determine what weight he attributes to it.

*See e.g., at Family Search Palatine Records in the United States. It references the many works of Henry (Hank) Jones, a well-known Hollywood actor turned professional genealogist. See Jones’ website for more information. One volume specifically dealt with the Palatine families of New York City, for example.

**See my comment added to post.






British India Greets the English Pub. Part VI.

A Tavern not Greeted by Community, in This Case

Among the plaintive letters on this subject addressed to the Bombay Gazette in January 1862, that on the 17th by Aku Cha Kaku, possibly a pseudonym, starkly illustrates a confrontation of tavern and local community.

A Mr. Low wanted to establish an “American Tavern” in the Girgaum district of Bombay. Girgaum was, then, a largely residential area mainly of gentry including Parsis. Police officials, named as Mr. Crawford and Mr. Forjett, were prepared to consent to the license.

The writer identified more specifically Burrowe’s Lane and Girgaum Pallow Road as the area the pub would locate. Today it is no longer residential, by my checks, but Girgaum is still the district name.

The letter-writer stated the lighting of the pub would improve the street to that extent, but many of the “inmates”, or “Jacks”, were seamen who liked to get drunk and terrorize the neighborhood including attacks on women.

There was possibly a subtext here that selling alcohol was not the problem per se, rather the particular character of the tavern due to its clientele. This made it “disreputable” in the eyes of the community, a place of “odium” .

The letter stated a church official in the city, “Rev. Mr. Fletcher”, had commenced legal proceedings to try to prevent opening of the tavern in this area.

The letter also noted that Low had organized a petition to incline the authorities to permit the tavern. The letter invited Rev. Fleming to investigate the background of petitioners, in his words:

… I would humbly suggest to the Reverend Gentleman to look into the list personally with a view to know if any of respectability have therein shewn their countenance, and whether the persons thus protesting are not likely to be its associates.

The churchman’s full name was William Kew Fletcher, profiled in memoriam in 1868 in The Colonial Church Chronicle and Missionary Journal.

His first wife, Maria Jane Jewsbury, was an emerging literary figure in England who died decades earlier from cholera, shortly after the couple emigrated to India. She is still remembered and has been the subject of a number of studies.

So the native community had a strong ally in William Fletcher, who was Senior Chaplain of Bombay Cathedral. Whether their efforts succeeded I could not tell.

The scholar Dr. Preeti Chopra at University of Wisconsin-Madison, in her first book I cited earlier in this series, referred to an “American Flag” tavern licensed in Bombay, possibly the same pub.

In the early 1870s the Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home was built in the city, which perhaps alleviated the problem of sailors given to wild behaviour. It contained recreation facilities and a library, for example.



British India Greets the English Pub. Part V.

Nilgiri Brewery ca. 1900: Strength, Other Traits of its Beer

This Part V, and Part VI that follows, will complete this series. (Part VI deals with a pub resisted by the native local community).

This Part will elucidate brewing characteristics in 1900 not just for Nilgiri Brewery, but also the Castle, and Rose and Crown breweries, two others in the Nilgiri Hills then. The area formed part of the Fort St. George, aka Madras, Presidency, an administrative unit of British India.

Extracts below are from the Report of the Administration of the Abkari Revenue for the Presidency of Fort St. George, for the Year 1899-1900. It tells us much. The breweries were now either owned or controlled effectively by Messrs. Rungiah Gownden (spelling varies in different accounts).

Thomas Leishman returns to the picture later, capped by the 1915 merger that formed United Breweries.



Starting gravities varied as noted between 1055 and 1065, below the maximum of 1073 permitted by excise rules.

In the table below possibly an average of different beers’ production is shown for each month but it seems not, likely the (India) pale ale is shown for Nilgiri Brewery. One can see the beer was on the dry side, about 1008 final gravity with some months higher, 1010, say, some yet lower.

The table runs from April to March but omitting June and August, the months are stated at the extreme left of the table (see in link above).

I didn’t calculate an abv average for Nilgiri Brewery, but it seems about 7% abv, with the beers lower somewhat in the colder months. Hence strength remained consistent since 1883 but more alcohol was being gained from less malt.

This makes sense considering the financial situation of these breweries, always more parlous than the Himalayan breweries, and resulting after all in the merger of 1915.

Other points of note: some sugar was now being used, glucose, with the malt. Non-European beer produced by these breweries used yet more sugar, the jaggery still known today for some brewing, and comparatively little malt.

The Presidencies might exclude beer from another district if felt inferior – this happened here with Bangalore beer, yet Nilgiri beer was well-liked in that district.

In the 1890s, eg, October 23, 1893 in Bangalore Spectator, Nilgiri Brewery advertised two beers: “sparkling pale ale” and “Continental Pale Ale”, the latter having the “delicacy” of “Continental pilsener” without the “excessive lightness”.

Perhaps the Nilgiri Continental Pale Ale was weaker than its IPA, but this is unclear.

The sparkling pale ale likely is the beer shown  in the table below, descendant of the IPA of 1883.

The 1900 Report states that the end gravities are lower than for Britain, although not necessarily Scotland. Leaving Scotland aside, data for 1890s Whitbread pale ales compiled by Ron Pattinson bears this out. Differences for average starting gravity and alcohol content are apparent as well.


British India Greets the English Pub. Part IV.

Brewing in 1883 at Nilgiri Brewery, Nilgiri Hills, India

I include below the full report in the Madras Weekly Mail, June 7, 1883, of a visit to the Neilgherry Brewery. A more common spelling was Nilgiri Brewery, with Nilgiri sometimes taking an “s”. (This and all press references herein are via the British Newspaper Archive).

The report covers details of operation, including beer starting gravity and other granular aspects, not previously explored in beer studies to my knowledge.

The brewery was located at Ootacamund in the Nilgiri, or Blue, Hills in Southeast India, at an elevation suitable for year-round brewing, unusual in India at the time.

Briefly: the brewery was established in 1879, by Muree Brewery operating in the Himalayas, North India. Thomas Leishman, the Scottish brewing entrepreneur, later acquired Nilgiri, selling it in 1898 to parties who owned another brewery, and distillery in the area.

There were a number of breweries in these hills including Castle (from 1857), Nilgiry, and Rose and Crown (1895), which formed the nucleus for the United Breweries merger in 1915. The merger also took in brewing at Madras and Bangalore.

Once again caution is advised for the period denigrating references.


A few days ago, I inspected the Neilgherry brewery, and was astonished to find the large additions that had been made to the buildings to meet the demands of the Bangalore and Wellington contracts. The main body of the brewery consists of a room one hundred and thirty feet long by thirty feet wide, with a very lofty roof. In this spacious apartment are stored hundreds of casks of beer racked off, and seven huge gyles, one resembling the celebrated tun of Heidelberg holding no less than forty hogsheads. To see the yeast foaming and working in these huge vats is a sight. From the gyle we ascend by a ladder to the refrigerating and cooling floor; above this again are the coppers where the beer is boiled. Again we ascend and enter the mash tun room, in rear of which is the copper for boiling the liquor. It is not etiquette to use the term water when speaking of brewing.

On the left of the centre room, is a side room, some hundred feet long by 24 wide. Here grain and hops are stored. Beneath this is the cellarage, 100 x 24, capable of holding 500 hogsheads of beer. In addition to the main building, there is a vast cooperage and cork-storing shed, where busy coopers make the air resound with their blows, as they cheerfully drive the hoops home. Your native loves a noise. The other buildings consist of a kiln for malting, a large shed for storing beer, and the pretty bungalow of the brewer. The stores are capable of holding over one thousand hogsheads of beer, and can turn out 600 hogsheads a month. There is also an engine room, winnowing room, and last but not least, a cemented well of the most pellucid water, with an iron cover. As none but the best English hops and malt are used, it is impossible that the beer can be otherwise than good, as the water is undeniable.

At Muree [the brewery in Himalaya], native barley is used, and though the beer is excellent, it has a nasty flavour due to the native barley. The difference between the strength of country malt and English is no less than twenty-five per cent. So the Neilgherry brewery finds it more profitable to use English malt. The Burghers of the hills could grow good malting barley if they chose, but they are too idle and cannot understand that an article must be true to the sample. In former days, forty pounds of fair barley could be got for a rupee, now twenty-five, and that indifferent. On a brewing day, the scene is a busy one. First the water is pumped up by the engine into the huge boiler. When the temperature of the water is about 200, it is let into the mash tun, which has already had the ground malt supplied to it.

After sundry spargings, as they are called, the malt is allowed to soak for some hours, the liquor is then run into the coppers and then boiled until of a certain gravity – 25 lbs. is that for Commissariat beer (hops are put in according to contract). Some Edinboro’ ale is as high as 60 lbs. Well 25 pounds is equal to about seven per cent of spirit, so that in a quart of beer our soldiers get about one-fourteenth of spirit, or a very small glass diluted with 13 glasses of liquid. This is far better than the raw arrack ration. When the beer, by the instrument, shows 25 lbs. gravity, it is run into the cooler, where it remains a few hours, and from thence it is run over the refrigerator, which is composed of copper pipes, cold water running through the centre of the pipes the beer running over the pipes and into the gyle or tun.

The beer enters the refrigerator at 90 [degrees] and goes out at 58 [degrees], the cold water having reduced it some thirty degrees. After the beer is in the gyle, yeast is added, and on the strength of the yeast much depends, experts even being divided as to what constitutes good yeast. Some feed yeast with bone dust, but to enter into the question of yeast would absorb a book. At the end of four days, the yeast has done its work, the beer is run into casks or backs, where it settles and finally deposits all its yeast, it is then racked off and placed in the cellar to ripen. Finings are sometimes used to make the beer bright, often at the expense of the flavor of the beer. At the end of three months, the beer is sent away, and is sat upon by canteen Committees. Tommy Atkins [i.e., the soldiers], if he finds the beer taste[s] what he calls “full in the mouth” approves; the beer is passed and paid for. English beer being old is often deficient in that fulness in the mouth which Tommy Atkins appreciates; it tastes thin and sourish, but as the beer has been passed by a Committee in England, it is not so easy to condemn it, so Tommy has to drink it or take to arrack.

We have now seen our beer through all its stages, from the time when it was mere “hot liquor” and malt to when it was deposited inside our soldier’s stomach, not to his detriment, we trust, but rather to his physical well-being ; and that he may never drink worse liquor that the Neilgherry Brewery Company supply him with, is our earnest wish. It must not be supposed from the above short sketch of brewing, that it is all plain sailing. There are the mashing heats to be considered, the state of the water in the well, the heat of the ferments, which should not exceed 65 [degrees] and should average 60 [degrees], the state of your yeast, which is a ticklish plant to deal with; in fact in the present day brewing is a science and requires some chemical knowledge. The Neilgherry Brewery Company have two skilful brewers, and with large contracts before them have every chance of doing uncommonly well. Every contingency seems to have been guarded against, and with good brains, good water, hops, and malt, success if not certain should be very nearly so.

Some takeaways: the gravity translates to about 1070 OG, which (1883) would have produced a 7% abv beer or stronger, especially given typical Indian attenuations, which I will return to later. This was India Pale Ale, advertised by this brewery in the period along with porter. See for example ad in the Bangalore Spectator on October 4, 1881:



Note also in the 1883 account the sparging, a practice developed in Scotland.

The refrigerator only got the beer down to 58 F, much higher than today. The beer got a good three months’ storage, with finings used to clarify.

Generally felt indispensable to beer quality in the 1800s, finings here were thought detrimental to flavour, perhaps a local preference, or one peculiar to the writer. The slighting references to thin and sour ale imported from England tell us much, of course.

Reports through the century attest to this problem, with some beer regularly discarded on importation, but evidently once passed as good on exportation, much had to be taken by “Tommy”.

Fermentation at Nilgiri Brewery was conducted at a lower temperature than common today for ale, perhaps an attempt to secure extra stability.

This India pale ale, later termed (1890s) sparkling pale ale, was supplemented in time by a “Continental pale ale”. This evidently was made to compete with imported lager. I’ll look at this further later, and ditto for a cheaper brew made in the Nilgiri by some brewers, to sell in local taverns for a lower-income population.

As to materials (1883), Sussex and Kent hops were imported,  mentioned in the 1881 Bangalore Spectator story. The latter also mentions “malt”, which was prepared on premises. The 1883 account suggests English barley was being malted.

In time though Indian barley was used, sourced from the Punjab – and sugar. More soon.

N.B. For some fine views of the area today, see in Wikipedia’s entry for Nilgiri Mountains.

Series continues with Part V.


Pensées. Vol. 6

Creemore Urbock

An early entrant in the Ontario craft beer ranks, it was withdrawn for some years, then brought back a few years ago, under aegis of Molson-Coors which bought Creemore Springs Brewery in 2005.

Last year it appeared again in the fall in cans. I don’t know if the draft shown has been aging in tanks since then, if so it perhaps improved the beer.

The distinctive yeast smack most Creemore lagers have – regular lager, Keller, pilsener, etc. – is muted, to the benefit of the beer, imo. The sweet malts come through more. A nice spring reviver, a traditional time for bock.



The Firkin Chain in Toronto

I tasted the Urbock at The Quail on Yonge Street, Rosedale, Toronto, one of the Firkin chain of pubs here. Originally the pubs had a strong English cast but the emphasis today is less so, or so it seems given how craft consciousness has grown.

Firkin Pubs started decades ago, before craft achieved the traction it now has. The current bars have a certainly adequate beer list, something for everyone really.

I always liked the pubs and visit occasionally, today since a couple of craft bars on Yonge Street were closed – many now do not open on Monday.

Coffee, Tea

I’ve experimented but not rigorously with these drinks for a long time, with tea a more recent interest. I remain convinced that Costco coffee, its Kirkwood, all-Columbian brand, is the best overall coffee for me. It has a good deep taste, is always very fresh, and very consistent.

It is one of those products Costco does very well. We are late converts to Costco in this household, and certain things draw us back continually there (I suppose every member has their favourites). For us, it’s some of the cheeses, Jarlsberg, say, some brands of crackers, the chicken, milk in bulk, eggs, bag salads, household products, and so on.

A great merchandising idea, it is not as unique as people often think, but has taken the big box concept further than anyone I know in retail food sales.

Aldi in Europe, and the U.S. where it operates, is not dissimilar. I’d like to see it here, in fact, but Costco is pre-eminent in the field, so far.



In the tea area, the best so far imo is Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Orange Pekoe, a loose tea I put in those filters to make a home-made tea bag. It has a fine fruity-flowery taste, the closest I have found to the orange pekoe I recall from 40 years ago.

Downtown Toronto

The subway is a reliable indicator – today I couldn’t get a seat coming home from downtown at rush hour. Things are returning to normal, but are not quite there yet. I can tell by the food courts at lunch-time, which are never crowded in the way of pre-Covid, although much better than four and six months ago.

We are getting there. Hopefully a recession will not clang down but who knows, the shocks absorbed by the economy have been enormous.

Music Man

I’ve been reading Randy Bachman’s 2011 book, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories, based on his long-running radio show with CBC. A great book! His voice lurks behind the printed words, you can hear the excited kid he still is, e.g. when meeting his idols, even after all these years.

He tells many funny or instructive stories about the music business and the many artists he has met, everyone from Chuck Berry to George Michael. His stories of how the songs were written are interesting too.

The words “she’s come undun” are from a Bob Dylan song. No Sugar Tonight is a line he heard a distraught wife tell her husband in an argument on the street, in California.

The story how he met Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin – in their chiropractor’s office – is a classic. After which Giles invites him to Abbey Road Studio where he plays him rare tapes, including the instruments that make up the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night”.

Question Period

A new feature, I don’t know if it will take off: ask me a question, of course in an area I can speak reasonably to, beer, food, rock and roll, etc., and I’ll try to answer. Any responsibly phrased query will be answered.



British India Greets the English Pub. Part III.

The old mob on the Deccan

It is December 6, 1943. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer just on one page contains items as diverse as “General Marshall”, “Must We Be Poor?”, “Gardeners Differ”, and “Parting With the Family Pew”.

And this one (via British Newspaper Archive):

Home Touch in India

On a vast and famous plateau in India is a small area with springy turf rather like that which a wayfarer finds so pleasant underfoot, on the moor edge, Ilkley way. There are many large boulders, too, some of them not unlike the Cow and Calf Rocks, again at Ilkley. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to hear from a Bradford soldier out there that Yorkshiremen in the near by military camp on the plateau have named the spot, Ilkla Moor. With its happy reminders of week-end rambles at home, it has become their favourite Saturday afternoon spot for relaxation.

It was not long before the idea caught on among natives, and one day Yussaf Ali, proprietor of the little canteen, renamed his establishment Dick Hudson’s, after the wayside inn which these men from Britain seemed to know well on the uplands of their homeland.

If this enthusiasm spreads much further, I expect to hear that the Nizam of Hyderabad has fixed a replica of the Shipley Glen tramway for the soldiers – though he would find the stubborn growth of the tongas a more awkward obstacle to amusement park engineering than any cascade of millstone grit in the glen.

Shipley Glen is a funicular in West Yorkshire, where of course too is Ilkley Moor, “Ilkla” in Yorkshire vernacular.

A similar story in the Bradford Observer on December 20, 1943 named the plateau – Deccan – and substituted the following for the last paragraph:

Yussaf Ali’s ale is not by any means Yorkshire ale, but he does a nice steady business with Bangalore Beer which the soldier writes helps them considerably to sing with more gusto, “On Ilkla’ Moor Baht ‘At”.

The last two words have an Indian ring to a foreign ear, perhaps, but are not connected to India in any way: in Yorkshire dialect they mean “without a hat”.

The song is a lament, dating only from World War I in published form. It has earlier roots in oral tradition, stretching to the early 1800s. By 1939 it is the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire.

Wallace House performed it in this undated performance, possibly from the 1940s. (If you check the lyrics they are rather gruesome, or end that way: an example of folk directness uncoloured by English gentility).

So we see again Bangalore Brewery churning out beer for the troops.* The stretch of Hyderabad below may well be where the Deccan Dick Hudson’s flourished, or near enough.



The English Cow and Calf Rocks, boulders said to resemble the named animals, are in a sense replicated by the Indian outcrops. The triangular-shaped Deccan Plateau in South India also encompasses Bangalore, today Bengaluru, in the lower reaches.

This pub is not as calculated an English replica as the Wade Inn I discussed in Part I. But to tired, thirsty soldiers far from home, a similar result obtained, as the area bore a good resemblance to the geography surrounding the real Dick Hudson’s in Bingley Moor.

These men likely joined the Burma Campaign in the following year, i.e., to free Burma, now Myanmar, from the Japanese joug. I hope many returned to Yorkshire, to enjoy again a moors ramble and pint at Dick Hudson’s, or a ride on the tramway.

In Maurizio Peleggi’s essay I cited in Part II, he writes the following of European hotels that dotted Empire. The words apply no less to taverns such as the Deccan Dick Hudson’s and the Wade Inn.

As sites of European civility, and civilization, hotels comforted the fledgling identity of Westerners displaced in the colonies by providing a space for socialization that returned them momentarily to the familiar space of “home.”

The phraseology of course posits the experience as patrons would have viewed it.

He goes on to discuss tensions that might arise among the different communities that often featured in such settings. He notes for example, as Harry Hobbs did in his book on old taverns in India, that many hostelries were operated by a “diasporic” population.

This might be Armenian, Jewish, or Arab, and formed an interface between European patrons on the one hand, and staff, typically locals, on the other.

In the case of the Indian Dick Hudson’s, Yussaf Ali was probably an enterprising local, one who got on well clearly with his clients, using their knowledge of home to create a more welcoming environment.

This is similar I think to creating a British bar environment in Tenerife, or to a Canadian setting up an “Irish pub” to attract both curious locals and the wending Irish. I might add, Irish people do frequent transpontine Irish pubs, in Toronto at least – often to work there.

It is interesting, too, that in the first press story the Nizam of Hyderabad is name-checked, from the historic ruling family of the Princely State, as it was known in the Raj period. The last Nizam in the British era was Mir Osman Ali Khan, who contributed significantly to the economic and cultural development of the State.



While sharing power with the British in a kind of protectorate relationship, vs. other parts of India directly ruled by Britain, he was accorded a special deference in such accounts. This was due to his acknowledged leadership but perhaps also the late state of the Empire in 1943.

At the Walkiees site, we see photos of Ilkley Moor today including Dick Hudson’s. The ivied pub would have looked surely much the same to young men rambling of a weekend before 1939, before they joined HM Forces to fight for Britain.**

In their 2008 book Fighting Tykes: An Informal History of the Yorkshire Regiments in the Second World War, Charles Whiting and Eric Taylor described the men this way:

These young men from the pits, mills, factories and farms of Yorkshire would be projected from their narrow pre-war world of pub, pictures and the local palais de danse. They would see things, live lives, undergo experiences which would have been beyond their wildest dreams in peacetime.

Sadly, for all too many those lives would be brutal, desperate and all too short. But for those who survived and came back to Yorkshire, they knew they had achieved something – and not only victory over the enemy. They had realized something about themselves, the need for true, loyal comradeship, and that at times men had to sacrifice themselves for the others; that the ‘old mob’ was more important than the individual.


Note re images: the first image shown, of Deccan Plateau at Hyderabad, was sourced at Wikipedia, in the entry for Deccan Plateau.  The second, in the Wikipedia entry for the Princely States. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*Bengaluru is the site today of United Breweries’ headquarters but UB brews elsewhere in India now, by my checks (the group owns some 14 breweries). There are craft breweries in the city though, and an impressive roster of high-end bars, as we see at Thrillist. One clearly offers an English mien, the comprehensively named Tavern at the Inn. Another, Watson’s, appears to recall a famous hotel of the British era. History still speaks.

**The Cow and Calf Pub was so-named after 1945. The venerable building inhabited was a private residence during the war.


British India Greets the English Pub. Part II.

Scope, Sources, Succeeding Parts

While I cannot say I have viewed examples (photos, illustrations) of early taverns in India, vs. a few of the grander hotels, it seems none affected a specifically British – metropole – aspect, not in the stone-for-stone, tile-for-tile manner of the Wade Inn in November 1945 (see Part I).

At least, I am not aware of any such examples. The press account for the Wade Inn seems to confirm this but the subject is admittedly large, and journalism is not always a safe guide to such long-range questions.

As we know from popular beer history, what is “new” in the eyes of breathless journalism may well have existed a generation or more before. “Golden ale” is an apt example in modern Britain. It is often said to hail from the 1980s but is far older, by that name or cognates.

I suspect India’s taverns bore an analogy to the Australian hotel (these always encompassed a bar, excepting temperance hotels). Designs varied depending on era and part of the country, but examples did not, as far as I know, seek to replicate British pub vernaculars.

The enduring image of the Aussie hotel is the rambling, slim-posted whitewash structure with broad verandah or balcony, but there were other styles as well. A good example of the first is seen at Trekearth (Great Western Hotel, 1898).

There have been numerous books and other studies of the Australian hotel, often by specific former colony, Victoria or South Australia, say. An engaging popular resource is the website Time Gents: Australian Pub Project.

Here too though generality may be dangerous. Certainly there have been formal studies of colonial architecture for Australasia and the Far East that should be consulted. I have identified some of these, including academic articles.

I mentioned in Part I a book by Professor Preeti Chopra, The City and Its Fragments: Colonial Bombay, 1854-1918 (2003). She authored more recently, among many other writings, A Joint Enterprise: Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay (2011).

Dr. Chopra teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, see details of her work here. She argues in the two books mentioned for the hybrid nature of public architecture in some Indian cities, reflecting that is a degree of local participation, both for design and the people who did the work or financing, not previously appreciated.



Another excellent source is Maurizio Peleggi’s “The Social and Material Life of Colonial Hotels: Comfort Zones as Contact Zones in British Colombo and Singapore, ca. 1870-1930”, Journal of Social History, 2012 (OUP).

He includes observations pertaining to India and other parts of Southeast Asia and the South islands, and the list of references is valuable unto itself, as in Dr. Chopra’s books.

Dr. Peleggi makes the point that formal study of the hotels’ history is relatively recent, and all the more so – I’m sure he would agree – for taverns and pubs simpliciter. He is on the faculty of National University of Singapore.

I may advert to these studies in future parts, but all to say the subject is vast and not a little complex.

For his part, Harry Hobbs in the book cited earlier does not (that I saw) comment on architectural features of Indian taverns and hotels. He is more concerned with the people who ran and patronized them, food and drink offered, and entertainment supplied.



Dilettante that he was, architecture and design seemed not engage his fervid attentions.

In my own study of pre-World War II beer and drinking places in British Malaya, I did not encounter an instance of British pub replica, although the image was deployed well in interwar advertising.

An example is furnished by a 1923 advert for Bass Purple Triangle Light Export Ale, a filtered, lighter version of the more famous Bass Red Triangle (The Straits Times, June 23, 1923).

An image of rustic English public house is shown, with triangle-shaped, exterior sign depending, stating details for the beer.

In my next part, I will discuss a quasi-English pub in India, involving HM Forces again, in 1943. It is in my view a proto-Wade Inn, itself perhaps a forerunner of the English, later Irish pub-by-design sent around the world by canny entrepreneurs.

Yet the Wade Inn too, viewed in that light, was not quite first. Let’s remember the British Buttery at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

And there was probably an earlier example, maybe at an international trade exhibition. I mean here, not just a pub outside the British Isles suggestive of some British or Irish character* – this after all dates back in North America to first settlement days – but a simulacrum, a save-the-cost-of-the-flight experience.

This seems relatively new, a postwar development, essentially. A milestone was the 1958 Britannia Pub at the Brussels World’s Fair, elucidated well by the British beer writers Boak & Bailey.

As to future parts in this series, one will be a tour of a late-19th century Indian brewery, to explain the kind of brew sent for dispense in hotels, taverns and army canteens. Down to gravity and body, I might add.

And after that, a notable example of the confrontation between seaman’s tavern and the local (native) community. The instance is rather striking in part due to an important ally the community had on the British side.

We continue with Part III.

Note re images: the first image, of Byculla Hotel in Bombay, was sourced at Wikipedia Commons. The second, of Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta, was also sourced from Wikipedia Commons, here.  All intellectual property in both belongs solely to the lawful owner, as may apply. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*A good example is McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York.

British India Greets the English Pub. Part I.

One of the most interesting sowings of the English pub on foreign turf was in British India in late 1945. Surprising too, because after all, India was well-ploughed territory for beer houses.

The British had established breweries since the mid-1800s which finally took a large part of the market from UK imports. Army consumption dominated with the rest civilian, mostly European in that period.

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 Wikipedia entry).

And outside the canteens? Clubs, hotels, dance halls, and what were called taverns. Taverns, vs. say the palm toddy bar, were mostly the preserve of Europeans. These varied, as everything, in gradation. All the major 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 called loosely hotels, see Major H. Hobb’s John Barleycorn Bahadur: Old Time Taverns in India (1944).*

Still, in 1945 something special visited the India pub scene, as reported in Hull’s The Daily Mail, 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.


(Source of image: 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 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 this book, which was not, mainly, an enjoyable experience. Henry (Harry) Hobbs – “Major”, I glean, came from 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. He took pride in being an old Calcutta resident, and wrote numerous books considered useful social history today, but the tone regarding Indians and some others, the Jews especially, is often unpleasant and at times ugly.

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 detailing the social history of the society he knew. He died at 92, in 1956, remaining in Calcutta to the end. For further bio 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.