Barley Prices and Beer Strength

The Case of Flower’s Brewery, Stratford-on-Avon, 1850

In a comment recently to a post by Ron Pattinson I noted that Flower’s of Stratford-on-Avon sometimes in the 19th century advertised that it was increasing the strength of its beer due to more favourable barley prices.*

This is an example, from the Leamington Advertiser, etc., January 19, 1850, via British News Archive:



RESPECTFULLY informs his Customers that in consequence of the present low price of Barley he has increased the Strength of his Ales and Beer, and finding that an Article of intermediate strength and price is frequently required, he has made arrangement to supply


In Barrels of 36 and Kilderkins of 18 Gallons, and the [?] Firkin of 9 Gallons.

Orders received at the Brewery, Stratford-upon-Avon; and in Leamington by Mr. W. S. BRETT, 27, Upper Parade.

Jan. 1850.

Taxation and temperance concerns sometimes spurred a reduction of strength by brewers, especially in later periods, but basics of the market could too.

Unless compelled by law, when input prices caused brewers to lower beer strength they were loathe understandably to advertise it. The reverse course was less objectionable.

Strength of course might be maintained by increasing price, which also frequently occurred, but unless the race to the bottom was complete, lowering strength was, if you will, more palatable.

This suggests that statements of brewing strength in textbooks, brewing records, brewing journals, excise records, and other sources, especially of a former time, sometimes did not record the full story, particularly for ephemeral changes driven by market forces.

Added to this was the problem of adulteration by publicans. While sometimes strength might be factitiously increased in this way, especially by adding sugar, molasses or honey for a quick re-fermentation, often it was reduced by a simple and widely-followed expedient: watering.

An old tavern lament, “Damn his eyes who waters the workman’s beer”, had a very real basis in reality.**


*I could not determine how to comment otherwise than as “Anonymous” but appended my name to the remarks.

**Cited in (1975) The Great Canadian Beer Book, Gerald Donaldson and Gerald Lampert, eds.

Belgian Beer, me, and Michael Jackson


[Replaces an earlier post due to editing and updating].

Michael Jackson’s important book, Great Beers of Belgium was first issued in 1992. Five editions were issued during his lifetime (1942-2007). While never selling great numbers the book proved highly influential.

It is the only full-length book he wrote on the beers of one country. In earlier writing he promoted numerous obscure or minor (at best) beer traditions in Belgium, which caused the initial interest internationally.

It rippled through the craft world he helped create in general. Slowly but steadily Belgian beer acquired a connoisseur’s reputation it has never lost, despite reality checks such as use of malt adjuncts or sugar in much of its brewing, and a sameness of palate across many styles.

I say “slowly” because while Belgian beer has been reputed internationally since 1977 when Jackson’s landmark The World Guide to Beer appeared, it took time for craft brewers to emulate the styles, or for importers to feature examples in their range.

As late as 10 years ago Belgian beer bars were still opening in New York, maybe still for all I know. This attests to the long gestation of Belgian beer as a key member of the pantheon.

But certainly in the last few years we see a proliferation of Saison, sour or wild, abbey-style, fruited, and Wit beers from North American and British craft brewers.

In terms of palate, English ales and German and Czech lagers have always impressed me most. I still feel those beers – at their best –  are best in the world.* Jackson’s promotion and adulation of these reinforced, but did not create, my basic regard.

I never followed him as closely for Belgian beer. In this respect I am atypical in the craft community where obeisance to Belgian styles continues unabated, at least professedly. This includes for example corrosively sour Belgian beers.

Jackson’s writing, directly, or indirectly via countless other writers, tweeters and bloggers, had a lot to do with this.

I first had Trappist Chimay around 1980 and remember it being perfumed and flowery; perhaps it became less nuanced later. The next Trappist encountered was I think St. Sixtus, so not technically the revered Westvleteren but the formula brewed by an outside brewery. I recall its heady cinnamon, banana, and brown sugar notes to this day – not my thing.

As issued by the monks at Westvleteren itself, the famed “12” did make a better impression, with a subtlety and quality few Trappist and abbey beers have. That’s one out of a relatively large group.

Although the Chimay labels can vary by batch and aging (imo), I recognize the basic yeasty profile in most Trappist beer except idiosyncratic Orval. I recognize it in Antwerp’s De Koninck, in Saison Dupont from the Ardennes and other Saisons, in Leffe Abbey Ale, in Grimbergen, in Floreffe, in…

Much craft Belgian-style beer, e.g. Belgian I.P.A., has it too. I don’t knock it for others, and if it helps the craft segment grow, great.

Gueuze and Lambic styles don’t feature it. Their signature tends to be lactic, acetic, with a funky yeast background, not my cup of tea either. Flanders red and old brown are similar, sans the funk (no spontaneous fermentation).

As to the wheat-based Wit, I like it especially when coriander and similar flavourings are used. Fresh Stella Artois, a lager, is quite good although the flowery nose I recall from 30 years ago is gone.

Most other Belgian lager I’ve encountered, Jupiler say, seems rather ordinary, mass-market-styled.

Occasionally I’ll run into other Belgians I like, Leroy Sweet Stout, say, or a pale or Scotch ale. I like the (family-owned) St-Feuillien range, which doesn’t overdo the yeasty phenolic taste.

A sub-genre of Belgian beer Jackson wrote about in 1977, Scotch Ale (before the La Chouffe era, theirs is more artisanal), was excellent: rich, malty, clean-tasting with a clear U.K. influence.

Campbell’s Scotch or Douglas Scotch were examples. I’m not sure if these still exist or, as important, taste the same.

What I really like about Belgian beer, somme toute, is how Michael Jackson wrote about it. How he singlehandedly created a pantheon of styles that remains enormously influential. He just had that ability.

He was (and is) a pleasure to read and I was happy to read him whether I liked the beers or not.

Had the tables been turned, and he was a new writer entering the kind of field he helped create, could he have created a similar mystique for American adjunct lager, the antithesis of what the craft revolution stood for?

Probably, given the relativity of taste and the large role promotion and publicity play in its formation.

Craft brewing has itself taken tentative steps toward this end, eg by vaunting rice lager or Asian rice lager. Maybe we will come full circle, back to American adjunct lager.


*Some Alt Bier as well, from Dusseldorf.

Becoming Audomaroise

Coucou, mes amis!!

We’re starting our last week in beautiful Saint-Omer, just as I was beginning to become a true “Audomaroise” – what they call people from Saint-Omer. We are accustoming to local habits, including those concerning retail shopping (see below) and will attend the upcoming Grande Braderie-Brocante de Saint-Omer on Sunday, where 200-300 merchants will display their wares all along rue de Dunkerque, rue des Clouteries and Place Victor Hugo.

Some customs are rather strange to us. Last week, every merchant had signs in their window announcing “Ventes Privées” and this week, those signs have been replaced by “Soldes”. Ventes Privées are sales for regular customers or those who receive an invitation from the retailer. In contrast the regular “Soldes” can only take place by law twice a year, on dates stipulated by government decree. The summer sales this year take place during a four week period, from June 22 to July 19.

Last weekend, we took a short excursion to the coastal city of Calais, just 30 kilometres from here. It was a quick 30 minute train ride from Gare to Gare. It was a super hot day, so we took shelter in a cool Brasserie, where we enjoyed a lovely seafood lunch.

Next day, we visited the Calais open market where fish and seafood of all kinds took the premier spot.

We took a walk down Rue Royale, where we were sure we visited over 30 years ago when we travelled on a day trip to France for the very first time from London, via train and Hovercraft. Still, we remembered little from that first trip, in part I think due to considerable redevelopment in the harbour area since.

We walked down to and through the port, where we could see the ferries plying their way to and fro, to Dover and beyond, carrying both vehicular traffic and now, we understand, foot passengers as well. Next time, maybe a ferry ride to Kent and Canterbury?

We were impressed by Calais, a lot of which (not all) was rebuilt after the World Wars. The town is now recovering from the effects of Covid and is hoping to see the return of some 60,000 visitors that used to frequent the beaches and other attractions.

We loved the city hall with its magnificent belfry, and the humorous spectacle of the beachside dragon attraction.


Two final pictures before I sign off this post. The first is a Flemish-style building in Saint-Omer, currently housing a hairdresser, built in 1614.

The second is a refreshing, pink, not-so-strong beer with its accompanying signature glass, brewed by Goudale, the local brewery. Gary tells me raspberry figures in the recipe. Do you find such things in Toronto?

So, off next Thursday to Arras for a few days and then Paris for a couple more. Until then!



Coucou, mes amis,

Its Libby again with the second instalment of my travel blog. Gary is tweeting his beer experiences, so you will have to follow him on Twitter to benefit from those pensees.

I heard “coucou” on the French-only tv here and discovered that it means  “hello” or “hey there”, in an informal way. So, while you shouldn’t use it to greet people in a professional setting, you can use it to say hi to your friends and family. I thought it was sort of cute, so I am sharing it with you. No hugs are given in France, but plenty of air kisses on each cheek, including between men friends.

One of the true joys of travel is discovering what the locals do, say and eat and what is different from what we are used to. For instance, going to the supermarkets is an experience in and of itself. You might think that is ho-hum, but virtually everything is different here, the brands, packaging and their contents. For example, eggs and milk are not refrigerated but are piled up, just like the paper towels, on the shelves, (although they keep the temperature in the stores so cold, you are encouraged not to linger). Missing, however, from their extensive line-up of foods are crackers; all they have are toasts – an opportunity to fill the gap, in my mind, for an enterprising businessperson.

A favourite from our last trip is “fromage blanc”, a delicious creamy soft cheese made from milk with a consistency similar to yogurt, but less acidic. I bought some which is fat free and use it on cereal with honey. Honey in this area is sold mostly in a solid form.

We visited several open air markets, two in Saint-Omer itself and also one in nearby Arques. Open air markets are a delightful facet of daily French life; there are 62 weekly markets in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region alone! The markets are filled with the freshest of produce farmed by the local fermiers. I have never seen strawberries so glistening, leeks so tempting and cauliflower (a local abundant crop) so large and fresh, still with their leaves attached to their stalks.


We used the leeks, carrots, mushrooms, and onions we bought in the market to make “carbonnade a la flamande”, a traditional Nord Pas-de-Calais dish and cooked it chez nous. It turned out great. Here is the recipe we used:

2 leeks (white part only) sliced

2 small onions (sliced)

fresh mushrooms (sliced)

1-2 cloves of chopped garlic

2 pounds of beef (chunks)

2-3 cups of beer of your choice

fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste

2 pieces of bread slathered with mustard

We sautéed the meat in extra virgin oil to brown it and separately, the veggies and spices. We then combined the two in a pan with high sides and added the beer and placed the bread, mustard side down on the top and covered the pan. We let it simmer on low for about 1 and a half hours et voila, a meal fit for a king!

We visited a open air market in nearby Arques yesterday. We took the local inter-urban bus which leaves from the St.-Omer Gare to get there. Cost: a reasonable 1 Euro, 10 centimes.

Arques is a small town of about 10,000 people, adjacent to Saint-Omer. The market was small, by comparison to others we have visited, but charming nevertheless. An itinerant cheese vendor sold us one of the best cheeses of the trip, a young Maroilles and we stopped for lunch at a stand, serving local fast food – clearly, a favourite of the residents of Arques who lined up well outside its doors. Not our fast food, however. I had a (the freshest) fish sandwich on a bun called a “falouche”, a local specialty which looks like a small deflated rugby ball, while Gary had a chicken kebab also on the same bun. We sat outside on the lovely sunny day and thought life could not get any better.


Arc International is headquartered in Arques and produces glass tableware such as Cristal d’Arques and Luminarc, names that are sure to be recognized by most. I was fortunate to be able to visit their factory and to see how glass tableware is made. It is a “hot” business with kilns operating 24/7 at 1500 Celsius degree temperatures. I saw the molten paste drop into moulds corresponding to the shapes of the glass. Fascinating stuff. Half the town of Arques is employed by Arc and the other half by the local brewery called Goudale.

Last week, we visited the “Maison du Marais”, recognized by UNESCO for its cohabitation of man and nature and designated a biosphere reserve. We took a flat-bottomed barge called a “Bacove” boat ride through the Audomarois marshes, a wetlands, riven by waterways, painstakingly created by man over centuries.  It supports more than 450 species of wild and cultivated plants, 232 species of birds and 26 species of fish. It is a tranquil experience, floating amongst the flora and fauna and connecting with nature all around you. People live on its banks and farm the verdant land around it. Although it produces many different vegetables, it is particularly known for its delicious cauliflowers and succulent endives. As they say in France, c’est incontournable!


Today, we had a picnic lunch at the lovely public gardens of Saint-Omer. There are well-tended flower beds, good walkways, a carousel and a kiosk selling Italian-style gelato for big and little kids alike. As municipal gardens go, welcome to paradise.


So, a bientot, for now from the land of the (almost) midnight sun, where sunset today is a very late 10:06 p.m. and sunrise was at 5:39 a.m. resulting in a very lengthy 16.11 hours of daylight.

We’re off to coastal Calais on Friday/Saturday to see how the people of Calais live. We’ll keep you posted!

France Revisited

To friends, family, and followers of Gary’s Beeretseq posts:

It’s Libby. Gary is taking a break from his blog posting and is once again allowing me the privilege to guest blog at Beeretseq.

After a too-long hiatus from travelling anywhere, we are back in France and I am reborn.

This time in the North again, headquartered in a small town of 18,000 souls called Saint-Omer, in the Pas de Calais region (detail follows from a local truck delivering drinks).

It is a town we visited briefly three years and a lifetime ago and promised ourselves we would return to. We loved it then and love it more now. It is 30 kilometres south of Calais and 68 kilometres west-northwest of Lille.

It is known for having one of the best outdoor markets anywhere in Europe, thanks no doubt to the more than 13,000 market gardeners in the vicinity. It burst to life this past Saturday morning in the elegant, cobbled grand square in front of the town hall with fabulous vegetables, grown in the nearby marshes known as the Audomarais, delectable roast chickens turning on their spits in front of us, and a stand selling cous-cous, paella and cassoulet. In addition, the market hosts a wide variety of vendors selling everything from jewelry to clothing, kitchen gadgets to bicycles, cheese to olives.

We are lucky to have found the perfect place in Saint Omer. We rented an apartment for the month of June via Booking.Com not too far from the Saint Omer train station. Our apartment has all the amenities: a new convection oven, a new induction stovetop, good dishwasher, fridge etc. It has a large living room/dining area, a separate kitchen, a bedroom with mock fireplace fittings and even a large back yard with picnic table. We call it “Chateau Gillman”.

The ruins of 12th century St. Bertin Abbey are located just behind our flat. Some neighbourhood!

After the vicissitudes of the pandemic, Gary and I were eager to resume our travels. We had been in the south of France in February, 2020, but we were unprepared for the post-pandemic procedures we had to endure. No laughing matter. Since our flight to Paris connected through Chicago, American regulations required us to produce a negative Antigen test taken the day prior to departure. This we did and then attempted to check-in online with our airline. No could do. The airline had engaged a third party service provider to verify that all identification, tests, attestations and other documents for each leg of the journey (separately) were in order before online check-in was available to us.

The completion of this process took the better part of 6 hours as one had to wait for the third party to process the documents before subsequent steps were permitted. Once checked-in online, however, the airport process was a breeze. Just an FYI for those contemplating travel through the U.S.

Once in Paris, the pandemic seems to have been all but forgotten. Hardly any masks despite the requirement to wear one on public transportation.

So the plan is to use Saint Omer as a base over the next several weeks to take a barge ride in the Marais, visit Arques (known for its glassware), and side trips to Le Touquet, Arras, Calais and maybe one or two other northern towns of interest (of which there are many). There’s lots to see and do and I know that the next few weeks will blow by. Pictured below are photos Gary took on one of his walks, of the barge ride in the marshes. We haven’t done that yet but it looks idyllic, n’est-ce pas?

Still trying to exercise and not gain a ton of weight. That may be easier said than done with tempting croissant aux amandes, pate de fois and a host of other culinary pleasures. Pictured below is a pate de foie fait a la maison with, what else, beer.

I’ll keep you posted on our trip exploits and hope you enjoy following our travels.

A bientot!

Food From a Vanished Jewish Europe: Kishka

We are on the road currently so usual posts are suspended for a time, but room for a food note.

(We may post travel notes, not keyed to beer as such in other words. I can’t guarantee its absence, though).

Pictured is the old Jewish dish kishka, aka stuffed derma. Traditionally, it is a beef casing with a fat-flavoured, starchy stuffing. Artificial casings are sometimes used today, as in sausage manufacture generally.

This was sampled at Zelden’s deli in Toronto, open only some 3-4 years and a grateful addition to a declining genre in town, the Jewish delicatessen.



Kishka is generally made with ground matzoh meal, although another base can be used, flour or a combination. Ground vegetables are often added, and sometimes a little meat.

Similar dishes abound in eastern Europe including the Polish pork-and-buckwheat kiszka, which features typically a blood addition.

Zelden’s version is just as I remember in Montreal, mild-tasting but savoury, simply spiced, an adjunct to a meal, not the main event – although the serving can stand as entrée certainly (in the American sense).

It is a kind of white pudding in North British terms. The Jewish sausage repertory is not large but the kishka is surely its chieftain, to echo Burns.

A French version is called “gogue”; or so late food author Jane Grigson once told me, via one of her matchless works.

Kishka was par excellence provender of the Jewish proletariat in East Europe, and is rarely found today even in delis in my experience.

I like at Zelden’s the pastrami or roast brisket, in a sandwich or plate. The kishka goes well to start, preferably shared, and no chips mind!

Jodi Luber at The Jewish Kitchen has a good recipe for kishka. Check out Jamie Geller’s version which suggests brisket scraps for an optional addition.

In Montreal in olden times (my olden times: 1950s-70s) I recall kishka in different forms although the plain style is best I think if made properly. Some had a reddish core, probably from carrots, or paprika.

A restaurant in a section of the needle trade formerly nestled just east of downtown was called Balkan’s. Its version was extremely good. The filling included ground meat of some kind.

Balkan’s was not a deli but replicated the dishes of the Jewish bourgeois kitchen: roast veal, boiled beef, chicken-in-the-pot, etc.

Its kishka was served as a main course, two alongside if memory serves, with mashed potatoes (more starch!). The business crowd at lunch ate it up, as they say.

In later years I recall a restaurant called Balkan & Lennox in the same area, probably with a connection to the original. I am not clear if it still operates, and will check when I visit Montreal in summer.







Series on British Clerics and the Public House, 1938: Index

Interwar Churchmen Favour Council Estate Pub

This subject was covered recently here in a four-part series. Below are links to each part, with a brief summary.

Part I. An Anglo-Catholic priest of prominence, Maurice Childs, supports public houses on emerging council estates.

British Clerics Boost the Public House, 1938. Part I. – Beer Et Seq


Part II. Motives of Maurice Child in light of biographical information; his plan garners editorial support.

British Clerics Boost the Public House, 1938. Part II. – Beer Et Seq


Part III. Anglican priest W.M. Peacock endorses proposal of Child, with gloss that German beer garden be adopted as model.

British Clerics Boost the Public House,1938. Part III. – Beer Et Seq


Part IV. Citizens and a London social worker respond to Child-Peacock proposals, pro- and con. Wrap-up of issue.

British Clerics Boost the Public House, 1938. Part IV (Final Part). – Beer Et Seq

Historically in parts of Britain, a pub adjoined a church. A current example appears below.


Image attribution: Gyula Péter. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Sourced from Wikipedia Commons page entitled “File:Kocsma a templom mellett (Pub next to the church) – panoramio.jpg”.

Note re image: Image is used for educational and research purposes. Its author is attributed as above, per requirements of Wikipedia Commons. All feedback welcomed.


British Clerics Boost the Public House, 1938. Part IV (Final Part).


While the letters of Vicar Child and Canon Peacock covered in the earlier Parts were forcefully expressed, especially Peacock with his happy talk of dancing in projected British beer gardens, we should recall the broader background.

The reformed tavern had been bruited in the Anglosphere since the late 1800s. Those even a little familiar with the territory know for example of the coffee pubs, Gothenburg pubs, the Birmingham Experiment, Carlisle Experiment, and periodic reforming licensing legislation, all preceding the 1930s.

Scholars and other writers, through the 20th century until now, have examined swaths of these areas. Authors include P. Jennings, D. Gutzke, D. Woodman, T. Knowles, Michael Jackson, and Boak & Bailey, among many others.

As I stated earlier too, my recent posts do not set out systematic history pertaining to the estate local, or the “improved” pub as such.

Some English pubs in the 1930s, for example, advertised a beer garden or a specifically Continental one. An advert in the Birmingham Gazette, June 7, 1939, touted the:

…CONTINENTAL BEER GARDEN… the FINEST GARDEN attached to any Licensed House in the Midlands. Spacious accommodation for good-class Motor Coaches,



(The pub is still an item in Berkswell. In the “Beefeater” group, it advertises “a large outdoor space with benches”. An enduring outlier. Note the term “large”).*

But the broad lines are clear. The estate local did develop good traction, after World War II, although, contrary to the hopes of Peacock, the German-style drinking place did not replace the enclosed, often still-partitioned British pub. The latter remained the template for drinking places in Albion, Wales, and Scotland.

What I have done, certainly, is unearth specific and I believe novel instances from the 1930s where the pub future was commented on by two clerics of note and the public response.

These episodes amount to interesting, often striking, social history. They assist to understand the historical flow of the British pub, diverse as it has always been.

With this prelude, let’s examine further reaction to the positions announced in the press by Vicar Child and Canon Peacock.

Unnamed Critics of Canon Peacock

The North Wiltshire Herald, August 19, 1938 contained an unsigned column stating that Peacock received a “shoal” of letters critical of his plan to allow his daughters, aged 18 and 11, to dance in German drinking places.

The columnist expressed support for the family, noting for example that the younger was not permitted to take professional work in England until age 12, and the children had done charity work.

Some who sent the letters probably objected therefore to building pubs in a housing development, which after all is a family setting par excellence. Today children generally can be admitted to pubs, subject to various licensing exceptions.

A Social Worker’s Perspective

On September 30, 1938 in the Bradford Observer, this letter appeared by a London-based official with the National Council of Social Service:


Sir.—I was very interested to read the letter to you from the Rev. Maurice Child on the “Church and Inn as Social Centre” and as a cure for “suburban neurosis.”

I would, of course, be the first to admit that the “improved ” inn is a more desirable place than the previous type of public-house, but there is one sentence in his letter which considerably surprises me. He says that ” …in default of a church, the improved inn, with its fine meeting hall and Its central position, could not be bettered.” I wonder if Mr. Child has heard of the community centres which are springing up on new housing estates in different parts of the country? They cannot provide a substitute for churches, though until the latter are built the community centres, often themselves temporary buildings, frequently house religious services, and the community associations who use the centres are working in close co-operation with the churches on their estates.

Again, the community centre, which can cater for a very much greater variety of interests than the public house, does not attempt to compete with the latter. It does provide a home for the various groups of residents, young as well as old, women and girls as well as men, who come as strangers to the new districts and strangers to one another. The community centre, therefore, in a different way from both church and public-house, Is designed to produce that strong sense of neighbourliness and communal interest to which Mr. Child refers, and which will in the long run turn the conglomerations which form the new estates into new neighbourhoods.


(Assistant Secretary, National Council of Social Service),


This was a salutary response, not directly attacking the idea of pubs on estates, but perhaps indirectly so by stressing the importance of (necessarily secular) community centres.

These in fact would prove important to the future of council estates, although many pubs were built too.

The National Council was a voluntary organization, especially devoted to parrying unemployment, but Government worked closely with it. See e.g. this 1932 exchange in Parliament.

Thus we see the technocrat, or that perspective, standing against an older authority in society. The former was in ascension, the latter still respected but declining.

Citizen Clare

In the Shields Daily News, October 15, 1938, this letter appeared:

Beer Gardens

I WAS very pleased to read the letter of Canon Peacock’s in The Evening News on the advantages of the continental compared with the meagre services of our English public houses. I have for the last 40 years been actively engaged in singing the praises of the continental system, and at last there appears on the horizon the indication that at long last a more appropriate service is approaching in place of the ordinary and ineffective public house.

The need for a more up-to-date social centre, where people can meet in social intercourse—especially in these days of suburban exclusiveness —is, in my opinion, one of the essential necessities of present-day conditions. After having witnessed the superior service of the continental cafe one wonders why our people have been denied this pleasure. One can only conclude that bigotry has and is playing a prominent part in the resistance to such an wholesome and desirable innovation.

I suspect that the more frequent visits of our people to the continent has gradually educated those who travel and know something of the social life of the continent, the result being that there is fermenting in their minds a disposition to emulate the system there. The catholic atmosphere which prevails, with its absence of rowdyism and vulgarity, serves as a reminder that where such service prevails, the need for the imposition of restrictions is entirely superfluous; its very merits is its best protection. I have always associated drunkenness with low and dingy bars, sordid surroundings and noisy gatherings. On the contrary, these hotels, distinguished for their elegance and cleanliness are invariably noted for their decent and attractive character.

And this is what takes place on the continent, the result being that a better moral standard of manners is attained. Often enough I have been told by my friends that they would have no objection to the adoption of such a system if it could be emulated here. I have often been told that owing to our climate it would be impossible to adopt it to our social conditions, but the example of more northerly countries like Sweden and Norway renders such arguments useless. Besides it ought to be understood that a cafe need not be confined to indoors [sic], as is seen everywhere on the continent, a great number of them being established within the building. In winter this practice is generally observed, the service outdoors being entirely suspended. This outdoor drinking, it must be admitted, is far more sanitary than the practice with us. Even on this ground, it should be more liberally considered than it is by us.

Again, it must be recognised that the spirit of the cafe is far more democratic than what prevails in our public houses, its patrons being treated in the most impartial manner. There are no distinctions of paying a little extra for presumably a more respectable section of the building. Such an attitude is regarded as being undemocratic and selfish. It is tantamount to saying that as I am wealthier than you I am therefore going to indulge my tastes in the most private and expensive manner. Our English drinkers have yet to learn the implications of the extra halfpenny a glass. It is a snobbish custom and ought to be abolished. Finally, one cannot help appraising the value of an institution which serves to keep the family together. I know of no pleasanter scene than that of a family and their relatives meeting in the familiar cafe and there relating all the doings of the past week, while the strains of music serve to make the meeting still more entertaining. How different with us with our dull monotony, and aimless parading. It is because of my admiration for the cafe system that I rejoice to hear the favourable testimonies of such distinguished churchmen as Canon Peacock and the Vicar of Cranford.

J. Clare,

7 Clovelly Avenue


While again I feel the depiction of continental drinking is idealized, valid points are raised.

A noteworthy part is the objection to partitioned drinking where different prices were paid. We saw in my preceding series on London journalist Alan Tomkins that such class segmentation was starting to break down under pressures of wartime living.

On a further occasion Clare, identified more clearly as Jas. Clare, wrote a similar letter in defense of Vicar Child’s letter, in the Shields Daily News, September 12, 1938.

In that letter he does not refer to Continental ways, which Canon Peacock had stressed, but a new “liberal social order” and the importance that a minority of teetotallers not impose their will on the majority.

He invoked good old Dr. Johnson’s famous dictum on the importance of taverns in English life. Clare thought modern “hotels” could replace “squalid sawdust bars” on new estates with great advantage to help dispel suburban ennui.

In checking on him in the British News Archive, whence these press stories issue, it appears he was a (presumably professional) lecturer for decades in Newcastle, but what other activities he engaged in I do not know.

A description of a lecture on Germany, in 1932 (Shields Daily News, November 9) stated he visited the country 53 times!

Possibly he was a church minister in early years, c. 1900, some press references suggest this.

More than one letter to the editor from him, in the 1920s and 30s, advocated against any form of prohibition, and invoked, as did the letter reproduced above, the bar trade in France and Germany as a model for Britain.

Last Words

People such as Glare and Tomkins were on the right side of history. So were Child and Peacock, although Child’s hope that tavern and temple would form a twain on new estates, mimicking their roles in the Arcadian English village, would not be realized.

Even when he was writing, public observance, speaking here of Christianity, was in serious decline.

On October 13, 1938 Patrick Bond in the Sheffield Independent described a new housing estate at Gleadless. He wrote that people were most content with their new homes, and enjoyed the local community centre, the type C. Sandford Carter explained.

It was still a hut but a proper building was planned. A nearby recreation centre provided further social benefits but as to church, the local vicar interviewed said only one in 50 of the parish attended Sunday morning services – it fell to 1/150 for evensong.

People in the estate were quoted that the average person was more interested in material things, and viewed observance as declining. It has been so ever since, to my knowledge, speaking again of the Christian churches.

A separate article on the page, but clearly meant to be read in conjunction with Patrick Bond’s, quoted the secretary of the Sheffield Brewers’ Association, E. Gandy, on Canon Peacock’s plan to encourage German-style beer gardens.

He approved in principle, but interestingly, thought it mightn’t work since lager was weaker than British beer, and women could not drink the latter all evening as they could lager in Europe:

“Continental beer is generally no stronger than English lager”, he said, “and women who can sit drinking it in continental beer gardens for an evening would certainly not be able to drink English beer for a similar period.”

I don’t think he was right on that, on the strength aspect, unless any lager brewed in Sheffield then happened to be weaker than standard mild and bitter ale.

(Interesting as that point is, it is aside my preoccupations in this series).

Note: Full series (four parts) is indexed here.

*An item in the Daily Mail, July 19, 1927, so prior to Canon Peacock’s letter, mentions that a “‘Continental’ beer garden” opened in Denton, Lancashire, and “is proving a success”. “It adjoins an ordinary old English inn, and consists of a lawn dotted all over with green benches, tables, and large coloured umbrellas to keep off the sun”. Even in their nascent Biergärten the English were shy of the sun! I’ll leave to others to explicate that sociology.

British Clerics Boost the Public House,1938. Part III.

Churchman Peacock Speaks

On October 15, 1938 this letter appeared in The West Middlesex Gazette:


Inns on Continental Beer Garden Lines

Sir.—The Vicar of Cranford, who declares that more inns on the new housing estates would prove a cure for suburban boredom, seems to hit the nail bravely on the head. One asks oneself, however, what kind of an inn could be at once a cure and a success? Certainly not the type of English public house which definitely belongs to yesterday, and where children are not admitted and ladies are rare visitors.

The ideal inn has great possibilities, and on a new housing estate we have the foundation stone of a real achievement, if the right people can be found to face the problem with coolness, confidence, determination and hope.

An inn on the lines of the Continental beer-garden comes to one’s mind, and there is no reason why such a place of innocent charm and simple pleasure could not be established in this country. In the summer the local worthies, with their families, foregather in the evenings to drink beer or lemonade, to dance or listen to good music. If it is cold or raining they go into the large hall inside.

The effect these beer-gardens produce is an immediate response to life. A delight in sharing other people’s lives and pleasures. We feel we have walked into an unexpected country just as Alice walked through the looking-glass into a land of surprise and joy.

I am convinced that an inn of this type would cure “suburban neurosis” by its warmth and glow, and for every man, woman and child it would be a place where life grows and expands.—

Yours, etc.,


King Alfred’s School, Wantage, Berks.,

October 10, 1938.

The letter appeared, similarly as for Vicar Child’s letter, in numerous newspapers including the Daily Mirror, which printed a lapidary endorsement (October 13, 1938):

We so heartily agree that we just don’t care to add a word to Canon Peacock’s.

In the original letter Peacock mentioned his affiliation with the old-established secondary (boys’) school, King Alfred’s School, of which in fact he was headmaster.

Today after merger with two other schools it is King Alfred’s Academy, co-educational and no longer fee-based.

Peacock was also an Anglican priest. These points are brought out in a photo-rich July 27, 1938 spread in the Daily Mirror, “Canon Stagemanages His Dancing Daughters”:

Most unusual pillar of the Church is Canon Peacock, headmaster of King Alfred’s School, Wantage, Berks.

He’s stage-managing his daughters, on their theatrical tour of German beer gardens and cabarets. Mrs. Canon Peacock is going to stage-manage all of them!

It comes about this way:- both girls, Unity, aged nineteen, and June (known as Rufus), aged eleven, are keen dancers. But they cannot give their double act in this country because June is too young.

You see the Canon adjusting Unity’s Tyrolean costume in the big picture, and in the smaller picture (below), the girls are dancing to music provided by boys of their father’s school.

The girls will first appear on the Rhine, and then, perhaps, in Poland. This may be the last amateur appearance of Rufus… she’ll soon be twelve, then film contracts are waiting.



The large photo shows the Canon in black cassock with his daughters who are costumed as the story notes.

According to the Kensington News and West London Times, August 5, 1938, his daughters performed during the tour in the beer garden at “Rhondorf-am-Rhine” on the “tree-covered slopes of the Drachenfels” (see additional note in Comments).

Peacock and Beer Gardens

In arguing for a German beer garden model at least during English summers, we can recognize a similar theme of some American anti-Prohibitionists before and during Prohibition. In Britain as well militating for such reformed pub goes back to at least the early 1900s.

In America, voices even in the brewing and wine industries argued for a new type of saloon. It would be family-oriented and beverages, apart non-alcohol drinks, would be beer of moderate strength and “light wines”, à la European café.

In my 2016 post “The Pub of the Future” I cited an example of this thinking from 1911, advocated by Max Henius, an American brewing consultant of Danish origin.

The proponents perhaps idealized the café – it is not as if alcoholism was absent from French and German societies, for example – but the image resonated well in the Anglosphere, then.

We may further note that just as it appears Vicar Child’s benign view of the modern pub followed on his liberal and worldly outlook, so it appears additional factors explained Peacock’s interest, at least initially.

The Leeds Mercury reported on August 3, 1938 that his German tour excited some controversy:


A Defence of Beer Gardens

From Our Correspondent

WANTAGE, Tuesday

NUMEROUS LETTERS, some critical, some commendatory, have been received by Canon W. M. Peacock, head master of King Alfred’s School, Wantage (Berks) after the announcement that he would allow his daughters—Unity, aged 18, and June Mary, 11, to dance in a German beer-garden while on holiday in the Rhineland.

Canon Peacock said to-day that the critical letters seemed to demand some explanation why his daughters were dancing in a beer-garden.

“Actually the question is a little difficult to answer because, when you are still in England, England seems the only place on the map and German beer-gardens beyond the pale, but once on the Continent, England is suddenly very far away.

“Apparently the writers of the letters have had little opportunity of knowing any country but their own, so any place out of England is foreign them —mysterious, queer, wicked. They cannot picture a beer-garden as it really is—an open-air place of innocent amusement, where the local worthies foregather in the evening with their families. It sounds like a place of vice and temptation.

“Live more freely and widely, be citizens of the world, is my advice to all those who have these left-on-the-shelf ideas. I believe that if we all danced in beer-gardens (which, alas, for most of us, is a physical impossibility) fear, distrust and cowardice would disappear between nation and nation.”

It remains true people often act from mixed motives. One can view it that but for being motivated to advance his daughters’ careers, Peacock would not have toured Germany, and would not have perceived the advantages, as he viewed them, of the beer garden system.

Peacock After The Thirties

From news reports in the same British Newspaper Archive whence these stories are drawn, it seems he ended his career in 1959 as Chaplain of University of Reading, some 30 miles west of Wantage.

More accurately, he was Warden of St. Augustine House.

He seems not to have taken an interest in pub design and methods after the 1930s, and similarly for Vicar Child.

Peacock, for his part, lived long enough to see the council estate pub become a reality if not in the German beer garden form, specifically.

Pub Garden, Beer Garden

Few “estate locals”, as they became known, contained gardens according to Michael Sargant’s and Tony Lyle’s (1994) Successful Pubs and Inns, see here.

Anyway, the typical English pub garden is a smallish plot that bears little connection to the German conception.*

That said, Peacock’s voice and the publicity his German tour generated amplified Vicar Child’s message. Both contributed to the positive image of the “reformed pub”, in the interwar formulation.

Inevitably, the proliferation of estate locals after 1950 owed something to these churchmen. Unusually for their vocation, they upheld the role of the public house, an old but not always admired social institution.


No letter or story I found on Peacock’s foreign tour mentioned that Germany was a Nazi dictatorship, or its perfervid persecution of the Jews.

The people running Germany then, who would bring Europe into another ruinous war and destroy two-thirds of European Jewry, didn’t “dance in beer gardens” in Peacock’s hopeful phrase, or not with the result he hoped.**

Looking back with our perspective today, there is a Pollyanna quality to all this coverage.

Canon Peacock noted acerbically a certain insularity in English life then. I would argue he was not completely exempt from it himself, even after his trip down the Rhine.***

See my concluding Part IV.

*The Campaign for Real Ale, a consumer beer lobby, has organized large-scale events in the last 50 years that resemble to a degree the beer garden experience.

**As well-known, at the time, Nazism in part originated in a beer hall, a related form.

***Some additional biographical information on Canon Peacock, gleaned from the Reading Standard and other press archived at British Newspaper Archive: Born in 1891 he issued from a family of soldiers, scholars, and clergy. His education included Marlborough and Jesus College, Cambridge. He qualified as a deacon and priest before the Great War. He served in the British Army in both world wars with rank of Captain. His position at Wantage ended in 1949 after 17 years at King Alfred’s. Earlier he held teaching posts in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was also canon of Christ Church Cathedral, and prior to that, at Collyers School, Horsham, and elsewhere in England. He and his wife upon leaving Reading in 1959 took up residence in Sussex, presumably for retirement.