The Stout, the Oyster, the Fairies. Part I.

In the grandly-named Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire Advertiser, on April 5,1861, a panegyric appeared on the subject of beer.

The piece is called “A Glass of Beer”, the author revealed only as, “Our Inconstant Correspondent (Author of ‘A Cloud of Smoke.’)”.

The writer does a historical conspectus of beer, not summary, followed by a modern one in Britain citing useful statistics. He then surveys beer of many places.

Evidently he was well-travelled as his experience took in Ireland, Scotland, England, and parts of North America and Europe. He includes favourable beery reports for places not visited, e.g. Schleswig and Holstein and St. Petersburg. He mentions even the Languedoc.

(If its beery riches of the mid-1800s have been sung, the tune has escaped our ears, but who knows?).

He seems clearly to have been a man of the law, perhaps a judicial official. While admiring he was of Irish beer, he felt London, finally was “the head-quarters of beer – bad, good, and indifferent”, and that London stout trumped Ireland’s if you found the pure, good stuff (he tells us where).

This London inclination did not prevent him from rendering high compliments on Irish stout, in part connected to oysters. But in Ireland, he turns first to ale:

In legal days, when I was wooing Themis,* I made the acquaintance of the sandwiches and the beer of Flanigan; and greater men than Lord Judges and Earls, not to speak of a real, live Lord-Lieutenant, very sporting fellow he was – have dived into Flanigan’s in those days for that amber liquid. There was some wonderful old ale there, which was like sherry-amontillado only purer, which you drank from thin, spidery-looking glasses, and which was a kind of liqueur – a very beer among the beers. And there was a place in those Bohemian days, when Dublin stout – the “Guinness” – the porter of all porters, I assert and maintain – was the beverage much relished by other Bohemians belonging to Trinity College, and to the law at supper parties, in No. 36 New Square, Trinity College, or at Barton Bindon’s, or at Jude’s – which, be it known to the uninitiated, are supper-houses of great fame, at the former of which are to be found oysters of all kinds, which Apicius might envy; and from a tankard to drink of Guinness after an oyster supper is a glimpse of fairy-land. Go and do so when next you visit the Island of the Saints, and forget not to seek for Flanigan’s.

His next lines lauded the porter of Beamish & Crawford in “the sweet city of Cork”, and he allowed some people prefer it over Guinness. As to Belfast, he insisted good beer could be found there despite that “Bushmill’s whisky… [may] prove more tempting”.

He praised the ale of Yorkshire, naming, quite unfacetiously, Giggleswick. The singularity of the hops of Worcestershire impressed him, as against Kent’s and Surrey’s, each different due to their unique soil, he says.

We call that terroir today.

He does mention hop types – Golding and white bines – but credits soil with the real say for difference in palate.

Wait till you hear what he had to say about Canada’s beer.

The account continues in Part II.

*Goddess of law and order, and the wisdom informing same.



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