Friday, 7 December 2007


Apologies for lack of posts since Monday. I've been in London. As this has provided some stuff to write about, my Earl list will be taking a well-earned rest.

Betsey Trotwood
56 Farringdon Road,
London EC1R 3BL
Tel: 020 7253 4285

05.12.2007, 12:05

Disaster-style situation. That's what today is. The London Metropolitan Archives are closed until January 21st. How the hell am I supposed to fill the six hours until the beer hacks' dinner starts? Let's think . . . . . art gallery? . . . Shopping on Oxford Street? . . . . British Museum? . . . I know - what about a pub?

I've just been in the dismal Wetherspoons on Farringdon Road. No more about that. At 11:35 the Betsey Trotwood didn't look very open. So I went to have a look at the site of Reid's Griffin brewery on Clerkenwell Road. It was demolished soon after Watney, Combe Delafield and Reid merged in 1899. There's not a lot left. Nothing, to be more exact, but what I assume was the brewery tap, the Griffin. It's some sort of strip joint, so I didn't go in. The rest of the site is a huge complex of Edwardian flats.

I wonder if the Betsey was a Reid's house? After the merger, the Reid's name lived on as Watney, Combe, Reid's Stout brand. All three breweries had been big in the 18th century Porter trade, though the Stag Brewery (Watney) had gone through hard times at the early 1800's.

"Since 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, light pake beers had ousted other brewsin the popular taste. At the Wood Yard Brewery Combe, Delafield & Co, quickly adjusted their methods to meet the new demand, brewing ales similar in colour and flavour to those of Burton ale which had become the rage. At the Stag Brewery the tradition of brewing Pimlico oe pale ales had survived the kong ascendancy of porter and although - together with stout - this was still brewed, paler lighter beer represented the bulk of the barrelage. Reid & the Griffin Brewery, with their established reputation for stout, catered almost exclusively for that market."
The Red Barrel: a History of Watney Mann, by Hurford James, 1963 , pages 118-119

Why am I burbling on about this? Because I'm drinking Shepherd Neame Porter. It's not bad and makes a real change from endless pints of Bitter. Liquorice and Roast. I'm not up to a more precise description today. I'm still gutted that the London Metropolitan Archives are closed.

I wonder which will be the next nationality to staff London pubs? It used to be Aussies in the far distant days when I lived here. Now it's Poles. Maybe Cambodians will be next.

Only four and a half hours to go. I've almost finished my second pint. I can't get too carried away bewcause of the piss-up tonight. Two pound eighty a pint the Porter costs. That's around four euros. Last Saturday a half litre in the train to Cologne only cost 3.80 euros.

As an added bonus (what a generous bloke I am) , here's a Reid Porter log from 1837:


The Beer Nut said...

See, now's the time to be selling access to your digitised material from the Archive to other disgruntled researchers. Cha-ching!

Ron Pattinson said...

Great idea. Sadly, given the layers of undisturbed layers of filth covering the archive volumes, I can't see there being many takers. I suspect many haven't been cosulted in decades.

Zythophile said...

Sorry to be Mr Historically Picky Bastard (that's a lie - I love it, really) but Watney's predecessors at the Stag brewery, the Elliotts, were, like the Combes and Reids (and the Trumans, and the Whitbreads, and the Meuxes, and the Barclays), among the 12 great porter brewers of London in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Manns, however, were primarily ale brewers, originally, as were Charrington and Courage ...

Nice to see you Wednesday night, Ron, sorry we didn't have much of a chance to chat ...

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, as usual, you're correct. It serves me right for writing the post in the pub, without any reference material. Watney went over to ale production in the middle of the 1800's. I've changed my post to reflect the facts.

Likewise good to see you on Wednesday. It's difficult to chat to everyone you want to at such events. Maybe we can meet next time I visit the archive.

Stonch said...

The Griffin (aka the Black Buzzard) is a London institution in its own right. At one time I was going there so often the bouncers would ask if I was coming (and act hurt if I didn't) whenever I passed by.

Up until a couple of years ago they had a hand pump in there. Sadly it only dispensed cask Tetley's, but still, it was novel drinking real ale in a strip club.

It's a classic "pound in a pint pot" venue. Tightarses - Dryz being a noted offender - try and wriggle out of it by telling the poor girl they'd already paid her mate. I find that very dishonorable. As such refuse to go to strip clubs with him.

Strippers deserve the utmost respect in my book, they're usually wonderful people and a good laugh to drink with.

PS. I just noticed that in the background on your photo Scott, the landlord of the Betsey, can be seen. He's a good lad. Cracking beard.

Ron Pattinson said...

Thanks for the details on the Griffin. Sounds great.

See how great my new camera is. You get a background. Yea, great beard on the landlord. Is that the look you were going for with yours?

Stonch said...

Mine just never looked that good. I wasn't man enough.