Sunday, 11 January 2009

Why beer styles disaappear: Porter

I'm gradually working my way through volume 1 of the Whitbread Gravity Book. It's packed full of fun. I'll rephrase that. It's full of fun for me.

This morning it was the turn of the Cannon Brewery. Stonch should be interested in this, because their brewery was in St. John Street, Clerkenwell. Bought by Taylor Walker in 1930, they stopped brewing in 1955 (thank you Norman Barber).

Many of the Gravity Book entries for the early 1920's include comments on the quality of the beer sampled. Very revealing, they are. Take a look:


See the comments for Porter? Every single one is negative. "Poor", "Sour" and my personal favourite: "Nasty". What is this telling us? That Cannon's draught Porter was usually in poor condition. Sounds to me like it was in a negative spiral of falling sales, casks taking too long to be sold, poor beer, drinkers moving on to something else.

It's also clear that Porter was still a standard draught beer. There are sets of samples for PA, KK, X and Porter. These must have been the usual handpulled beers in Cannon pubs.

Judging by the overall negative tone of the comments, Cannon had probles with the quality of all their beers. Though there are a few positive comments for PA and KK.

What do reckon, was the declining quality of Porter on sale partly responsible for uts disappearance?

6 comments:

Fatman said...

Such negativity. And 80 years before ratebeer.com!

Ahead of their time clearly.

I love the 'mawkish' comment. Has anyone used that on ratebeer yet?

Bailey said...

Sorry to be dense, and I'm sure you've explained this before, but this is Whitbread's record of their competitors' products, right?

My favourite note is "no character". That's one I might start using a bit more often myself.

zythophile said...

Although the usual meaning of "mawkish" today is "maudlin" or "sickly sentimental", it originally meant "maggoty". I'm assuming Whitbread was thinking of one of two other meanings, "disgusting" or "insipid".

Cannon's beers may have been poor, but they were doing well enough to take over at least a couple of other brewers in the 1920s, Clutterbuck's of Stanmore, Middlesex in 1923 and Christie & Co of Hoddesdon, Herts in 1927.

Trivia - it's Cannon's cannon that Allied revived as a trademark for Taylor Walker when it used the TW name for one of its new operating companies in the 1980s, which is why you can still see little cannons perched on the inn sign brackets of many ex-Allied pubs around London and the SE.

It was a top 15 London porter brewer in the 18th century - about 25,000 barrels a year, far below BP, Whitbread, Truman and the really big boys but a good second-division team.

Gary Gillman said...

Intriguing. It seems fairly rare before the onset of "wine-speak" era 40 years ago to find descriptions in ordinary words of wine or beer taste or quality (other than the most general terms such as sweet or saccharine, bitter, vinous, sour, empyreumatic, etc.).

Ron's discovery sheds useful light in this regard and e.g., we know that English ale then should not have tasted sourish, or rank (possibly infected, or over-hopped), or been cloudy in dispense, or been "green" (probably disclosing "hard" or immature tastes).

Reecently I found online a late 1800's reference to Louvain white beer which related the negative opinion of an English observer who considered the beer tasted of "tar" (brett influence I infer), "vinegar" and "soapsuds"! A startlingly modern description of beer taste. I wish more such adjectival descriptions of historical were available in historical archives since for some the question remains, "what did it taste like"? The albeit laconic verbal formulations found by Ron do assist to get closer to this goal.

Gary

Gary Gillman said...

Intriguing. It seems fairly rare before the onset of "wine-speak" era 40 years ago to find descriptions in ordinary words of wine or beer taste or quality (other than the most general terms such as sweet or saccharine, bitter, vinous, sour, empyreumatic, etc.).

Ron's discovery sheds useful light in this regard and e.g., we know that English ale then should not have tasted sourish, or rank (possibly infected, or over-hopped), or been cloudy in dispense, or been "green" (probably disclosing "hard" or immature tastes).

Reecently I found online a late 1800's reference to Louvain white beer which related the negative opinion of an English observer who considered the beer tasted of "tar" (brett influence I infer), "vinegar" and "soapsuds"! A startlingly modern description of beer taste. I wish more such adjectival descriptions of historical were available in historical archives since for some the question remains, "what did it taste like"? The albeit laconic verbal formulations found by Ron do assist to get closer to this goal.

Gary

Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Ron,
Happy New Year.
Think we need to go out and have a beer or 10.

Cheers,
Andy!