Monday, 20 April 2009

Beer Houses

1830 was a momentous year. The tax on beer was abolished. And anyone could start a pub, as long as they paid the license fee. And only sold beer and cider. Definitely no spirits. Two classes of pub were established: full-licence and beer-house.

The English are a bunch of pissheads. Beer pissheads. Chaos in the town centres. The following was written in the 1830's:

To any one at all acquainted with the habits of the people of England, and, therefore, having even the vaguest notion of the immense extent of the consumption of beer in this country, the mere statement of these alterations of the law is enough to convey an impression of consequences of vast magnitude and importance.
Quite significant then, he reckons. Some drinkers loved the new beer-only boozers:

John Morris, styled a mathematician, but put down by himself, he says, a mathematical instrument maker, who frequents these houses three or four times in the week, or when it suits him, or when a friend calls upon him, declares he can take his oath that the beer sold at the new houses is in all respects better than that with which he was wont to be served by the licensed victuallers—cheaper, more palatable, and more wholesome,—that this is the opinion of hundreds to whom he has spoken on the subject,—and that he never meets at the beer-shops with any but respectable and orderly persons. He never, he says, saw any drunkenness in these places ;

"I am speaking," he adds, with great emphasis, " positively, and candidly, and honestly." The only thing that Mr. Morris complains of, is that they shut up so early. "When I have half got through my second pint," he says, " I am obliged to drink it up fast, in a rough way, to accommodate the landlords, in order not to suffer them to be fined ; and when I am there and thirsty, I sometimes could stop another hour with great convenience, and without any inconvenience to myself and family."

That sounds eerily like my own experiences. Fun spoiled by stupid rules. Other temptations lurked in the shadows:

Mr. Thomas Phillips, called a musician, but who asserts that he is no such thing, but has a small independence, and is of no trade, when asked what sort of persons frequent the beerhouses, answers, " Like myself and respectable tradesmen, and two or three doctors and proctors ; and a few persons of that kind meet there almost every evening—a very genteel party—but we are obliged to leave too soon." The enactment, obliging keepers of beer-shops to shut their doors and expel their customers at ten o'clock, is the subject of complaint with almost all the London witnesses, and appears, indeed, to have been productive of serious evils.
I'm starting to wonder if this article wasn't sponsored by the beerhouse publican's guild:

Mr. Penny, accountant and valuer, says, " Myself I have an antipathy to any kind of spirituous liquor, but I have observed that a man that earns a guinea or 25s. a week will go to those beer-houses, and will find that he is not satisfied, and away he rues to a gin-shop. I have actually noticed it in a clerk of my own. He says, ' It is ten o'clock, I shall not go home yet' ; and he goes to a gin- shop, and, after taking a small quantity of ale, he goes and takes some pennyworths of gin, and it upsets the whole frame altogether ; but I think if you were to put them all out at eleven o'clock, it would be a great benefit."
Mr Penny the accountant. Yes. It makes me wonder if this is a reliable source. For those who don't understand old money, 25 shillings is 1.25 quids. See what happens when you overpay the staff?

Going to a gin shop after the pub. Is that so evil? I do it all the time. I'm so early 19th-century. (If you saw the way I dress, you could easily believe I was that far behind the times.) A few beers in Wildeman, then on to Olofspoort or Oievaar for the warm embrace of a velvety Zuidam or a peppery Wees. Bog off, Mr. Penny. Let the poor wage slave have his brief transcendental moment.

I've quite a bit more from this article. Some of it even funny. I may pester you with it. If something more interesting doesn't walk across my path.

I never thought I'd say this, but there's getting to be too much information. One book, the history of Wm. Younger, started me on a bizarre journey that's led to Mumme. And lots of other stuff. Damn you, Google Books, for diverting my path.

Today's source:
"The Companion to the Newspaper" By Society for the Diffusion of Political Knowledge
Published by Charles Knight, 1834, pages 152-156

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, you referred earlier in another context to an 1830's edition of Booth's text. In that book, he remarks of porter that the current taste for it was predominantly mild. Booth cites Barclay's evidence in the second decade (the well-known Parliamentiary hearings) that most porter sent out was mild.

I think one can see a kind of progression. Hard 12-18 month porter seemed the standard (or at least the ideal) in the 1700's. Early in the 1800's, people get tired of stale porter and drink mixtures or only mild porter, and then finally, porter in any form is being supplanted steadily by London and other ale.

We here so solicitous to know the character of the original porter will find an excellent summary here, at paragraph 3239:,M1

This is from the 1850's, from Webster & Parke's Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy. The discussion on brewing and beer is unusually detailed and authoritative for encyclopedia treatment.

The palate of porter described, like a "dry wine", with an "acerb" palate from the high-roasted malt, (see a few paragraphs above) is rather distant from the taste of most porters today. Today's porter generally will be mild in the old terminology.

So much material now exists on the stocking and palate of the 1700's porter. When will someone make it to that spec using a wooden vat? I don't think bottle-conditioning can really be the same. I did have once a 3 year old Rogue Imperial Stout, served on cask in Syracuse, NY, that did have something of the palate described by Webster & Parkes.