So, er — when WERE brewers banned from using unmalted grain?

It’s an excellent idea for a historian never to make a claim that cannot be backed up with actual evidence. In particular, it’s a terrible crime to assume, without verifying. Forgive me, therefore, Clio, muse of history, I have sinned: for many years I have been asserting that British brewers were banned from using unmalted… Read More So, er — when WERE brewers banned from using unmalted grain?

Manufactured outrage and the missing facts in the Small Brewers’ Relief debate

There is no subject in the world of beer right now that creates more heat and less light than the issue of reforming Small Brewers’ Relief, with vitriolic attacks, calls for boycotts of old-established family brewers and accusations of attempted bullying after the Treasury responded to calls for reform of the system with a proposed… Read More Manufactured outrage and the missing facts in the Small Brewers’ Relief debate

The brewer and the slaver gang

Serendipity – I love it. I was searching for something else entirely when I came across this advertisement in a Kentucky newspaper, which is how I discovered that the first successful keg beer in Britain was called Flowers Keg because an English teenager successfully led an armed posse in Illinois in the early 1820s against… Read More The brewer and the slaver gang

Today is 299 years exactly since the first known mention of porter

Happy anniversary: 299 years ago today the word “porter” appeared in print for the first time (as far as we know) as the name of a type of beer. The passing mention came in a pamphlet dated Wednesday May 22 1721 and written by the then-23-year-old Whig satirist and polemicist Nicholas Amhurst (1697-1742). Amhurst implied… Read More Today is 299 years exactly since the first known mention of porter

Brewers of Britain: hugely tough though this is, you’re making history right now – so if you have a moment when it’s all over, do please try to find time to record for posterity how you coped

This is probably the toughest time the breweries of Britain have ever faced, tougher than the restrictions of the First World War, tougher than the fight against the temperance fanatics of the 19th century. Cut off from their customers because of the lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic, brewers are having to find innovative ways… Read More Brewers of Britain: hugely tough though this is, you’re making history right now – so if you have a moment when it’s all over, do please try to find time to record for posterity how you coped

Catharina Sour, and other beers in Brazil in those long-vanished times six weeks ago

Was it really only six weeks ago that I was posing for selfies with attractive young Brazilians who were telling me how delighted they were to meet me? Apparently, according to the metadata in my own photographs, it really was. What a very different world Mid-March now seems, only 40-something days ago: coronavirus was a… Read More Catharina Sour, and other beers in Brazil in those long-vanished times six weeks ago

Oppskåka: the true meaning of beer

There were eight or ten of us sitting on benches and chairs around the walls of the smokehouse on Jon Gjerde’s farm at Ringheim, mostly middle-aged Norwegians, drinking cool, citrussy, lightly conditioned farmhouse beer, telling jokes and stories, talking about brewing and the creating of ale, and the local district’s long line of skiing champions,… Read More Oppskåka: the true meaning of beer

The Marsden Murders, or the tragic lives of three brewing brothers

There are stories you come across while researching the history of beer, sometimes, that set the mind boggling on its springs. Such a tale is the one we can call The Marsden Murders. It centres on Arthur Eagles Marsden, born in 1849 in Pimlico, London to a dynasty of operative brewers. His father, Robert, was… Read More The Marsden Murders, or the tragic lives of three brewing brothers

How I uncovered the long-forgotten story of America’s first porter brewery and then sat on it for three years

It’s a huge thrill to uncover facts that totally rewrite history. You’ll read in a great many places – here, for example, in a book published in 2014 – that the first porter brewed in America was made by Robert Hare, son of a London porter brewer, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1775. So when in… Read More How I uncovered the long-forgotten story of America’s first porter brewery and then sat on it for three years

Running with Sceptres is not the ditch to die in over the Portman Group and its bans

You’ll have seen, I’m guessing, the row that has exploded over the ban just announced  by the Portman Group, the alcohol industry’s self-appointed regulatory body, on the Bristol-based brewery Lost and Grounded’s “India Pale Lager” Running with Sceptres for breaching paragraph 3.2 (h) of its code by appealing to children. The problem is the artwork,… Read More Running with Sceptres is not the ditch to die in over the Portman Group and its bans