Will the real Cecil Guinness please stand up?

You have, I think, to be a particularly hardcore Guinness nerd to know that the first Earl of Iveagh, the man who floated the St James’s Gate brewery on the London stock exchange in 1886, and headed the company until his death in 1927, a few weeks short of his 80th birthday, while generally known,… Read More Will the real Cecil Guinness please stand up?

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

The Greenes of Greene King and the West Indian slave trade

If you want to see how people will twist and squirm to try to find justification for a system that is morally disgusting but greatly suits their economic interests, Benjamin Greene, founder of the brewery that became Greene King, is a good example. Greene was born in Oundle, Northamptonshire in 1780, the son of a… Read More The Greenes of Greene King and the West Indian slave trade

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

The legendary Mercer’s Meat Stout returns after 75 years

There is not a lot will make me drop everything and rush 200 miles north to Blackburn, but a message saying that the recipe for the legendary Mercer’s Meat Stout had been discovered in an attic and the beer was being brewed again got me on the first available train out of Euston. Mercer’s Meat… Read More The legendary Mercer’s Meat Stout returns after 75 years

How even giant multi-national brewing corporations can screw it up by lazily copying and pasting

Rule number one in the history writing biz is: don’t just copy-and-paste stuff off the internet (or from anywhere else), because the chances are high that what you have copied is wrong, and some fecker (me, in this case) will come along and hold you up to ridicule and abuse. I’m talking about you, today,… Read More How even giant multi-national brewing corporations can screw it up by lazily copying and pasting

The Great Manchester Beer Flood of 1831

Anything they do in That London, Manchester can do as well, including the catastrophic collapse of a giant vat full of maturing porter. Admittedly the Great London Beer Flood of 1814 was rather bigger than the event in Lancashire 17 years later, with the vat that burst at Meux’s brewery, off Tottenham Court Road, containing… Read More The Great Manchester Beer Flood of 1831

Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Guinness: ten Guinness myths that need stamping out now

Millions of words, and dozens of books, have been written about Guinness, the beer, the brewery, and the family, and a perhaps surprising amount of inaccurate mythology (and sometimes pure nonsense) has crept into the story. Here is a short list of some of the “facts” that writers, some of them supposedly authoritative sources, most… Read More Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Guinness: ten Guinness myths that need stamping out now

A short history of Asahi, in which beer gets called ‘bitter horse-piss wine’

In view of recent events, I thought people might be interested in a short history of Asahi Breweries … Beer was introduced into Japan by the Dutch, who were the only Europeans allowed to trade with the country after the expulsion of the Portuguese early in the 17th century, and who would take biiru with… Read More A short history of Asahi, in which beer gets called ‘bitter horse-piss wine’